September 2nd, 2017
Amy Jo Johnson hit the big time as the original Pink Ranger on the karate kicking TV show The Power Rangers. She was the one the boys loved and all the girls wanted to be. Although the mighty morphing fighting team cemented her into pop-culture stardom, Amy Jo Johnson is more than just her first role as Kimberly Hart. She is an enormously talented person, already made it as an actor, a folk music recording artist, and is now ready to make it as a director. Her new film The Space Between is an honest film about family and what it means to keep living when the responsibilities get tough. She produced, wrote, acted, and directed her first feature film and I was lucky enough to talk with Amy Jo about what it took to make The Space Between a reality.
AMG.COM: When talking to you about your acting, it starts with The Power Rangers, is that a part of your life that you have come to cherish, and love that it will always be a major part of your career?
AMY JO JOHNSON: Yeah, especially in the last five years, where I’ve transitioned into filmmaking. The Space Between half of the money was raised off of crowd funding and I couldn’t have done it without the support of all those people who followed my career from Power Rangers to Felicity and Flashpoint. I’m really grateful for that being my first job, which I had no idea would impact so many people. I had no idea! Right? It was this dinky little show where I was wearing spandex. I had no idea, but I am grateful for it. And because I was a gymnast, that was a big reason that helped me land the role.
AMG.COM: In part of embracing the character of Kimberly Hart- the Pink Ranger, comes a fan following that still exists today, you’ve gone to comic-con’s, and recently appeared in the new Power Ranger’s film, did you think it would be so popular almost 24 years after your time on the show?
AMY JO JOHNSON: No, not at all. I did about eight conventions this year, especially to bring The Space Between there, to help create awareness to people that I am now into this filmmaking, storytelling, and I really want to share that. I am hoping to have people connect. To embrace that part of my life now as well. I think, what better place to do it than at these conventions? A place where I know I have so much support.
AMG.COM: I’m fascinated with the path you have gone on as an actor. You made difficult choices after Power Rangers & your stint on Felicity, two shows that could send you into doing everything your agent is offered. Instead, you take care of your mother, start your music career, and your own family. Do you often think about what could have been or have pride in how you’ve gotten to this point?
AMY JO JOHNSON: No, you know, my gut screams loud at me when I’m either going in the wrong direction or need to shift gears to find my own happiness. I listen to that above all over anything. I’m not driven by money or fame at all, because fame to me is quite a scary thing that I didn’t even know if I wanted. Yeah, there are no regrets that’s for sure. I did it backwards as well, I went from Los Angeles to Canada, usually people go from Canada to LA. I needed to extricate myself from my life within Los Angeles, which wasn’t satisfying to me, and now living in Toronto, I love it! I love that I am able to put acting on the side and focus my life on becoming a filmmaker. I find Toronto to be a nurturing city for that.
AMG.COM: Let’s talk about The Space Between, you crowd-funded the film, but made a lot of this happen on your own, writing, acting, directing, was having that much responsibility on this film make the success that much sweeter?
AMY JO JOHNSON: Yeah. It was me and my producing partner Jessica Adams. We started from the inception of the idea to where we are now, which is it will be released online tomorrow, and we just finished a theatrical tour and doing a small tour in the states with it. And it has been craaazy hard work, but a the same time we really wanted to do it ourselves to learn all the difference sides of filmmaking. From raising the money, the prep, the shooting, the post, and now the distribution. I have to say, I don’t think we will ever do it all ourselves again. It is so much work. So many balls to drop, it’s really intense, but we are almost at the end of the road here and it has been really exciting and I’m really proud with this little movie we made.
AMG.COM: I saw a lot of similarities to a family road trip film, such as Little Miss Sunshine, or the dramatics of a film like Juno. I wanted to hear what were some of your film inspirations for making The Space Between?
AMY JO JOHNSON: Umm, when I look at the film, I can see what you’re seeing. Harold & Maude is one of my most favorite movies ever. Not that The Space Between looks like it, but I was very much inspired by the big wide shots, the landscapes, and the quirky characters. All facing and dealing with heavy situations and finding the humor within that. I think Harold & Maude is genius for that. I love Little Miss Sunshine, and I do think yeah, because I love that movie so much, in the back of my head the tone was very much inspired by that same film. I love Zach Braff, I love Garden State, and as a musician I think the use of soundtrack in this film was inspired by how he did that as well.
AMG.COM: I loved your cast in The Space Between. What type of process did you go through to get this group of talent together, Michael Cram, Sonya Salomaa, the young & talented Julia Sarah Stone, and especially the legendary Michael Ironside?
AMY JO JOHNSON: Michael Cram and I did Flashpoint together and I love him as a person. I find him to be a quirky, interesting, slightly neurotic man, that I had to write a screenplay around him. He’s like the sophisticated version of his character Mitch. I really wrote with him in mind, but I wanted to make sure as my first feature I surrounded myself with people that I knew would support me and be there 100%. That was Sonya, Michael, and David Paetkau, they were on Flashpoint with me, so I knew what they could do. For Julia we auditioned that role of Emily. We auditioned a lot of girls and I had to make sure that the relationship between Michael’s character and hers didn’t have a sexual tone to it, because then it’s a different movie. It wouldn’t work. So when Julia sent in her audition tape, I knew it right away. The other girls were good actors, but they were too sexy, gave off the wrong vibe. Julia has such an interesting look, a sadness, an innocences, and is a deep, amazing actress. She came out and jumped two feet in. She was great.
Michael Ironside we sent his agent the script and he said he fell in love with it, which was really nice. His wife actually read it first and she handed it to him and said you have to do this one. Really thankful to Karen his wife. It was awesome having him on set. He was the one I was most nervous about. Because I didn’t know him, he’s been around for so long, he’s quite a presence. It took us a second to get our footing with each other, and now he’s the biggest support, and an amazing part of the film.
AMG.COM: I mean he was the bad guy in Total Recall, you’re going to be nervous working with a guy who has that reputation.
AMY JO JOHNSON: I know, but he’s the sweet dad in this!
AMG.COM: You’ve made two short films prior to The Space Between, what was that adjustment like for you making your first feature film as a director?
AMY JO JOHNSON: I didn’t stop to think about it too much. I did the three short films to get my feet wet, knowing I need to do that to make a feature. I know I need to make two features before I make my third, which is called Crazier Than You. I just got it going and don’t stop to think about it too much. That’s the way I work, I don’t think about things too much so that I don’t have time to be afraid. I keep moving forward. You can’t overthink it, because then you wouldn’t get out of bed.
AMG.COM: You also have a new song “Cracker Jacks” on this film, what was the process for this song and how do you balance your music career, now that your becoming a budding director?
AMY JO JOHNSON: I don’t really, ha! The music for Cracker Jacks, I had written an album two years before and Cracker Jack’s was one of the songs on there. It was my album Never Broken and for this movie I picked all the songs for the soundtrack through musicians that I asked on the internet and I had all these submissions. I had 30 songs to choose from in the editing room. We had an amazing list of music to see which fits in scenes. By the end we had 16 songs and I really wanted to be a part of the soundtrack. I’m proud of it. I put Cracker Jacks as part of the credits, the song is about relationships and having to make that relationship work for the rest of your life or not, depending on how that goes.
AMG.COM: You are a dual citizen in Canada, a successful musician, and you have made a road trip film. If you had to pick the music for a long drive in the car and your options are Rush, Alanis Morissette, or Neil Young, which are you picking?
AMY JO JOHNSON: Neil. Yeah! I love Crosby, Stills, & Nash. I’m the old school. I like Jagged Little Pill, I could ride across country with that album. Rush, is that Tom Sawyer? I could crank that loud in the desert, why not! When I was in high school it was either Rush or Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and I was listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.
AMG.COM: I like that pick because I’m a big Neil Young fan.
AMG.COM: Tell our audience at AMovieGuy.com what’s next for you and where they can see The Space Between?
AMY JO JOHNSON: Tomorrow it’s going to be released online. If you go to TheSpaceBetweenFeatureFilm.com there’s a WatchNow menu and you can see it on iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, GooglePlay, and other places online. In Canada and the U.S.
AMG.COM: Well, thank you again for taking the time to talk with me for AMovieGuy.com. I really enjoyed the film and I am excited to follow your career as a director.
AMY JO JOHNSON: Oh, thank you we are really proud. It’s a good first feature film and we hope everyone will enjoy it. Thank you again!