Calvin Johns, 17, likes to make people smile and laugh — or quake with fear.
To realize that objective, he makes films, both at Roosevelt High School, where he’s a senior, and with the Downriver Detroit Student Film Consortium.
Calvin just finished a year’s session with the DDSFC. As an alumnus, he’ll help the group’s founder, Scott Galeski, as an instructor for the new session. The group meets once a week at the Downriver Council for the Arts in Wyandotte.
Calvin may be young, but already he’s very good at his chosen craft — so good that, based on his body of film work, Calvin recently was awarded a $7,000 scholarship to the Motion Picture Institute in Troy, where he’ll start in the fall.
At the Digital Arts Film and Television Student Film Festival 2019, his movies took home three best-of-show awards, four excellence awards, one honor award and one audience choice award. The consortium awarded him as filmmaker of the year, as well.
“Bringing Calvin aboard this year brought this entire program to another level,” Galeski said. “He’s an outstanding young man with vision.”
Calvin can perform any role in filmmaking, including directing, acting, filming and script writing. But in all the movies he works on, Calvin is the editor.
He took video production classes at RHS for three years, and this year, also took broadcasting.
“I’m trained on the new Tricaster,” he said.
Tricaster is a device that “merges live video switching, broadcast graphics, virtual sets, special effects, audio mixing, recording, social media publishing and web streaming,” according to NewTek, the company that makes the ultimate editing dream tool.
“Editing is where my strong point is,” Calvin said. “I’ve been doing it since 2013. I enjoy every aspect of film, but that’s what I’m best at.”
After his stint at the Motion Picture Institute, he definitely wants to go into the field of filmmaking.
“Right now, my plan is to be staying in Michigan for the next few years, seeing if the film industry comes back,” Calvin said. “But I’m fine with traveling if it comes to that. I’ll do commercials, music festivals, my own film and help with other people’s projects.”
He grew up in Wyandotte as a shy kid who used humor — “I was always the class clown” — to connect.
He is especially intrigued by scary clowns, which are featured in his 2019 film “The Party Crasher.” He wrote, produced, directed, acted in and, of course, edited that movie, which won an excellence award at the film festival. And a scary clown stars in his 2018 film, “Spot the Clown.” He also wrote, produced, directed, acted in and edited that movie, which took an honor award in last year’s film festival.
“Clowns just really scare people a lot,” Calvin said with a smile.
This year, from September through November, he’ll act as a scary clown at the Scream Machine in Taylor. Calvin designed a very creepy clown costume for that gig, and had it made.
He likes horror films — studies them — and also action and comedy.
When he’s not making or watching movies, he enjoys watching and playing basketball and playing video games. Calvin also works for Wyandotte Cable, updating graphics for programming, as a playback operator and sometimes helping to film City Council meetings and other “shows.”
He plans to spend the summer between high school graduation and film school building himself a new computer.
And, of course, making more movies.
“Eventually, I want to do my first feature film,” Calvin said.