by Dave Stewart
I’ve known John for a long time through osmosis via the local film community. I’ve seen some of his projects, I’ve been a member of the Island Media Arts Co-op with him, and I’ve had chats with him, but I’ve never gotten in-depth with him about what makes him tick film-wise. Here, in less than 550 words, is an attempt to get at the tip of the iceburg.
Dave: I imagine you grew up in a very creative environment. Can you tell me about that?
John: My whole life from Day One has all been about the act of art, and notions of creative concepts. Hilda Woolnough, my mother, was a dedicated full-time professional artist, and we’ve always had a studio everywhere we lived, and original art works about the house. Reshard Gool, my mother’s partner, was a poet and novelist and had an amazing vinyl jazz collection, so it was an “arts and letters” household.
Dave: What lead you to filmmaking?
John: I came to media through Martin Dorrell who was an executive producer for CBC Radio here. I worked as a freelance radio journalist. My training was very simple: “This is a micro-phone, and this is a tape recorder. And this is audio tape and a cutting-block. You take this razor and you cut. That is called an ‘edit.’ Then you tape the two pieces together. Now go out there lad, and good luck.” And with that he was gone and that was it, the 5 minutes that changed my life in this direction.
Dave: Tell me about your filmmaking and some of your projects…
John: I’m interested in stories that take us out of our perspective of what we think is going on in a dramatic or doc and then turn that inside out. All of my projects reveal parts of me, and what I am interested in, and I express them through the stories I tell as per my experience, and evolution of stages in my life. Portfolio was about time management and a loss of control, and about my dream of developing as an artist and an image-maker. Johnston was again about how one’s destiny is out of one’s hands, as pre-determined by the cogs and wheels of the society we live in. With Timepiece, I’ve broken away from those themes, and made a very personal film about my mother and about a person who is an example of how one can coalesce a lifetime of experience and failings in one’s experiments in creativity, and how that can be turned into an artwork of magnitude built upon “accidents and mistakes,” as Hilda described them.
Dave: What’s next for you?
John: My company, Square Deal Productions Atlantic Inc., has begun developing a new series on flyfishing for Atlantic Salmon, spanning two continents and cultures born of the same roots and history (cosmosquestproductions.com). I’ve been in discussions with the National Film Board and the Province on a documentary from the perspective of inshore Island fishers. I’m also going to do a second film on Hilda based on seven diaries I found in her studios, and I’m continuing to shoot TV commercials to allow me the income to keep the wolves at bay while I develop and make larger documentaries and series as described above.