Susan Johnston and the New Media Film Festival 2011

Susan Johnston and the New Media Film Festival 2011

"This film festival is for Artists, Filmmakers, Producers, Directors, Above and Below the line Crews, Thought Makers, & Implementers that brings stories worth telling to life."
~ newmediafilmfestival.com

Susan Johnston is a spirited and passionate woman who has worked in Hollywood long enough to know that the only thing you can expect from the business is that it is always changing. Which is one of the reasons why she came up with the idea for a film festival in Hollywood that focuses specifically on New Media. Of course, there is a good deal of discussion surrounding what constitutes the term "New Media," but Susan is less interested in academic wrangling than in creating an event that will not only bring people together and "provide opportunities for filmmakers," but will showcase work that is not often found (if at all) in traditional film festivals. Some of the new media categories include:

• Digital Comics
• Mobile Phone Media
• SRC – Socially Responsible Content
• Apps
• 3D Shorts
• 3D Features
• Webisode
• Web Series
• Shot on Red (Short Films & Feature-length)
• LGBT content

All in all, there are 16 separate New Media categories at the 2011 New Media Festival. A full list is available at the Festival website.


Susan Johnston, founder of the New Media Film Festival

I was fortunate to spend an hour with Susan via Skype recently and she told me that she founded the New Media Festival in 2010 after re-locating from New England, where she achieved significant results in establishing the professional film infra-structure for the state of Rhode Island. Working in Los Angeles, she "delved into International co-producing, talent producing, directing TV Development and collaborating on innovative projects with her Award winning production company, Select Services Films, Inc." In other words, she's been incredibly busy and has been involved in practically every aspect of Hollywood filmmaking. She brings a lot to the table in founding the New Media Festival. Her energy and experience are stamped all over the planning, screening and presenting of this unusual festival.

The 2011 New Media Film Festival will take place on May 20 & 21st this year at the Los Angeles Film School, Hollywood, CA. The Friday, opening-night films will have a 3D focus this year and will feature the Los Angeles premiere of Bill Plympton's "Guard Dog Global Jam," along with several other interesting films like "The Physics of Surfing 3D" by Greg Passmore and fascinating 3D/color conversion of Harold Lloyd's classic silent "Saftey Last" (this I gotta see).

Saturday, May 21st will be an all-day affair with panels such as "Webseries SuperStar Creators" (which will also feature the panelists works, film screenings, Q&A with filmmakers and producers, more screenings, and a sweet "Rock N Roll Photography Exhibit" by photographer Jim Steinfeldt). At the end of the day, there will be a big awards presentation where the Grand Prize winner and the winners of each New Media category will be announced by some pretty cool folks (Sally Kirkland, Erin Gray and John Saxon, for example). For a full schedule of the day's events, be sure to check the New Media website and blog. I plan on covering the event for Renderosity.com and should have an article and lots of media after the Festival closes.


A New Media panel from 2010

There are some great prizes from top-level sponsors like Dolby, Sony Digital Cinema and the International 3D Society, including use of professional production facilities, software, free training and a lot more. If you are considering submitting something for the New Media Film Festival, there is a fee, but it's very reasonable (and varies depending upon the category, plus it's lower for students). Check out the FAQ at the New Media Film Festival 2011 website. Another neat aspect of the festival is that there is no deadline for submission. Well, for all intents and purposes, I wouldn't submit during the awards ceremony. Your main submission mechanism is via the New Media Fest website and it's very easy. Check it out.


Susan Johnston with actor John Saxon

Getting back to Susan again, I spoke with her for about an hour and she told me about her goals for the festival, how she came to team up with her partners, Noel Lawrence (Director of Programming) and David Kleiler (Artistic Director), along with anecdotes about the festival and how they determine which films will be screened. As I said, she's got lots of energy and has a great attitude about the festival, and working in Hollywood in general: "it's a big sandbox and there's plenty of room for everyone to play." I'm also impressed with her insistence that "story" be at the center of the festival. In fact, it's part of the festival's motto: "honoring stories worth telling."


A conversation with Susan Johnston

I've condensed my conversation with Susan to about 15 minutes, but I think you'll find it enjoyable. You can also check out the Facebook page and the blog for the New Media Film Festival for more pix of Susan and updated info. Background information on the Team that runs the festival is here. And, if you are planning on attending the event in Los Angeles, tickets for the two-day event are reasonably-priced ($75 for both days) and available through the website and, I assume, at the door.

My thanks to Susan for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk with me.


Ricky Grove [Ricky Grove], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
May 16, 2011

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