I was up in Canada over the weekend, as many of you know, my family was a part of a gospel jamboree with several other groups. I spoke with several old friends and some new, then discovered that one of the members of the Johnson family was actually a filmmaker as well as a singer.
This Movie Review Monday will be unique in that it was a live interview, that it was very impromptu and spur-of-the-moment, and that this young filmmaker is from Alberta, Canada.
This young man is just 17 years old, has already directed his first two films, and is in post-production of a third. Mostly working within his family and on minimal budgets, Matthias is just getting his feet wet in the filmmaking world. His is an interesting situation because he travels with his family full-time sharing the gospel through song; thus he has to work film into his already busy life. Interested in his story and what the dynamic of traveling and singing as a filmmaker looks like, I sat down and had a conversation with him the second night of the jamboree.
Me: When did you first begin making films?
Matthias: My first film I shot when I was 7. I made a little film with counselors of a camp and they took orders from me. When I was 12 we went to California and I made a short film with my uncle. It was only 15 minutes but we were so proud of ourselves.
Afterwards we were so excited that we wanted to make a feature. My uncle brought the idea to me for an Indiana Jones type, adventure film and we began planning. Months later, we filmed the entire thing in 2 days in a single location, one Michael Landon Jr. used a lot for many of his films. We originally made it just for family and friends, but people started requesting it and so my family sold it on our product table at concerts. It was so successful that Dad wanted to start making more.
Me: Tell me a little about this project you’re currently working on?
Matthias: Over 200 people are involved in this next project and it was filmed in 10 states and provinces. “God Directed” is about God giving strength in the midst of trials; it’s almost a story within a story.
Two young filmmakers begin making faith films, the government doesn’t like this and makes laws against them, but the filmmakers continue until the government tries to silence them. They go from Hollywood high-profile to on-the-run and undercover, discovering along the way that God is directing their stories just as they had been directing others.
Me: Now, I understand you had a very different idea about what this film would look like, then completely switched gears, changing everything.
Matthias: Yes, we were going to make a movie about a modern inventor. We had everything ready for this film we were about to do: the actors, the locations, the props and sets: everything. Then Dad came and told us that he felt God telling him that we shouldn’t do this movie. I was speechless, but we decided not to do the film even though filming was set for a few months later. The next day my Dad came and told me about this movie idea that he’d been writing the night before.
Part of the reason I switched to this new idea was that I saw a passion. Up til’ now I’d felt like the Lone Ranger, everyone else supporting my fire and passion, but seeing that in him made me really want to make it come to life.
From there, things just fell into place so easily, we wrote the script in a week and never changed it once afterwards. It was such a God thing that we named the film, “God Directed”.
Me: Having a larger cast for this third film, how did you make the connections and coordinate the schedules?
Matthias: As we travel, I watch people in other groups to see their level of animation and take note of that for future. We had a lot of extras, and as we traveled we filmed scenes as we went. When we came into the area of certain of the cast, we filmed their scenes.
This was interesting to me because I travel and take part in whatever area of film I can, but I couldn’t imagine directing and producing them while on the road full-time. Matthias seems to have no problem with this and balances the two extremely well. For a budding filmmaker making his own way, he is showing exceptional promise. So, I asked him how the dynamic of travelling worked with the filmmaker aspect of who he was, for personal application as much as anything else: here’s how he responded.
Matthias: I think it works really well together especially when it comes to location; moving the story and having the dynamic feeling in the locations is a definite benefit. Travelling also works with filming actors in the different states and provinces: we don’t have to fly people out, we just wait till we’re in their area.
Me: Travelling as you do, how do you afford to make these films?
Matthias: For “God Directed”, we had a budget of about $10,000 that we raised through my family’s traveling and singing. We feel so strongly that God has called us to make this film that we are devoting all the financial support we have to spare to that mission.
Me: Finally and most importantly, why do you want to make films?
Matthias: Media is influencing the world. Satan is using it to spread his lies, but it’s also great outlet for Christians to use to impact lives for Christ.
For someone so young, Matthias has a great amount of maturity as a filmmaker, but also as a Christian. I for one plan on supporting this young man’s endeavors and expect great things from him. You can find out more about Matthias Johnson and his present and future film projects by clicking here.
Facebook: Matthias Johnson
YouTube: Matthias J. Johnson
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist