Derek Kolstad, creator and writer of the iconic action franchise starring Keanu Reeves, John Wick, spoke with students at New York Film Academy (NYFA) at a special event on Tuesday, October 15, moderated by Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series.
Derek Kolstad penned the original screenplay for John Wick, which has become Lionsgate’s most profitable franchise with two sequels, a VR game, a mobile game, and a probable third sequel, as well as executive producing a planned scripted TV adaptation that Kolstad is executive producing and a comic book series that he is consulting on.
Additionally, Kolstad most recently wrapped as a co-executive producer on the highly-anticipated Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier for Marvel Studios.
Following a screening of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Kolstad how he got his start in the business and how that led to his success as a screenwriter. “I started to write screenplays since I was 13,” Kolstad began, continuing, “when I didn’t even know the format. I wrote and filed it. I became a salesman and then one day, it was 2000, I drove out to LA and I got noticed right away.”
He added, “I wrote a script called Acolyte and I got a manager and did two direct-to-DVD movies that were an ungodly challenge. I was going to walk away and one producer on that project introduced me to managers Mike Goldberg and Josh Adler, who are still my reps, and they saved me.”
Speaking of his inspiration for creating the series, Kolstad shared, “When I wrote John Wick, I was writing a love letter to the movies I loved. I wrote that initial screenplay in three days, the second draft in two weeks, sold it in February, and we went into production that November. So when you think of overnight success, I know I’m blessed, but I worked hard and long to get to that point.”
Laiter also asked Kolstad about the moment when John Wick clicked for him. Kolstad answered, “John Wick was just me suddenly going, ‘I’m going to stop trying to be who I’m not and just embrace what I love.’”
The Q&A was then opened up to student filmmakers, where Kolstad was asked how the John Wick franchise stood out from other action movies in the market. Kolstad credited the success to the importance of character relationships, saying, “A good movie, regardless of genre, is a good movie. It comes down to the character and their relationships, and the audience wanting to be a part of that character’s life.”
New York Film Academy would like to thank Derek Kolstad for joining us and sharing his expertise with our students!