Hit Filmmaker Jon Favreau's Techniques and Routines (#71)

“The laughter doesn’t last if there is no story. Story is king. You think it’s about the laughs, but, really, it’s about investing in the story and being drawn in.”

– Jon Favreau [58:55]

Jon Favreau is a man of many talents. He burst onto the acting scene with his role in Rudy.

He established himself as a writer with the iconic cult hit Swingers, in which he starred.

Then, Favreau made his feature film directorial debut with Made, which he also wrote and produced. Other directing credits include Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens, Elf, Zathura, and Chef, which he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in.

Lots of commas! This man does everything.

Most recently, he appeared in The Wolf of Wall Street as an actor, and he’s currently directing a live-action film with groundbreaking technology that will blow your mind — an adaptation of Disney’s Jungle Book, set to be released on April 15, 2016.

This episode goes deep into everything —

– How did he get started?

– What role did Dungeons and Dragons play?

– What made Swingers unique, and how was Elf an inflection point?

– What are the creative (and control) choices he made Chef and why?

– What are his writing techniques, routines, and tools?

– And much, much more.

If you create anything, Jon is a prime example of reinvention, doing it all, and doing it well.  Enjoy the lessons!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#71: The Master Creator - How Jon Favreau Went from Swingers to Elf to Ironman to Chef

Want to hear another podcast with a world-class comedian and actor? — Listen to my conversations with Bryan Callen. In his episode, we discuss improving creativity, optimal performance, eating Corgis, and more (stream below or right-click here to download):

Ep 47: Bryan Callen on Eating Corgis (Yes, The Dogs) and Improving Creativity

This episode is sponsored by OnnitI have used Onnit products for years. If you look in my kitchen or in my garage you will find Alpha BRAIN, chewable melatonin (for resetting my clock while traveling), kettlebells, maces, battle ropes, and steel clubs. It sounds like a torture chamber, and it basically is. A torture chamber for self-improvement! To see a list of my favorite pills, potions, and heavy tools, click here.

This podcast is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results.  Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade.  Give it a test run..

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What is the best advice on creativity you’ve ever received or read? Please share in the comments and check out other responses.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

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Show Notes

  • Jon’s go to albums and bands while growing up [4:30]
  • On growing up in the Bronx [6:40]
  • Deciding to dedicate himself to entertainment [10:40]
  • On dropping out of college [13:30]
  • The spark that led Jon to cross the country on a motorcycle and lessons learned [17:50]
  • Deconstructing Dungeons and Dragons shame and how the game inspires filmmaking [22:50]
  • Jon’s process for learning to sculpt quickly and efficiently [28:30]
  • Important themes and lessons from the creation of Chef [31:50]
  • The ingredients Jon Favreau is focused on, plus the value of family/friend cooking experiences [35:25]
  • About George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch [38:45]
  • The process Jon used to write Swingers and Chef [45:20]
  • On being a writer for hire [51:50]
  • Jon’s meditation practice and how the practice inspired Chef [1:04:15]
  • Making, selling and distributing movies [1:10:55]
  • Rapid fire questions:
  1. Who is the first person and director who comes to mind when you think of the word, “successful”? [1:23:20]
  2. Most gifted book? [1:27:30]
  3. Advice to your 30-year old self? [1:28:20]

People and Places Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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40 Replies to “Hit Filmmaker Jon Favreau's Techniques and Routines (#71)”

    1. That’s why most screenwriters’ advice is to read good screenplays and not how-to’s. In the same way that aspiring novelists should read great novels. Save the Cat is a decent book to understand the various screenwriting techniques, but I’m right along with you. It doesn’t do much, credibility-wise, to have a non-successful person giving advice on a craft. But who knows, maybe this guy has hundreds of unsold screenplays sitting in a drawer somewhere waiting for the light.

  1. Jon did a great job on The Wolf of Wall Street. Very inspirational and a truly a good example of a successful person who can do it all. Thank you for sharing!

  2. “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” Albert Einstein

    No, That’s not it.

    “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” unknown

    Actually, I think you can teach how to be creative but to do creative “there is no try” Yoda

  3. Right in time for me Tim! Starting a kickstarter for a film sometime this or next month for an adaptation of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Werther. It’s a joke that it hasn’t been adapted by Hollywood yet. The story is blockbuster tested. I was looking to factor in a sponsorship of one of your podcasts into the funding goal to catch a ride on the “Tim Ferriss effect.” Is there still room to do that? Where can I get information on price?

    PS the podcast was great, but as far as first time film makers. It’s good to get a crash course with this;


  4. Tim just in time! Launching a kickstarter this month or in May to fund an adaptation of the Sorrows of Werther. It’s a joke that no one in Hollywood has adapted it yet. It’s blockbuster tested. Also, what would it cost to sponsor one of your Podcasts? This is so I can factor it into the funding goal. I’m looking to put this film on a “Tim Ferris effect” wave. I think I should ask, are sponsorships still available?

    Names Brendan Hegarty by the way. Still figuring this word press thing out.

    PS great episode. I would recommend this as an overview for a first time film maker. http://www.amazon.com/Filmmakers-Handbook-Comprehensive-Guide-Digital/dp/0452297281/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429078145&sr=8-1&keywords=filmmakers+handbook

  5. Fantastic show Tim, inspired me to open up the old Final Draft and get back to work on a screenplay I’ve had for years.

    Cheers from South Australia.

  6. Tim,

    Fantastic work, I have read/listened to everything you’ve put out. Since reading the 4HWW the year it came out, I turned down 2 investment banking jobs, pursued my dream of playing pro sport, set up a start up 5 years ago as a social entrepreneur. I’ve taken 3 months out to live in Lake Tahoe (I’m based in the UK), travelled for cheap and got an great girlfriend from using your principles in the book. Thank you for your help.

    I wish you happiness, health and wealth, in that order.

  7. Tim, I have been following you for years – probably from the beginning. And the Jon Favreau interview is just fantastic!! I have never felt compelled to comment – but enjoyed this interview so much that I felt I must. Keep up the great creative work.


    S. Tower

  8. Tim – you need to do a hack/experiment/research on how to prevent sweating! ESP for newcomers to the bay area! There must be some ancient chinese secrets … would be amazing

  9. I ran into a fashion designer Henry Picado on the streets of NY when I was visiting. I picked his brain and when I asked him how do you make things different and unique this is what he said:

    “It’s you. It comes from you. You’re different so project you.” One other short but important piece of information: “Create exclusivity”.

  10. Oh, so cool! My first band I really listened to was Metallica as well! Still listen to it as my running soundtrack.

  11. LOVE This interview. I love when you focus on how these highly accomplished pros ‘break in’- esp. when it’s a field this competitive. Home run!

  12. This Podcast was a real winner. Thanks for inviting and skillfully interviewing another great (and unexpected) guest.

  13. This podcast is fascinating. The trailer of “Chef,” however, not so much. No joke intended, it’s ham acting.

  14. Thank you for putting so much time, energy and passion into you podcasts! It’s quite an opportunity to listen to your guests and I really enjoy the format.

    One of the questions that I would like to see you explore with your guests is how and why do they keep doing what they are doing? From a financial perspective as well as a creative one, once they have achieved some level of “success”, what drives them do keep creating? How has time changed for them and do they have more of it, less of it and why do they still “work”?

  15. hi Tim. I personally was not satisfied with Alpha Brain. I felt something like a light headache but nothing that made me more productive. Did not help me solve any problem.

  16. This was an enjoyable interview. Very natural; good stories and insights. You are really developing as an interviewer.

  17. You’re really doing a great job with these podcasts. Between this and the EDM episode, I’m feeling a powerful need to do something creative. It’s really neat to see a podcast cover such a diverse range of topics!

  18. I agree on the story, but now a days soo many comedy movies are focused on “Stupid” humor… “See I hit myself in the head” funny… I want more of the proper thoughtful stuff 😉

  19. Love your podcasts. One suggestion, is there a way to have them subtitled in Spanish? If not, in English? There is a lot of information on them and if you can read, it makes it easier. More when English is not your first language.


  20. And here I thought the remarkably intriguing Glenn Beck interview was the Tim Ferris podcast gold standard. That was short lived though as the conversation with Jon Favreau effortlessly seizes the mantle. Eagerly awaiting the sequel.

  21. I felt when Favreau said he wrote Swingers in 2 weeks there was a split moment where Tim thought “2 weeks?! U bastard I’ve been agonizing over my screenplay for 2 years!”

  22. I enjoyed this podcast. Jon Favreau is a very thoughtful guy. You did a good job drawing that out.

  23. This. Was. Amazing. Exactly what I needed on a down-motivation point on my business, and being super busy. Listening to this I dived back in 100x energy and smashed out heaps of the work on my business tasks (that I have to do after 9-5 at videogame company or on weekends) 😀

  24. Great podcast!! I wanted to watch Chef and this got me to stop for a second and watch – just an awesome movie – I really don’t care if others opine on my opinion, but when I can sit back, get into the plot and just leave the world behind – the movie is great fun! Thanks Tim – great guest!

  25. Love the clip and will now rent the movie. Have had a mad crush on Jon since the beginning. Looking forward to listening to the podcast.

  26. I watched Chef about 6 months ago with my kids. To which my mom commented “wow, but the language”. First, that’s what a kitchen sounds like and second, like they don’t hear/say that shit at school all the time. Fantastic movie on many levels. Thank you for sitting down with Jon, it was great to hear more about him and his perspectives.

    Congrats on the green light to the TV show.

    One more addition – your reference to Patrick Rothfuss’ fiction in a previous podcast has charmed me into listening to more…

  27. Great podcast, really eye opening & motivating! I wanna watch Chef and read 4HC

    Anyone can catch the restaurant he said for that simple tomato pasta recipe?

  28. Tim

    Thank you for your honesty and commitment to educate us on a weekly basis. I have recently been turned on by a friend and listen to you every morning @ 4:00 working out. You have been a big impact on my thought process and running my business