VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Johnston, Johnathan

Johnathan Johnston
US Videomaker


Intrview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

I was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA which is a nice city with Nordic roots . I left for university studies in Alaska (a place even colder) and earned a BA is Photojournalism. I received an MFA in Photography and Intermedia in 2009 from the University of Iowa. I know live in Columbus, Ohio and teach photography and digital media at Otterbein University. I’ve lived most of my life away from the major art centers of NY, LA, Chicago etc. which has given me an appreciation for people of all backgrounds who are striving to make a living as creative beings.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

At university, I took a few film production (16mm) and film studies courses. I got some basic skills and have used them to compliment my photographic art practice.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?

I am interested in the everyday–simple, quiet moments that help give form to our daily existence. I am also very interested in found and archival footage. The idea that you can mix home video with archival film from an old government instructional film is very exciting. Narrative possibilities are limitless.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

I am pretty minimalist in my visual aesthetic as well as with the equipment I use. I like contemplative, simply framed shots. I’m interested in the lyrical quality of editing and shooting.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

I use simple equipment. Flip video cameras for when I go on walks (I use an HD model). I have a Canon digital SLR camera that shoots HD and has external mic inputs. I use an HD Zoom audio recorder if I want good sound. Pretty basic. I’m basically a still photographer who shoots video.

6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general
and you personally?

For me, I’m already using it. I get free video (films converted to digital) online and include clips of them in my videos. Obviously, shooting digitally lowers costs and is more convenient. More people can shoot low-budget videos. That doesn’t mean more great films are being made though.

7. How do you finance your films?

My films are very low budget. I use small, inexpensive equipment. My family and friends (or strangers) are often my actors. Mother nature is one of my biggest stars! I have received a few small grants to help purchase equipment. Shipping and distribution of digital video is quick and inexpensive. Its just a DVD in an envelope. You can ship that around the world for a few US dollars.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?

I usually work alone. But now I’m a part of an artist collective, Wildland Urban Interface and we do video Exquisite Corpse projects and other collaborations. Mostly digital video.

if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

In a way, I prefer working with a small group of like-minded artists. When you are uninspired or unmotivated, you have assistance–others pushing you to make good work. Problem solving is often much easier with a few brains working at once.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

The films of Terrance Malick, Tsai Ming-Liang and Apitchatpong Weerasethakul are great. Slow and contemplative or brief and to the point.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

I would like to be able to continue making small films for small audiences. I would like to show more in Europe and Asia. A lot of interesting, grassroots festivals and organizations seem to be thriving there. And I love teaching, exposing young college students to filmmakers and artworks that expand their mind is something I thrive on.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on VideoChannel? Where?
List some links & resources

My website, contains a few videos. There’s links to other video sites there as well.