Truro filmmaker discusses her creative perspective, upcoming festival

Raissa Tetanish
Published on September 22, 2015

TRURO – Repetition. That's what sparks Leah Johnston to turn an idea into a film - when it repeats itself in her mind.

Johnston, a filmmaker who grew up in Truro, got into directing with a background that includes musical theatre, photography and acting.

She knew, individually, none of these pursuits was enough to sustain her; she elected to draw from her photography and acting experience.

"I grew up acting. I was acting for about 20 years, since I was a little girl," said Johnston, who had her latest short film, My Younger Older Sister, premiere at the Atlantic Film Festival last weekend. "When I graduated high school, I moved to New York City for musical theatre. But when I graduated, I had problems with my singing voice."

That's when Johnston signed with an acting agent. However, she felt restrained.

"I was stifled creatively. As an actor, you have no control over your career, really. So I started doing random fine art photographs. They were very surreal and highly manipulated images."

Over time, the petite blonde said photography and acting alone were never enough. She'd also never considered working on films, but then realized the lineage from photography to film.

She was in her mid-20s when she got into directing in 2012.

Since then, Johnston has created four short films - Another Man, Some Things Won't Sleep, My Younger Older Sister, and Ingrid and the Black Hole.

"I approach my filmmaking in the same way I do my photography," she said, adding she leans toward conceptual photography. "I use my photography as a metaphor for something else a lot of the time. There are always broader themes within my photographs and I'm trying to do that with my films."

Her film concepts are always part of a larger theme in the universe, and she tries to have them relate to all people.

Johnston's first short, Another Man, was filmed on her own 5D camera in 2012. It cost her $187 to make. Some Things Won't Sleep was filmed at the John Stanfield Inn, and both she and her sister, Katherine, are featured in My Younger Older Sister. Ingrid and the Black Hole won the $35,000 BravoFACT Pitch Contest earlier this year.

All four will be shown back-to-back during the inaugural Showcase Truro Film Festival, which runs Oct. 2 and 3 at the Marigold Cultural Centre.

"It's such a unique opportunity. Directors don't usually get the chance to show all their shorts in a row, and talk about them afterward," she said. "This is a cool opportunity to show them all in my hometown."

A week after the local festival, Johnston will offer a Youth Film Acting Crash Course: 4 Day Intensive for those ages 12 to 18. It will run Oct. 10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 539 Prince Street. Registration is available at

Twitter: @TDNRaissa


Tickets for the two-day Showcase Truro Film Festival are now available at the Marigold Cultural Centre box office. An all-access pass for $25 includes all Friday night events, as well as Saturday afternoon and night. A limited number of individual event tickets will be available at the door. Tickets for Friday night's session are $7, while tickets for Saturday's events are $5 per session.

Details are available at the Marigold Cultural Centre and online at