Mighty Morphin’ Filmmaker: Amy Jo Johnson and Her Heartfelt Hit, The Space Between

For the better part of my childhood, Amy Jo Johnson was my hero. Kimberley Hart (aka The Pink Power Ranger) was everything I wanted to be. She was charismatic, tough, and witty.

And not much has changed. After a wildly successful IndieGoGo campaign, Amy Jo Johnson has released her first feature film, The Space Between. Bearing resemblances to heartfelt indie hits like Little Miss Sunshine, The Space Between explores how families and friendships are built through love and forgiveness. After discovering her husband Mitch (Michael Cram) is unable to have children, Jackie (Sonya Salomaa) takes matters into her own hands. When Mitch discovers the baby is not his, he embarks on a cross-country journey to locate the biological father.

Look Local had the opportunity to speak with Amy Jo Johnson ahead of her screenings in Barrie.

Most of the articles about The Space Between at least mention you were the Pink Power Ranger. And it was such a big part of your IndieGoGo campaign. Are you at all sick of being seen as the Pink Power Ranger, or are you happy to use the role as a bridge between yourself and your audience?
You know, I actually find it quite a blessing at this point in my life, especially with doing the IndieGoGo campaign. I’m just seeing that these people—that were kids and are now grown up—have really followed my career for twenty years. And now, they’re with me on the ride as I jump into writing and directing, so it’s pretty great to have that built in audience and those people championing me. I think it’s awesome.

The Space Between has been compared to Little Miss Sunshine. It seems like an apt comparison because of the compelling contrast between the quirky film style and the rather serious, life-changing moments in the characters’ lives. Why do you think this light-hearted style was best for the story you wanted to tell? Do you find yourself more drawn to comedy in general?
I think that’s sort of my niche or just naturally who I am. With art, even as a songwriter and now as a filmmaker, I like to take serious or painful issues and find the humour and levity somewhere within them. That’s just naturally how I look at the world. That’s how I deal with all the stuff I’ve had to go through in my own life.

I lost my Mom when I was 28-years-old, and it was probably the most painful, painful thing that ever happened in my life, but at the same time I think me and my sister laughed more through those ten months than we ever had. There’s something that happens when you’re going through painful stuff that you can just sort of see the humour in things—life can be so absurd.

The Space Between, with all the different characters and where it’s set (it’s a road trip movie, which I guess why it would be similar to Little Miss Sunshine), in watching it, people do laugh throughout the whole thing. But it’s not broad comedy; it’s quite dry and dark humour, because the subject matter is heavy.

You seem to show an interest in picking apart the pressures and expectations of motherhood. Was this focus reflective of experiences in your life? Since Mitch’s journey is such a big part of The Space Between, are you finding yourself wanting to break down the expectations and pressures of fatherhood as well?
For me, I always have to write from a truthful space, usually from things I’ve had happen to me or people around me. Definitely the seed of the movie comes from my own experience; within the first draft, the story was about Jackie and her infertility and the desperation that you go through in wanting to have a baby.

But through writing all the different drafts of the script, I really started to take a look at Mitch’s character—having him as the one who couldn’t get Jackie pregnant and what that actually means. I love Michael Cram; I ended up writing the whole script really based around his character and what his issues were.

Ultimately, the movie is about family—and that family doesn’t have to be the typical family that we think it is. Family comes in all different shapes and sizes, in all different ways. It’s really about forgiveness, acceptance, and love.

Who were your filmmaking inspirations?
I love Noah Baumbach—I love The Squid and the Whale—I love the way he tells stories with naturalistic, real-life situations that have humour. I loved Little Miss Sunshine, The Way Way Back. Last year I saw Captain Fantastic, that was so good.

 What do you love most about getting behind the camera?
I love every aspect of filmmaking, but it’s actually being on the set and shooting where I feel like my entire personality comes alive and feel like it’s exactly what I should be

doing with my life. I absolutely love directing. Just being in the trenches, like a bunch of kids playing in a sandbox. I love getting my hands dirty. I love the writing process, but that can be a painful process. Sitting at your computer is painful anyway.

What was the atmosphere on the set like? Any particularly memorable moments between cast and crew members?
It was wonderful; it was really cool, because I made sure that most of the actors were dear friends of mine, because I needed that support for my first feature. We had a blast. We had a really great crew. Kristin Fieldhouse was my DOP, she was amazing. The camaraderie was really special.

We were all up in Guelph, seventeen days staying at the university, so it became like a little summer camp. We all just would sit on this rock out in front of the dorm and drink beers at night, go to bed, and shoot all day—it was a blast.

Could you speak more on the film premiere and tour?
Our big premiere is in Richmond Hill, and then it hits different theatres in Ontario. After that, in September, we’re going to eight different cities in the States. Then it will be available online on September 1st.

I did about eight different conventions this past year screening the movie, sort of getting the word out there. We did twelve festivals as well. One of my favourite things to do is watch the film with an audience. I love to watch it with people to see what they’re laughing at, what works, what doesn’t work. It’s been a really, really cool year doing that. I think the movie does work well with an audience—it’s fun to watch.

The Space Between
www.thespacebetweenfeaturefilm.com

Screenings at Barrie Uptown Theatre
Friday, August 25th to Thursday, August 31st

 

 

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