Medium – …I look, listen and feel for a great story. I live for story, my life has been many stories. So, I press play and let the content speak for itself. I watch & read every single thing that is entered.
I had the pleasure to interview Susan Johnston. Susan was plucked from college to immerse herself into major motion picture filming, hired by the illustrious Sherri Lansing, former president of Paramount Pictures. Susan continued her education privately at NYU, Dov Simens presiding. Susan Johnston is the founder, director and CEO of the award-winning New Media Film Festival®, now in its 12th successful year. The festival is a global catalyst for story & technology that honors stories worth telling from all ages, all cultures and all media.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us how you got into this business?
Grade school. I was in a play and I was a flower (I was behind the flower holding it) and I dropped the flower. The whole audience laughed and for some reason I thought it was hilarious vs horrified. From then on, I tried out for everything, even Choir, Bands, Dance, etc. Try enough, you get hired.
Were there any particular influences or incidents that shaped your approach to leading a film festival?
Hmmm, I really feel that each person you intersect with helps shape what you like and don’t like, want to be and do. I was thrown into a lot of situations as a child, so I was shaped by the choices and surroundings I was in. Music, Theater, Discovery, curiosity, the sky, they were my saving grace.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times or difficulties that you faced when you first started your journey?
(Loud Laughter.) Let’s go with this one, Business Acumen. We are in show business. Most likely what you submit is the show side of it.
Our New Media Film Festival is a facilitator for YOUR business side. It means people need to know who put the festival together, why did they do it. Do they have a real business email (not a gmail) what awards are they giving, who is giving them, how many festivals they own, are they all online, are they asking you to pay for anything outside of your submission like perhaps an ad, or pay to create your poster or pay for the award or a listing, etc? Is there a phone number or a mailing address or a website?
Having a ton of laurels from festivals that do any of the things I mentioned (ask you to pay for awards, ads, listings, is online only, does not list a business email) does not help you with real industry players. If a brand new festival has a @gmail.com account, only a filmfreeway listing, no website, no people’s names, no anything, people were paying to submit, it will not be taken seriously. Submitting to a festival is strategy, not 150 online only film festivals.
A great course is by Dov Siemens, I took his class at NYU eons ago and Spike Lee was in my class, so, some good business acumen came out of that.
When a submission does not have business acumen, it is harder to help them.
Is there a way for people to get involved or volunteer at the festival?
Oh, I like this question, thank you. Yes, please message us in the contact form here https://www.newmediafilmfestival.com/contact-us/ and let us know how you would like to be involved. We have hired many people who volunteered or interned with us or, were just plain spot on about something we needed that we didn’t see or could improve on. It takes a village.
What do you look for when you select which projects get screened at the festival?
I look, listen and feel for a great story. I live for stories, my life has been many stories. So, I press play and let the content speak for itself. I watch & read every single thing that is entered.
Can you share with our readers some inside tips about how filmmakers can get their projects screened by the New Media Film Festival?
Use code WOW and save. In the student category use code “school”.
You cannot get in if you do not submit. We have a mandate to be fair to all filmmakers, so everyone gets the discount codes above when a waiver is requested. If I, our judges, readers or reviewers knows anyone involved in a project, they remove themselves from it. So, submit. We accept all ages, all cultures, all media with no limit on when it was made. Some content is made “before it’s time”.
What can we expect to see this year?
We do enjoy being the first. The New Media Film Festival is the first event of its kind in the world to accept non-fungible tokens (NFT) in competition. During its 12th annual event on June 2–3, 2021, during the awards ceremony, the winner will be announced and then purchased live during the awards ceremony.
We set up New Media on Open Sea and added a Retro New Media catalogue. We bought 2 NFTs and will buy up to 2 more live during our awards show. Kyle Schember of Subtractive and AR innovator Christopher Ruane are the catalysts that got me here, what a ride. This year it is free to submit use this link https://forms.gle/VYRmmno5yZVzt6kW9
Next year people submit the same way they would any other category and 100% of their submission goes to buying NFT’s.
Outside of that, we have soooooooooo many fun, guests coming on, Live Musical performance by teen artist Samarah Conley, CNN Journalist interviewing Nobel Laureate Barry Barish, John Strasberg son of Lee and Paula Strasberg of the Actors Studio in opening night programming.
Don Mclean, Brian Cox, Michelle Rodriguez, Josh Tickell are just a few of the Creators & Innovators lined up in programming and up for $45,000 in awards. June 2 & 3 2021 for the 12th New Media Film Festival® This year video networking tables, speed meets, awards, red carpet, Q & A, 119 New Media Films & Content from 23 countries — 42 World, 6 US, 42 LA Premieres. Get tickets now.
Our mandate is honoring stories worth telling, so our script category (all stories in text format) has writers asking us for what they need, one page feedback. This year, we added one page feedback.
This year the nominees voted to have the entire festival online 70% of the 119 New Media Films & content from 23 countries!
So we pivoted and tested and discovered a combo of things to make this fun and engaging.
There is speed networking, immersive round table networking & after party, screenings with Q & A in real time. A community of people all over the globe being able to be seen and chat as well as many surprise guests in our awards ceremony. The awards ceremony is the 1st place we announce which nominee is the Best Category winner, Audience Winner, Grand Prize award winner. $45,000 in awards with judges from Marvel, HBO, EMMYS, PBS, BBC, EMMYS, BMI and more.
How are you making the festival safer this year? masks/ precautions etc.
Great question. There are a lot of moving parts to our festival so we need at least 6 weeks to test, etc. So, we asked our nominees what they would want based on the CDC guidelines in April and they voted to have an online experience. So we pivoted and are excited we have video table & speed networking, giveaways in our VIP Soiree, we are creating a custom printable art piece for the attendees, fun packs for VIP Soiree, All Access Pass holders as well. VR, a double feature in the afternoon on Thursday June 3, screenings, Q & A.
What’s the best way for people to visit the festival, view films, and buy tickets this year?
There are 7 events from VIP Soiree ending on Awards ceremony (we only announce winners here, not beforehand)
Full details on all nominees as well as individual or all access passes are here https://www.newmediafilmfestival.com/events-2/
Tickets are on sale now. https://www.newmediafilmfestival.com/events-2/ We recommend people to sign up early, set up their profile so people can see you and know who you are and how to find you.
Such great information… Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you Susan. See you at the festival!
Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…
by Karina Michel Feld