Since 1978, J. Mitchell Johnson’s media production companies have produced award-winning documentaries, docudrama and independent feature film productions for the global television and Internet marketplace. Abamedia has also broken historic ground in Web-based media enterprises with the creation of the popular RussianArchives.com, as well as investments into advanced cloud-based media-sharing technologies.
In recent years Abamedia has established a presence both in San Francisco and in the Russian Federation. While the company’s administrative headquarters and licensing business remains in Texas, the company uses its new USA-Russian platform to better access the global media market and clients that include leading cultural, business and media companies of both countries.
The Abamedia management team, consultants and advisors, are situated around the globe, helping to provide the expertise, experience and insight required to successfully produce the most challenging of media projects that have always been an Abamedia trademark.
For further information about past or current Abamedia productions and properties, or to explore Abamedia producing a new project with your entity, please contact us.
J. Mitchell Johnson, Abamedia Founder, President and CEO
Above all other attributes, Abamedia founder, president and CEO, J. Mitchell Johnson, is a pioneer and visionary. A Texas-born-and-bred producer, director, writer and consultant on international media projects, Johnson has been responsible for creating high-quality film and video programming that has been broadcast on major networks worldwide. Winning numerous top producing and directing awards at U.S and European film festivals, his career is highlighted by ground-breaking work and alliances forged with the Russian television and film industry and their film, photo, television and radio repositories. In addition, Johnson is the driving and creative force behind Abamedia’s independent film, new media, ancillary product, archival image distribution, and proprietary, media sharing innovations.
J. Mitchell Johnson: “We have all witnessed a vast, fast-moving and transformational wave of technological and cultural change redefine the media industry in recent years. Despite the fact that Internet media distribution solves one of the biggest historical challenges facing independent filmmakers, it is also true that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The audience demands and appreciates, high-caliber storytelling that reflects the best of our culture’s historical and cultural achievement. At the same time, Internet media based media business models don’t fully satisfy. Thus there remains the need to transform old models and make them new. Abamedia’s goal has always been to search for and hopefully discover emerging borders between old and new media, and to fully engage and participate in this paradoxical new world of technological potential and media business models. The emphasis on creating quality projects remains at the heart of the Abamedia mission.”
Johnson received a Masters degree in Cinema from the University of Southern California (USC), where he developed a keen interest in education and documentaries working at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications. After several years under the mentorship of the legendary documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim, in Washington, D.C., Johnson returned to Texas to found Fort Worth Productions, which became well-known in the field of fine arts documentaries for A&E and PBS prime-time presentations.
Johnson then acquired the moving image license to Fodors, the premier name in travel, and founded TravelWorld Video, LP to finance, produce, and market cultural documentaries for travelers. After producing fourteen Fodor’s films that were distributed for TV and home video sales throughout the world, the Fodor’s project was sold to Random House and Johnson turned his attentions to new horizons.
New Media Strategies
Johnson began traveling to Russia in 1994 in a media co-venture with ABC News in New York. He was the architect and executive producer of a groundbreaking news magazine series based on ABC News’ 20/20, that aired all over the former Soviet Union. In 1996 he founded Abamedia, L.P. to develop new media opportunities, with special emphasis on providing international access to the emerging digital media markets.
Through a USAID Internews grant, in 1997, Johnson formed the Archive Media Project, L.P. with leaders in the Russian film and scientific community, to provide international access to the formerly closed image archives of the Russian Republic. This resulted in the public-private initiative, RussianArchives.com (RAO) that highlights images from the Russian State Film and Photo Archives at Krasnogorsk, as well as other Russian-based image archives. Archive projects have included development of the RAO website itself, the digital catalogue of 45,000 films from Soviet times, and the creation of an international image licensing system which allows expedited access to rarely seen or heard audiovisual materials. Fifteen years after its inception, RAO is the leading English language Web site serving producers, educators and others interested in Soviet-era motion picture and photo images.
Abamedia’s unique access to these Russian archival gems helped further elevate the company’s reputation in the television industry. Two of the immediate outcomes were the production of the critically acclaimed four-part series, Red Files, produced for prime-time PBS and distributed worldwide by Buena Vista Television and Home Video, as well as Yanks for Stalin, produced for The History Channel. Red Files won the "Best Limited Series" award from the Los Angeles-based International Documentary Association (IDA). The Red Files PBS website — created by Abamedia and Austin, Texas-based advertising agency GSD&M —remains an accessible resource with extensive images, interview transcripts and educational concepts. In addition, Abamedia orchestrated and oversaw the creation and publication of a companion book, by acclaimed writer George Feiffer, entitled Red Files: Secrets from the Russian Archives; published by TV Books.
Abamedia’s first venture in the independent, feature film market, World Without Waves (2004), was written and directed by Johnson. Winner of “Best Southwest Film” at the Santa Fe Film Festival, World Without Waves debuted as an Official Selection at the Moscow International Festival.
Currently, Abamedia is in simultaneous production in the USA and Russia on multiple documentaries and media projects as a part of the “Fort Ross Bicentennial Media Project”: showcasing the extraordinary living history of Fort Ross, California — the first Imperial Russian settlement in America. Generous sponsors and clients of this initiative include Viktor Vekselberg’s Links of Time Foundation, the Renova Fort Ross Foundation, and the Fort Ross Conservancy, Inc.
Concurrently, Abamedia has consulted to, and is partnered with, the Computer History Museum (CHM) of Mountain View, California, in the development of new media programming aimed at international media outlets. Our collaboration also includes several, non-broadcast-oriented projects in development, including the first steps towards a planned archive of Soviet Computer Pioneers at the museum. Funded by the Russian Venture Company of Moscow and Boston, the archive will feature still-living participants of Soviet era technology telling their stories on high-definition video for the first-time; to the benefit of future generations of historians, technology buffs and future documentary filmmakers.