Quantcast Jonathan Johnson interview - RADIO MECHANICS

Jonathan Johnson!!!
Jonathan Johnson is the writer/director behind the impressive sci-fi short film 'The Radio Mechanics'. Granted, it's not exactly horror, but after seeing his film, we knew we had to preview him as one of Icons Of Fright independent filmmakers to look out for! Where may you have heard of 'The Radio Mechanics' before? Our buddy Lance Warlock is one of the producers & he mentioned it in his interview with us earlier in the year. Read on for the full scoop! - by Robg. 9/05
What are your earliest recollections of both the horror & sci-fi genre?

Most of my earliest recollections came from watching TV as a kid in the 70's & 80's. Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and the occasional black & White "Godzilla" or "Mothra" movies. I know there was a fire breathing Turtle somewhere in there also. I think my earliest memory of a Horror movie was when Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was trapped in the cave with the huge "Abominable Snow Man" who needed dental work.
Tell us a bit about what influenced your decision to pursue a career in filmmaking?

Because it combines the power of three of my passions, music, writing and art, into one powerful, creative force.

As an independent filmmaker, how difficult was it for you & producer Preston Herrick to raise the money to make 'The Radio Mechanics'?

To tell you the truth we virtually created it on next to nothing. We were fortunate to have the help and support of local businesses for location shots, volunteer crew members and actors who will willing to work for the love of it. Being able to handle all post production of the movie "in house" was the huge lifesaver to our very small budget.

Let's talk a bit about the film itself. What were the major influences you drew from?

I've always liked Director Terry Gilliam's films and the way he weaves very nostalgic components into futuristic settings. Good examples of this would be "Brazil" and "12 monkeys". Mood is huge and for that I loved the way Ridley Scott directs movies such as "Blade runner" and "Gladiator". Color was huge to me. I really wanted to accent things with the right colors to create the right imagery. "Dick Tracy" is a great movie to watch to see how important color can be.

The production diary cites 'The Twilight Zone' & 'Outer Limits' as influences. Which of those shows stands out as some of your favorite episodes?

It's literally been a long time for me since seeing some the early black and white episodes of both series. I see now that they have the complete seasons on DVD, which I want to pick up at some point. The one that stands out to me the most for some reason was "Time enough at last". It starred Burgess Meredith and I believe it was an episode from the first season of The Twilight Zone. I was always intrigued by the stories from both shows just because I felt they were very imaginative and I love short stories. They do hold a great place in my memories of growing up. I also liked the Twilight Zone movie from 1985 and I've seen a few of the newer Outer Limits episodes also. I'm pretty easy to entertain when it comes to stories like these.

A lot of the story, which deals with alternate and dominant realities & the doorways between these realities, we at Icons found to be fascinating. Not to mention throwing in the alien aspect to it! I know a lot of people can relate to the idea of our dreams feelings like a distant alternate reality. Where did a lot of these theories stem from? Where they theories that you invented for the film?

I wrote Radio Mechanics with a ultra small budget in mind. So I figured if I was going to make a movie about a conversation, then that conversation needed to be imaginative. I just literally tried to take things that I felt were fascinating, on a number of different subjects, and weave them together into a somewhat feasible theory that was original in concept and that would hold someone's attention. Literally as I was writing, things would pop into my head that I thought would be cool for the story, so I wrote it in. I should probably thank all of the great sci-fi authors, philosophers, Scientists, Bigfoot Researchers, TV shows exploiting the "unknown", UFO Magazines, Hollywood, etc...etc..etc........

I believe in the commentary you mentioned shooting this on the Panasonic DVX100? What promoted video to be your choice and was it always intended to be shot this way, rather then using film?

When I approached Preston with the story we decided on the DVX100 from the beginning. Simply because of the budget issue.

How'd Lance Warlock and the whole Unit 12 crew get involved?

Lance and I had already been collaborating on music and it was a shoe-in that we would put music to the project. We had known each other for years and had played together in a band called "Mercy Rain" before forming Unit 12 Productions.

The piece is very dialogue heavy and consists of two main characters exchanging all of this dialogue. How difficult was the casting process? And how many people did you see before settling on the obvious choices, Patrick Murphey and Doug Pelton?

We knew right away that Patrick and Doug were definitely going to be called back for further readings. We actually paired them together to see how they interacted together and that's what sealed it for us. My hat is off to both actors on pulling off the lines. With the small amount of time to shoot and the huge amount of lines, they were incredible.

What would you consider both the most difficult thing to shoot and the funnest thing to shoot for this production?

One of the toughest and most enjoyable shots was the opening apartment scene. All of that clutter you see was carted up three flights of stairs to an empty room with no air conditioning and on one of the hottest days of the year. On the other hand it proved to be one of the best and my favorite of all the shots, simply because of the creativity in setting it up and the look that we achieved from it. I think it set the mood for the rest of the movie.

For a short film, the DVD itself is a really nice package full with some great special features, such as commentary, outtakes and casting tapes. Was it always a conscience decision to put together a "special edition" package for when the film was ready for release?

Yes it was. We really wanted to have record of the process for ourselves to look back on and let the audience see how it was all put together and to see how much fun we really had making it. It really was a positive experience, I believe, for everyone involved. At least I hope it was.

While watching it, the Icons staff was intrigued by the thought of this being an on going television series. Is there more story to this piece? And given the chance, would you expand upon it either in movie or television form?

We have definitely considered this as an option. The movie version is the whole story, but I would consider expanding it into a series of episodes if the avenue opened up for us to produce a series.

Which would you personally prefer - a 2 hour movie or an ongoing series?

I really love movies. I like a good series, but it always seems like I end up missing shows because of life happening. Now I do like on occasion renting a whole series and watching it on DVD at my leisure, that's pretty cool. I did watch "Project Greenlight" faithfully with Lance and Preston on the making of "Feast". Now that was entertaining.

It's been a while since you completed production and the DVD has been out now for a few months. Looking back, did the film turn out pretty much as you'd always envisioned it?

It definitely did. During pre-production with Preston, and then with the associate producers, I was able to really articulate the way I envisioned "Radio Mechanics" right down to the colors and the type of wardrobe for each character. The sets and locations were perfect and everything seemed to work. Nothing in the movie was "just there". I wanted everything you see in the movie, right down to the black rotary phone, to be there.

What exactly is next on your slate? What can we look forward to in the future both from you, Preston and the Unit 12 crew?

Preston and I are currently working on another screenplay for a feature length film. Lance and I are continuing to write and perform music and we hope to produce more movies together as a production team along with Dennis Roberts our associate producer.

Special thanks to Lance Warlock. Check out the Lance Warlock interview HERE!
Radio Mechanics DVD available NOW at: www.radiomechanics.com

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