Sundance? Yeah, he's been there. Oprah? That too. Twenty-six year old Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson's short, but so far brilliant career as a documentary filmmaker has earned him some pretty impressive connections in his own right. At a mere 21, his film Born Rich, an intriguing look at what money and the privileges that go with it inspires—or more often than not, doesn't—in its young heirs, swept the Park City film festival and landed on a regular HBO rotation.
"I saw these strange circumstances where people had the means and opportunity to build really interesting lives, and most of them didn't," explains Johnson. "They weren't experiencing all that they could in life and that's what started it for me." The documentary, which simply started out as his NYU graduation thesis, subsequently snatched two Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming--not bad for a directorial debut.
"I've discovered that what you inherit may not be as valuable as what you earn" Johnson has said--and lucky for audiences it's a lesson he exemplifies as he continues to pursue his own passion to create films that tackle universally taboo subjects such as wealth and power. He explores these themes even further in his latest doc, The One Percent, where Johnson conducts revealing interviews with Bill Gates Sr., Steve Forbes Jr., as well as Hurricane Katrina survivors.
Handsome, smart and anti-establishment, when this East Villager of six years isn't hitting his favorite video store, Kim's Video on St. Mark's Place, to discover "anything I haven't seen and don't know much about" (where he suggests you do the same), you can catch up with him at the park with a racquet in hand during a heated game of badminton. "I'm trying to start a league," says Johnson. Why not join him? After all, there may be a movie in it.
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