Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for an Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight that best expose their current musings and fascinations. No two interviews are the same.
Nominated for the John Cassavetes award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, Test documents the life of a modern dancer living in San Francisco in 1985 as he struggles to navigate his sexuality, masculinity, and career. The film’s writer, director, and producer Chris Mason Johnson, was a dancer himself as part of Frankfurt Ballet and White Oak Dance Project before pursuing a career in film. Test is the director’s second film and won two Grand Jury Awards at Out Festival in Los Angeles. Fellow producer Chris Martin is based in San Francisco where he has spent the last decade working in film, television, and journalism. He currently has two other films in the works. Both Chris’s took a moment to answer a few questions about novels, artistic influences, and recharging creatively. Test screened at the Walker at the end of January.
Chris Mason Johnson, Writer/Director/Producer
1. What was your worst (college/post-college/make-ends-meet) job?
An admin assistant to a choreographer. I’d been a professional dancer and suddenly I was this office boy faxing things while the dancers danced without me.
2. What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?
My own past. I thought I was going to bury it but I put it on display.
3. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Physical thing: my jaw. It’s weak. Psychological thing: chronic procrastination.
4. How do you recharge creatively?
Pose questions to myself before I fall asleep and see if I have the answer when I wake up, or at least a feeling for them. Also: walking without technology.
5. Whom would you like to spend three hours in an elevator with?
A very talented and generous masseur.
6. What’s your most vivid Minneapolis memory?
Buying a folk art wooden pig with wheels and surprising my boyfriend on his birthday at our hotel while on tour with the Frankfurt Ballet. He’d seen it earlier in a store and loved it. I snuck back and bought it for him.
7. What global issue most excites or angers you?
Excites: the spread of basic human rights to all corners of the globe. Angers: the treatment of women where those rights have yet to spread.
8. What is your advice for young people today?
- Your 20s matter. Be careful what you work at because it might stick.
- Money matters but not in the way you think it does.
- Learn how to listen. It’s not easy.
Chris Martin, Producer
1. What have you been obsessing about lately?
Living in sunny and dry California, I’ve been obsessing about winter wonderlands lately, even watching cross-country ski tournaments in the Alps on ESPN just for the scenery.
2. What is something you have never done before?
I’ve never gone sailing on a craft of my own and I’ve never gone spelunking. I would love to do both.
3. What global issue most excites or angers you?
Building tract houses on the earth’s richest farmland.
4. How do you recharge creatively?
I read short stories or take my camera out to shoot landscapes that only I think are beautiful.
5. What’s your most vivid Minneapolis memory?
Going swimming in the downtown YMCA with its big windows that overlook buildings.
6. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
7. What’s your favorite mode of transport?
Trains and bicycles – they work great together.
8. What have you been reading lately?
The Film Independent Spirit Award nominees screen annually at the Walker Art Center as part of a collaboration with IFP. Screenings are free for all IFP and Walker members. Click here for the complete list of screenings.