Meet the Filmmaker: Bill Johnson, “Pickup Man”

Q: Why did you become a filmmaker?
BJ: I have been a landscape photographer since I was a teenager with most of my work using a large format camera.  When it became difficult to travel with film after 911, I switched to digital cameras and discovered video.  Video allows me to do stories about people in the landscape and I learn about different ways of life.  I find video is much more complex than photography and gives me greater creative opportunities.  

Q: What are we going to see at the EFP? Has it screened elsewhere and what are your plans for it?

BJ: Pickup Man is a four year effort that brought me to Colorado from Los Angeles.  It is a story about a family that has ranched on the Plains of Colorado for over a hundred years and is facing a historic drought.   I lived with them for months at a time in all seasons of the year.  Rodeo is an integral part of their lives, and I followed the protagonist, Jessica Mosher, as she competed throughout Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas.  Pickup Man premiered at Blissfest in 2017 where it was voted the Best Documentary, and it is a semi-finalist in the documentary category and will be shown in the Utah Film Festival on April 6.  There is a longer Director’s cut version of the movie that I also offer to festivals through Film Freeway.

Q: What else are you working on?

BJ: I grew up in Hawaii and visit every year.  That has resulted in Night Fishermen, a story about those who go out at night to stand on a cliff by the edge of the sea.  It is from the perspective of three life long fishermen as they each face aging.  It will premier at this year’s Colorado Short Circuit Film Festival on March 29 and 30th.
I have co-produced a fashion show at Denver Open Media for the past three years and completed over three dozen profiles on designers and others in the fashion industry here in Denver.  I have also started doing stories about dancers and musicians that I post on Vimeo.  I find that in doing documentary stories, background video to illustrate interviews is essential.  I need access to people’s daily lives and sometimes that takes time or doesn’t happen.  I often have to wait for the action to come to me, so I work on many stories at a time.

Q: Tell us one weird thing about you and/or your movies?

BJ: I am fascinated by the combination of sound and images into movies.  When I am wearing a headset and listening to the environment around me, I can hear so much better than in real life.  It has become a vicarious thrill to do sound.

Q: Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

BJ: I recently completed a new web site, billjohnsonstories.com, and people can see the best of my past work as well as recent efforts.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say about The Emerging Filmmakers Project?

BJ: I am thankful that The Emerging Filmmakers Project is here.  It gives me a forum to share my work and learn from the work of others as well as meet the moviemaking community of Colorado.

Pickup Man will screen at The Emerging Filmmakers Project on Thursday, March 21st at The Bug Theatre.