Interview with Filmmaker Christian Montoya Johnson (WHERE THERE’S A WHEEL THERE’S A WAY)

WHERE THERE’S A WHEEL THERE’S A WAY was the winner of BEST FILM at the July 2022 LA Feedback Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I met Manny at a recording studio in Clinton, Maryland during one of his recording sessions in November of 2021. When I arrived, Manny was in the booth recording a touching song titled ‘Conversation with God’. The message resonated with me and after he finished his session I introduced myself and started up a conversation about him and the meaning behind the lyrics. After spending 2 seconds with Manny you realize that his positive energy is infectious and we began to talk about his life, his journey, and music being his independence. To have that level of determination made me ask Manny if we could follow him around with a camera and document his life and what keeps him going despite the challenges that come along with cerebral palsy.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

From start to finish this film took us 5 months to make.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Heartwarmingly Motivational

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

This documentary was shot during the winter months and therefore posed unique challenges with Mannys disability. Due to the spasticity of his muscles, Manny is especially susceptible to the cold. As you can see in the documentary, Manny was forced to spend a lot of time in the cold waiting on aides, friends, and family to assist him. Enduring the cold was especially taxing on Manny’s body and we had to be very mindful of pushing his body too hard. There were days that we could not film due to the level of pain Manny was in. Seeing someone that you care about endure those challenges is hard on everyone filming.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was truly awe-struck when I saw the audience reviews of the film. Our biggest goal for making this project was to allow Manny and those with cerebral palsy to be seen, heard, and recognized. I feel that the audience reviews gave Manny and the entire family what we set out to do, which is to have those who are differently abled to be seen as worthy of respect and human decency. Just the fact that others were able to get a glimpse into Manny’s story and reflect on their own blessings meant so much to everyone involved.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I realized I wanted to make films when I met Manny and became enthralled with trying to capture his life story. I dived into this project just trying to put together the best representation I could of someone who I think is an amazing person.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Remember the Titans

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

This is my first film and thus first round of festivals. You all rock!!! I honestly cannot express how well run and up front you all are and for actually taking the time to review the film.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

FilmFreeWay is a great platform and it made it super simple to film and submit our work.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Steamed snow crab legs and a Foster’s beer

11. What is next for you? A new film?

We are going to continue to tell Manny’s story through the media and speaking engagements. Manny is truly an inspiration to us all and we just continue to support him and his dreams.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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