Tim Needles | September 2015

Advice for Media Students from Actor Jonah Hill

An Interview With Jonah Hill,

In addition to my work as an educator, I also work as a freelance arts journalist. Occasionally, I have opportunities to interview actors, writers, directors, musicians, and artists for magazines and blogs. In each interview I try to ask a question that might aid my media students. I’d like to share some of the advice I’ve been given.

Below is an excerpt from an interview I did with actor and screenwriter Jonah Hill. I’m sure most of you are familiar with Jonah from his roles in films such as: Superbad, Knocked Up, Get Him to the Greek, Funny People, and 21 Jump Street.  He received a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moneyball. He received another Oscar nomination for his role in The Wolf of Wall Street.  In addition to acting, he’s also a prolific screenwriter.  I had a chance to sit down with him at the Fox offices last year, while he promoted the independent film Cyrus from the Duplass brothers. (Also starring John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei) I asked him to give some advice:

Mr. Needles: I teach film and screenwriting in high school and wanted to ask on behalf of my media students – what advice do you have for people who want to succeed in the business?

Jonah Hill: “My advice would be writing is everything. You know being an actor and not being able to write is one of the scariest things in the entire world, I know this from friends of mine who are actors and don’t write because a lot of time as an actor, especially starting out you spend 99.9 to 100% of the time unemployed so if you can focus on writing everyday and getting better at writing- you should spend every day getting better at what you are trying to do.

If you’re an actor and you want to act there’s not going to be movie parts for years unless you are one in a billion so find some friends who are into writing, write a play with them, and then you guys put it up where ever you can: in someone’s house or at a party or something or whatever, borrow a family member’s camera make a short film, read plays out loud with your friends… every day should just be spent moving forward at getting better at what you are trying to do. That’s my advice and that’s what I did, I just didn’t waste any day when I wasn’t writing or acting even in the few years of unemployment, you know, you just have to fill that time with things that are positive towards your goal”.

Here’s a link for all media students to more from the interview: Short and Sweet NYC

About the Author

Tim Needles is art and media teacher at Smithtown High School East in New York. He has been the recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Power of Art Award, was recognized by the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts, and has worked as an Adobe Master Teacher and Education Leader. Tim is also a artist, writer, and performer who continues to exhibit and perform regularly. His work has been featured on NPR as well as in the New York Times and at the Columbus Museum of Art.