We had the good fortune of connecting with Ari Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ari, why did you pursue a creative career?
I think when I was younger, I recognized that I felt most at home in creative spaces, and of course the idea of a creative career was fun and fulfilling. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve grown to appreciate the value of creativity and the impact that art has on society. I used to joke that I didn’t have a “real job” because the work I was doing was fun and didn’t save lives. And that’s true – I’m not saving lives (and shout out to the doctors, nurses, teachers, and essential workers who literally are). But television and movies make people feel seen and heard, expands their ideas of what’s possible, and can make them feel less alone. To me, that feels like a worthwhile way to spend my time. Not to mention, I know I’m happiest working on a creative project. The more I create, the more grateful I am that I have my projects to keep me grounded, connected, and fulfilled.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
For me, I think one of the biggest lessons has been how empowering it is to create my own work. I moved to LA solely to pursue acting, but I quickly got sick of waiting for someone else to give me the opportunity to work. So I started writing parts for myself, and then I decided to film those parts. What began as an effort to cast myself in projects morphed into a passion for creating in new ways. I still love acting, but I also love having other outlets for my creativity. For me, it’s been so much more fulfilling to be able to make things without waiting for permission. It makes me feel like I have more agency in my own career, and it’s expanded my storytelling capabilities in an exciting way.
I will say, each time I’ve added an additional hat, it’s been super scary. Deciding to direct for the first time, deciding to start a podcast, putting myself out there in new ways, none of that was stuff I originally envisioned for myself, and that means I spent a lot of time feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing and maybe I was making a big mistake. It took a lot of time for me to feel confident wearing and taking ownership of each hat (and I’m still working on it!) But if there’s one thing my podcast has taught me, it’s that that is a pretty common feeling (especially in the entertainment industry), and it’s just part of the process that you have to push through.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh I love this question! These days, I’m doing a lot of hikes. So we’ll go to Los Liones, Switzer Falls, or Saddle Peak. In the spring, Chino Hills State park is a must visit while the mustard flowers are in bloom. Of course, we have to get some good coffee, and M Street Coffee in Sherman Oaks is the best of LA. My #1 dinner rec is Daichan – it’s a family run place in Studio City. The owners are the absolute sweetest and make the best food – it’s a true hidden gem. I love going to shows at Groundlings and UCB, and of course spending time at Echo Park Lake. Finally, big shout out to an organization called Homey Made Meals. They’ve donated over 65,000 homemade meals to our unhoused neighbors across LA, and it’s a super easy way to get involved in the local community!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Where to begin! I’m going to give a cliche but heartfelt answer – I’d love to shout out my parents and grandparents. I grew up in Kansas, and there is no way I would have made it to LA without my mom and dad telling me no dream was too big, and my grandparents telling me they were proud of me no matter what. Knowing that they believe in me and support me has not only made my journey easier; it’s made it possible. They deserve so much credit and recognition, and I’m so grateful that they encouraged their little girl with big dreams.
And, no shout out would be complete without mentioning the cast and crew of my web-series, Friend Request. Each of them were so wildly talented, a joy to work with and unflinchingly supportive, and I will never stop being grateful to them for sharing their gifts with me. Each and every one of them deserves their own shout out!
Caitlin Fisher Photography