“Never,” the fourth music video from my album An Unseen Sky was released last week and has racked up the most plays in a single week of any of my videos so far! It’s also potentially the most controversial of my videos so far, as while the feedback has been enormously positive, we’ve gotten quite a lot of comments about the dark, heart-breaking subject matter. This is why I thought it would be a great idea and great opportunity to actually go ahead and interview the director of the video, Christopher Johnson of Free Your Mind Films. I asked him about his career, some of our other collaborations, and of course, the ideas that led to the video for “Never.” First make sure you watch the video, and then enjoy the interview!
1) First of all, I wanted you to tell my readers/listeners a little about yourself and your company.
C.J.: I am a 27 year old filmmaker from the lower east side of manhattan, who has dreamed of being a filmmaker and being on the prime stage since my mother took our family to see “The Matrix” when I was 11 years old. It was then that my childhood of film loving really blew up and sparked the desire to make movies and to instill in people the love and awe that I felt that day. I walked out of that film so inspired and so amazed by what I saw and I couldn’t wait to do that for other people. I had always written and drawn my own comics inspired by films I loved anyway, so deciding that I wanted to make movies was just very natural for me. The name Free Your Mind Films comes from “The Matrix”. It’s why I’m here, so I wanted my film team’s name to represent my childhood love and passion. We’re pretty small right now and mainly consist of myself and a few friends, but they are some of the best and most loyal friends a person can have and I am incredibly grateful for them.
C.J.: Well “Never” came out of wanting to do a spiritual sequel to a film I made in college called “Mad World” with my good friend Angel Velasquez, who has done the sound for all of my films since FYM Films started. I usually do very dialogue driven and emotionally charged films so with this silent film/music video I wanted to do something that was still as emotionally charged as the rest of my work but while being as visually distinct as possible from the rest. I really wanted to play with color so that you can know without even hearing a word exactly what the emotion of each scene and each environment is. Plus I love making movies about people who would do things that I couldn’t even fathom. Like a man going to kill his brother in “Greed Will Imprison Us All” I just can’t fathom that. I love my brother, why in the world would someone do that? So I make it into a movie to at least try to figure out the answers to my questions. “Never” is no different in that regard. What would drive a man to do something so insane? So terrible? In the end I usually go to emotion. When people let emotion overwhelm and control them, terrible things happen. It’s something that’s pretty common in my movies.
3) The feedback I’ve received both publicly and in private has been overwhelmingly positive so far on “Never” in its first couple days of release. One thing I continue to see though, is that it’s “sad.” I had a feeling that would be the case due to the subject matter, but as a fan of art, film and music, I feel that some of the best art, film and music could be called “sad” or “heart-breaking.” How do you feel about art that is meant to stir emotions like “Never” does?
C.J.: Art meant to stir emotions is usually my favorite art. I love all types of movies but those are the ones that affect me the most. It doesn’t have to be a deeply emotional indie film either. I’ve been a huge Batman fan since I was 4, and I have no shame in admitting that The Dark Knight Trilogy affected me emotionally. I adore that character and seeing him done in a truly human form just amazed me. For film in particular I have a natural shell to things, so I think someone breaking me out of that shell and overwhelming me emotionally is fantastic and truly powerful. I also naturally like to discuss issues and problems I have with certain aspects of society. I really don’t like people who abuse women. I really don’t like abusers of children and very repressive people, so that dislike feeds into my desire to do films like “What If” and “Overcome.”
4) We previously worked together on the short films “The Usher” and “Unrequited.” Tell me a little bit about each of them.
C.J.: “The Usher” came up due to my anger over how people treat each other in my previous job in a movie theater. Whether it be how the moviegoers treat the workers or how the managers treat their own employees. Thinking about it made my blood boil most of the time, so I dealt with it by making a film that makes a statement on a very common event that happens to movie theater Ushers all the time. I just wanted to put a little crazy chris johnson twist on it and have the Usher say and do things that real life ushers usually only dream of. I consider “The Usher” to be my first Black Comedy and satire. It was being on set that made me realize just how funny the whole thing was, and Matthew Steven Serrano (who used to work in a movie theatre with me) and Jason Torres really brought it on that one.
C.J.: “Unrequited” came about from not only the desire to make a film with my friend Anthony Duluc but also out of the questions I have for myself. I always wondered how I’d react to a friend of mine telling me that they were gay and are in love with me. I hope that I respond to that in a very proper and respectful manner to my friend, but It has never happened so I don’t really know, so I wanted to make a movie about that, and it’s really one of the few Free Your Mind Films that really tries to talk about how good a lot of people are on the inside and how if we all just reached out and accepted people for who they are, things would be a lot easier in this place. It was tough to make such a positive movie at first because my instincts are naturally darker. But I think we made it work and I’ve been very happy with the response to that film so far.
5) What’s next for you and your company?
C.J.: Right now I’m still in post-production on my reverse racism film “What if”, written by my great friend Winston Green. Next up I’m actually doing an action film called “Too Proud to Die” with the star of my films “What I Deserve” and “Overcome”, Ingrid Vollset. I’m gonna end the year with gangster horror film “For Every Action’ and my passion project “Beater’, which is about a man who pays his brother in law a visit after seeing his sister beaten. Making films like “Overcome” and “Never” have lead to that film.
6) Lastly, I’d love to know… Who are some of your favorite filmmakers, who are some of your favorite artists/bands, and what are some of your favorite movies?
C.J.: Christopher Nolan is my idol right now. I adore every single one of his films. Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee. There are so many filmmakers I adore but those are the ones I think about first when people ask me that question. I actually don’t listen to normal music as much as my family or friends, but Michael Jackson, U2 and Eminem have always been favorites of mine. Favorite movies is hard but The Dark Knight Trilogy for me is the best of both worlds , it soothes the intellect and drama I want to see from films and also gives me the excitement and spectacle I want to see as well. I’m also loving the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe as a big time Marvel fanboy. Films like Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Die Hard and The Matrix made my childhood. Lately besides all Nolan films I’ve loved Drive, films like Django Unchained, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years A Slave, etc. There’s just way too many to name for me!
That concludes my interview with this truly talented filmmaker, Christopher Johnson. Hopefully you enjoyed it and maybe it shed a little light on any of the questions you might have had about “Never.” I’m looking forward to working with him again in the future. Make sure to follow Free Your Mind Films on Facebook. And make sure you leave a comment on the video letting us know how you liked it… And share it too! Thanks for reading.
David Rosen is an award-winning music composer. He composes original music for films, commercials, jingles, video-games and all other kinds of media projects. He has a vast music library of original tracks available for licensing and is also available for custom compositions. Contact him on the ABOUT page for pricing and availability for your next project.