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How TV Influences J.J. Abrams' Movies

'You find a way to do what the story requires – that's the lesson that anyone who works in TV learns again and again'

J.J. Abrams
Keith Tsuji/Getty Images
November 21, 2013 1:30 PM ET

J.J. Abrams is the creative mastermind behind Super 8, Star Trek and some of the biggest action epics of the past half decade. But having just received the International Emmy Founders Award, the superstar director told Variety that his television background continues to influence his work on the big screen.

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"One thing I’ve tried to do with the movies I make is to take a TV production approach to a sequence or a scene," Abrams said. "Rather than say, 'We don’t have what we want,' it’s 'How can we do it?' You find a way to do what the story requires, and that's the lesson that anyone who works in TV learns again and again."

The medium's smaller budgets necessitate that kind of problem solving, a skill set Abrams mastered while working on shows like Felicity, Alias and Lost, and one that still serves him on multi-million dollar pictures likes Star Trek and the upcoming Star Wars reboot.

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"Part of the joy of television is being a part of something that is an organic, living, breathing, evolving thing," he said. "It's an evolution, and you're constantly making decisions based on the results you’re getting – it's a whole other form of entertainment [than movies] that way."

Despite his hefty Hollywood workload – and his recent branching out into the world of video games – Abrams remains a TV staple: Fringe recently wrapped up after five seasons, while he serves as an executive producer on Revolution, Person of Interest, and Almost Human, which premiered on Fox this fall. He's also in talks with Stephen King – whose 1978 book The Stand is frequently referenced on Revolution – to develop the author's time-travel novel about the John F. Kennedy Assassination, 11/22/63, into a TV miniseries.

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Right now, Abrams is hard at work on Star Wars: Episode VII: Along with directing, he just assumed co-writing duties with Lucasfilm vet Lawrence Kasdan, who had been serving as a consultant for the new movie and helped pen The Empire Strikes Back andReturn of the Jedi. Abrams was also recently pictured alongside Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy and the creators of the new and improved R2-D2 droid that will appear in the new filmEpisode VII is still in pre-production, with filming at London's Pinewood Studios set to begin next spring. The movie is scheduled to open on December 18th, 2015.

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