Johnny Otto is an American Filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA. He writes, directs and produces his own films, as well as acting as cinematographer. He is a true auteur and that shows in the quirky, idiosyncratic details of every frame of his films and in the way he eschews traditional narratives in favor of shooting in a loose, improvisational way similar to such noted Directors as Woody Allen and Jean-Luc Godard. His films also mirror the intent of filmmakers of the 1950’s and 1960’s and the French New Wave movement and peers such as Jarmusch and Rodriguez, in capturing that low-budget, black and white, minimalistic moodiness.
Johnny Otto was born April 9th, 1966 in Bay Village, Ohio to Dr.John Richard Otto, of Irish and German descent, and to Anna Kathryn Barlock of Czech, Hungarian and German descent. In 1971 his family moved to Canada fearing that his older brother Greg might be drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam. As a result of this, Johnny Otto grew up in a quaint, tree-lined suburban neighborhood instead of the rough streets of Detroit where his father practiced medicine. Johnny developed a deep love for cinema at a young age, thanks to his father who had himself wanted to be an actor, but instead chose to be a devoted husband and family man. When Johnny was 12 years old, his father bought a Bell & Howell Super 8mm Camera for him and his older brother Eric to play around with. They filmed campy horror films with the neighborhood kids and learned the rudiments of framing and composition at an early age.
As he got a bit older, his father would take him to see films by greats such as David Lean and Peter Medak. His father also tried to show him a wide spectrum of gritty, action films. Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’ series a favorite of both. But his father walked out of Alex Cox’s film ‘Repo Man’, a film which went on to become one of Johnny’s all time favorites. Johnny was glued to the scene and became enthralled by the energy and unorthodox methods of low-budget filmmaking. He devoured films such as George Miller’s ‘Mad Max’, and, after moving to Los Angeles n 1990, Otto became a regular at The New Beverly Cinema, surviving on a diet of Classic and Grind House films.
Just before moving to California in 1990 with $600 dollars in his pocket and a duffle bag filled with his clothing, Johnny Otto attended film school at The University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada and then went on to teach the film lab for two semesters. He taught the rudiments of film production, composition, editing and direction. In 1990 he shot his first music video for the punk rock band ‘The Almighty Lumberjacks of Death’ at the legendary St.Andrew’s Hall in Detroit. Otto frequented these types of rough, punk, new wave clubs in the late 80’s in Detroit, drawn by the unconventional, uproarious spirit of the music. To this day, his films are saturated with quirky, offbeat music.
Once Otto arrived in Los Angeles, he wasted no time and got busy hanging out at coffee shops and writing his days away. In 1992 Otto option his first feature-length script entitled ‘Havoc’, a sci-fi thriller, to Producer Joel Silver. A few years later, in 1998, Otto wrote a dark comedy called Pop Life, which got the attention of agents over at Innovative Artists and the film was being packaged with hot, young talent. But, in 1999 Otto hit a stumbling block when production of "Pop Life", closely resembling the Columbine Shootings, was halted. Actress Rachael Leigh Cook who was set to star as a troubled cheerleader, withdrew from the project, and, because of the sensitive nature of the subject material, the film was never made. Agent/Producer Noah Rosen called it the funniest film that will never get made.
Otto persevered and In 2001 completed his first animation project ‘The Blender’ and won an award from The 8th World Animation Celebration (WACFEST - Animation Magazine). Wanting to try his hand at ’no budget’ filmmaking, Johnny wrote the feature film ‘Bruised’ and shot it when not working nights as a restaurant/nightclub manager. The total budget of the film was $40, the cost of blank mini-dv tapes. In 2006 he began production on his feature-length Mockumentary, ‘Bring Me The Head of Walt Disney’, about the search for Disney’s frozen head and a wink to Sam Peckinpah’s 1974 classic ‘Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia’.
In the fall of 2007 Otto shot 7 short films in a 7 week period, one film every Sunday afternoon, and calls the project Slimdunce, a take on the Sundance Film Festival and the fact that he was 6’4” and slim. Otto’s Slimdunce Project grabbed the attention of MovieMaker Magazine and they featured Otto in an interview and sponsored several of his Los Angeles screenings.
From 2007-2014, Otto shot a variety of Music Videos and Music Related content. Then, in the summer of 2014 he began writing his script for ‘The Sun King’, his ambitious short film finished in 2015 and the first to be shot in 4K. The work Otto did on ‘The Sun King’ is his most critically acclaimed to date, being compared to David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch and Robert Rodriguez. It’s been called a ‘timeless masterpiece’ and to have ‘The aesthetic of a popular CW superhero show through the bluesy noir eyes of a mid-1980's Jim Jarmusch.’ - Steve Palmer, BIGSTAR MOVIES
Otto is currently developing projects for TV, FILM and DIGITAL MEDIA. He has also designed two games for IOS and Android, has an Album of original music on iTunes and is an established painter with shows every two years or so since the early 1980's.
"Nine Days from Nowhere" Music Video Directed/Edited by Johnny Otto / Music by Jesse Barish
Wings A Johnny Otto Film Starring Vartuhi Oganesyan
Dine & Dash A Johnny Otto Film Starring Diana Popick and Sam Wickham with Allie Smith
La Jolla Fashion Film Festival Official Selection "Parfum de mes Rêves" A Johnny Otto Film Starring Vartuhi Oganesyan
'The Sun King' / Ottophobia Productions 2015" Written, Directed & Edited by Johnny Otto