We had the good fortune of connecting with Josiah Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Josiah, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I opted for an artistic/creative career (in film directing and screenwriting) because it satisfied me. I dreamed and created art frequently as a child. Some of my best memories were creating content on a white and red tape cassette recorder with my niece and nephews. But by some means, growing up in an impoverished home, I lost those recordings, and I stopped dreaming. It was not until my junior year of college that I realized something was missing in my life. I consistently lacked energy, forcing myself to study biology and to work at a hospital. But English and Theatre invigorated me, so I chose to study them. They even gave me the courage to pursue filmmaking at a graduate level. I began to record again; that is to say, I returned to myself. The euphoria of learning and pursuing a directing/writing career is an unforgettable feeling that I am immensely grateful to have. I feel like a child again.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Grateful and inspired, I research different communities, cultures, identities, and discourses to enrich my writing and filmmaking. My art is ingrained in philosophical and religious themes. As a relatively new filmmaker, I am excited about the small amount of success that my team and I achieved. My first film, “The Wealthiest Man in the World” (2021), is a 12X award-winning short film. More than anything, I am honored by the positive responses I received during and after its production. Audiences connect to the love and support the film depicts through characters of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I believe in the message of this film, but believing in myself as a filmmaker was another story. I did not see many people who looked like me in film production. Doubt was a crippling setback for me. But with patience, kindness/respect, creativity, and hard work, I developed faith in myself and others. With baby steps, I established my small production company, Johnson Dream Productions, LLC, to champion gender and racial diversity in film; in fact, I aim to accentuate the beauty of humankind, nature, and their relationship to each other. In developing content and staffing for my projects, I think about the misrepresented and underrepresented women and men in media. I create projects about them. I create projects about us—the unheard voices, unseen tears, and unlikely smiles of our shared existence. I hope people see me as one who makes meaningful art and works towards greater self-awareness. I hope they take the journey with me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If you want unforgettable and wonderful NYC experiences, you must see an IMAX theatre movie and a Broadway play. But for quiet attractions, visit MOMA or a few galleries in Chelsea. Also, I recommend stopping by the NYC parks—Central, Cunningham, Forest, Flushing Meadows, and many more.
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?
I dedicate this shoutout to my parents, Dorcas and Robert Johnson, and my eight siblings (Kerwin Sr., Tanya, Robert Jr., Mark, David, Jeffrey, Jennifer, and Andrea). Many thanks for your love and support. You inspire and encourage me to be my best self and never try to outdo anyone. I am fortunate to have a village of supportive friends, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters-in-law, and brothers-in-law. This shoutout is for you too. I praise my community. You molded me into the man I am today; I will always exist as a poet from Queens, New York, who loves and studies theatre and film. I appreciate Christopher Nolan, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Tyler Perry, and all the brilliant film directors and producers. I do not know them personally, but their work motivates me. I am immensely thankful for the films from the late filmmaker, Chantal Akerman. She was a treasure to cinema and the world. Andrea Weiss, Meredith Allen, Marc Palmieri, Annie Howell, and other excellent directors and writers gave me the knowledge, wisdom, and confidence I desperately needed for filmmaking and life. You made me believe that I was good enough for film production and good enough to learn this craft. My stories were interesting enough to tell. Thank you for your mentorship over the years, and special thanks to everyone who takes this filmmaking adventure with me—you are my family. I support you too. Continue to dream and work hard. I wish us every success and happiness, and much obliged to the Shoutout Series (Voyage LA) as well. Our journey continues!
Poster, photography by Josiah Johnson Black and white stills from the film, “The Wealthiest Man in the World” (2021), photography by Julio Alvarez Headshots by Erika Cuacuas