2014 90 min. www.TESTthefilm.com
"If there was ever a contemporary film that illuminates why queer cinema still matters, this is it." Film Comment
"Excellent, gripping, surprisingly funny and beautifully shot." Out Magazine
An astutely crafted drama set in the free-spirited San Francisco of 1985, writer-director Chris Mason Johnson's Test lovingly portrays this exciting and harrowing era as young Frankie (dancer Scott Marlowe in a breakout acting debut) confronts the challenges of being an understudy in a modern dance company where he’s taunted to “dance like a man!” Frankie embarks on a budding relationship with hunky Todd (Matthew Risch, HBO's Looking), a veteran dancer in the same company and the bad boy to Frankie’s innocent.
As Frankie and Todd’s friendship deepens, they navigate a world of risk — it’s the early years of the epidemic — but also a world of hope, humor, visual beauty and musical relief. The captivating dance sequences were choreographed for the film by acclaimed U.S. choreographer Sidra Bell. The film’s vibrant soundtrack includes work by 80s icons Jimmy Somerville (Bronski Beat), Klaus Nomi, Romeo Void, Laurie Anderson, Martha & the Muffins, Cocteau Twins and Sylvester.
Test received a production grant from the the San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation and a Community Issues grant from the Horizons Foundation; premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival; went on to win two Grand Jury Awards at Outfest in Los Angeles (U.S. Narrative Feature and Screenwriting); had its European premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama section); and received glowing praise from critics: "If there was ever a contemporary film that illuminates why queer cinema still matters, this is it." (Film Comment) In 2015, Test was nominated for an Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature Produced for Less than Five Hundred Thousand Dollars).
THE NEW TWENTY
2009 92 min. www.TheNewTwentyMovie.com
"Sharp, intelligent writing. Erotic tension and intriguing ambiguity. A stylish production." The Hollywood Reporter
"A great debut for a visionary director. A breath of fresh air." NY Examiner
"Johnson proves himself an actors' director. The performances are uniformly good." Alternative Film Guide
"An impressive feature debut. Smart and stylish. Fine acting. Excellent cinematography.” Box Office Magazine
Full page of reviews for The New Twenty here.
Writer-director Chris Mason Johnson's award-winning first feature (Best Lead Actress, Outfest; Best Director First Feature, Ft. Lauderdale) charts the lives of five New Yorkers, a mix of gay and straight best friends about to turn thirty. With emotionally vivid performances and nuanced characters, The New Twenty paints the portrait of a generation living the highs and lows of a Wall Street world designed to disappear overnight. The year is 2006 and prosperity seems unending: two of the five are investment bankers, another works in advertising, another does freelance database design, and only one of the five might be called a slacker. But they all suffer from, as loner Felix puts it, "a touch of existential malaise courtesy of late capitalism. You know, the usual." So if money isn't the root of their discontent, what is? Whatever they're searching for - love, meaning in work - they won't find it in each other. On TV, friendship lasts forever. In real life, not so much.
The New Twenty was purchased for broadcast by MTV Logo; for DVD/Internet by Warner Home Video, Wolfe Video and Netflix; and had a limited theatrical release to strong reviews: “A sleek and accomplished debut film... The strong ensemble of young actors create fully defined personas, thanks in large part to their director's willingness to observe the characters in private, take-a-breath moments. He’s got something, this guy.” (LA Weekly)
FROM THE BEGINNING
2014 5 min.
Produced by Serious Productions and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, From the Beginning is a short film collaboration between writer/director Chris Mason Johnson and San Francisco based, award-winning choreographer KT Nelson. Working with dancer/actors Scott Marlowe, Justin Andrews and Vanessa Thiessen in the bucolic redwood forests of the Djerassi Foundation, this team of artists created an innovative short that uses dance as story and also documents the process of making movement.