Susan Johnston is the founder and director of the New Media Film Festival. 

Before launching the New Media Film Festival, she helped build three other film festivals, one of which is now Academy-accredited, founded and ran several production companies, and amassed over 50 credits on IMDB.  

Susan is the CEO of an award winning production company Select Services Films.  With a rich career in filmmaking which is still in mid-course, she also helped build the infrastructure for the Providence & Rhode Island Film Commissions including spearheading their 25% tax incentive.  

Her background is in the traditional film and TV industry, but has also become known in recent years as a pioneering new media producer.  She produced Mini-Bikers - the first series ever made for mobile phones – in conjunction with Fun Little Movies, as well as one of the first HD TV pilots and music videos utilizing the Panasonic Varicam.  She's a tester for the Panasonic Varicam and the DVX100, developed the SAG Internet contract with Pierre Debs of SAG and Frank Chindamo of FLM.  She speaks about New Media on panels, in schools, is a judge at the New Media Institute, a member of American Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) Interactive Media, and a Daytime Emmys judge.

A New England native, Susan worked with the Providence & Rhode Island Film Commissions over 5 years to build the infrastructure used by the Farrelly brothers, director Michael Corrente, NBC's hit TV series Providence, and the New England Screenwriters Conference.  She developed Context Media Studios International’s production capabilities as well as garnered funds before Senate Committee hearings and helped facilitate the 25% tax incentive for investors of films in Rhode Island.

Upon relocating to Los Angeles, Johnston delved into international co-producing, talent producing, directing, TV development and collaborated on innovative projects with her award-winning production company, Select Services Films, Inc.  Some highlights include producing, for several years, The AMEC Awards and the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles Industry Leadership Awards, and winning the Imaginite Award from Australia for filmmakers who ignite the mind and a Maverick Filmmaker honor from Cinequest (one of the top 10 film festival in the world) in 2006.

Susan's casting and producing credits include feature films, television shows, and commercials.  She has been interviewed for books such as Hollywood Drive-What it Takes to Break In, Hang In and Make it in the Entertainment Industry by Eve Light Honthaner; for Career Opportunities in the Film Industry; 2nd Edition by Jan Yager and for the successful Italian industry book Ciao Artista! by Fioretta Mari and Manuella Metri.  Susan has taught and/or spoken at USC School of Cinema and Television summer program, Sherwood Oaks College, during Sundance, Marina Del Rey Int’l studies, Van Mar Academy and Beverly Hills Adult Education, VIP Workshops, Young Actors Camp (Voted top 5 best summer camps by Travel Channel).

Susan has working relationships with experienced on-camera and creative talent, craft and technical crew, including Oscar nominees, and Emmy, Telly, and Cleo winners.  Select Services clients include ABC Family Channel, NBC/Universal, Fox, Kaiser Permanente, NATPE, and “The Hollywood Reporter”.  Susan holds the title of VP Production Big Vision Studios-a 4K ft. Green Screen Sound Stage.

In addition, as Founder/Director of New Media Film Festival, Susan Johnston has brought critical acclaim to an event dedicated to new media in its inaugural year:  This has resulted in the launch of four channels within the first quarter of 2011, three of which monetize and one of which will be touted various shows, including Oprah, Jimmy Kimmel, Good Morning America, and The View.   Susan Johnston is a proud member of The Caucus and other guilds including ATAS, AFTRA, BMI and SAG.  She was also a 2011 Daytime Emmy Judge, 2010/11 New Media Institute Judge, and is a Professor Emeritus/Speaker in New Media.

Editor's Note:  I was covering the New Media Film Festival in May for the first time and ran into this dynamic force called Susan Johnston.  She was directing the volunteer staff and moderating panels and chatting with everyone, totally in control, gracious, and effective.  She is smart, obviously cares about people, and selected superb panelists.  Susan will no doubt continue to be a leader in new media from education to production.

OCS:    What was your early life like?  
Susan:  Very eclectic….dad would take me to work with him which involved being on the set of the Great Gatsby as a kid, doing a light show for an Elvis impersonator when I was 13, singing backup and playing tambourine in a country band when I was 11.  Mom would take me to see musical performances at an outdoor in-the-round theatre in the summer and vacations to cool Americana places like Cape Cod and Niagra Falls and the grand opening of Disney Florida.

OCS:    Describe your education..
Susan:    I was a business major in high school and Merrill Lynch offered me a job after our stock market trials but I was too young so I went to work with computers during High School recess and was leaving school to model and become more active in my Thyrsus Club.

I was a Theatre major and dance minor at Rhode Island College with a 3rd in guitar (its why I chose this school, they had all 3 of my interests).  But, I had to eventually drop out because I was taking too much time off to actually work in films School Ties, Housesitter, Against The Law, The Crucible, Amistad, True Lies, all of these fantastic films shot in RI.  After that run, I went to NYU extension Hollywood Film School with Dov Siemens as Professor . . . this inspired me to run out and make a film, Room 32, which won awards and received distribution.

OCS:    What brought you to the west coast?
Susan:    There was a life altering tragedy that happened when I was 16 that has had a rippling effect.  Survival choices made after that time took me out of the Industry for many years.  There was a pivotal point in my life when I felt I would experience a similar tragedy experienced when I was 16 and felt if I was going to die, I wanted to at least have tried making a living doing what I thought I was meant to do, participating in the-Entertainment Industry.  To me, the Entertainment Industry was Hollywood, CA.

OCS:    Tell us about your favorite project(s) so far?
Susan:    Dreams Awake.  I was hired as a Casting Director and when the director had his top 3 female choices, I asked him if I could have one more week, pro bono, to recast my net as I wasn’t as thrilled as he was with the female choices.  He took me up on my offer and we landed the most perfect actress for the role,  Erin Gray (Buck Rogers and the 25th Century, Silver Spoons mom).  Then they asked me to co-produce and I was responsible for a crew filming 11,000 feet on a mountain.  We had 3 shots left to get in the can and the sun was setting, and we only had our helmet lights.  I asked the crew to trust me, explained the game plan.  We got the 3 shots in the can and arrived at the bottom of the mountain at darkness, we could only see the by the lights we were holding to walk.  In addition, the people I met and the experiences I had on that mountain are absolutely incredible.

OCS:    How did you get involved in creating the New Media Film Festival?
Susan:    I was asked to produce a symposium on global consciousness for a group I belong to that was tying in with the Futurist from The United Nations and Wagner’s The Ring.  I just envisioned something more accessible to people on a global level, explained the direction I wanted to go with the group and we both support each other’s events.  What is important to me is, what story are you telling, how are you telling it, and that was the foundation New Media Film Festival builds upon.

OCS:    Where do you see new media fitting in?  
Susan:  Everywhere.  For me, New Media encompasses All media, All ages, All cultures.  The fun things about this new wild west of filmmaking is the mashup of formats, the choices of how to capture the story you want to tell and what medium to show it in.

OCS:    Will it complement or supplant traditional distribution?  
Susan:    New Media offers more choices for people to view content (films/tv) in the manner they wish.  On their cell, computer, in a theatre, more.  There will always be people that want the theatre experience.

OCS:    What are the issues with monetization?
Susan:    I actually believe its an amazing time to monetize.  I call it incremental monetization.  New Media Film Festival signed a distribution deal with Award Winning GoDigital distribution.  They are non-exclusive, which allows filmmakers/content creators the option of saying yes or no to distribute over all the platforms they offer.  Other ways to monetize include-screening series, active interaction (moving a mouse over an item in the film, say a shirt and that automatically goes into a shopping cart you can purchase when you’re ready) online channels, compilations, and more.

OCS:    What can you tell us about the new media outlet, MingleMediaTV?
Susan:    MingleMediaTV sponsors our online webseries competition with over $9k in prizes awarded already. The Live Stream portion of New Media Film Festival is produced by Mingle Media TV and this May in Los Angeles was our first year of Live Stream and we had 40k viewers! Stephanie Piche, the owner of Mingle Media TV and her son JD were instrumental in not only the above areas but also the wonderful Winners, Panels, Press Wrap up….here is the link:

OCS:    What should we look for from you over the next few years?
Susan:    Increasing growth, change and flexibility as new ideas are implemented, discoveries are explored and innovation merging with technologies that communicate with each other easily, rapidly, clearly.  It’s a New frontier and I’m excited to be part of it.

 For more information about Susan Johnston's activities, click on the following logos:




Thursday, July 18, 2024