Women in Filmmaking – Katherine Johnson

Women in Film - Katherine Johnson

I had the privilege of working together with Katherine Johnson on Summer of ’67. It didn’t take long to discover that she’s a power house. As assistant director she was constantly in motion, taking care of  everyone on set  -lead actors, background actors, and me. And yet, despite her busy-ness, she maintained a soothing calm regardless of the circumstances. Katherine is something special, and I can’t wait to see what all God has in store for her in this industry. 

women in filmmaking Katherine Johnson female filmmaker

What is your filmmaking background?
My interest in film began at age 14. I did not begin seriously pursuing film until after I finished my Associates when I was 19.

How did you first break into the business?
A few months after I decided film is what I really wanted to do, my one friend in the local film industry called me. She said a Christian film called Hoovey was shooting less than two miles from my house and needed volunteers for the art department. Several weeks later, I was an official intern and experienced the entirety of what making a movie was like, from the office to set. That was five years ago and since then I’ve worked on seven feature films, television episodes, and numerous short films.

Women in Film - Katherine Johnson

You’ve worked almost every crew position at some point. Which is your favorite? Why?
Yikes. When you just enjoy being on set it is hard to pick! Besides directing, I would say art department and assistant directing are my favorites. Making your creative stamp on the movie in the form of set dressing is exciting. I love showing the life of a character through their surroundings. But I also love working with talent and keeping things moving. Extras are invaluable to a movie and I like working with them and making them feel connected to the big picture.

Women in film - Katherine Johnson

Tell us about your film, Bump.
My short film Bump is currently in post-production. The story follows a pregnant couple in a futuristic society who must make the choice between aborting their child or going on the run. My desire is for the story to open conversations about the sanctify of life while not choking the audience. Hopefully I will be writing/directing features in the future and producing this 35 minute short is a step toward that goal.

What was the greatest challenge you faced while making Bump?
In pre-production, locations were an absolute beast. Finding the perfect spot to film this or that scene was exhausting. Our most difficult day was our last one. The costumes were accidentally left at home (1 ¼ hour delay), the military vehicle died in a field as we were getting ready to film (2 hour delay), and lunch had to be pushed (always a BAD situation). However, and with lots of prayer, tempers were soothed and the final product was excellent. The most important result of the day, though, was that God was glorified. You can handle stress perfectly or get Oscar-winning footage but if you run over your crew and act like a fool God is not glorified by your attitude.

Women in film - Katherine Johnson

How has working in other areas helped you as a director?
Working in different areas allows me to have a fundamental understanding of the inner gears of each department. Each team is vital. My appreciation grows each time I cross-train.

What have you learned over the years that you wish someone had told you when you first started working in film?
Listen. There is a wealth of knowledge on set. Find someone and ask why they love their job or what they most appreciate from a fellow crew member. As a creator, I would say don’t be afraid. So what if you make a video you can’t show outside your family? Did you learn making it? If each production is closer to your goal, don’t worry about the hideous little videos: the stem grows before the flower blossoms.

Women in film - Katherine Johnson

You spend a lot of time working with actors. What advice would you offer to actors just getting starting? What are some do’s and don’ts of set etiquette?
My advice to actors is to follow direction. Trust your director to steer the ship well. As to etiquette, all good ideas are bad ideas if presented at the wrong time. It’s usually not personal; if the sun is going down, production cannot stop for you to share your epiphany, even if the idea would make Shakespeare proud. Also respect your fellow actors. Feedback is only supposed to come from one person (the director).

Women in film - Katherine Johnson

What do you think is the biggest difference between male written/directed films and female written/director films?
On a broad level, I’d say Hollywood which is predominately male, manages to churn out films in which the objectification of women is prevalent. But I’m not sure that is fair to men. Is that because the directors and writers are men or is it because they are consumer driven? Just thinking. I think the main difference between male/female driven productions is primarily on set, not in the viewing experience. For example, I tend to get more sleep on female written/directed movies.

Why do we need more female driven movies?
God created men and women with fundamentally different perspectives which is reflected in their creations. I am all for more female driven movies, though the balance of production is different for us as wives and mothers.

Women in film - Katherine Johnson

​​