Johnny Zeller

2021-11-01 12:00


Johnny Zeller


2021 Best Sci-Fi Short Film "Scars"

Johnny Zeller

What is your name, company name, and URL?

Jonny Zeller,

What is your specialty: filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

I’m a Director and do a lot of TV commercials and branded content, but have recently been working more and more in the narrative space.

What are you currently working on?

I directed a few commercials recently that I’m excited about and are almost ready to release. On the narrative side of things, I’m working on adapting my Shriekfest Best Sci-Fi short film SCARS into a series of books and a feature film. SCARS is a short film based on a response to a writing prompt.
I also have two features and a series with my producing partner Tim Frazier that keep me inspired (and busy). Always important to have something special to work towards!

Who do you consider your mentor and why?

I’ve been fortunate to have several great mentors over the course of my career. My father has always pushed me to be better in whatever ways I can and has been a constant mentor from day one. Cinematographer Jeff Stonehouse was my first professional mentor, and he took me under his wing when I was a clueless PA running to crafty when someone asked for an “apple box.” The late Ric Waite (Footloose, Brewster’s Millions, The Great Outdoors) was also very influential in my early career. My current mentor, Producer Robert L. Levy (Wedding Crashers, Point Break, Pay It Forward), has been helping me learn to navigate the business side of the industry.
Whew, that turned out to be a lot! But I wanted to make sure the right people got credit!

Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

I think horror/scifi draws a large following because audiences like becoming immersed in a unique world. It’s easy – and fun – to get lost in a film or series that makes you wonder “what if?” and just dive down the rabbit hole.

What do you love most about this business?

  1. It’s possible for an idea in my head to come to life on a screen and be shared with people all over the world.
  2. I get to work with amazing people both behind and in front of the camera.
  3. I get to travel the world and explore cultures I never would have been able to in any other way.

What do you dislike most about this business?

Ego and/or fear all too often stand in the way of greatness.

What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

The easy answer is SCARS! But honestly, it’s also the most accurate. I haven’t put that much of myself into any other project I’ve worked on, and to see other people enjoy it and hear them talking with each other about what it means and where it could go next… It’s the kind of thing that makes people like me want to direct in the first place.

Any advice you'd like to give to newbies?

Work after you get home from work. Some of your biggest career progress happens outside of normal working hours. If you have a day job, get used to spending your off-time networking, writing, creating, collaborating. There’s a lot of competition so all that extra time you spend honing your craft and building your network will pay off.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Big thanks to Shriekfest and to everyone who screened their film at the festival. It was inspiring to watch so many incredible films and really an honor to take home one of the awards.