First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Susan Johnston: All are well, thank you. These are strange times, indeed.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded New Media Film Festival
Susan Johnston: I really feel that all I have experienced up until now is the career/journey that let me to be Founder//Director of New Media Film Festival®
I’ve been in Entertainment since I was very young. My parents were divorced, so my Dad would take me to and put me to work while my mom would take me to all of the cultural events, so I learned “both sides of the camera” growing up. When I moved to Los Angeles, I offered everyone I knew my services for a day or two at no cost so that I could shadow and helm all areas. Everything from Best boy, dolly grip, focus puller, snake wrangler, seamstress, craft services, director, producer, actor, singer, casting, props, etc. So much fun, so much listening, learning, and implementing.
How does New Media Film Festival innovate?
Susan Johnston: We are a global company, so we have people positioned around the world in all sectors of business/society. We hear, see and immerse ourselves in what is being created now, where the challenges are that perhaps we can bridge, either by connecting people or finding a solution. We accept submissions year round; thus, we are continually discovering new technologies, story arcs, mashed media, etc. For example, this year, we were the 1st to have a Holographic Digital Comic, the 1st to have touch rotation in AR, and the 1st to have a RomCom created in AI on a purpose-built platform! Even our script category is pretty boundary-pushing, ok, I think all of our content is excellent.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Susan Johnston: Legally, we were not able to do a live show this year. We were going to hold off until we could have a live, in-person festival, but a vote to the 121 Nominees from 32 countries showed they wanted a live awards show. That was a totally new learning curve, fun, challenging, and now we are in talks with producing other innovative events that correlate with who we are.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Susan Johnston: I had to sit and assess. As Founder/Director, I had to lead by example, figure out what that meant to me personally and the company as a brand and voice. The first thing we did was send grocery money to those that would have been working for us. We sent EmergenC to the hardest hit hospital in NY, scarves to sewing groups to make masks, helped out some charities, and went through 11 years of content to offer distribution to those we felt we could get their content on platforms (we have had several titles the most viewed on Amazon this year!). We reached out to those we have not spoken to in a long time, found 285 things for people to do at no cost, books, live shows, streaming, etc. These are all things to keep people engaged in moving forward.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and New Media Film Festival in the future?
Susan Johnston: We really have to eat well, let the sun hit our bodies, walk – get fresh air. When that doesn’t work, I pick up the phone and call a friend and say, I need help. We now do that for each other and say it’s COVID blues, so we know we will get through it.
New Media Film Festival® deals with IP, story, and technology, so I will continually look for new ways to move story and technology forward, I find that exciting. For example, last season, we helped one content creator by assisting them in taking AR art and its video experience and turning it into the 1st AR Series and putting it up for an EMMY. Another musician made a pilot music video of the first song off his album, we asked him to string all the videos together, and we would distribute.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Susan Johnston: Keep moving forward, vetting, sussing, implementing, creating, experimenting.
Your final thoughts?
Susan Johnston: “There is no try, do” – Yoda
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