Track champ and indie filmmaker Johnny Dutch is becoming as well known for his film shorts as his outstanding athleticism. Dutch is a director, writer and editor widely recognized for Float, Dead Day and The Boy and Boris. In an entertaining chat with QG, he shared his inspiring story about following dreams, having an unyielding work ethic and visionary storytelling.
What inspired you to become an athlete?
Growing up, my sister competed for a local summer [track] team, and I would watch them train. One day, I randomly jumped in their hurdle workout and shocked the coach with my form. The rest is history.
What was winning the US Title like for you?
Honestly, winning the US title was an amazing accomplishment. Earning the US title was a monumental step in the right direction to keep pushing forward.
How did you make the transition from athlete to filmmaker?
At age 16, I begged my mother for a video camera, and when I finally got one, I started filming random quirky films at home. In high school, I took a video lab course, where I learned editing and camera logistics. When athletics became overwhelming, film was a creative space where I could continue challenging myself and break out of the typical jock mold.
What inspired you to create your short film, The Boy and Boris?
My goal was to create a relatable story that would inspire all ages. I feel that many people, at some point in their childhood, have felt lonely, awkward or weird. Although athletic, I use to be soft-spoken and timid, so I found myself sitting alone at lunchtime.
As children, our imaginations keep us driven and hopeful, and in this story, we follow a timid boy who creates an imaginary friend who helps him see his worth.
Can you share a bit about your creative experiences with Float, Dead Day, and Take a Stan?
Dead Day was my first indie project after graduating from college. The short film was inspired by my love for zombie films like Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later. The Dead Day set is probably the messiest set I’ve filmed on to this date. I had two make up artists working on over 30 extras with tons of paint, fake blood and prosthetic skin all over the place. We shot the whole project in two days.
Float is a complex story where I got a chance to push the envelope. It’s an LGBT themed story about a male writer whose sexuality is challenged by an affluent man. The purpose of the story is to show and embrace the different facets of a black man. If you wear eccentric fashions, dye your hair, take trips to the local library, listen to classical music, or choose to be vegan, those things don’t define your sexuality or revoke your black card.
The production of Float was challenging because I was the gaffer, boom mic operator, director, cameraman, food runner, and transportation. It was quite the experience. The full movie can be seen online on director David Kirkman’s Woke Nation Youtube channel.
For the film Take A Stan, I worked with a female director, Jaine Sloan, in her first indie feature. It was a pleasure editing her project and watching a female be a boss on set.
What is the creative vision that you hope to share with the world through filmmaking?
I want to give my audience a reason to go to a theater more than twice a year. I want to create inclusive stories for all communities where no one is left out. I’m excited to collaborate with other innovative creators to produce powerful, aggressive stories that will challenge social norms.
Did you have a mentor growing up who inspired you to pursue your current endeavors?
Athletically, my first coach, Aaron McDougal, was a great mentor who became a great father figure. He taught me great life lessons that are still valuable. As for film, my mentor in my head was Quentin Tarantino. I loved that he took risks and never apologized for the creative decisions he made. I studied his chaotic style of editing, which I’ve used to push me beyond my comfort zone.
What’s the highlight of your career thus far?
So far, the completion of my indie feature, Float, is a great accomplishment. Any filmmaker knows, completing a feature can either make or break you. During filming, I was sleeping between my friends’ couches and my car. At times, I doubted my attempt at working several jobs, living out of a suitcase, and completing a feature simultaneously. I could have given up and postponed the project, but I was determined to get my vision out.
What can fans expect from you in the near future?
Currently, I’m in the process of writing a horror screenplay. Also, I will be competing at the USA championships at the end of July to make the World Championship team in Doha.
What advice do you have for those considering athletics or filmmaking as a career path?
As an athlete, I believe you should always have a plan for life after sports. Unfortunately, the sport does not last forever, so education is still valuable.
As a filmmaker, I feel it’s important to surround yourself with other creatives. Finding a community of creators, and supporting one another can take you further than doing it alone.
Dutch is an excellent example of what can be achieved with exceptional talent and the ambition to make dreams a reality. He is a positive role model for those hoping to pursue a career in sports or the entertainment industry.
Make sure to follow Johnny Dutch on Instagram.