Updated: Feb 3
A few weeks ago, Atlanta Film and TV had an opportunity to chat with acting coach, accredited instructor of the Chubbuck Technique, filmmaker, director, and producer Jonna Johnson. Currently, Jonna’s production company Dirt Road Paths Productions is collaborating with Tablet Eye Multimedia to “produce a life-changing Hollywood standard movie in Ghana.”
Atlanta Film and TV: How did you get your start in the film and television industry?
Jonna Johnson: "I started with modeling when Tyra Banks hosted America's Next Top Model. America's Next Top Model came to Tennessee to host Tennessee’s Top Model. At the time, I had no prior training or modeling experience. My grandmother encouraged me to try out, and I made it to the top ten! Ultimately, I won the competition, and I am titled Tennessee's Top Model 2009! One of the prizes for winning the competition was winning acting classes, which was when I fell in love with acting! I found my way into the acting industry when my family and I moved to Atlanta in 2008, was when I started working at an acting school. Slowly but gradually, I built my acting resume - and the rest is history."
Atlanta Film and TV: Describe Ghana’s Film and TV industry currently and what is the future of it?
Jonna Johnson: "Currently, the content in Ghana is very action-driven are a lot of blood, guts, and fighting. But, there is a lack of storytelling and plot, or what is known as a plot twist. In the United States, we have intertwining stories that create a phenomenon of a masterpiece to watch. To the point where you say to yourself, 'Wait! Let me watch that again.' Because there isn’t any of that type of storytelling in the Ghanian Film and TV industry. I desire to change the narrative. By collaborating with Confidence Losu, we want actors to perform in pieces that tell stories based on true events. While at the same time maintaining the action-packed, Ghanian films the essence of and being able to capture the beauty of Africa and Ghana, and its people.
My excitement about this collaboration is to bring all of my knowledge to Ghana. I am currently training and classes with directors such as Ron Howard and Ava Duvernay, which I am trying to grasp, learn, and absorb from their stories - but pick and mold my own story. Their stories inspire me to inspire and enlighten people in Ghana. As of right now, they don’t have that outlet knowledge base."
Atlanta Film and TV: Personally, what is your connection to Ghana?
Jonna Johnson: "Philanthropy has been the root of my journey since I was a little girl. I’ve always had a love for humanity. Ironically, as an acting coach, I was coaching one particular student Corissa Ore, who will be traveling with me to Ghana and is a part of the film Alisa as an American. Corissa has vitiligo - which is a skin disease. As I coached Corissa, I used a particular technique that I teach which is very empowering yet is very deep. It’s a realism technique where we use our own story and our past to help us overcome and to create truthful and authentic performances. During the first day of meeting and talking with Corissa, she told me about her volunteer work with a half-built grassroots school in Ghana. Corissa let me know it would be great if I could one day teach this technique in Ghana to inspire the people."
"I was able to go to Ghana for the first time this past February and coach at a school. I was able to teach the technique to the children, and they performed for me. Being welcomed in Ghana is a big deal! I was working with the Ashanti tribe in Kumasi. Tourists don’t typically go to Kumasi. Kumasi is beautiful, and there is so much to take in when it comes to the people and the scenery. When I returned home, I was a different person. I told my family that we should go back ASAP because it was life-changing.
Before I went to Ghana to teach, a director named Confidence Losu owner of Tablet Eye Multimedia, reached out via Instagram. At first, I was skeptical, but Confidence is well-known amongst the people in Kumasi. Confidence is an influential young filmmaker. He tries to pave a way for other young men and women to do something outside of just trying to be a craftsman or farmer. He helps them find opportunities to be hands-on and to use their gifts. Filmmaking is the only way that Confidence knows how to do that. And, that is how we came to start working together."
Atlanta Film and TV: Is Ghana specifically, Accra a film-friendly place?
Jonna Johnson: "Accra is a film-friendly place. I, however, did not get a chance to visit Accra since I was staying in Kumasi and the only time I was in Accra was when I was at the airport. It does take at least a six-hour transportation event to get there from Kumasi. But, I’ve heard that Accra is beautiful, and that’s where I’m going to have to visit when I go back in October because I am looking to build a studio and find land that I can build on."
Atlanta Film and TV: Could you tell us a little bit about Dirt Road Paths Productions?
Jonna Johnson: "I am known here in the states as Coached by Jonna Johnson. I created a production company and now teaming with others here in America to begin filming documentaries. The inspiration behind starting Dirt Road Paths was to stop working at other production companies and create my own. But, I could also work with other production companies, and we can all collaborate. One of the biggest lessons is proving that collaboration can happen without all the in-between crap, which is why projects never see the light of day. When it boils down to everything, there is always some disagreement where too many people are involved. Dirt Road Path’s Productions came about to put people together that have the heart and the passion to produce films, documentaries, and narratives that impact and recycle the crew and talent and help them along the way."
"The cast in Alisa will be paid, and We are using children from the schools in Kumasi. I’ve even arranged for one of our scenes to be filmed at the school. We’ll use some of the families and children I sponsor to make it through the school year. In Kumasi, school isn’t public. If a family cannot pay to send their children to school, there is no school for them, and the children are either washing vegetables or out farming when they should be in school. Using the children in the film, we’ll be sure that they are paid to cover their schooling for the next year. My goal is by having them in our productions, we can help them provide for themselves."
Atlanta Film and TV: How do you all plan to take precautions when filming during the pandemic?
Jonna Johnson: "We will film in October 2020, and all of our production meetings, etc., are being done via ZOOM. We want to be sure we have everything in place, upon arrival in Ghana. So we can film and bring home a finished product."
For more information, check out check out Jonna Johnson’s website
To back the feature film Alisa, click here for the Kickstarter Campaign.
You can also follow Jonna Johnson on Instagram @jonnajohnson1