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Ciao - LA Times review

"Yen Tan's "Ciao" is a revelation, a minimalist work of maximum effect. It is determinedly understated and consistently expressive, beautifully composed yet never studied."

Full article here.
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Prop 8 the Musical - Ciao in Theaters - The Citizen

I find this to be quite brilliant and hilarious.
See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die


I'm not sure that anyone outside of DFW reads this blog but if you happen to live in or know anyone who lives in: New York, San Francisco, Berkeley, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia, or Atlanta. Please go see Ciao. Check the website for screening dates as it is rolling out one city at at a time. The roll out starts this weekend in New York at the Landmark Sunshine.

I'm so proud of being involved with this film and couldn't be more proud of Yen and Jim for not just making it but actually getting it distributed and into theaters.

Here's the official trailer:


Oh yeah:

Announcements coming soon!
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Lone Star Film Festival 2 - Starts today

It's back. Regardless of what went down last year, Alec and Dennis proved to me beyond any doubt that they were going to bring a great festival in year two. As you look at the schedule of films and events you can see that they delivered. I'm proud that my hometown is able to support such a culturally significant event. Film is art and deserves to be heralded the same as any painting at The Modern.

There is a great line up but I'm going to concentrate on short films because features already get plenty of attention from regular media. So here are my recommendations for short film watching. You should definitely make it a point to watch some short films. Sometimes the true artistry of filmmaking stands out more when one is limited by time. Plus, this is where you find the stalwarts of future film stardom. There are lots of great shorts playing, some I haven't seen, but these below are my favorites (follow the links for screening info).

Glory At Sea: I'm honestly not quite sure how to put into words my adoration for this film. Glory at Sea is a true epic. I literally mean that. Even though it's under 30 minutes it is a magnum opus of the likes I've rarely seen. It is hands down one of my all time favorite films. Do yourself a favor and see it now, on the big screen, no matter what.

Quick Feet, Soft Hands: Paul Harril is a prodigious talent. His last short film, the Sundance winner Gina, an Actress, Age 29 was a wonderful film and he follows it up with an even more accomplished outing this time. Quick Feet, Soft Hands is an intense relationship drama that focuses in on the rarely seen realities of not only a couple living paycheck to paycheck but also the crumbling dreams of a life-long pursuit. It propounds the question "When is it time to give up and is there ever actually a time?" It's the simplicity that counts, no overwrought triteness in the presentation here. Paul proves himself to be a maven of efficiency in his storytelling by giving us masterful set ups of lighting, composition, and action that speak when the characters don't. As you can probably guess, I loved it.

My Mom Smokes Weed: Okay, full disclosure here, Clay is one of my best friends. However, that doesn't mean I can't fully recommend this awesome and funny film. The title is quite exact. A young man, visiting his aging mother has to take her on an errand to obtain the titular substance. As you can guess, it doesn't go off without a hitch. What's so great about My Mom Smokes Weed is that it very maturely moves beyond the obvious slapstick comedy and renders a surprisingly emotional commentary about leaving a place for your mom in your life even when you've grown up into adulthood.

Woman In Burka: A hilarious look at the sometimes unglamorous life of an Indian actress being typecast as Arab in a post 9/11 entertainment industry. Even though the film is laugh out load funny at times with lots of deliciously irreverent humor it also has an emotional honesty that I love.

Spider: This is just a really amazing, humorous, action packed little film. It has an amazing twist ending that's both hilarious and horrifying. Highly enjoyable.

Scaredy Cat: A very personal, highly affecting essay documentary Scaredy Cat accomplishes an amazing feat by trying to understand both the victim and the criminal. Told in an immensely creative and engaging way this short represents truly inspired documentary making that breaks from the insipid conventions of reality TV.

Doxology: Don't let the word experimental scare you. This is a really fun film full of artistic special effects that will have you wondering "How did they do that?" The scene where he dances with a car is worth the price of admission alone.

When The Light's Red: Another great personal documentary that has the filmmaker facing those people we all see begging at intersections. What could easily be overwrought bleeding heart material is rendered with a light hand.

The Smallest River in Almirante
: This is one of those films often called a gem. Indeed it is. I really loved this one a lot. It's a beautiful and lyrical film reminiscent of the the things I love about Malick films.

Stars and Suns: A supremely well crafted film. Beautifully shot with great use of special effects that instead of distracting, actually add to the emotional journey of the characters.

Small Apartment: Like the three characters - a young man, his girlfriend and his father - living in the space described by the title, this film can get a little uncomfortable. It's in the best way possible though. By being brutally honest about the lust and love left in a broken older man this film transcends it's awkward subject matter.

One Of The Last
: A documentary about an old Italian farmer who still does it the old way. I loved listening to him talk about his life and philosophy and just observing his actions throughout the day. He's definitely the kind of guy you want to spend the day with just hanging out and talking. That's what this doc gives you.

I know I said I'd be talking shorts but there are two features I do want to point out. Let The Right One In doesn't need any help from me because it's been widely heralded but I'll just join the course by saying it is a mesmerizing film that takes the notion of romanticizing vampires and turns it on it's head. A definite must see.

If you want to see a film that truly embodies the grit and gusto of independent filmmaking then you have to watch The New Year Parade. The storyline might seem familiar but I promise you won't see a film that handles it's melancholy subject the way this one does. I love the softly turning mechanisms of The New Year Parade and how it balances it's subtle storytelling with completely engaging insights into a little known Philadelphia subculture.
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The Time for Divisiveness is Over

This is an amazing speech. It is well worth watching the entire thing. The last half transcends anything I've ever heard a mainstream politician say.

My politics are squarely rooted in the Progressive Left mixed in with a few Libertarian tendencies. Speaking strictly in ideological terms there are third party/independent candidates that are a better choice for me than Barack Obama. But this election isn't about me. It's about the entire country. As I've matured into my mid-thirties I feel like I've learned a lot about politics and society. I have a very special vantage point that a lot of Americans don't. Being raised in a red state, constantly surrounded by some of the worst representations of Republicanism, I've seen what selfish "me" thinking has to offer. Fortunately, I've been able to contrast that by living in the bubble of one of the most liberal districts in Texas and a Progressive business that's like a sanctuary of my beliefs and ideals. However, being in that bubble hasn't stopped me from having to consider the thoughts and feelings of a large percentage of people around me who don't agree with me and might even see my way of thinking as dangerous for society.

What this has taught me is: Our country, as a whole, can't just be one way. It can't just serve one ideological interest. We NEED a moderate person for president. I don't want to live in a country where half of the people are pissed off all the time. Republicans have proven that they are okay with that. But as Progressives we have to be better than that. Obama is likely to win but that still leaves almost half the country voting for McCain. All those people's opinions still mean something and still have a place in this country.

And that is why I think Obama is the best candidate. While he definitely has liberal beliefs I also see his compassion and message of hope as a way of reaching out to everybody and trying to bring America back together. To put forth the idea that it's okay to disagree on things. We can find the issues that we do agree on and work on those together.

So yes, maybe Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney speak directly to my ideology but honestly, I don't think either one of them would make a good President. They offer the same divisiveness that we've had the last eight years.

Right now at this point in history we need a leader that can stand above all of that. I think Barack Obama is that candidate.
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Austin Film Festival

This weekend (and next week) Merrily, Merrily will be playing at the Austin Film Festival. I met Kelly Williams, the head programmer, while Deadroom was out on the fest circuit back in 2005. Ever since then he's kept up with me and thankfully he's still interested in the films I'm making. So thanks Kelly!

Here's info on the screenings:
Saturday 10/13 5:30pm at The Dobie
Wednesday 10/22 3:00pm at The Hideout

It's got an amazing line-up of films including a personal favorite of mine Mike Brune's The Adventure and a special TBA screening of Rock-a fire Explosion a doc made by some fine filmmakers from Houston that I met out at the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival. All around they've got some amazing stuff showing.

Since the fest is all about Screenwriters I'm looking forward to meeting some writers!

While in Austin, Mr. Bryan Poyser has been gracious enough to host Amy and I and I'm hoping he'll show me a sneak preview of his new short film called The Crane House. I watched some footage when we were in NYC and it looks amazing so far!

I'm also WAY excited to see the theatrical event (because it seems to be much more than a "play") The Casket of Passing Fancy which is co-created by and featuring my friend Rebecca Beegle. The show is doing gangbusters already from what I've read.
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Merrily, Merrily - Sidewalk Moving Picture Fest Screening

Merrily, Merrily will be playing in Birmingham, AL at the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival this weekend.

Here's the details:
Sat. September 27
Location: Harbert Center

It is playing before Medicine For Melancholy for which I'm very honored and also very nervous. Medicine is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year so it will likely be a packed screening. I'm glad there will be lots of people to see it but I hope they don't get too antsy having to sit through my 17 minute existential angst film before getting to watch the film they really came to see!

Either way, I'm excited to be there and share the film again with a new audience and take part in an amazing festival.


Merrily, Merrily will also be playing at the Naperville Independent Film Festival this week. If I understand correctly, Naperville is just outside of Chicago. This is a first year festival and I don't know much about it but I wish them much luck on their inaugural run and I hope the film will play well there. You can find the schedule for the festival here.
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Receive Bacon - the shoot, the edit

The shoot: Fun and excellent. Jonny and Kelli are such great performers with wonderful attitudes to boot. The crew was tight and all the background extras were on point. I had a lot of fun.

The edit: Oy vey. Not so fun. I already knew but this project in particular has verified that I DO NOT like to edit my own films. My judgement gets way to clouded by what I meant when I wrote the script and the moments and visuals I fall in love with while shooting. This script was about two and a half pages. The cut so far is almost 7 minutes! I don't know what else to take out.

I'm kind of glad I'll be out of town all next week. It will give me a chance to quit thinking about it and come back fresh the week after. Then I have to start killing my babies.


This is pretty comical: http://www.myspace.com/politicalsongs.

I don't understand how someone could be so excited over McCain. Maybe he used to offer something different but definitely not anymore. Then again, maybe he's just using this appalling, divisive right wing Karl Rove type stuff to get the vote out and win. Then he'll swoop in and be the centrist superman that nobody wants him to be! I don't know, I'm not a Republican, maybe that guy knows something I don't.
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On the eve of Receive Bacon

I'm shooting a new short film tomorrow. This time it's a really short film. Thanks to Bryan Poyser for hooking me up with two great actors from Austin, Jonny Mars and Kelli Bland. Thanks to David for convincing me to do it now instead of later. Thanks to Brad for letting me use the Chat Room Pub for the shoot. Thanks to Tim for loaning me some key equipment. And of course, thanks to Clay and the rest of the crew who will be waking up early on a Sunday to help me make the film possible.

It's gonna be a fun shoot for a fun little film. I hope to have it edited by the time I land in NYC to help rep St. Nick at IFP Independent Film Week.


In other news:

Merrily, Merrily has been accepted to three new festivals for the fall: Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival, Naperville Independent Film Festival, and Austin Film Festival. Amazing! I'm happy we're getting some more play this year. I'd like to get the film online at some point. Just trying to find a good online home for it.
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Why can't the real media be this prescient?

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A sad day - RIP Orson

Sleeping in my lap - Jan. 08

When Amy and I went to the Humane Society searching for a missing cat we met this little gray and white kitten for the first time. As soon as I saw him I knew we had to take him home. He had the most boisterous meow and stretched his arms through the holes of his cage as far as they would go trying to get our attention. When we asked to see him as soon as the cage opened he immediately jumped in my arms and climbed to the top of my shoulders and set there purring.

He was a few months old, found living on the streets by himself. So we adopted him. How could we not? We named him Orson, full name was Orson Welles the Adventure Cat. He truly earned his name. He played like mad, climbed to the top of tall trees, jumped off of roofs, and wrestled with cats twice his size. He had a joyous spirit and lived life for all it's worth.

At night he loved to nestle his face into my beard and go to sleep purring so loud I could hardly sleep myself. His favorite napping spot was my office chair where he'd curl up tight covering his eyes with a paw. He was enthralled by the shower - so curious about what went on in there. After every shower as soon as the water was off, he'd jump in there and look around.

Whatever he did it was always with utmost glee.

Playing on my desk after I dragged him from playing in the fireplace, Jan. 08.

Last night, just after midnight Orson passed due to complications with Kitty Leukemia. It happened very suddenly with no warning. One day he was playing and running around full of youthful exuberance and the next day his body was being ravaged by internal bleeding. He wasn't even a year old.

We laid him to rest under the rose bush in our backyard.

Before meeting Amy I never thought I'd admit out loud that I loved a cat but indeed I did love that little friend of mine. He was the best damn cat a big lug like me ever could've had.

Me and Orson, Jul. 08
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Classic Film Feast, Art & Seek

There is King's feast of classic films happening for this weekend and next at The Modern in Fort Worth. Give that DVD player a rest and go watch these films the way they were meant to be seen.

Here's a clip from one I'm most looking forward to, Salt of the Earth:

And here's one I wish I could see but I'll I have to do a cooking class that night, Brute Force:

In other news:
There's an interview up I did with Alec Jhangiani for the KERA Art & Seek Blog where I muse about local filmmaking, mumblecore, my current projects, and other stuff.
Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
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To all the Real Terrorist out there: I'm sorry for getting all up in your list.

Get Your War On
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Join my email list please!

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The Dark Knight

I'm not planning to write some long dissertation on how and why The Dark Knight is so amazing but I will say this - it absolutely, 110% lives up to all the hype surrounding it. It is an incredibly crafted film.

Heath Ledger really does play the hell out of that role and if they are going to give special Oscar consideration to him then I say let them. There have been far lesser talents given that honor and with this mesmerizing performance he's earned it.
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Ciao: The Best Gay Movie of the Year?

Damn fine article here: http://www.afterelton.com/movies/2008/7/ciao.

It's just amazing when someone totally gets it.
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A visit to St. Louis and Springfield, MO. Art House Cinema is coming to FW!

You never know when Tom Waits will decide to stop touring for good so Amy and I took the opportunity to see two shows of this tour. Thus after Dallas we went to Missouri to see him in St. Louis at the Fabulous Fox Theater. That show was probably one of my favorites of the four I've seen. He played an amazing set to match the breathtaking theater space he was performing in.

Before we hit St. Louis though we stopped in Springfield to visit Dan and Nicole Chilton's wonderful art house cinema called Moxie Cinema. Not only are Dan and Nicole wonderful humans and gracious hosts but they run a damn fine business there in Springfield (a town I find very similar to Denton here in our area.) We met them through David who is working on a short documentary about the theater and their drive and ambition in creating it.

The reason for the visit to Moxie was research. If you don't know Amy and I personally then you probably haven't heard that Amy is in the beginning stages of her next business venture. That venture being a real Art House Cinema in Fort Worth (of course I'll be helping her out but just like Spiral it will be her baby). We've already been perusing suitable buildings and are very dedicated to keeping the theater in the Near Southside (where Spiral FW is.) Our hopes are to have the theater up and running by 2009. As I mentioned, we're still in the very beginning stages but here are the plans thus far: It will be called "The Citizen Theater", it will be a modest sized theater in art deco style. There will be two screens with a heavy emphasis on exceptional picture and sound quality playing both first run art house films and repertory films as well as undistributed indie films (but only the best of the best.) We'll have a mini-cafe in the lobby serving organic popcorn, wine and beer, coffee and espresso, sodas, juices and smoothies as well as some of the other Spiral goodies you know and love (no full meals here, just snacks and desserts, maybe a veggie wrap or two.)

Amy's very excited about this and will be working on it full speed ahead by the end of the year.

But before we can open the theater we have to get our cookbook written!


In other news:
While in New York, Keith Uhlich editor of the great blog The House Next Door was kind enough to invite me to be on their podcast which has been posted online today. It's a fun and rowdy listen so enjoy: http://www.thehousenextdooronline.com/2008/07/lichman-rizov-live-at-grassroots.html
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I had me a nice little room in Chelsea with a few channels on the TV and air conditioning (plus a fellow tenant who liked to play with knives in the hallway and told me someone hung themselves in my room). There was a subway stop on one corner and a little Health Food shop on other where I could buy some nice vegan snacks and Kombucha.

Just around the corner was SoHo House, the location of the IFP Narrative Rough Cuts Lab. This prestigious program was kind enough to accept St. Nick, one of only 11 films in the lab. The film was well received by all involved and garnered much praise. Of course all the other films were great in their own right. Go here to check out a list of all the films: http://www.ifp.org/ifpnews/newsitem.php?id=604.

The labs were transcendent from a filmmaking perspective. The amount of information doled out was massive but never overwhelming. I learned so much and watched mountains turn into hills.


I've been reading about Rooftop Films for a few years now and it's always intrigued me. I finally got a chance to see it for myself and let me tell you: it's a sight to behold. What a gorgeous set up they have. Excellent sound and picture quality with hundreds in attendance. The best part of it all was getting to see "Glory at Sea" again.


Anytime I travel, food is at the top of my list. I was remiss in my culinary explorations this time though. The labs were from 9am - 6pm and only allowed for an hour lunch so I didn't have much time to visit all the wonderful places I had picked out. However I did get to visit two great restaurants. While not 100% vegan I did love the food at Curly's Vegetarian Lunch a great place for American style diner food. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Angelica Kitchen with their concentration on healthy gourmet vegan food. Sometimes these places can place a little too much concentration on health and not enough on taste but Angelica's really does both well.
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Tom Waits Dallas Show

That was really great.

It was like escaping the hospital in spite of my yellow fever and going to a tent revival in the middle of a hot summer day where the preacher turns water into moonshine and the sermon is something I can really believe in.
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Holy Crap - TOM WAITS!

In just a few hours I'll be standing in front of a stage that Tom Waits will be performing on!

This will be my third time seeing him. This one feels so much more special because it's close to home and all of my friends are going to be there.


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One of the more interesting developments of my year in film has been an invitation to join the board of QCinema: Fort Worth Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival. Back around the time of the Lone Star fest I started talking to Todd Camp about helping out with QCinema, this lead to The Q10 Project and joining the board. Thus far the experience has been great. Todd does most of the heavy lifting for the festival being the Artistic Director and Programmer (and lots of other things!) It's been a lot of fun and all involved are great to work with. Even though it is a fairly small festival there is still lots to learn about the inner workings of a film festival. As a filmmaker I've discovered many different ways of thinking about my own festival experiences.

Today the QCinema Fest begins in full. In it's tenth year the festival expands to 10 days! I hope some of you local folks will come out and show support. Todd has put together a great line up of really well made and engaging films. Go here to look at the full festival schedule: http://www.qcinema.org/minisite/schedules/all.html.

You'll notice on Sunday June 1 at 7:30pm Yen's film Ciao is playing. If you didn't get a chance to see it in Dallas come see what everyone's talking about. It's been getting rave reviews all over the place.

All ten episodes of The Q10 Project are finished. Please check them out and let me know what you think!


In other news there's some amazing things happening with St. Nick but I'll let David announce those when he's ready for it.
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Balls To The Wall Creativity

This has got to be one of the more amazing things I've yet seen.

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.
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Sarasota - Maryland - Tallahassee (Monster Post)

Munyurangabo is wondrous! Please try to find a way to watch it.


Almost immediately after getting back from the Sarasota Film Festival Amy and I went on a little vacation to Tulum, Mexico. What was planned to be a five day trip turned into nine due to complications with armed rebels and blocked highways. So two days after getting back from the old country I had to turn right around and go to Baltimore. I wish I had more patience and time because I'd like to say a million things about my experiences.


Sarasota was a dream. I just can't lavish enough praise onto that festival. There are so many great people working there and Holly and Tom go way beyond the duty of just programming great films to being excellent host as well. I feel incredibly lucky to socialize and hang out with the stellar group of folks that I met there. From bloggers to filmmakers to festival staff it was just an exceptional time.

One of the great people I met in Sarasota was Keith Uhlich, editor for The House Next Door. I passed him a screener of "Merrily, Merrily" and he was kind enough to review it on the blog. Here's what he had to say:
"Johnston's Merrily, Merrily goes off in its own unexpected directions, and I'd prefer not to spoil its central conceit, which adds several provocative shadings to this seemingly familiar tale of adolescent angst. Thirteen-year-old Merrilee (Emily Burgardt) moves through her awkward existence with a dour expression and gait, her perception of the world around her entirely, though quietly, introverted. A revelation from her father (Andy Sensenig) sheds some light on her feelings, but also fractures the boundaries of her reality - fact bleeds into fiction, and the whole thing closes out in the relative (dis)comfort of irresolution. Not simply a metaphorical treatment of growing pains, Merrily, Merrily also offers a subtle, striking portrait of a media-saturated age. As is made abundantly clear, Merrilee is starring in her own movie, but who controls her narrative, and at what point does it cease to be self-contained?"

Wow! He really hit the nail on the head. Thanks for such a great write up Keith!

Here's some films I saw and loved: Momma's Man, Medicine For Melancholy (again), The Adventure (again), My Effortless Brilliance, Battle For Haditha, By Modern Measure, Still Birth Chicken, Crustvaska, The Back of Her Head.

The Adventure - Trailer

I have to take a moment here to single out Mike Brune's "The Adventure". Exhilarating and mysterious, funny and poignant, "The Adventure" is another one of those transcendent short films that you rarely get to see. I feel lucky to have seen it projected on 35mm. Even still, on DVD it still packs a punch and I encourage all to seek it out.

Another film I want to mention specifically is "Momma's Man." Very deliberately paced at first it can seem meandering but it draws you in deeper and deeper and packs an emotional wallop I was wholly unprepared for. It's definitely one of my favorites this year. Luckily it's being released so you'll have a chance to see it in theaters.


The Maryland Film Festival was a great time as well. They have an amazing emphasis on short films, even going as far as to have the opening night film be a collection of shorts! Again, I got to hang out with some of the amazing folks I met at SXSW and Sarasota and met some cool new peeps as well.

The "Merrily, Merrily" screenings were excellent. After my first screening I set out from the theater towards the filmmaker lounge and on the way at least 5 different groups of people stopped me to say how much they enjoyed the film and to discuss the themes of the film. It was amazing! It's one thing to hear a simple "Hey great job", but to actually have people want to discuss the style and substance of the film was a joy. Unfortunately, in my second screening the moment the lights came up a fire alarm went off and there was to be no Q &A.

Films I loved: White Lies, Black Sheep, We Are Wizards, Stars and Suns, Une Affaire de Femmes, Doxology (again), Salim Baba, Chop Shop, Pop Foul (again), Quick Feet, Soft Hands, The Acquaintances of a Lonely John.

I must say that "Chop Shop" is definitely something special. It's a film that I am not nearly eloquent enough to explain but for me personally it has something so perfectly compelling. I really loved it.

Another immensely interesting and honest film is "White Lies, Black Sheep". It has a rarely seen perspective on race and is an amazing first (narrative fiction) film. I usually consider mockumentaries a cop out but this film in particular transcends the genre in a perfectly self-reflexive way. It is a stellar example of the DIY spirit of filmmaking.

Quick Feet, Soft Hands - Trailer from Paul Harrill on Vimeo.

Paul Harril is a prodigious talent. His last short film, the Sundance winner "Gina, an Actress, Age 29" was a wonderful film and he follows it up with an even more accomplished outing this time. "Quick Feet, Soft Hands" is an intense relationship drama that focuses in on the rarely seen realities of not only a couple living paycheck to paycheck but also the crumbling dreams of a life-long pursuit. It propounds the question "When is it time to give up and is there ever actually a time?" It's the simplicity that counts, no overwrought triteness in the presentation here. Paul proves himself to be a maven of efficiency in his storytelling by giving us masterful set ups of lighting, composition, and action that speak when the characters don't. As you can probably guess, I loved it.


Next "Merrily, Merrily" is off to the Tallahassee Film Festival. Many people have brought to my attention that Tallahassee is a cool town so it's unfortunate that I won't be able to attend with the film.

Here is the info on the screening in case anyone is in that neck of the woods:
Friday 5/16, 2:30 PM at the FSU Student Life Cinema.
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Sarasota 2008 - Merrily, Merrily

I've been so caught up between Spiral Dallas and AFI that I completely neglected to remind all of you that Merrily, Merrily has some screenings coming up! Thankfully David's latest post reminded me.

I'm proud and honored to be premiering at the 10th Annual Sarasota Film Festival. I consider it a great honor to be included among such fine films. There is no amount of prodding needed for me to concede that "Merrily, Merrily" is easily classified as a hard sell. It is for this reason that I bestow many thanks upon Ms. Holly Herrick and Mr. Tom Hall for discerning the merit of my artistic endeavor.

There is an inexplicable feeling in the room when a film you have authored is playing before an audience. I anxiously await the energy and the chance to see how the film is received. Pessimism has little chance in my heart of hearts, even when I try to expect the worst I'm naturally an optimist and always hope the people will love it more than I could began to imagine. Even if that doesn't happen on this film I'm convinced that it will some day!

For any of you who might be basking in the coastal glories of Sarasota, please do give my film a try. Here is information for the screenings. I'm quite enthralled with the synopsis they have offered of the film. It's so simple and so true. Why didn't I think of that!

Alas! David's full triptych "A Catolog Of Anticipations" will be playing at the festival too. I'm equally excited to see how people will react to that.
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Ciao on NPR

On KERA today they broadcast a great story/interview for Ciao. Go here to check it out online: http://www.kera.org/blogs/culture/?p=785
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Ciao at AFI

Yen's newest feature "Ciao", produced by Jim McMahon, is premiering on Sunday at AFI in Dallas. Here are the times and locations: Sunday, March 30th 7:15pm at the Angelika and Saturday, April 5th 10:30pm at the Magnolia.

I had the immense pleasure of working closely on this production with Yen and Jim. They are both dear friends of mine and I wish them well as the big night approaches. I hope that you all will support the film and come to the screenings.

CIAO Trailer from Yen Tan on Vimeo.


Another friend, Barak Epstein has a film playing as well: Blood on the Highway. DP'd by the great Clay Liford I'm expecting a veritable feast for the eyes and a fun time. Here's all the info for that screening.
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SXSW '08

For me the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival was definitely the year of the short film. The program was overflowing with technically proficient short films that had richly developed characters and profoundly touching narratives. A prime example of this can be found in my absolutely favorite film of the festival "Glory at Sea". There is no synopsis or explanation I can give that will do the film justice. I will say that I haven't gotten misty eyed at a film since watching "The New World" for the first time. If you'd like to try and catch a tiny glimpse of it's greatness here is the trailer:

Here's the Quicktime version with is much higher quality and well worth the wait to load and watch: http://www.court13.com/glorytrailer.mov

"Glory at Sea" along with most of the other amazing short films that played this year were over 10 minutes long. This is a trend I hope to see continue in programming throughout the U.S.A. I've said this before but I really feel that many festivals obsession with the 10 minute cut-off is unjust and ridiculous. If we want to encourage filmmakers to make emotionally complex, well crafted films we have to allow them the proper time to do it in and not apply internet standards to the craft. Sometimes it feels as though you either have to make a feature or a short under 10 minutes if you want the chance to play a film festival and that's just stupid. There is so much amazing work being made out there in that no-man's land of 20 to 60 minutes and it deserves to be seen.

Here's my list of favorite shorts from SXSW '08:
Bachianis No. 5, Blindspot, Closing Night, Crossbow, Dynasty Handbag - The Quiet Storm, The European Kid, Frog Jesus, Glory at Sea, I hate you don't touch me or Bat and Hat, Kid, Knock Knock, Madame Tutli-Putli, MAN, Mr. P, Paradise, The Problem With Machines That Communicate, Rock in a Hard Place, The Rambler, Safari, The Second Line, Small Apartment, Spider, The Stain on the Sidewalk, Swedish Blueballs, Warlord.

Of course one section of David's triptych "A Catalog of Anticipations" screened and I loved watching it again on the big screen. It plays very well and is so amazingly done it definitely held it's own amongst the other excellent short films it was playing with.

As far as features go, well, I didn't gorge myself on them like I have in years past. Amy and I were trying to relax a little bit. As a matter of fact I missed a great deal of films I wanted to see. Nevertheless, there were some great ones. My top favorite was probably "Medicine for My Melancholy", check the trailer:

Here's a list of my favorite features:
American Teen, Goliath, Medicine For My Melancholy, The Pleasure of Being Robbed, Present Company, Nights and Weekends, Woodpecker, and Yeast.
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GDMF - Watch the whole damn thing online now.

A little under two years ago I shot GDMF. Now it is finally available in full for public viewing.

My friend and fellow Fort Worth filmmaker Erik Clapp's upstart film website Atombomb.tv is hosting the film. Erik saw the film when it played at Dallas Video Festival about a year and a half ago and told me way back then about his idea to start an online site for local short films. Thanks to him for taking a chance with GDMF for his site.

I would also like to thank David Lowery for consistently encouraging me to put the film online. I was always hesitant about it and worried about how it would play. His advice was to just put it out there and let it find an audience for better or worse.

I am severely proud of the film. It's definitely one of those projects that has enriched me as a filmmaker and will always mean a lot to me personally. It represents everything I needed to be doing to move forward in my creativity. I'm most proud of learning to hone in on my instincts and follow them at almost every turn. One of the prime examples of this was the casting of Abbey Collins as the lead. I literally saw a picture of her on one of my friends MySpace pages and followed the link to look at her page and knew she was it. Even though she was a completely inexperienced non-actor, somehow I knew it. I didn't even audition her. I just set down and had a conversation with her (David in tow to make sure I wasn't crazy) and we both agreed. She was it. When I watch her raw, honest, tour de force performance I know I made the right decision.

I've typed and erased many sentences where I felt the need to somehow make excuses for certain aspects of the film or the process of making it but in the end that is pointless and weak. You'll either like it or you won't.

Either way, I hope that you'll watch it and let me know what you think.

Visit the GDMF page Atombomb.tv where you can find info on the film with it streaming in standard definition along with links to audio commentary by Abbey and myself and a little behind-the-scenes video.

For best quality please watch GDMF in streaming HD here: http://www.vimeo.com/462565.

WARNING: This does contain mature content and is NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Also, it's 30 minutes long so it's a bit of a time commitment.
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St. Nick is over

Technically principal photography ended last week but we had some stuff to shoot this weekend. It didn't feel final until yesterday when art wrapped out the picture house. As I walked through the empty house returned to it's state of normal decay in preparation for construction to begin again I felt sad and lonely. It really is over. Even though we still have a few pick-ups the house is the big symbol of it all ending.

Below is a short film full of some behind-the-scenes clips that I shot on my Casio Exilim still camera.

St. Nick Behind-The-Scenes Short from James M. Johnston on Vimeo.
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St. Nick - The Beards

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From the people who brought you Superbad and George Washington

I've never gut laughed at a trailer this much before. David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express:

Probably won't be up for long so watch it quick.
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Happy Five Years My Wife

My very first tattoo, my wedding "ring".

In August of 2002 Spiral Diner opened and that is when I first met Amy. She was a USC Film School Graduate running a vegan restaurant. I was was filmmaker and foodie wannabe chef.

By December of 2002 we were for lack of a better word "dating".

On February 10 2003 we were married.

And today on our Fifth Anniversary that shared passion, film, is what is keeping us apart because I'm producing a wonderful film called St. Nick that is shooting all day today.

Not to worry though. Amy and I truly do treat everyday of our lives together as an anniversary. We are lucky in ways beyond measure. And her love is the best thing ever!
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St. Nick - Prelude

Tomorrow morning St. Nick begins shooting. I'm sitting up at Spiral waiting for Amy who is decorating a cake to be used in a scene tomorrow. As I wait I'm going over everything - the schedule, the cast/crew list, when we should do lunch on certain days, making sure there will be food the kids like to eat, etc. These are all logistical things that are necessary for a good shoot. While these calculations work through, in the back of my mind there is a very emotional pool of thought churning. So now I pause to commit it in full.

David and I have been making films together for eight years now. The very first film I ever worked on was David's. I think it's something we've gotten pretty good at by now. We've had great moments and had our hearts broken. Never have we been detoured. Never has there been a doubt that if I'm making something or he's making something that we wouldn't be working with each other in one form or another. There are very few people I hold close. I mean the type that I know I can call at 3am in the morning when I need help and they'll be there no doubt no question. David is one of those.

Now on the eve of what is technically David's first feature film I find my heart filled with an innocent pride. St. Nick is a beautiful work in motion. The script and story are an emotional landscape of deep resonance. Carefully selected are the elements and that which will represent them on screen. The children, the house, the props, and the visual language are all attuned. Everything feels too right to be anything but positive. I truly feel this film will find David at his finest yet.

So congrats to David for putting together a wonderful project. I'm honored to once again be a part of your growing artistic canon.
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Q10 Episode 2 "Beautiful Thing"

Click Here to view in streaming HD.

Check out the "Q10 Project" channel on Vimeo if you haven't seen the first one and for all the information about the project: http://www.vimeo.com/q10.
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Quick Feet, Soft Hands

Here's a quite amazing trailer for the short film Quick Feet, Soft Hands by Paul Harrill of Self Reliant Filmmaker fame. This is really one of the greatest trailers I've seen in a good long while. Can't wait to see the finished film.

Quick Feet, Soft Hands - Trailer from Paul Harrill on Vimeo.
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How Interesting, How Bizarre

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Welcome to the world Sylvie Abigail!

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Heavy Winds in FW Today!

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The Q10 Project - Celebrating Gay Cinema

In working with the Lone Star Film Festival I realized how much fun it is to help get other peoples work out into the world. I enjoyed balancing my own artistic endeavors – typically my relationship with fests is that of (begging) filmmaker - by introducing other works to an audience as a programmer. So, I promised myself that as long as I’m in Fort Worth I would actively work to help bring films to the eyes of an audience in need of content. Or at least try to help the people of Fort Worth realize that they do indeed NEED content.

My second chance at doing this came through Todd Camp the Director of the Qcinema International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which takes place here in Fort Worth. I spoke with him and asked what I could do to help QCinema. I was honored when he asked me to become a board member.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Qcinema Festival and to celebrate Todd and his partner Doug had an idea to make mini-documentaries of people talking about their personal connections to gay film. Being a filmmaker I asked if they would allow me to take over that project. Thus The Q10 Project was born.

Each episode features someone talking about a moment in cinema that exults the gay experience or has a personal connection to his or her life. The Q10 mini-docs will act as trailers before films playing at the festival and as online advertising for the fest.

The first episode is Michael McDermott speaking about the film “Sordid Lives” and is available here on the Q10 Vimeo Channel: http://www.vimeo.com/q10. Please do check it out and pass it on. Be sure to bookmark the page and check back because there will be more in the coming weeks!

While you’re there checkout some of my other work on Vimeo at http://www.vimeo.com/jmj.

NOTE: If there is anyone out there who has a passion for this subject and has skills in graphic editing and is willing to donate your time, please contact me. I would like there to be more visually pleasing graphics and titles for the episodes but alas, I have no skills in that arena myself!
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Upward Spiral

"After finding unlikely success as Cowtown's lone vegan eatery, Spiral Diner is basking in accolades from a national magazine - and is branching out into Dallas."

Pretty awesome article in the Star-Telegram about Spiral: http://www.star-telegram.com/408/story/412658.html
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07 - 'Twas a good year for film

I don't really care about list but I must say that if I had to pick one my personal favorite film of 2007 was The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
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The Lone Star International Film Fest and the firing of Tom Huckabee

I have to wonder by what accident and ill state of mind the Lone Star Film Society Executive Committee under the leadership of Chairman Johnny Langdon must have been when they fired Tom Huckabee as Artistic Director of the Lone Star Independent Film Festival. Especially when on their own website front-page it states in big bold letters “Inaugural Lone Star International Film Festival a great success” over a picture of smiley faced Bill Paxton and Harry Dean Stanton, two of the celebrities that Huckabee hand delivered to Fort Worth along with that success they’re speaking about.

A native of Fort Worth, Huckabee has worked as a filmmaker in Hollywood for nearly 30 years. He came back home early last year for his family and was tapped to run this fest. Needless to say he has true experience in this industry with lots of connections.

When hired on there was already too little time, not enough money and way too many egos to really pull together a festival. Huckabee commandeered the situation with a mighty heart and managed to pull off a world-class festival for three reasons: he loves Fort Worth, he loves Film and he had a great crew.

That exceptional crew included Managing Director Pete Asplund, Advisory Board Chairman Bill Paxton, Head Programmer Alec Jhangiani, and a slew of other key contributors like Julio Cedillo and Jenny Jopling. I too volunteered, acting as a member of the Programming Committee for the festival. Therefore I got to watch from the inside as this ship came into port. I tell you now that never has a captain and his crew faced such storms and choppy waters as Huckabee did on this maiden voyage.

As a filmmaker I’ve visited many film festivals in this fine country of ours. My experience has varied and I’ve learned a lot about how this system works. I promise you that this first year festival truly did hold it’s own in the world of festivals.

There was a perfect blend of celebrities and local filmmakers and big name films alongside foreign and underground films that most of the Fort Worth populace might never be exposed too. The parties were packed. Happiness and fellowship abounded. People from all over the country were here talking about how wonderful and laid back Fort Worth is. I heard the comment over and over that this is a perfect place for a festival. Never have I felt more proud to be a native son of this great city.

Of course there were some problems. No first year festival of any size happens without a few mishaps. Even still, under the leadership of Huckabee the festival was a great success. Working with his team he delivered us an institution that if nurtured can sit right alongside the Van Cliburn Competition and our wonderful museums as another reason Fort Worth is a world class city for art and one of the most livable cities in the US.

Yet, a little more than a month after the festival Huckabee was unceremoniously fired and Asplund’s contract was allowed to expire. It’s rumored that several important board members have quit in protest of the insular actions of the Executive Committee. Now several contributors like Paxton, Jopling, Cedillo and myself have vowed not to return to the festival. With board members, key supporters, and Huckabee leaving so does the hope of a viable second year festival. With so much potential for greatness and a chance to build on the success of the first festival one has to wonder what the logic is.

Maybe the subject of this article is the problem. Someone’s ego got bruised and they felt the need to horde all the glory and power for themselves. Now they’re left with one golden egg but the goose is gone and our whole city will suffer the loss. My only hope now is that cooler heads will prevail and Mr. Huckabee will be allowed back in and given the chance to deliver a bigger and better festival this year.
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Creative Animation

Loving this video.

Danse (dance) from Remyyy on Vimeo.
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Rejected by SXSW. That one really hurts!