Taking over six years to complete, Johnny is the deeply personal psychological thriller conceptualized and crafted by John Charles Gerald. Brave enough to share the trauma he endured during his formative years, Gerald created a low-budgeted artistic equivalent to a high-dollar therapist’s couch with Johnny and tackles themes of abandonment, abuse, self-loathing, and loneliness.
We were excited to speak with John Charles Gerald about his film and the cathartic values of creativity.
PopHorror: Taking several years to complete, your film, Johnny, must’ve been a huge commitment both emotionally and creatively. Were there any moments where you found yourself doubting the possibility of finishing this endeavor?
John Charles Gerald: Yes, I can almost guarantee this happens to every filmmaker at some point. Making a film is a very difficult task, especially when you have limited help. It took me six years to make the film, so the thought of not possibly finishing it—especially towards the end—was quite frightening.
PopHorror: To be honest, I put off watching Johnny for some time. The synopsis alone struck a chord, and I was apprehensive to dive into your film. I can empathize with you and the character of Floyd through my own personal experiences growing up, and Johnny definitely unpacked some heavy shit. Was this a needed cathartic experience for yourself?
John Charles Gerald: It definitely was a cathartic experience. It’s like making a painting of a traumatic event with sound and movement. When I see viewers that empathize with Floyd, it immediately reminds me how worth it the film was. Sending a message across to the other side is what making movies is all about. If there is no message in a film, why bother? We have that privileged power of communication as filmmakers.
PopHorror: It took you months to build the puppet featured in Johnny. I read that you have an extensive background in audio engineering among other talents and expertise, but where did you gain the knowledge to build such an impressive and capable puppet?
John Charles Gerald: I had no idea how to build a puppet, but I was desperate, so I dived into it without having a clue. That just shows how, if you want something badly enough, you can achieve it. All you need is a bit of desperation, research, and some sickening discipline.
PopHorror: The horror genre seems to be a natural choice for telling this sort of tale. Have you always been a fan of horror and the more subjective side of storytelling?
John Charles Gerald: I haven’t really been a fan of horror to be honest with you, but I have been a fan of subjective storytelling filled with subtext. When I made this film, I wasn’t thinking of horror at all. I was just telling my story in a different kind of way which ended up accidentally crossing over pretty comfortably into the horror genre. I was thinking more something like The Machinist or Donnie Darko which to me aren’t really horror. To me, they’re more like psychological dramas.
PopHorror: What do you hope audiences walk away with after experiencing Johnny?
John Charles Gerald: I like this question. Firstly, if the audience can empathize with my film, then I feel like I hit a home run. If they don’t, I hope they walk away with an eye-opener experience on this global subject. A lot of people take abusive experiences to the grave with them. This can rotten you inside and change the way you behave as a human being. Although not easy at all, the best thing an abuse victim can do is talk to someone about it despite the intimidation tactics used by the abuser in order to silence the victim.
PopHorror: A lot of time and effort went into completing your film. What are some of your proudest moments making, Johnny?
John Charles Gerald: I was proud every time after editing knowing I accomplished something great and memorable with a powerful message that will spark a reaction in someone’s life out there. Don’t remain quiet! Speak out!
PopHorror: If you could program a double feature at your local Drive-In, what two films make your bill and why?