Former EDSS student J.J. Johnson fell in love with the power of media when he was still in high school.
Johnson, who describes himself “not the most popular kid” during his teenage years, was nominated to run for class president as a joke.
He was on his way to withdraw his name when someone taunted him, saying there was “no way” he could win.
That compelled Johnson to pull together a “ragtag group of school friends,” and make a video loosely based on Saturday Night Live. It featured students and teachers alike.
He won by a landslide.
“It just taught me the power of media, how it matters, and what it can do.”
Johnson, through his company, Sinking Ship Entertainment, now harnesses this power to create children’s shows unlike anything else on television.
And Johnson’s work on several of these shows has been honoured by the Daytime Emmy Awards, after garnering multiple nominations. Johnson is being honoured for his work on Dino Dan: Trek’s Adventures, Odd Squad and Annedroids — and is even competing against himself in one category, Outstanding Directing, in which he was nominated for all three shows.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming,” admitted Johnson. “It’s definitely more than we expected. We desperately try to make television that doesn’t look like other shows that are out there.
“We’re just trying to create good shows.”
Johnson and his team have a long history of making quality television — and these aren’t the only honours that Sinking Ship Entertainment has garnered over the years.
Sinking Ship Entertainment is already known for This is Daniel Cook, and This is Emily Yeung, children’s shows in which the stars tried out new things each and every episode, and Giver, in which children work together to create a new playground for their community.
Johnson said that Daniel Cook was five when he started the show. At the time, he wanted to be a palaeontologist. More than 130 episodes later, after trying virtually every career out there, he still did.
That’s what inspired Johnson to think up a dinosaur-centric show, which became Dino Dan, a show in which the main character can imagine dinosaurs into his world.
Shows produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment are often placed in the real world, said Johnson, and that’s on purpose.
“If we are going to get (children) excited about the world, we should show them the world,” said Johnson.
There is also a particular focus to be representative of the real world when it comes to its characters. While the majority of children’s shows do not have girls in leading roles, Johnson makes a point of ensuring that girls are front and centre on several of his shows, including Annedroids, where the main character builds androids out of parts in her father’s junk yard, to help with her science projects.
Johnson knew this show was a success when a young boy came for a studio tour of the show and came dressed as Anne, the main character on Annedroids.
“That was mission accomplished for this show,” said Johnson. “It certainly beats an Emmy nomination.”
The Daytime Emmy Awards will be handed out this Friday, April 24.