We had the good fortune of connecting with Em Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Em, how do you think about risk?
Taking risks goes hand in hand with the industry that I am in. Film is quite cruel and involves you to have an unrealistic amount of time and patience in order to keep persevering and find success. As is with most artistic careers, risk-taking is normal, and so, I was prepared to bet everything I had on my work. I don’t see risks as being scary or something I shouldn’t do, because every risk that I’ve taken has, in some way or another, benefitted my growth as a writer and director.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Being an artist and a creative is always a challenge, so I would never label it as being easy. Sure, something things are easier than others, but the obstacle course that each creative industry brings to the table can be overwhelming and tough to navigate. The film industry is difficult to break into and I know that I’ve got many challenges left to face and overcome, but I do think that I’ve grown a lot as a person and an artist. I feel more confident in my work and proud of myself when I look back at where I started. First of all, I am a writer and director. I started doing both of these things fairly later in my life and was only able to study them formally when I entered graduate school to get my MFA. For the last six years, I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever had in my entire life in order to build up my film portfolio, network with industry people, and create bonds with like-minded individuals. Thankfully, I find myself at a really great point in my career where I’ve accomplished enough, but know that I’m just starting out and there’s so much left for me to do. There’s many lessons I’ve learned about how to work with others and stand my ground, or be a leader, but the one lesson I’ve felt changed me the most is knowing my own worth. Many times artists are taken advantage of and, after a few years, I had had enough and knew I needed to stand up for myself and ask for what I deserved. It’s a hard battle that I’m still facing, but I know that, by being confident and good at my work, I need to be treated fairly and seen as an equal individual. Once you face rock bottom in terms of being belittled or overlooked as a serious artist, something in your brain snaps and you fight back. And once you do that, you really own yourself and know how and what to ask for when being approached for a project.
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.
Well, I’ve got a lot of hot spots that I enjoy, but I probably mostly frequent Little Tokyo in DTLA. My closest friend lives near there and we love the restaurants, shops, and anime stores. However, there’s a bunch of amazing food joints all around LA. And since food is my number one love in life, here are my suggestions: Wurstküche (Belgian sausages and beer in the Arts District), Keepers (Asian-America fusion in Little Tokyo. AMAZING BRUNCH!), Double Zero (Vegan Italian in Venice. Their pasta is *chef’s kiss*), and last, but not least, Village Pizzaria (NY-Style pizza, so you know it’s good, in Larchmont.) Beyond food though, I would take people hiking out in Malibu, maybe grab some goodies from the Anime Station shops in Little Tokyo, head to The Last Bookstore in DTLA, and hit ups some great bars in Echo Park or Hollywood.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would have to send my shoutout, first and foremost, to my family, who’ve always supported my crazy dreams and encouraged me to live outside of my comfort zone. Without them, my journey might’ve ended before it even began. I know that with them behind me I am able to push myself to the limits with almost no fear. Next, would be my friends, specifically my creative business partner, Katherine Waddell, who has stuck with me for years as we’ve worked alongside each other to create new and unique film content. Our growth together has made me feel so lucky and I’m all around happy just knowing that my closest business link thinks highly of me and vice versa. There’s multiple other people who I’d thank that have consistently supported me in all my endeavors and cheered me on from the sidelines. It’s amazing to see how many people have supported me and continue to support me throughout the years.
Ryan Quinlan, Aleix Quintana