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An Interview with Jonathan Sawyer


Please tell us about yourself. How did you start your career, and how did you get into the world of filmmaking?

I am now 54 years old. When I was 8 years old, my parents picked me up from elementary school and wanted to take us all (our whole family) to watch a brand new movie. This was in 1977. The movie, Star Wars: A New Hope. It was at the end of the movie when the “Death Star” exploded, the audience stood up cheering and clapping. I was in shock from seeing all of the people in the movie auditorium cheering about this. Amazed that this could generate powerful emotions from a story on the screen. I started professionally in the entertainment industry as production assistant on feature films in central Florida in 1990. I moved up from a set PA to grip and electrician (working with movie lights) on Hollywood feature films. I would say, right now, the greatest achievement is my strong documentary. I’ve directed many documentaries, television commercials, music videos, concerts, short films, etc. But producing, directing, and editing this documentary took me a little more over a year, from concept, develop script, pre-production, production, post-production, and now on film festivals circuit, to complete. This is a moving and impactful portrayal of the important issue of suicide prevention. Through the eyes of those who have faced or are currently facing suicidal thoughts, as the director, I had the privilege of working closely with individuals who bravely shared their stories through tears and raw emotion on our set. Producing this documentary film is my greatest achievement in my career, currently.



What are some of the projects you did before making I Am This Dark World's Light?

My latest project, I Am This Dark World's Light, explores the topic of suicide awareness. But before this documentary, I have a wealth of experience producing various documentaries, television commercials, music videos, and film shorts. Through these projects, I have honed my skills in storytelling and visual communication. I am passionate about using film as a medium to shed light on important issues and capture human experiences. My previous work has received critical acclaim and I am excited to bring that same level of quality and dedication to my latest endeavor.


As a filmmaker, who or what are your influences, especially in the world of documentaries?

Throughout my life I’ve watched many movies of directors, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kramer, Francis Ford Coppola, Ridley Scott, and many more directors. I guess there would be two directors that’s my role model, Stanley Kramer and Ridley Scott. Stanley Kramer for his artistic vision in his movies and impacting the entire conscience world by bringing attention to topical social issues. His movies really impacted me as a young teenager about nuclear war, effects of fascism, creationism and evolution, and racism. I delve into themes that deeply resonate with me, such as human connections and personal growth, or drawing inspiration from current social issues and historical events. I love science fiction stories, crime stories, topical social issue stories, and historical stories. These topics strongly interest me for directing a movie.



What is your vision as an artist?

Imagine a world where suicide is no longer a taboo topic, and those struggling with thoughts of ending their own lives have newfound hope. Our documentary, I Am This Dark World's Light, shines a light on the social issue of suicide and brings awareness to the millions who suffer in silence. Through powerful storytelling and real-life accounts, we strive to spark conversation and inspire change. There is hope. You are not alone.


What types of stories you endeavor to tell through filmmaking?

As a filmmaker, I am passionate about exploring meaningful themes that evoke strong emotional connections with my audience. Whether it's delving into the complexities of human relationships and personal growth, or drawing inspiration from current social issues and historical events, my work is centered around thought-provoking storytelling. With a particular affinity for science fiction, crime, topical social issues, and historical stories, I bring a unique perspective and creative vision to each project I direct.



Can you tell us a bit about your production company Vox Visuals? Tell us your story, your plans and the themes you want to focus on.

Vox Visuals is a dedicated nonprofit media production company that seeks to inspire and engage a positive impact on viewers by providing inspirational, high-quality material. I believe in exploring thought-provoking themes such as human connections, personal growth, and drawing inspiration from relevant social issues and historical events. As a filmmaker, I am passionate about using storytelling to delve into these topics that deeply resonate with me. Through my artistic vision, I strive to ignite meaningful discourse and increase awareness on crucial societal issues through the power of film. By shedding light on topical social topics, I aim to impact the collective consciousness of our world.


Your film I Am This Dark World’s Light focuses on a very important topic: suicides. What made you want to tell this story?

In my documentary, I Am This Dark World’s Light, I draw inspiration from my personal experiences and the devastating loss of my middle brother who took his own life on Thanksgiving Day 2022. As the youngest in my immediate family with two older brothers, Rick and David, I witnessed firsthand the tragic effects of suicide and the impact it has on those left behind. Through this film, I aim to shed light on a topic often shrouded in darkness and raise awareness for suicide prevention. By sharing our family's story and exploring the factors that lead to suicidal thoughts, I hope to empower viewers to seek help and break the stigma surrounding mental health.


Were you personally affected by such a tragedy?

After experiencing a heart attack and stroke in 2017, I found myself at rock bottom, contemplating ending my own life. As I struggled to cope with the aftermath of my stroke, which left me mentally diminished, I also grappled with losing my strong religious faith. In this vulnerable state, suicide seemed like the only option. Through my personal journey, I bring a unique and authentic perspective to the topic of suicide prevention that resonates deeply with audiences. Our film not only raises awareness but also offers hope and inspiration for those facing similar struggles.


Please tell us about the production, and the difficulties you faced during production. What are some of the challenges of making a documentary?

This documentary, I Am This Dark World’s Light, took me a year for producing, from development, script writing, pre-production, production, post-production. Once we got into the shooting, it took 3 months for bringing all of the people interviews and “B” roll. Took a long time because everyone had their own schedules and everyone couldn’t be hired to be at one location as actors for interviews. What pleasantly surprised me was the shooting. I had a great crew. This film is very serious subject matter and during all of the interviews, you hear about their stories about suicide attempts and they would be in tears. The crew was great for working with this subject matter. Very professional on the set.


How was the film received at film festivals around the world? Please tell us about your festival run.

As an award-winning documentary, I Am This Dark World’s Light, currently it has made its mark on the US film festival circuit. With accolades for Best Documentary, Best Original Score, Best Narrator, and Best Direction, this powerful film has captivated audiences at both secular and Christian festivals. As it continues to gain momentum throughout 2024, we eagerly anticipate further recognition for its thought-provoking message and exceptional filmmaking. With screenings scheduled until December 2024, who knows how many more accolades this inspiring documentary will earn.


What project(s) will you be working on next?

I am currently working on several film projects. One of the feature films is titled Remember which explores the themes of faith and hope through the story of a man facing his darkest moments. As he grapples with the idea of taking his own life, he must decide whether to give up or hold onto his faith in God. This Remember feature film is in pre-production. Introducing Again I'm Standing, a poignant and powerful feature film that follows a woman's journey as she navigates the challenges of dealing with a rare and fatal disease while raising her young children, all on her own after her husband's abandonment. With an emotional storyline that will tug at your heartstrings, this film sheds light on the strength and resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. This feature film, Again I’m Standing is currently in development. And for our younger audience, I am thrilled to share that we are in development on, The Usual Crew, an animated television series that aims to entertain and educate kids. Alongside these feature films and this television series, I am also working on various short films that showcase compelling stories and unique perspectives. I am currently in pre-production for a short film, Snø, delves into the pressing issue of humancaused climate change and its impact on snow patterns in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a powerful story that sheds light on this global crisis and its consequences.


DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHY:

For over 36 years, Jonathan Sawyer has been providing people with creative solutions through his work as a producer, director, editing, cinematographer, and screenwriter. Jonathan is the dynamic CEO and Owner of Vox Visuals - a leading nonprofit media production company in Central Florida. With his exceptional skills and passion for storytelling, Jonathan has successfully produced award-winning projects that have been recognized in film festivals worldwide. As he continues to pave his way as a prominent producer and director in the industry, there are countless exciting projects on the horizon that will showcase his talents and further establish him as a masterful filmmaker. With Vox Visuals, Jonathan is changing the landscape of media production in Central Florida and beyond. With a diverse skill-set encompassing directing, editing, cinematography and producing, Jonathan has established himself as a versatile force in the film industry. His passion for storytelling is evident in his exceptional work that captures authentic narratives and leaves a lasting impact on audiences worldwide. Specializing in documentary film-making, he constantly pushes boundaries and challenges perspectives with innovative techniques and precision. With an innovative approach and unwavering drive, Jonathan constantly pushes boundaries and challenges perspectives in the world of visual storytelling.


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