While Abamedia's company headquarters is in Austin, Texas, it uses its US-Russian platform to better access the global media market and clients that include leading cultural institutions, businesses and media companies in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Since 1978, Abamedia founder J. Mitchell Johnson has produced award-winning documentary and feature-length dramatic productions for the global marketplace. Johnson writes, produces, directs, and shoots.
Johnson began his professional career straight out of college, working for academy-award winning director Charles Guggenheim as an assistant in Washington, DC. Two years Johnson began working as an independent filmmaker focusing mostly on arts and cultural documentaries. His directorial debut was the 1977 Van Cliburn Piano Competition documentary for PBS prime-time, Contest to Carnegie Hall. This award-winning piece ushered subsequent arts and cultural documentaries for both PBS and The Arts Channel (now A&E) including USA (now Sundance) Festival-winner, Moses Pendleton Presents Moses Pendleton.
In 1984 he was chosen by Roy Spence to head-up national production in Washington, DC of political commercials, documentaries and the center-piece film for the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. In the second half of the 1980’s, Johnson put a team together of film-makers and traveled the world making videos with Eugene Fodor, the well-known founder of Fodor’s Travel Guides in New York.
In the mid-1990’s, with the assist from a group partners, he founded the independent media development company, Abamedia. Johnson’s produced a dramatic feature film, World Without Waves, that won Santa Fe Film Festival’s Milagra Award and premiered at Moscow’s International Film Festival.
Johnson and Abamedia’s work with Russian subjects began in 1995 with a 22-part television series produced for Russia’s ORT, co-ventured with ABC News-New York. In 1996, the Abamedia team and a group of archivists and computer scientists started an online catalog project of Russia’s pre-eminent film archive at Krasnogorsk, Russia. Five years later, Abamedia’s project evolved into RussianArchives.com which features a database of 45,000 non-fiction films. From this effort sprung Abamedia’s year 2000 PBS Cold War television series, Red Files, which won the International Documentary Association’s “Best Limited Series” award.
A graduate of USC film school, he is the past-President of the Lone Star Film Festival and currently serves on the board of San Francisco’s TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy.
In addition to J. Mitchell Johnson, the Abamedia team is fortunate to have long-term working relationships with a highly experienced and esteemed group of advisors, academics, consultants and industry professionals who regularly participate in varying capacities on specific projects.
Director of Photography, co-director and co-producer – Robert Elfstrom has earned a reputation for award-winning productions and cinematography. His impressive library of work has appeared on prime time television and the silver screen, including: NOVA: The Race for the Superconductor (Emmy Award winner); American Masters: Finding Lucy (Emmy—Best Documentary); NBC Prime Time Specials: Bill Gates (Tom Brokaw Special); Discovery Channel: Cathedrals of the Sky (astronomical telescopes); HBO: Paul Rodriques Behind Bars (concert at San Quentin Prison); Feature Films: Gospel Road (with Johnny Cash), Hi Mom (directed by Brian DePalma, starring Robert DeNiro); Feature Documentaries: Gimme Shelter, The Running Fence, The Wrapped Islands (Maysles Films).
Consulting Producer -- Dennis Bishop has won numerous awards with motion picture productions in various media, served as Vice President of HBO Pictures, and managed several companies in different industries. He has worked off and on with Mr. Johnson since 1982. Dennis has chaired committees at the Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America and he was appointed to the Runaway Advisory Committee of the California Film Commission to draft incentive legislation for California. He was a resource advisor for the Sundance Institute, and serves as an Advisor to the Lone Star International Film Festival and Film Society after three years as Director. As an educator he has served as an adjunct professor at USC film school, guest lectured, and mentored for the Producers Guild and Directors Guild. In 2009, Dennis created, and remains Chair of, the KD Conservatory Motion Picture Production Program. He is actively producing documentary films and consulting on feature films.
Web Design and Programming – Charles Morpheus has provided freelance media design services for various clients over many years, and has worked with Abamedia since 2005 on such projects as Abamedia's home site, World Without Waves, Russian Archives Online, Norbert Wiener Media Project, Norbert Wiener Learning Center and others. In addition, he has been a composer of electro-acoustic music and sound for 30+ years, including sound design for video and interactive training projects, live electronic performances and a multimedia ballet presentation at The Dallas Museum of Art.
Marketing and development consultant Steven Leibman provides Abamedia with funding and distribution strategies. Mr. Leibman was previously Abamedia's Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs; Vice President of Tom Schulman Productions at Touchstone Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures; independent media consultant (e.g., Universal Studios); independent feature film development consultant; Director of Marketing and Communications for The Los Angeles Theatre Center and Connecticut's Hartford Ballet; and President and COO of The Thinking Cap Company, the pioneering, licensed genre movie merchandise firm, with properties including The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Bladerunner, and Star Trek, among others.
Consulting producer GaborBeszterczey, Ph.D is an international journalist and producer of over 200 documentaries and series programs for Hungarian and international television, most recently as the western correspondent for Hungarian TV Channel 1. Dr. Beszterczey was the producer/director for over half of J. Mitchell Johnson’s Fodor's film projects, and served as international producer both for Johnson’s Made in Russia commericials (for the Russian Channel CTC) and Yanks for Stalin (The History Channel).
Senior Editor Johnathan Sanders, Ph.D is one of the West's leading experts on Russian film-based visual culture. He has written two books on the subject — 1917: The Unpublished Revolution (NY: Abbeville Press, 1989); and, with Hedi Hollinger, The Russians Emerge (NY: Abbeville Press, 2002) — as well as motion picture and video materials. Sanders has worked extensively on television news programs, specials, and documentaries, including consulting on the website component of the award-winning Red Files series, produced by Abamedia for PBS. He spent a decade as a Moscow-based CBS news correspondent. and served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. He is also a working still photographer: his pictures illustrate Richard Threlkeld's book, Dispatches From the Former Evil Empire. He is currently director of the project On the Russian Future, and a consultant on international broadcasting and media matters.
Media Industry Advisor Bruce Maggin has been in the forefront of creating a succession of new businesses that have increased consumer entertainment and information alternatives. During his career, he has held senior management positions in virtually every segment of the media and communications industries.
Prior to forming The H.A.M. Media Group, Mr. Maggin headed the ABC Multimedia Group, one of the five divisions of ABC, Inc. In that role he was responsible for centralizing and expanding ABC's activities to address the impact of the digital world. Among the businesses created by the Multimedia Group were ventures that develop and produce content for interactive software, on-line and internet services, location based entertainment, and video-on-demand. Mr. Maggin was also responsible for the company's home video business, new media sales, and spearheading ABC's technology investments.
He had previously been head of the Development/Operations unit of Capital Cities/ABC Video Enterprises where he oversaw all of the company's start-up and venture business activities. These included electronic data delivery technologies, interactive broadcast services, pay-per-view, and place based media. Mr. Maggin was also responsible for several international consultancies.
Mr. Maggin joined ABC originally in 1970 as part of the company's corporate planning department. He left ABC to work as a merger and acquisition consultant for a major Wall Street bank and subsequently became Vice President of Ziff Corporation, the parent company of Ziff-Davis Publishing and Broadcasting. He returned to ABC in 1982.
Mr. Maggin has been a member of the Board of Directors of several companies including cable networks, Lifetime and ESPN, and the software companies Creative Wonders and O.T. Sports. He is currently a Director of Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation (NYSE: PVH) and Control Commerce, as well as Chief Executive of atTV Media. A member of the New York State Bar, he received a BA degree from Lafayette College and JD and MBA degrees from Cornell University.
Advisory Partner, Program Development John T. Healy has established a reputation as one of the broadcasting industry's leading international executives. Under Mr. Healy's guidance, Capital Cities/ABC created a series of important and lucrative relationships around the globe that positioned the company as the premiere television distribution organization in the world. The success of Mr. Healy's international activities is the culmination of a long and meaningful career with ABC.
During his tenure as President, ABC International Operations and Executive Vice President, ABC Cable & International, Mr. Healy was responsible for ABC's investment activities in programming, production, distribution, and broadcasting around the world. Among the investments for which Mr. Healy was responsible were Tele-Munchen and RTL2 in Germany, Tesauro in Spain, Hamster Productions in France, TVA in Brazil, as well as SBS in Scandinavia. Mr. Healy was also responsible for ABC's interests in Asia including the creation of children's programming services in both China and India.
Mr. Healy joined ABC in 1970 after assignments with both General Foods and Lehigh Valley Industries. Initially a member of ABC's corporate planning department, Mr. Healy became Vice President of ABC's Leisure Group which oversaw most of the company's non-broadcasting activities. In 1979, Mr. Healy facilitated the creation of ABC Video Enterprises, the unit that became the company's vehicle for new media investments.
As Executive Vice President of Video Enterprises, Mr. Healy was also instrumental in the creation and success of ABC's cable ventures. He was a member of the Boards of Directors of cable networks, Arts & Entertainment, Lifetime, and ESPN from their inception. He is currently on the Advisory Board of Envest, a Latin American fund, a Director of Microcast, as well as Chairman of the Management Committee and a Director of StoryFirst Communications. Mr. Healy is also a Director of the International Council, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In tandem with his filmmaking projects, J. Mitchell Johnson has contributed to the community in a wide variety of positions by serving (past and present) in a variety of positions:
- Board member of The Russian American Center, San Francisco, CA
- President, Lone Star Film Society and International Film Festival
- Culture Sub-Committee member of the US-Russia Joint Presidential Commission – Washington-Moscow -
- Chairman of the Media Panel for the Texas Committee for the Arts
- President, Texas Independent Producers Association
- Chairman, Education and Technology Panel, US-Russia Exchange Symposium of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia
- Board Member and City Committee Chairman, Fort Worth Sister Cities International
- Board member of the Mental Health Association of Tarrant County