Checking in with Johnny St. Ours

Checking in with Johnny St. Ours

What are you working on these days?
I’ve been transitioning from a production company for documentaries and local commercials to work as a freelance cinematographer. I’m also working on, alongside my wife [Mendy St. Ours] and [local actor] Chris Baumer, a screenplay from each of our pens—and gearing up to produce them ourselves into motion pictures.

Johnny St. Ours’ first choice for a local collaborator is still his wife, Mendy. Second place, however, goes to acclaimed set designer Jack Fisk and National Geographic Editor-at-Large Nick Nichols. Also on the list? “Paul Wagner, Thadd McQuade, Temple Fennell, Ricardo Preve, Geoff Luck.”

What were you doing just before we contacted you?
Filming a commercial for a BF Goodrich iPhone app.

Favorite tool of the trade?

Maybe it sounds like a boring choice to say my camera, but then perhaps you haven’t met my camera: the Red One. I’ve had this baby for just over a year now, but it seems like I was dreaming of it since junior high school. It’s a dream come true for me. Shoots beautifully, it’s heavy as hell—[it] makes me feel like I’m working and reminds me of my heavy-ass Gibson electric guitar. It’s no video camera, mind you—this is a real motion picture machine. Steven Soderbergh, Peter Jackson, Lars von Trier, Terrence Malick—they’re all using it, and with good reason.

Plans to present locally soon?

I want to show some stuff at The Bridge, but I don’t know when, and I think a couple of films I shot are in the Virginia Film Festival, including Neighborhood Watch, the Richmond 48 Hour [Film Project] contest winner, which was directed by Lucas Krost.

Have you done any recent travel?
Over the summer I shot in Seattle, Toronto, Las Vegas and all the way to Sturgis, South Dakota, and back. I love this world, but I hate airports even more than they hate my big camera bag. All the same, I’m really hoping for some gigs out of this hemisphere somewhere, and chances are I won’t take a boat.

What’s inspiring about Charlottesville right now?
The Rivanna River. It’s always coming and going. Charlottesville is like a clubhouse at a country club—you’ve got to at least go out and play golf every once in a while or it’s pretty lame, and if you know what’s really good for you, you probably leave the grounds and do something other than golf entirely.

Tell us about an idea you’re carrying around with you.
Charlottesville needs a biker bar.

Favorite snack food while you’re working?
Camel Straights.

What music are you listening to?
I really like this Sparklehorse/Danger-mouse/[David] Lynch record called Dark Night of the Soul. I’ve really just been listening to the folks I’ve been shooting: That OneGuy, Infamous Stringdusters, Parachute, Dave Matthews Band, Duchess of York and The Rogan Brothers. My kids really like Lady Gaga, so I want to make a video for her, too.

Guilty pleasure?

Every time I leave city limits, I gravitate to every Starbucks I see. In this town, all the coffee’s good—Starbucks is by far the worst, but out there—all alone and in need—how are you going to know which of those local shops overcharges you for some cold Air Pot coffee? Air Pots, not Starbucks, killed the Ma and Pa coffee deal…When I’m in Canada, I can’t pass up a Tim Hortons, either.