We had the good fortune of connecting with Johnny Zhang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Johnny, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was born in Northern China and immigrated to the Bahamas at the age of 10 with almost no knowledge of the English language. I was placed in an environment where I had to learn and communicate entirely using creative means, such as hand gestures, drawings or even mimicking sounds. It took me about 3 years to fully understand and speak English and in that time I developed an interest in art and photography as well as a desire to express myself through visual means. Today, at times, I feel no different than that kid trying to communicate with everyone, but nowadays it’s through video and animation in the form of everything from personal short films to art documentation and cooking demos to national tv ads.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Having the experience of growing up in 3 different cultures definitely broadened my understanding of the world. It has taught me a lot about patience and given me a unique perspective when dealing with conflicts. I learned how important it is to listen and be understanding early on, especially towards different ideas. I don’t believe it takes much effort to set yourself apart from others, sometimes it’s as simple as being able to take in the good and embrace the suck. As a director, a major part of my job is problem solving: constantly trying to reach a goal with the resources given, while maintaining a high level of detail that exceeds expectations. Whether traveling for shoots, working extensive days with talent and crew, or hunkering down in the edit suite for long weekends, there’s a balance to meeting people’s needs while staying sane. Whether it’s Time Square billboards, TV ads, or just an Instagram story, in the end, as they say, the devil is in the details.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Miami: Arcade Odyssey – One of the last old school arcades standing, filled with Astro City cabinets. Tio Colo – My first time having a Bocaditos de Helado cannot be replicated, come here and try it and you’ll see it’s not just an ice cream sandwich. Fort Lauderdale: Gou Lou Cheong BBQ – Closet sized but Michelin star tasting. One of the most authentic Chinese BBQ take out places rivaling Flushing, NY. Come before 2PM for the crispy pork or it’ll be sold out Dar Tajine – Amazing Moroccan food! Can’t miss it if you’re into huge bone-in lamb shanks.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to send my shoutout to: Ingrid Schindall and IS Projects in Fort Lauderdale – She’s such gem in the letterpress and SFL community with her unique personality and dedicated attitude. She been such a personal inspiration of mine to do more and be active within my community. Phoenix Films Miami and Rob Uguccioni – My trusted producer and co-worker of past 8 years. We’ve worked on numerous of shoots and projects together, this dude gets stuff done and he’s a cool as heck dad.
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