The Oxford Film Festival is knee-deep in new submissions for the 2010 festival (call for entries is still going on strong though!) and while we wade through possible new films to bring to our audience, we thought we would check in with past OFF filmmakers about once a month.
Up first is one of our favorite former southerners (now a Utah transplant), Jamie Christensen Johnston. Her film "Forgotten Coast" screened at the fifth film festival in 2006.
Q: Tell us about the film you screened at Oxford Film Festival?
A: The film that I screened was Forgotten Coast, which looked at the recovery efforts along the coast of Mississippi and Alabama in the aftermath of Katrina. This film was made because of the fact that so much attention was focused on New Orleans after the hurricane, but no one else was really talking about the place where the storm actually hit. I focused the film on one strong Southern woman, who had the only remaining house within 4 blocks of the beach in Long Beach, Mississippi. The stories that she and others in the film told about the devastation were amazing, but what was best about the film was the fact that everyone focused on the prospect of moving forward instead of looking back. I mean, what else can you do when the K-Mart Coke Machine ends up in the middle of your bedroom!
Q: What has happened with the film since then?
A: I had some more screenings in Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama. I even had one in Fairhope, AL, where the news showed up because there were rumors that Brad Pitt was going to be there. There were a number of little girls hiding in the bushes in hopes of seeing him, but I never saw him there. Of course, there were a couple of people who left from an upstairs room before the end of the screening in a mysterious car, so you just never know! The film is also available for sale on Amazon.com and it is available for sale or rental through Amazon Video on Demand.
Q: Why did you decide to submit to the Oxford Film Festival?
A: I really wanted to focus on southern film festivals, since I felt that this would appeal to a Southern, and especially a Mississippi, audience. The Oxford Film Festival had a good reputation for showing quality work, and besides, who would ever turn down a trip to Oxford- it has to be the coolest small town in the US!
Q: Any favorite memories of your time at the festival?
A: Everyone in Oxford was so great. I enjoyed going to the various parties that people around town had for the filmmakers. It was so sweet of them to open their houses to us. I also really enjoyed the brunch that City Grocery fixed for us. Of course my favorite part was seeing the audience reaction to my film at the film festival. It is a great feeling when your film reaches people's emotions.
Q: Tell us about the new project "Bay Stimulus Package".
A: "Bay Stimulus Package" looks at what happens down the line when we try to help others. In May of this year, a church in south Alabama split $50,000 among those who attended church over one weekend. Each person was told to do something good with the money they received, but they were not allowed to use it for themselves or give it back to the church. They were supposed to really think about how to best put this money to use in order to do the greatest good with it. This film follows where that money went, and it looks at all of the consequences when we try to help others.
Q: How did you find out about the story?
A: This story was written about in many newspapers and internet sites when it first occurred, but I actually found it through Facebook. I had recently re-connected with an old high school friend who happens to go this church, and I read the story through a link that she posted about it. As soon as I read it, I knew that this would be something that would really appeal to people, especially considering the hardships that many people are facing now. We constantly hear so much "doom and gloom" that it is nice to hear about hope at times, even if it doesn't always work out like we want it too.
Q: You live in Utah now but seem fairly connected to your southern roots. What draws you to tell
these southern stories?
A: I love living in Utah because of the mountains and the tranquility, but I am still a Southern woman. I think that the South has the richest stories, and I believe that Southerners tell these stories best. My family still lives in Alabama, and I return to that area at least a few times a year; however, I think that living in Utah gives me a unique perspective of seeing the South as both an outsider and an insider.
Q: What influenced you to become a filmmaker?
A: I have always wanted to be a filmmaker, but it took me years before I was able to make my own films. My family was my greatest influence because they always told me to stop talking about it and just do it! They have been my greatest source of support, and now my oldest son has aspirations to be a director. As far as other sources of inspiration, there is a female author from Alabama who wrote a book in the 1930s that caused quite a stir. She is not well known today, but my passion for the last decade has been to make a dramatic film about this book. I will let you know how it goes.