on doing

There are about a billion inspirational mottos for this lately, but it doesn't make it any easier to do the doing.

Hi, my name is Amber Johnson and I am a chronic over-thinker.
I'm a generally anxious person and I don't really want to do anything without weighing all the risks and possible outcomes.

This means, my inclination is to not do anything. It's just not safe.
The problem with this is that I started to realize how unlived my life was.

I've dabbled in being a Nike commercial cliche before, "Just do it" and all that jazz but my life happens and my over-thinking ways take over again.

Over the last few years, life seems to be smacking me upside the head again and again while screaming, "STOP MESSING AROUND AROUND AND DO SOMETHING!"
Frustrated about your career? DO SOMETHING.

So, I've started doing. Trust me I still think, but I do more. 
I've realized that I have a wealth of experience both in my career and in life and it's time to step up and own it. 

What does that mean? 
Instead of fretting about the fact that I've, say, never directed a feature film before or never edited a documentary before or never produced a children's TV show before, I just start doing the work and using the processes I know and have been using for years on creative and professional work. Considering that my collaborators and clients keep coming back, I must be doing something right.

I'm sick of not doing things just because I'm not exactly sure how to do it. 
Like painting: I have no idea what I'm doing with watercolors, but that doesn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying the act of making silly little paintings like the ones above. 
Or this website in general. I've never blogged before, I've never written a review of a movie and I've certainly never shared my work and processes before, but here I am DOING IT.
Just the act of doing can be so enjoyable.

So, here's to doing.
Here's to going for it and accepting that failure is a part of life, and frankly isn't really that bad.
(More on that realization later)

minne mini film festival

A film festival for mini films in Minnesota.

2016 seems to be the year I'm taking on big, scary projects. 
I help run a fiscally sponsored non profit filmmaking community group called Persistence of Vision: A Filmmaking Collective. That's a lot of words.

Basically, it's a support group for filmmakers. We want filmmakers to keep making films and keep making them better and better. POV had gone about this in various ways over the last 4 years including monthly meetings, screenings, group projects, challenges and productions.

Now we are going completely bonkers and putting on a film festival.
A mini film festival, but a film festival nonetheless.

We've got a sexy little website (thanks Squarespace!)

We held a very successful Give to the Max Day campaign so we could keep costs low for the submitting filmmakers and attendees and made this little 2 minute film to promote the campaign:

...oh boy, we have fun, don't we...

Check out our FilmFreeway page for submission info, and consider making a mini film of your own and sending it our way:

Keep an eye out on the Minne Mini website, here or on POV's Facebook page for more information and a few fun publicity stunts.

good good

My homage to former professor and mentor, Rusty Casselton.

"good good"
While working to get my film studies degree at Minnesota State University Moorhead, these were the words of approval I think all of us students sought after.
Rusty was the history and criticism teacher, department head and film studies patriarch. Although extremely supportive, he also pushed me and was quick to express when he thought I could do better. When we did our best or answered a question correctly, we would get a bright "good good" and then move through the rest of our day with a sense of achievement.

I sat through countless hours in Weld Hall, pictured above, watching movies (rough, I know) and listening to Rusty lecture. After the 1st year in the department, I took so many classes with him I had his class introduction speech memorized. He rarely varied it from the stern yet caring speech of someone that expects your best, but understands that you are a human.

Rusty passed away after surgery to try to treat his pancreatic cancer over Christmas break my junior year. I was devastated. We all were. We lost our father. 

This section of my website is dedicated to him.
Rusty always said, "Every movie is worth watching (holds up finger) once."

I always carried that, and many things him and the great faculty at MSUM taught, with me.

The "good good" posts are dedicated to reflecting on what I've watched: good, bad and everything in between. Brace yourselves.
I've got a minor in film history and criticism and it's about damn time I used it.


Another 48 Hour Film Project film from the vault for you to enjoy.

This film, oh man, what a ride. 
Sleeper was the first film I directed in the Minneapolis area and it's success during the competition was the reason I ended up making the move from Fargo, ND to Minneapolis, MN.

Another collaboration with Ben Efron, Director of Photography, Dustin Solmonson, Editor, and this time our old friend Max Heesch took on the challenge of writing.

This weird little film was selected for the Best of the Fest screening and won the award for Best Cinematography. We had some serious fun with Lensbaby for that sweet tilt shift effect and threw in a slider for good measure.

The location was Dustin's hunting cabin about 90 minutes outside of the city. I do not recommend making any lengthy drives during a 48 Hour Film Challenge, but we did it and we all survived. 

Bonus points to the lead, Sarah, for being totally badass and having to deal with some serious tick action.

For your enjoyment:

twin cities film fest

Over the last 3 years, I have had the privilege of being the video producer for the Twin Cities Film Fest. Every year in August my calendar begins to fill up with meetings, promo and interview shoots and I get to meet and work with some of the most talented filmmakers in the Twin Cities, the United States and even the WORLD.

It's pretty cool. I also get to work with a great team, a bunch of go-getter interns from Art Institutes International and IPR, and some really talented crew members.

We get to highlight some of our local talent, lesser known indie films on the same stage as elite Hollywood stars. That is pretty neat.

The video team makes promos for each day of the fest and some of our special series:

We shoot filmmaker interviews before the festival to show off our local talent:

During the festival, we slam out an intense amount of content including daily recaps, red carpet and behind the scenes videos:

never mind

Holy crap, our baby is taking it's first steps. 
By baby, I mean this feature film adaptation of the novel The Plain Sense of Things, I've been working on with a few amazing ladies for the last several months.
And by first steps, I mean we are doing a public table read!

Our phenomenal writer, Helena, will be submitting the screenplay to the Slamdance Screenwriting Lab in June and we want to polish it up before then.

Helena originally adapted the novel for the stage during the Minnesota Fringe Festival. The play was a hit and ended up being chosen for an encore performance. 

I had the privilege of creating a trailer for that show:

Both of the talented leading ladies are attached to the film production and we will be chugging away at fundraising, casting and crewing up over the next year.

Stay tuned for more updates on this project. It's bound to an epic undertaking.

time box

Pulling this well loved little movie out of the vault: 
Time Box was created during the Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Challenge about 5 years ago.
Jeez, has it been that long?

I directed this project, working with my long time collaborators and friends Tyler Mills, Ben Efron and Dustin Solmonson.

Both the leads are fellow MSUM alums, freakishly talented and making one hell of a name for themselves in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Theater scene. So, it was a dream to work with them even on very little sleep.

pursuit fitness

While working at the National Sports Center, I had the sweet perk of getting to work with a trainer 3 times a week and become completely shredded.
By shredded, I mean simply be in the best shape of my life.
No really, it's kind of scary, I can do everything better and faster than I could even when I was a youthful and exuberant high school athlete.

Anyway, Cam is a great trainer and he decided to branch off and start his own company called Pursuit Fitness: http://www.pursuitfitnessmn.com/

Starting a new business and all, he needed a website and that website needed pictures.
Cam hired me to run around for a training session and snap a bunch of photos.

He wanted a gritty look, plus the equipment, location and lighting kind of forced our hand in that direction. All the photos were shot with a Canon 7D using a couple different zoom lenses.

I edited the images in Photoshop to enhance the texture and contrast while giving them all a consistent look.

theater people season three

A while back I had the honor of shooting the drama behind the drama for the Theater People Web Series for the 3rd season.

You can see Season 3 now, along with seasons 1 and 2, online:

I had such a blast lighting and shooting these episodes during a whirlwind production schedule on top of working my full time video producer job at the National Sports Center. 
Needless to say, I was pretty burned out at the end of production.

Season 3 is about to start hitting the festival circuit and I am so excited to see how it is received.

If you aren't sold yet, here's a trailer for you to enjoy:

This cast was such a treat to work with! Some old friends and some who I greatly admired.
It was a very fun, talented and gracious bunch, and you should hire them all and pay them lots of money.