What's Inside Josh Hutcherson's Imagination? Ron Howard Weighs In

The veteran filmmaker talks about his upcoming collaboration with the 'Hunger Games' star.

Josh Hutcherson has a hunger, and the only cure is Project Imagination.

The "Hunger Games" actor is set to join forces with Ron Howard for the next iteration of Project Imagination, the Canon contest that tasks aspiring filmmakers with finding their voice and inspiring new forms of creativity. This year's version of Project Imagination marks Howard's third collaboration with Canon, and this time, they're teaming together on a project called The Trailer — an opportunity for competitors to submit trailers based on their own lives, with one winning trailer selected to inspire a Hollywood short film produced by Howard and Hutcherson, and starring Hutcherson.

What can we expect from Howard and Hutcherson's team-up? What aspirations does Hutcherson have as a filmmaker? And what are Howard's thoughts on the state of trailers today, as well as some of his personal favorite (and least favorite) trailers from his own catalogue? Here's what he told MTV News about all those questions and more...

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MTV: Ron, this is your third iteration of Project Imagination. What is it about the project that keeps fueling you creatively?

Ron Howard: You know, every time, the experiment changes and evolves. For me, just as a creative person, it keeps accomplishing this one really important idea: Telling people that they're far more creative than they realize. To get out there and to play. Take the camera, use your life as inspiration, and surprise yourselves and everyone else with the stories you can tell.

MTV: This year, Project Imagination centers on a concept called The Trailer. Tell us more about the idea here.

Howard: A big part of this is that Canon is always trying to connect with the media zeitgeist, the movements that are afoot. Still photographs was a great idea, and a bit more of a traditional idea. The movies were much more ambitious. And this, it's pacier. It's faster. It's more immediate. It's more personal. But it's also cinematic. We all love trailers. The idea of taking … my recommendation is to just use your life as inspiration. Shoot it, collect it, start to see what it suggests as a movie, and just have some fun building it into something cool. A 60-second collection of what your movie might be. It's very YouTube, and has to have that dynamic, trailer kind of vibe. In a lot of ways, it's the most playful and experimental and coolest of the approaches to Project Imagination.

MTV: What are your thoughts on how the trailer has evolved, from when you were first starting out as an actor and filmmaker to where you are today? Is it a positive direction? A negative direction?

Howard: Trailers, for my entire career as a director, have been their own unique artform. It's just continued evolving. As tastes change, as people's sensibilities, the aesthetics of pop culture… it presses on what trailers need to look like. They do need to honestly reflect the possibility of a story. But for years, there was a mindset that you make the trailer first. You make the poster and the trailer, and if those were hooky and cool and exciting enough, you go ahead and make the movie. This experiment is drawn from that throwback notion. It engages the public.

I'd really encourage people of all skill levels to get in there and have some fun with it. If you're looking at just some scenes you've captured, and you think about some music you can apply, and go and build the trailer, I think you'll surprise yourself as to what it is you can come up with. You might be surprised what kind of movie your life suggests, you know? You might think it's tragic, but when you look at it, it's actually hilarious. Or the other way around. You might think your life is cool, but it turns out to be kind of frightening. Be open to what you see.

MTV: In the spirit of being open, let me ask you to put yourself on the line a bit. Can you point to some trailers for your own films that you feel are good examples of trailers, and some bad examples of trailers? Which of your trailers are you most proud of, and which ones… well, not so much?

Howard: I like the contemporary kinds of trailers, where the music is really interesting, and it tells a bit of the story but not too much of the story. I'm really proud of the trailers that are online for "In the Heart of the Sea." I think they capture the spirit of the film in a really accurate way, but they're really artful. I didn't edit them. Artists looked at our movie and were inspired by it. I really love that one.

Going way back, I really love the teaser trailer we had for "Backdraft." The way it dealt with fire really surprised people so much. It was very short. It was just kind of 60 seconds that really startled people.

Comedies are always the hardest. They kind of work for their moment, and then they age pretty rapidly. So, I'm not sure the trailers for my comedies, going back to "Night Shift" and "Splash," would be my proudest moments today if they were to hit the big screen.

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MTV: You're working on The Trailer with Josh Hutcherson. How did that partnership come about?

Howard: Well, he's a great guy. He heard about Project Imagination, of course. In fact, that entire generation of actors and artists was really fascinated by Project Imagination; they always want to talk with me about it, and are curious about it. Josh has aspirations and fascination with what the medium can be, and what his role can be in it. He's a busy, young, cool guy, and this is a chance for him to test himself a little bit, and have some fun doing it. He's going to produce and star in the Hollywood short film that's going to be inspired by the trailer that he and I select together.

MTV: Do you sense a kinship between you and Josh? Both of you began as actors, you went on to have this fantastic career as a filmmaker, it seems he has similar aspirations from what you just said, you both have interest in indie fare and big-budget blockbusters…

Howard: You know, when I first sat down with Josh about Project Imagination and what I've gotten out of it, and what I think others have gotten out of it, and what it sort of said to everyone out there — to enjoy your creativity, experiment with it, have some fun, get your friends together and share what you make — I felt a real connection there. He's a lot better looking than I ever was…

MTV: Don't sell yourself short, Ron.

Howard: Well… [Laughs] But he likes all kinds of stories. I think we share that as well, which is why he gets involved in these different kinds of projects, and wants to understand, and wants to experiment, and wants to share his excitement for what's creatively happening and possible today in a way that it wasn't even last year.

MTV: This was the pressing question in the MTV newsroom when Josh was announced to be partnering with you and starring in the film based on The Trailer… what happens if the winner is a woman? Will Josh have to dress in drag?

Howard: [Laughs] I don't think anything has been deliniated about his attire in the contract, as I understand it. So whatever creative choices he wants to make… well, that'll sort of be up to him.


MTV: I know you are producing the short film based on The Trailer. You have not mentioned whether or not you are directing. Is that possibility on the table? Is it possible this is something where Josh, who is producing and starring, could get behind the camera on?

Howard: I don't think his schedule is going to allow for it, although directing is something he's definitely interested in. I won't be directing, because I'll be shooting the next version of the "Da Vinci Code" series with Tom Hanks. So, that director has not yet been selected. But as we said, it's going to be a Hollywood short film, so the excitement is going to be making a very polished, very cool, and very accomplished film.

Stay tuned to the official Project Imagination website for more details on The Trailer.