Like many of you Comic Book Divas and Geek Girls News first saw Jesse Johnson’s Wonder Woman Fan Trailer on ScreenRant or on YouTube; we were impressed by everything about the trailer from the story, the filing, the CGI, and of course Nina Berman’s portrayal of Wonder Woman. We sat down with the director Jesse V Johnson and talked to him about his career as a stuntman, a director and yes about the his acclaimed Wonder Woman Fan Trailer.
Q: Jesse, so that our readers can get a overview of yourself, tell us a little bit about yourself.
JJ: Hi there, I am a writer/director living in Los Angeles. For a number of years I have been making a living as a director of smaller movies and performing as a stunt man on bigger ones.
Q: Reading about you and your career, you have made a living as a stuntman; how did you get involved in stunt work, is this something you wanted to do or did just happen to fall into the career?
JJ: My family have been involved going back to my grandfather, who was a horseman on a number of British movies. I struggled early on not to follow that path, and attempted almost every other career on a film set, from production design, to assistant directing, none of them are as much fun or pay as well as stunt work, it took a few years for me to realize this.
Q: What is the most involve stunt you have been involved in on th set of a movie?
JJ: Creating the battle sequence on Lincoln with Garrett Warren, the burden was to do as good a job as possible, for Spielberg of course, but also to do justice to the important subject matter.
Q: Have you ever been involved in a dangerous stunt and afterwards asked yourself “What was I thinking when I agreed to do this?”
JJ: I have thought it a few times just before doing the stunt, not afterward.
Q: You have worked on some large movie productions including Total Recall, Charlie’s Angels, Planet Of The Apes, War of the Worlds, Mission Impossible 3, Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man, and most recently the Academy Award Winning Lincoln. Have you ever been start struck if so who was it and why?
JJ: Many times, I love this business, I love movies, and I love individuals who see the world in a different way to the average person, being around them is a privilege, an honor. These people are stars in their profession because they have that undeniable something, it is beautiful, translucent and radiant. Yes, it has to affect you, or you should be in another trade. But, you must deal with it, and approach them as you would any one else, with courtesy and respect.
Q: Reading your resume you have also been involved in many comic book films, including Thor and The Amazing Spider-Man, which of these movies were more involved from a stunt person’s point of view?
JJ: They were wonderful to work on, whenever you enter into a fantasy environment things become fun for a stunt man, you can react bigger, you get to fly, to flip, to get punched through doors – they are the exciting jobs.
Q: You’re now a director, what made you want to become a director?
JJ: I believed I had something to offer, it is a drive that must be there and undeniable. I wanted to make the films I would pay to go and see. When someone else makes a film I wish I had made, it saddens me, and then fuels me. I get nothing from seeing bad movies.
Q: You write and direct movies about people fighting against the odds and misfist, what draws you to telling these types of stories?
JJ: They were the films I wanted to see, I don’t think like that anymore, my taste has evolved, and I want to deal more with the everyman now, less with the misfit, the outsider, I feel that I ‘ve explored that street.
Q: When you are directing, do you use your insight as a stuntman when you are directing a scene?
JJ: Of course, the two are so similar, with stunts you’re looking to make people feel safe, while looking dangerous. Directing is about gaining the trust of your cast and partnering with them, watching out for them creatively, as opposed to physically, although that is sometimes also a concern.
Q: As a comic book fan, ex comic book dealer, and now comic book publisher; I have always asked why directors and writers find it necessary to change the story or origin?
JJ: You have to be in love with that character to commit to make a film about them. Likewise you have to be in love with the accompanying scenario to become involved with it for a year or maybe more. If I tweak it a little to make it more appealing to me, to keep my interest, to motivate my energy and enthusiasm, so be it. I would never change it for the sake of changing it – sometimes elements are changed for you, by the budget, environment, cast or your employers.
Q: As a director what would you like to do differently in a comic book based movie?
JJ: My motivation with Wonder Woman was simple, I wanted her to be believable as a warrior woman with above average strength, I wanted her to be a figurehead for young women, a symbol of empowerment. She relies on no man, and affords no quarter to evil doers. She does what it takes and does it well. She carries the burden of responsibility for justice, the scars of past battles, her uniform shows the evidence of previous battles.
I wanted to return to the motivation of the original comic book, which the way I saw it, was to create a wartime heroine for the women working the steel mills and munitions factories. This was not a character designed to titillated young men, that came in the 1980′s with the TV show, and we’ve done everything we can to distance ourselves from that interpretation. Our intended audience wasn’t even born in the 1980′s – my daughters who are 12 and 6 love our version of Wonder Woman, they were a factor in shaping my version.
Q: We saw the trailer for the “Wonder Woman” fan trailer; what inspired you to make the trailer?
JJ: Honestly, I was planning a black and white crime feature that I had raised some independent equity for, I wanted to test a prosumer camera that I was researching, that I believed had the capability to shoot superior quality footage. My wife didn’t let me spend our savings, so I sold one of my motorcycles to pay for the trailer.
Story-wise, I have always loved Wonder Woman but felt her to have been one seriously maligned super hero. She seemed in desperate need of a make-over, not so gritty that it distanced super-hero fans, or so serious that it felt documentary-like, but something exciting and whimsical, but powerful, too.
Q: The trailer depicts “Wonder Woman” during WWII; most people really don’t think of the character going back that far in time, you must have really done some research; did you read a lot of the comics for your source material?
JJ: For me her history is interwoven with that of the Second World War.
Q: What was your thought process in writing the script for the Wonder Woman fan trailer?
JJ: Thomas Jane’s Punisher short had come out, and I liked it, thought it was smart – it had a lot to do with my knuckling down and doing this, so I wrote an eight minute short film, ten pages of script.
Q: How long did it take for you and the crew to make the film and what was the most challenging aspect of making the trailer?
JJ: We shot for two days in San Pedro at a State Park, and then a half day of insert shots. The most challenging was getting everyone there for free. My two producers, Hugh Daly and Faz Brahimi had a lot to do with that. They were great and we all pooled our contacts.
Q: What qualities were you looking for an actress to play Wonder Woman; it seems this is a hot topic with comic book fans and it seems movie and television studios. You selected actress Nina Bergman to portray Wonder Woman; what made her stand out among the others for the roll?
JJ: Nina and I were friends before this, we had been looking for a project to do together, she is a force of nature, a performer but also, like me a hustler. I knew it was going to be a tough haul, and I needed a partner in crime, not just a pretty face.
Q: Did Nina do her own stunts in the trailer or did you use a stunt woman?
JJ: Nina did everything, she trained like a champ weeks ahead of the shoot, and Luke Lafontaine, who choreographs for me, beat her up pretty badly, he was relentless. He kept telling us he didn’t want some pretty actress playing his favorite super hero, he wanted her to do right by the character, to fight and move like a warrior. He takes his role seriously.
Q: In the trailer we really didn’t see Nina use Wonder Woman’s lasso; did it just not come up in the trailer or did you leave it out intentionally?
JJ: We had a sequence with the whip, and we even explored using it like a Chinese steel whip within the fight sequence, but ultimately the experiments with the CG were unsuccessful – we had a small budget, and it is better to avoid negative elements that will draw attention away from your hard work.
Q: Will there be a full Wonder Woman fan movie coming out or was this just made to be a trailer?
JJ: Not any time soon.
Q: Have you thought about doing other comic book based trailers or movies, if so what characters would you like to film?
JJ: I would love to do another, there are a couple that have been overlooked and badly treated, who deserve much better. I have my eye on them, and it won’t be financed by me selling my motorcycle this time.
Q: Since I am a small press comic book publisher, I have to ask this; have you ever thought about doing a trailer based on a small press comic book title?
JJ: If the story was provocative and not derivative, if there was something there for me to sink my teeth into – yes, I would love to.
Q: Where can fans follow you for more information about your movies such as “The Package”, “The Butcher”, and of course the award-winning “Charlie Valentine”?
JJ: Jesse V Johnson on Twitter and Jesse V. Johnson on Facebook, we also have a Wonder Woman Facebook Fan Page or Watch It On YouTube .