Thursday 7 May 2009

Profile: Jamie Johnson

This is my profile piece on Sounds Like Teen Spirit director Jamie Johnson, from the current issue of The List.

Name Jamie J Johnson

Born 14 September 1976, Hammersmith, London

Background The son of a painter, Johnson initially followed in his father’s footsteps before deciding that moving pictures were more to his liking, and started creating flick books. He caught Channel 4’s attention with a series of zero-budget video ‘fanzines’, on subjects ranging from bad TV to mini golf, and while the films had a definite homemade feel they also established Johnson as a director of undeniable vision. His first film proper was the 2003 BAFTA-nominated short Holiday Around My Bedroom, a fantastical documentary that achieved a balance of warm sentiment and imaginative visuals akin to the work of Michel Gondry.

What’s he up to now? Having discovered Junior Eurovision and its huge cult following in continental Europe, Johnson obtained behind-the-scenes access; the result is his debut feature, Sounds Like Teen Spirit.

On the value of Junior Eurovision ‘It is a very nurturing environment – the kids do genuinely have the best week of their lives, and they go off on all these museum visits and cultural things. Also, there were loads of Eurovision-obsessed journalists there, and one in particular said “I love seeing all Europe come together on one stage after all these years of war”, and that resonated with me. I thought, “It is kitsch and silly, but it’s also got this nice element.”’

On being an objective documentarian ‘I don’t think I did a very good job. When one of the contestants, Marina, was telling me about her absent dad I started crying, and she was like, “Come on Jamie it’s fine, don’t be an idiot.” Which was kind of funny, being comforted by a 14-year-old who was actually living through it.’

Interesting fact Jarvis Cocker was approached to provide narration for the film, but he suggested that it would be more appropriate to have the director’s own voice on such a unique film. The producers agreed, and Johnson’s voiceover made it to the final film.

Sounds Like Teen Spirit is on selected released from Fri 8 May. Read my review on The List website.