A veteran filmmaker with an MBA specializing in marketing, Johnny has been involved in the media creation of visual and audio services since 1998, when he co-founded MDI (Media Design Imaging). Since then, he has helped small and medium businesses in developing focused visual media through promotion videos, commercials, corporate videos, while at the same time creating his own short/feature films and documentaries to be shown worldwide at film festivals, online sites, colleges, national television, DVD distribution and sci-fi or horror conventions.
ECIM: How did you get into film and what was your first project?
JOHNNY: I started making movies in 1998 when I first met a fellow talented photographer Greg Petusky and we thought we can combine our expertise (me in business organization and him in photography/lighting) to start Media Design Imaging (MDI) and our first project was a $3000 budget film shot in 16mm that is called Twisted, with Sean Faris as one of the lead actor. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0267511/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Twisted was never finished due to our partnership went sour. But we had a great time getting everyone involved and participated, it was one of the few feature films started back in 1998 and it was garnering a few interest including Sundance asking for a screener.
ECIM: You attended school in Panama as well as Cleveland. Tell us a little about your journey to your Masters Degree.
JOHNNY: I studied high school and college in Panama City, Panama and then my post in Cleveland, due to my father being a diplomat, I’ve traveled a few places, I ended back in Cleveland because I was born here and wanted to come back to the city to learn to love it. And of course, staying far away from my father’s shadow.
ECIM: You have worked for many companies most of them you have started. What struggles did you encounter while trying to launch these different ventures?
JOHNNY: I’ve worked as IT / Administrator for a few companies and still maintaining their system, and currently owner of Media Design Imaging, where I also freelance/helped as Technical Director for Creative House Studios and as a Principal Brand Strategist for Sampson Carnegie. Since all these companies are in the same building, it helps build a great synergy and helping each other’s resources. (minimizing cost), I don’t think there is really a struggle per say.
ECIM: You do everything from writing to directing, producing, acting, editing and visual effects. Do you find it a blessing or hinderance learning all the different jobs?
JOHNNY: As a filmmaker, you try to do everything yourself. I do try not to write, as I don’t like to reproof my writings, but I general make a very generic or what it is called a production script and have someone look it over and polish it. I think it is very important for a low budget to no budget filmmaker to get to understand the different hats in a production process so it helps understand what can be done and what not instead of saying “we will fix it in post”
ECIM: When did you start MDI and how difficult was it to get where you are now?
JOHNNY: Media Design Imaging (MDI) started part time in 1998, we had a few fortune 500 companies and many low independent filmmakers as clients, and we have been fortunate enough to now going full time, maintaining a low profiled cost and resources, while excelling in our productivity. We have been also fortunate that 90% of the clients are referral bases and only 10% found us via internet.
ECIM: You co-founded the Cleveland Asian Festival. What was the main focus when creating such an event and what does it represent?
JOHNNY: The Cleveland Asian Festival has 4 goals:
- Strengthen the identity of AsiaTown and supporting its economic growth
- Educate and promote Asian culture and traditions
- Celebrate Asian Heritage Month
- Unite Cleveland’s Asian Community
Last May 2012 was the 4th year that drew 38,380 people to the 2 days event, previous year was 42,240, and 32,360 and first year, a 1 day event, drew 11,000 attendees, the festival has won several awards and has been considered by the City of Cleveland as one of the fastest growing festival in Northeast Ohio. The success is due to many volunteers, sponsors, and everyone working hard to make it happen.
ECIM: It was a pleasure to listen in on your lectures at the Indie Gathering Film Festival. You talked about awards giving you a better chance at exposure. How important is it to be confident enough to enter your work in several film festivals? How is it an advantage?
JOHNNY: Awards are fun to get, it helps provide assurance and give confidant to a filmmaker that his/her work is valid and recognized by peers, it also helps to know that you would rather associate yourself with award winning cast/crew as they can make it happens. So I do suggest anyone who are making movies, get it out there, get awards, in the long run they will become beneficial.
ECIM: How difficult is it to self distribute your own films opposed to finding a bigger company to do it for you?
JOHNNY: I also say distribution and marketing is the 2nd part of being a filmmaker, you need to always budget and allocate funds for that part of the deal as just making a movie wouldn’t get it out there, but making a lot of buzz is where it helps make the film where it is now. Self distribution is feasible if you 1. Know the audience, 2. Know a lot of people that would be able to buy your film, 3. Know how to talk to people so they becomes a fan, 4. Know how to get it out there and about so everyone knows it, 4. Got time to do it. 5. If you have allocated funding for it, it helps!
The above are just basic 5 points that summarize how self-distribution helps. If you don’t know anyone and you are trying to sell it via Amazon or iTunes, chances are, it will be a very hard sell…
ECIM: You also have a program OCA Image TV Ohio. What type of program is it and how did you get involved?
JOHNNY: OCA Image TV is an Asian American TV programming that is currently aired on TV20 in Cleveland, TV25 and TV20 in Columbus and soon it will be via VOD on Dish Network and DirecTV. http://ocagc.org/imagetv/
IMAGE TV OHIO is a self-sustain High energy Television Magazine Show with a focus on Asian-American culture, traditions, customs and their influences. The show includes 30 minutes of programming provides a better understanding of the various Asian cultures in Northeast Ohio. Each episode will includes segments on a variety of topics related to education, culture, traditions, food, health and beauty, fashion, sports, arts and entertainment, news, and current issues as well as upcoming events.
IMAGE TV OHIO covers topics of interest to Asian Pacific Americans in Northeast Ohio and surrounding areas and will include cultures from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
IMAGE TV OHIO is shot on High Definition in Downtown AsiaTown Neighborhood in Cleveland. Our season includes 10 – thirty minute episodes each year. Commercial spots up to 8 minutes per episode and sponsorship packages (main underwriter, segment sponsor, product placement, product feature/demonstration) are available.
Each IMAGE TV OHIO episode will also be available online for viewing at numerous websites through one web link or embedded video (excluding Commercials). Sponsors are encouraged to have the show linked at their website as well.
The success of OCA Image TV prompted us to start a weekly Sunday 7-8pm radio show on wjcu 88.7FM.
ECIM: Do you have any videos online that teaches you different aspects on the filmmaking process? If not, do you plan on making any to assist fellow filmmakers trying to break into the business?
JOHNNY: We do have a series of Accessorizing your DSLR cameras without breaking the bank series, since now everyone is jumping into the DSLR wagon. It slowly getting it’s track and we are currently preparing a few new episodes to shoot and have them online soon. Currently it is on YouTube, Video and iTunes. https://vimeo.com/album/2102635
ECIM: You were recently included in the Indie Filmmakers Hall of Fame. What was it for and what was it like receiving the award? Who do you have to thank for supporting you in your journey?
JOHNNY: I was awarded/inducted into the Indie Film Makers Hall of Fame for Outstanding Achievement in Editing, an award that I was honored to receive and excited about. I remembered starting editing back in 1998 with an old Pentium 4 computer with 128meg of RAM and 40g of hard drive space.
ECIM: What other Hall of Fame inductions do you have?
JOHNNY: Right now, two for martial arts: The International Karate Hall of Fame and the World Sokeship Council.