Monday, 11 November 2013

Meet Daniel Johnson...Part 2

“I wanted nothing more than to be a foreign filmmaker, but of course I was from Brooklyn, which was not a foreign country. Through a happy accident I wound up being a foreign filmmaker because I couldn’t raise money any other way.”
- Woody Allen

Following on from my earlier interview with up and coming film-maker Daniel Johnson, now is the time to talk to Daniel about well, now.  What is he working on currently on a part-time basis and long-term what is on the horizon for him in the coming months, I also ask him about his feelings about social media and the current YouTube phenomenon for young film-makers.

Daniel, thanks for talking to me again. What are you currently working on?

My web-series, 'Sally The Life Coach', and working on a screenplay for another production company.. and considering starting a new script of my own. I'm also creating quite a few showreels for actors.
Do you do other work apart from your own screenplays and directing?  Many people must imagine that you sit around writing all day and editing.
Most of my work at the moment is creating showreel content for actors, and also some directing work I do in Rugby for Harlequins TV. Being a freelancer, lots of other things pop up -- could be writing a script for someone, or doing some editing -- last week I even did some sound recording for a job -- so it all varies! 

Where do you sit on the YouTube generation?

I think there is a new, younger generation coming through, who totally know how to find an audience on YouTube. I was there at the birth of YouTube, but it's not my generation. You get these kids now, aged 15 or 16, and they have millions of viewers -- but what they create is really niche stuff, specifically targeted at their generation. Like if you look at someone like Jenna Marbles, she makes a living through YouTube videos.  They have great talent and a connection with their audiences that I find us older directors find harder to make. 
Has the growth of social media been a positive for young filmmakers aiming to break into the mainstream? Or do you think young filmmakers can have a voice without having to pine for the mainstream due to the proliferation of the social media?
Social media is a great way to connect with people and to share your work - but I think people also get far too caught up into it. The key to success isn't nagging people on Twitter, the key is to keep creating great work, that's how you get better. So I think social media serves its purpose, but you don't want to focus on it too much. It can be great but it can also be distracting, so you need to think about how you use it.
Do you attempt to make films/stories that will appeal to a wider audience whilst still having your identity on the product?
It's difficult to get right. What draws me to making films is to do what I want to do, what I think will appeal to people. But my audiences are far lower than I would like, so it's tricky. There are TV shows and movies out there that I don't think are particularly good, but people really love them. So how should I deal with that knowledge? If I try to make things to fit a market need, then I'm likely to be losing a bit of myself.  I think essentially you need both. To create things that people want to see, but viewed through your own outlook, your own take on the world. It's not an easy thing to do. 

Can you elaborate a bit more on 'Sally The Life Coach': how did it gestate and what is it like working with an actress who has worked on a nationally loved show?
Working with Natalie [Gumede currently starring on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing] has been a really great experience. I think at first I felt a little bit of pressure, because she was coming off this huge, iconic show, and then here she is in my web-series, and I was thinking, "Oh God, what if my project is really shit? How will it make her look?"  But then I got over that. All you can do is what you do, and you try and create the best project you can. Working with Natalie is a blast, she's SO dedicated, and so hilarious too - it was really a lot of fun.  I've known Natalie for many years so more than anything we were just excited to be doing a project we both really believe in.

Where you apprehensive of working with Ms. Gumede giving her experience on bigger productions?
Working with more experienced actors like Natalie is actually a real pleasure. And we both knew what 'Sally The Life Coach' was, it's a smaller, more personal project that we both believed in. But definitely, when you're working with someone who is a TV star, it does make you pay extra attention -- you want to be professional and you want it to be valuable for the actor. 

What are your expectations of the web-series?
I just hope it gets seen by as many people as possible. My big hope is that people get to discover some great actors through it -- Will Hartley, Steve Mitchell, Elizabeth Guterbock and Tony Craig are all great actors, and they've all had some great successes already, but I'd love to help their work reach a wider audience. And with Natalie, I want people to see it because she's really funny in it. So far people have see the Kirsty character in Coronation Street, and they've seen her incredible dancing on 'Strictly Come Dancing', but I feel this project will really show people how versatile she is.   And for me, I guess this is my way of showing people I am capable of longer form projects, of writing episodically. I really like working on this format and I hope it leads to more for everyone involved. 

If you would like to see more of Daniel Johnson's short films then please seek out his website and follow him on twitter @danieljohnsonuk

Natalie Gumede can be followed on twitter @NatalieGumede

Keep your eyes peeled for more interviews with Daniel Johnson

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