Media, Darling: Brian D. Johnson

Brian D. Johnson is best known as senior entertainment writer and film critic for Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly news magazine, where he has worked from 1985 to the present. He is also president of the Toronto Film Critics Association, and has worked professionally over the years as an author, musician and filmmaker.

Born in England and raised in Toronto, Johnson began his career as a staff reporter at the Toronto Telegram and the Montreal Gazette during the early 1970s. He has since written for publications such as the Globe and Mail, Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Chatelaine and Rolling Stone. Johnson is the author of three non-fiction books: Railway Country: Across Canada by Train, The XV Olympic Winter Games: The Official Commemorative Book and a history of the Toronto International Film Festival titled Brave Films, Wild Nights: 25 Years of Festival Fever.

Brian is married to author Marni Jackson and they have a son, Casey.

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
I always wanted to write, and the media turned out to be the fastest way to get into print.
Where would you like to be five years from now? 

On a northern lake or a southern beach, retired from working the media treadmill full-time, and doing my own creative work, as a writer and filmmaker.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry? 

Get an adventurous variety of experience in the world, traveling and working, before narrowing your horizons to a single specialty (such as film critic).

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
The New Yorker, the Sunday New York Times, CBC One, Real Time With Bill Maher, Steve Martin’s Twitter Feed.

Best interview you’ve ever had? 
The best would be any one of the various interviews I’ve done with Leonard Cohen over the years. 

Worst? 
The worst is a competitive category, but it would be a tie between Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffith, neither of whom felt like playing ball.
Best advice you’ve ever been given? 

From documentary director Errol Morris, when asked what the key to conducting good interview is, he told me: “Shutting up”. His answer was met with a long silence.
What rule(s) do you live your life by? 

As few as possible. But trying to enjoy it is not a bad start.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros? 

If you want to build a trusting relationship with a journalist, think like one, and when asked off the record, be honest about the nature and quality of what you’re promoting.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.

Virginia Kelly is the best film publicist in town. She’s smart, funny, informed, responsive, candid and passionate about cinema. One of a kind.
I hate? 

Aspartame, freezing rain, and Rob Ford’s “vision” of Toronto.
I love? 

Swimming in a spring-fed Canadian lake with no motorboats and water that’s safe to drink.

Reading?
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varnasi by Jeff Dyer.

Best place on earth?
That lake, and its location is my secret.

Dinner guest?
Bob Dylan.

Hero
“We don’t need another hero”.
Favourite app? 
Flipboard for iPad.

Pool or ocean?
Lake.

Voicemail or email?
Email.

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