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Jayson Johnson, Strike Five Films
Episode 31215th April 2024 • Your World of Creativity • Mark Stinson
00:00:00 00:20:22

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Welcome back to "YOUR WORLD OF CREATIVITY"! Today, we're exploring the vibrant landscape of creativity in the San Francisco Bay area with our special guest, screenwriter, filmmaker, and producer, Jayson Johnson. Join us as we delve into Jayson's multi-faceted creative journey and discover the secrets behind his signature style.

Jayson's Website

Jayson on YouTube


- Jayson's diverse portfolio showcases a range of styles, from moody club scenes to outdoor landscapes, reflecting his eclectic creative vision.

- His experiences growing up in Chicagoland and exploring the diverse environments of San Francisco have shaped his preference for varied experiences and aesthetics.

- Despite working on notable projects for networks like Discovery, ABC, and Netflix, Jayson remains committed to telling compelling stories that resonate with audiences.

- He emphasizes the importance of collaboration in the creative process, valuing the input of fellow filmmakers and artists.

- Jayson's journey from an entry-level job at Francis Ford Coppola's winery to founding Strike Five Films is a testament to the power of perseverance and seizing unexpected opportunities.

Key Quote from Jayson: "I want to be a filmmaker of the people, for the people. I would love to have your support. Love to earn your support."

Tune in to gain insights into the practical aspects of bringing your creative vision to life and unlocking your full potential in the world of creativity. Until next time, keep creating!


  Welcome back friends to our podcast, your world of creativity. And today we're stamping our creative passports in the San Francisco Bay area. And we're talking with screenwriter, filmmaker, producer, Jayson Johnson. Jayson, welcome to the

show. Thank you for having me so excited to be here.

It's always fun talking with creative practitioners, especially in the film world.

And I've been looking at your work and what I like about it, Jason, is that while people can have a style and you have a sort of fingerprint you like to put on the work, your work has various looks and, you don't just have one paintbrush that you put over everything, you have your moody club scenes, you have your outdoor, scenes, you have your crime scenes how is it that as a creative, you can have these various styles and yet, yeah, Make it your signature work.

I'd like to say that. So I grew up in the Chicagoland area and that was like a tapestry of many different looks. You can go to one city and that can be completely different from the next city over. And then that's also the case here in San Francisco. So I'm really drawn to things that just look different experiences.

And I find that's really interesting. Whenever I do something, I don't want to pigeonhole myself into something that It's just, the same thing over and over again. I'm drawn to many different experiences and many different looks, many different personalities and situations.

And that kind of translates over to my work.

You've had the chance to work on some really notable projects for networks and brands, discovery and ABC and Netflix, and also. Commercial work, what are some of the highlights for you as you think about being able to put your style and how much influence do you think the, I guess I'll say the sponsor or the network or the, brand, how much do they influence the work?

I would say a lot, I remember when I first got onto like my first big production, it was an Xfinity commercial and they had cranes and all these extras. And I was just like, I was like, I was blown away because before then I just done a couple of projects where it's like myself and a couple of actors.

When I got on that set and I saw that all of these possibilities, all this equipment, all these people, it was just like, wow. It was like taking the blinders off, seeing what was possible. I would say that has been a really big influence for me to just think differently about projects and what is possible within the realm of what's in the screen.

So yeah, I've taken that and I've used that in my own projects just to make things broad, make things different, make things Exciting and electric.

And yet, sometimes I was going to ask you about all that, storytellers as filmmakers, but sometimes people think if I can throw more at it, make better work, if I could have more cranes, or especially these days, if I can have more effects and I can have all these computer assisted things, but what's the essence for you when you saying, look, you can put all that around it, but.

In the end, here's the essence of the work. What are you looking for?

I think it has to start with a good story, because if it's not a good story, you can have, hundreds of millions of dollars. But if it doesn't connect with the audience, then you don't really have anything that anyone wants to see.

I pride myself in trying to first spend a lot of time telling a good story that people can relate to. And then from there, we just try to approach it from, The means that makes sense. So we don't try to throw a ton of special effects or, jump cuts or any of those things that, are like this visual buffet, but at the same time, we want to make sure that people are enjoying themselves.

We value people's time and their intelligence with the story. That's what we really try to do.

Mm hmm. And on your website, Jason, there's lots of olive branches, awards, film festivals. It's really quite impressive. Lots of recognition. Is the story, what's appealing to those judges?

Is it the story? Is it the effects? Maybe a combination, but what do you think these film festivals are looking for? And then what do they see in your work?

I think film festivals I think it depends because every film festival has something that they're looking for. Sometimes it's things that are happening in our world today like themes or, happenings.

And then sometimes it's a certain talent that, they want to highlight, but I My experience, we just try to tell good stories and we try to tell good stories. We try to have authentic acting and we try to tackle themes that are relatable to people that, just want to come to the movie theaters, they want to experience something that is going to That they can emotionally connect with.

So that's primarily what we try to do. Just to do something that people just and that they connect with and have a good

time. One of my guests at the end of last year was in the sort of, I'll say, film festival. strategy, it's like, how do you enter the kind of festivals that you know, you have that your work fits, first of all, as you were describing, but that you would have a good chance of winning.

And how do you develop that? What has that experience been like for you in terms of awards? Yeah,

It's really been hit or missed. I remember when we first started we would put out a project and maybe get into one or two film festivals and, we'd be like really bummed, but, I think that.

That taught us a lot of what film festivals were looking for. And we improved our story. We improved our acting, the way that we casted talent, the way that we directed talent. And then just we started to approach themes that, actually matter. I remember my first film was a black a space blaxploitation called Black Rogers.

And. That, that did not do well at all. I can admit defeat on that. I think the idea was original. However, the the talent, because I was the primary talent left something to be desired. After that project, I said, okay maybe acting is not my thing, but let's find someone that can, hit the, Emotional beats that the audience is looking for.

And once I stepped from trying to be from behind and in front of the camera, then I noticed that the project started to really take off. Yes.

I love that we're talking about the current work and how you got here and your reflections on it. I'd like to Roll the tape back even further.

There you are sitting in Eastern Illinois University trying to get your M. A. In all this filmmaking. And you had a connection with somebody really big. That led to a good job with Francis Ford Coppola. Tell us that story.

Yeah. So I I moved to California. I don't know how common this is, but I followed a girl out here and that did not work at all, but it landed me in Napa, California.

And at the time, you get out here, you need a job. So I started sending out resume after resume and after probably a hundred resumes this one company called me. And they didn't really say who they were on the phone. So I had no idea who it was. And long story short, it turned out to be Francis Ford Coppola.

He owned a winery out there and I started as a wine steward and his esteemed winery and. Really wasn't good at being a wine steward. People would ask for Chardonnay. I'd give them Merlot and, a couple of months of that. They said, you're really not that good at this. So how about something else?

And, um, they gave me a job working in their distribution center. So I worked there for a couple of months and. In that time, I'd make cardboard structures that caught the eye of the art director. And he said, Wow, I think this is really creative. Would you like to work on our creative marketing team?

And then that's how I had my ascension at Francis Ford Coppola Winery and working with the man himself. That's

awesome. There's a lot of lessons in that. We reflect sometimes on that foot in the door moment where one thing leads to another. And people are afraid maybe to take an entry level job, but who knows where it might go,


Yeah, I think that you can't really say no to any opportunity You always have to put your best face forward and your effort forward and then see what happens because you really never know And I could have never in a million years thought that Starting at that winery would lead to me ultimately working in film

And that go out and do what you love You know, yeah, it ventured you into the independent film production because you said this is my passion.

It's my passion. It's something that I've wanted to do since I was, I don't know, as long as I can remember. I remember watching Saturday cartoons and TV shows and always thinking, how did they get, that image inside of that TV? That was like my first thought. How does that technology come to me?

And then from there, it's just I just started to follow that, that rabbit hole and here we are. That's

right. In your production company strike five films is really bringing all that together and taking on some of these projects what kind of projects are you looking for?

That would really, excite you.

So I have for the most part, I've done a lot of dramas. I'm really interested in doing some comedy now. I feel I have a comedic bone in me. Uh, I would like to do some feature films now that I've done nine short films And those some of those deal with wine.

Some of those deal with computer technology, social media. So those are the themes that I'm really interested in trying to tackle

next. And I think a lot of listeners can relate is that we're looking for the gigs, but also you're looking for the right projects. It's Hey, it would be great if all these projects came through, but if they don't fit you, they don't fit your style and your passion.

You, you've got to evaluate them too. And that's a tough balance, isn't it?

I think so. I think that you want to do something that one you're interested in one that you think that people might be interested in and something that you can just really be passionate about. I tend to write a lot of my material because that you can, that way you can direct where you want things to go.

But that's ultimately what I'm looking to do is to do things that are interesting and things that, are fun and audiences can, go and have a great time

watching. Yeah I think that's the beauty. I found anyway, even in this podcast, but when we creatives put our connections and our heads together, it's always amazing what attractions those come about.

Totally. Yeah. I think this, the film industry and, a lot of creativity is just based on collaboration. If you're able to work with someone and let's say you have. And then someone else has a different idea. You put them together and then you have something that's just, mind blowing.

So it's just I really value collaboration. And it's something that, I don't think the project would be as good if you didn't have it.

I'm really glad you brought that up. Cause I can't tell you how many times, especially in multiple creative fields, but especially my field of advertising, there's a lot of, it's my idea mine, mine.

And people are fighting for their idea instead of saying, Maybe I could take some pieces and parts of other people and great ideas can come from anywhere. We'd like to say, and it sounds like you've really experienced that yourself. I

have, when I first started, I wrote something. It was a short film and.

I brought on some talent and then they had a different interpretation of the character that I had. And when we first started filming it I'm watching it. I'm like, Oh no, that's completely wrong. That's not how I thought it would be. But I just let them go ahead for it. And after I watched the dailies, I said, wow, you know what, this is really good.

This is better than I thought it was going to be. From that point on, I started. Started to let go of, my idea, as far as it started with me, it has to end with me it's more of a collaboration and now I think that if I write a project and I start out at a hundred percent, my idea by the time we're finished, I maybe have 60 percent of that original idea.

We, with the collaboration of the other filmmakers and I think. It's really worked well for us.

And it makes the work better in the end. It

does. Yeah, it's different, but it's better, you know So it's just and everyone's happy that way because if you try to be a dictator on set, you know You're gonna be a filmmaker of one.

So and I don't want to be that be pretty

lonely Oh so true And I love the name of your company strike five I'm sure there's a story behind it. I'd love to hear.

Yeah, so strike five films is is rooted in perseverance. That's basically what that means. So like in life they say you get three strikes and you're out.

If, You've done anything that like starting as a company or, trying to do something that's difficult, you're going to strike out way more than three times. I have the tally mark because, all of the times I've struck an out towards my goals and trying to, be successful.

That's where I came up with that. I thought that it rolled off the tongue pretty good. And I liked it from a visual standpoint. Strike five films is all about perseverance and pressing on to, until you ultimately succeed at your goal. Yeah.

I'm glad I asked. That's a great story.

And all kidding aside, I love the fact that the phone is ringing. We're talking and isn't that what we love to hear as creatives?

I'd love to tell you that it's like some investor, but it's

my mom. Oh, okay. Mom, send money and invest in the next work. No, I love that. All kidding aside. It's that's what we can't turn the phone off in the creative industry.

It could ring at any moment. It'd be the big one. Jason, what a pleasure talking with you. I love to hear about you and your work. Remind us where we can find you, follow your work, and learn more about what StrikeFive is doing.

So you could You can find me at strike by films. You can do a Google search and type in strike by films.

You can alternatively do a Google search on me, Jason Johnson. My name is spelled J A Y S O N Johnson. And you should be able to find my website. One of those two ways I'm on a lot of different social medias YouTube, Twitter, Facebook my PR. Gal is forcing me to get on Instagram. So I'll be on there soon and moving forward, we're we're trying to make, um, our first feature debut entry.

I'm hoping that, I can find distributors and, uh, financiers that can help me to achieve that

goal. I'm sure our listeners, we can help make some of those connections. So looking forward, like you were describing, Jason how would you say what excites you about the future of filmmaking?

There's been a lot of talk about, oh there's ups and downs in the industry and all these, industry insider opinions. But when you really look at the future of your craft, what would excite you?

I like that the film industry is always changing. If you look at the film history dating back to the sixties, they were like a lot of these over budget, over bloated films and that weren't very successful.

So then in the seventies, they ushered in a lot of inexperienced filmmakers like your Francis Ford Coppola, your Martin Scorsese your, um, Brian De Palma's and they made like all of these low budget films that did just fantastic, they just killed it. So I see that, we're in that age that mirrored the 60s where you have all these 200 million dollar budget films that, aren't performing well.

So I think that there's going to be a resurgence of the industry where younger filmmakers or unknown filmmakers will come in and they will get an opportunity to make a lesser budget projects that will be very impactful. So really excited about that. I think it's coming and. And by God, it's time, there you go.

Yeah. I

love that. Can't wait to see what all that might mean for you to listeners. My guest has been Jason Johnson, a writer, director, producer at strike five films. And that's where you can find all about him and his work. It's been so great talking to you, Jason. Thanks for being on the


It's been great talking to you. Thank you so much for having me and listeners. If you really want to connect with me I ask that you will. And please do. Yeah,

I think that's one of the things that I love talking with folks like you, Jason, is that sometimes we throw out there and connect with me, blah, blah, blah.

But Creative people really do want to connect and collaborate. You never know where that next great connection is going to come from. So I'm glad you reinforce that and are open to those outreaches.

Yeah I really want to connect with people. And even if you want to just offer me advice, feedback, I'm all for it.

I want to make, I want to be a filmmaker of the people, for the people. Please connect with me. I would love to have your support Love to earn your support and yeah, I look forward to having you come on my

site. We will do that. Listeners we've just learned so much and got inspiration from Jason today.

Come back again next episode. We'll continue these around the world journeys. We talk to practitioners everywhere in all sorts of creative fields about what inspires them and where they get their ideas, but also how they organize them. We've heard today about connections and collaborations and the confidence.

We need to get our work out into the world. And that's what this podcast is really all about. There's a lot of creativity shows, but we're talking about the practical aspects of getting the workout, whether that be motivational or sort of these practical steps. So come back again, next time we'll continue our conversation about unlocking your world of creativity for now.

I'm Mark Stinson. We'll see you next time.



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