His name might not be familiar to you, but his work definitely is. Director Ken Kwapis has been in and around screens both big and small for over 30 years. He has worked on some of television's greatest shows, like The Office, and worked with the likes of Jim Henson, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, and Bryan Cranston. His latest project isn't a film or television series at all; it's a book. But What I Really Want to Do Is Direct: Lessons from a Life Behind the Camera is a compilation of essays that break down some of the most nebulous parts of directing in Hollywood. Kwapis uses anecdotes of some of the strangest, funniest, and most stressful experiences in his career to describe his whirlwind, roller coaster of a career, how to navigate the sticky world of show business, and much more. He joined me on the morning show to talk about the book, and most importantly, the lessons he's learned.
Most people who dream of Hollywood have their sights on the other side of the camera, so I was curious as to how Kwapis became interested in directing in the first place. "I grew up in a small town in southern Illinois. I didn't know any show business people. I didn't know anyone in film or television. But I was a movie goer, and I very quickly sensed as a youngster that there was someone behind the scenes making choices that would make the story good, or less good, or great. And I thought 'I want to be that person. I want to be the person pulling the strings'," he explained. Who knew that he would go on to be a part of some of our favorite on-screen moments.
"One of the things I feel very fortunate about is that over the years I've been able to go back and forth between the big screen and the small screen and I've directed eleven features, I've helped launch nine different series. Some of the films I directed, when they first came out, were not super popular, but have since become very beloved by audiences," he gushed. "I've directed things that people have really taken to heart."
Known for not playing the Hollywood game and working on his own terms, Kwapis extends some advice that he would gladly tell that youngster in southern Illinois. "I would say if I could meet my younger self - if I could meet my 24-year-old self - the advice I'd give is just figure out how to measure success on your own terms in showbusiness and not let the business define you."
Both direction instruction and nuggets of wisdom, But What I Really Want to Do Is Direct: Lessons from a Life Behind the Camera has something for everyone. "You can't control the outcome of things," Kwapis advises. "You can't control whether people buy a ticket to your movie, or tune in to see your show, or you can't control the critics. But all you can really control is the process of making the thing itself. So the book is not only about the craft of directing, for instance how to talk to an actor, where to put the cameras, but it's about basically how to keep focused on the process itself and not get hung up on the outcome."
For the complete interview with Ken Kwapis including the genre he most wants to direct in the future, click below.