Jake Johnson’s Directorial Debut ‘Self Reliance’ Explores Thrills and Reality in New Comedy Thriller on Hulu

LOS ANGELES, CA (AP) — Jake Johnson, known for his roles in TV shows such as “New Girl,” has made his directorial debut with the comedic thriller “Self Reliance.” The film, which premiered at last year’s SXSW, stars Johnson and Anna Kendrick and is now available to stream on Hulu.

In an interview with Deadline, Johnson acknowledged the challenges he faced as a 45-year-old white male director in Hollywood. He recognized that opportunities to direct for the big screen are scarce for someone with his background and experience. However, he seized the opportunity to bring his long-held ideas and tones to life in “Self Reliance.”

The film centers around Johnson’s character, Tommy, who finds himself on the run after being offered a million dollars to participate in a reality series for the dark web. Believing he has found a loophole, Tommy realizes that his friends and family do not believe the game is real, leaving him without support.

Johnson drew inspiration from Japanese reality TV and incorporated themes of human connection and the polarized political climate into the film. He wanted to explore the idea that everyone’s truth is real, ultimately blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

While the title “Self Reliance” refers to Tommy’s need to rely on himself during his dangerous journey, it also pays homage to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendentalist essay. Johnson emphasizes the importance of holding onto one’s beliefs, even when others don’t understand or agree.

Despite tackling deep themes, Johnson wants audiences to view “Self Reliance” as pure entertainment. He aims to provide an escape from reality, much like the comedic actors he admires.

Johnson, who started his career as a writer, has always sought to create his own opportunities. He has a unique comedic timing and prefers stories that focus on character growth rather than elaborate backstories. Johnson’s love for middle-class America and familial relationships is reflected in his choice of shooting locations.

Reflecting on the changing landscape of the film industry, Johnson acknowledges the challenges of getting indie projects noticed in a world filled with content. However, he embraces the ability to find niche audiences who seek out interesting work.

As for his future plans, Johnson has expressed a reluctance to direct more feature films for now. He remains open to other creative endeavors, such as commercials or pilots. With his successful career behind him, he feels no pressure to chase the spotlight or awards.

In conclusion, Jake Johnson’s directorial debut, “Self Reliance,” brings to the screen his unique comedic sensibilities and exploration of truth and human connection. Streamable on Hulu, the film offers an entertaining escape while tackling deep themes. Johnson’s future endeavors remain uncertain, but he will continue to prioritize creative opportunities that excite him.