2004_08_intrachjohnson.jpgThe basics:
1. Age and occupation
I am 28 and I teach stop-motion animation classes and story writing courses at Parsons, Pratt, and NYU.

2. Where do you consider home?
Brooklyn, New York.

3. How do you get to work?
I take the subway.

The specifics:
4. Your award-winning short film, “The Toll Collector," which has been shown on television all across Europe and is now being shown on the Sundance Channel, is claymation. Claymation—I associate this still with the California Raisins; your films are haunting and surrealistic. What’s it like working in this medium? How did you get started with it?
I wanted to make an animation that looks realistic, but that I could tweak to make otherworldly. I studied photography in college, and worked as a photojournalist for a major newspaper for a year. Though my work was well-received, I quit because I couldn’t express what I needed to. With photography, you rely so much on other people to get what you want—I felt bad about that. I felt sometimes I used my subjects, so I turned to claymation. Since I made my characters, I didn’t have to feel guilty about how they were being portrayed.

5. You made this film in the Czech Republic, where you had been living and working at the time. Your main character is an abnormally long-legged girl who has alienated herself by living and working in seclusion. How did living abroad inform this work?

I moved to Prague on a whim, with the hopes of making a film. I hadn’t yet come up with the idea of “The Toll Collector,” I knew only visually what I wanted to express, and I heard that Prague was a good place to learn. I moved there alone. I knew no one and spoke no Czech, and no one at the studio spoke English, so I was pretty lonely. So I interned at Trnky Studios for three months, storyboarding my film by night. Then I was asked to stay and make the film, so I worked days at the studio and taught English at night to pay the bills. I made everything myself, and it took two years. Then promoting the film was a whole new job—I went to most of the festivals with friends and family and did all of the promotion alone.

6. What are you working on now?
At the moment I have a job working with an author, adapting one of his memoirs into a screenplay. I finished it the other night, oddly enough, and I’m getting a handful of readers to give me their opinion before I send it out. I loved writing the screenplay. A longer format gave me so much more freedom to be expressive. With “The Toll Collector,” I wanted to say so much more, but with a short film, you have to pack so much in to so little—but that’s hard!

Remembrance of Things Past, or three tried and true, with thanks to Andrew Krucoff:
7. What era, day, or event in New York's history would you like to relive?
I wish I knew more about history. I can’t even think of one day off the top of my head.

8. Best celebrity sighting in New York?
I saw Charlie Kaufman last week, speaking at Makor. We talked a bit—he’s a humble man. I thought he was a sweet guy, very endearing.

9. Medication: What and how much do you take?
I don’t take anything regularly, but am regularly convinced that I’m terminally ill.

Just for the heck of it:
11. In 1971, Professor Marvin Zuckerman of the University of Delaware published a Sensation Seeking Scale questionnaire—asking such questions as whether you LIKE to dive off the high board, or whether you get that funny feeling in your stomach and would rather come down. On a scale of 1 to 40 (40 being Evel Knievel), where are you on the scale? Why?
I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I feel like I’ve made some progress in my life, but I have a long way to go.

12. What's the last thing you tried to read but didn't finish?
I don’t read. I only read screenplays now and watch a lot of movies. I don’t have the patience for books.

13. What are your plans for the Republican National Convention?
When is it?

14. So did you vote in the last election? If not, why not, and when's the last time you voted?
I didn’t vote, but to most people I lied and said I voted Nader. I was living abroad and was too thick to figure out how to file for an absentee ballot. I’m embarrassed about that.

15. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "overrated"?
Sex.

- Interview by Sarah Robbins