Visions du Réel is delighted to announce that the Special Guest for the 55th edition of the Festival (12 – 21 April) will be American filmmaker John Wilson. He is mainly known for his documentary series How To with John Wilson, nominated for the 2022 Primetime Emmy Awards, in which he explores the eccentricities of daily life through a succession of quirky and hilarious comic detours. To accompany our selection of episodes from his series and earlier works presented during the Festival, John Wilson will take part in a public discussion of his work as well as curate a carte blanche.

  • Thursday 18 April, 18:00 : Masterclass John Wilson at Usine à Gaz

John Wilson has been working in American television for a decade, alternating between commissions and more personal projects, all with his trademark offbeat approach. His landmark HBO series How To with John Wilson (2020-2023) is an invitation to explore the eccentricities of daily life, and proved a runaway success. Armed with a camera and a keen sense of observation, John Wilson uses the streets of his native New York as his backdrop. Pastiching the video tutorials ubiquitous on social media, How To with John Wilson proposes a series of life lessons on trivial themes which border on the absurd: “How To Cook the Perfect Risotto”, “How To Put Up Scaffolding”, “How To Clean Your Ears”… Each exploration sparks a succession of improbable meetings with strangers, some bizarre and fascinating, following an idiosyncratic logic and offbeat association of ideas.

From an always unassuming starting point, John Wilson’s work always reaches for disconcerting depth. His anti-spectacular cinematography, incorporating a kind of formal austerity inspired by Gonzo journalism, showcases the comic potential hidden in the banality of the everyday. Without ever distracting from the highly entertaining premise of his project, John Wilson implicitly questions the human condition, the absurdity of existence, and the complexity of the modern world in a set of remarkably effective DIY wild goose chases. The third (and final!) season of this unmissable series was broadcast last summer, and garnered its director a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.

“I’m really flattered that Visions du Réel asked me to screen some work at the festival this year. I always wanted to travel internationally and screen my work but no foreign festivals ever accepted my submissions. I’m very excited to watch documentaries in Switzerland.”  – John Wilson.

Born in the famed New York borough of Queens, John Wilson is a filmmaker, cameraman and director. After studying documentary filmmaking at the Binghamton University, he shortly worked editing clips of surveillance footage for a private investigator. Alongside this, he started his career as a director with several shorts and a few commissions, including one for David Byrne (Talking Heads) in 2015, and for Vimeo documenting the 2017 Sundance Festival.

John Wilson’s offbeat humour and quirky eye attracted the attention of Canadian director and producer Nathan Fielder (Nathan For You), and the two then started a highly fruitful collaboration with the successful series How To with John Wilson (2020-2023), earlier forms of which were initially created completely independently and streamed for free on the internet.

Then produced by HBO, the three seasons of How To with John Wilson earned the director international acclaim. Initially made almost solely by the filmmaker with a handheld camera and an iPhone, the scriptwriting, image shooting and editing team gradually grew over subsequent seasons to include around fifty people. In total, the team behind the series gathered thousands of unscripted minutes and images shot covertly in the streets of New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. In 2021, John Wilson was nominated for a Gotham Award, followed by a Primetime Emmy Award the following year.

2023   My Morning with Magic Mike (short film)
2020-2023   How to With John Wilson (TV series)
2018   How to Live With Regret (short film)
2017   The Road to Magnasanti (short film)
2017   Escape From Park City (short film)
2016   Los Angeles Plays New York (short film)
2016   The Spiritual Life of Wholesale Goods (short film)
2016   How to Act on Reality TV (short film)
2016   Temporary Color (short film)
2015   How to Remain Single (short film)
2014   How to Keep Smoking (short film)
2013   How to Walk to Manhattan (short film)
2012   How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan (short film)
2011   People Parade (fiction, short film)
2007   Looner (short film)

Selection 2024