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Checking in with North Texas filmmaker James M. Johnston

Posted 3:17pm on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013

David Lowery’s not the only local filmmaker enjoying a moment right now.

One of his producers, Fort Worth-based James M. Johnston, not only has Ain’t Them Bodies Saints on his résumé but is currently producing Listen Up Philip, starring Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman. Simultaneously, he’s starting to work on his first feature as writer-director, Seize the Body, which doesn’t have any stars attached yet.

If that isn’t enough to keep Johnston, 39, busy, he still co-owns the popular Fort Worth vegan restaurant Spiral Diner and, along with his wife and fellow Spiral Diner creator Amy McNutt, still plans to give Fort Worth the full-time arthouse movie theater it so desperately needs.

“It’s absolutely still happening,” he says of the Citizen Theater, a $3.5 million venue to be built along Magnolia Avenue in the near south side that has been four years in the planning stages. “The thing that’s taking so long is raising the money. We’ve got three partners so far and need a couple of more to take it the rest of the way. We own the land. We’re just waiting to raise the money.”

He’s optimistic about the film community in North Texas, both from a filmmaking and film fan’s perspective. “The one thing we have is that the Dallas area has almost the most independent screens per capita in the country. There’s an audience and that same audience exists in Fort Worth. The Lone Star Film Society and the Modern [Art Museum of Fort Worth, which screen indie films on weekends] prove that the audience is there.

“Just from the people who come through Spiral, people who stop us at Central Market or buying gas, they ask, ‘What’s with the Citizen?’” he continues. “Everybody’s standing by and waiting for us to get it done.”

— Cary Darling

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