Randolph, NJ - Over the past two years, Randolph resident Jody Johnson's life has literally and figuratively “taken off” to great new heights. Johnson began flying a drone as a small fun hobby, and in a very short time it turned into a much bigger part of her life than she ever expected.
“Having so many people "like" and comment on my pictures and videos gave me a feeling of excitement,” she said.
Johnson said of the early recordings she posted online for fun. Those positive reactions led to Johnson starting a Facebook page and website called Glide By JJ, where she now posts much of her work.
Outside of family and friends admiring her work, Johnson is building quite a reputation for herself in the world of Drone flight and filming. After being invited last year to join a prestigious group called the Amelia Droneharts, (an all-female drone group), this year she received another honor, when her video showing dramatic and moving footage of the historic Greystone building being demolished was selected to be shown at the NYC Drone Film Festival. (SEE VIDEO at END of Story)
“I was in shock when I got the message," she said. "I attended the NYC Drone Film Festival last year and all the films were submitted by men. I am proud to say that my film was shot and edited by two women, myself as the drone pilot and Lisa Marie Blohm who did the editing.”
The video Johnson submitted is titled Greystone Rising, a short film showing the demolition of the infamous Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany. The architectural marvel was built in 1876, and at the time was the largest building in the U.S. There was much controversy in recent years over whether or not to tear down the long abandoned but historic and beautiful structure, particularly the main “Kirkbride” building.
Johnson’s creative approach to her film was to show the demolition in reverse, making it appear as though the construction cranes were tossing crumbled pieces of the structure back into place to piece it together.
Johnson continued, “We were not sure if showing the entire film in reverse would ‘work,’ but I could not be happier with final result. It is exactly what I had pictured and I am grateful for her (Blohm’s) talent.”
Johnson’s film was one of four chosen in the architecture category. Awards will be given out, but Johnson said, “Personally, having my film shown at a theater in NYC is an award in itself. I was told to be prepared for interviews and to be ‘camera ready’ for the red carpet. To say I am nervous is an understatement.”
Johnson explained how the idea to film Greystone’s demolition came about: “A few of my drone friends and I decided to fly at Greystone one day back in May. I was amazed by the building. I had passed it countless times growing up, but never really took the time to look at the craftsmanship. When I watched the footage from our flight, I knew that I wanted to document the demolition. The next time I showed up to film, the Project Supervisor came out to see what I was up to. I explained what I was looking to do and he thought it was a cool idea.”
Johnson continued to visit the site from May 2015 through December 2015, making weekly trips and “watching the landscape slowly become smaller and smaller,” she said.
“I instantly became friends with the ‘demo guys’ who would often wave to me as I flew above," said Johnson. "Although it is sad to see just an open area on the site now, I have amazing memories that will never be forgotten.”
“The NYC Drone Film Festival will be held at the Directors Guild Theater in NYC on March 5, with a purpose of giving drones a more positive name, and have people associate the word with art. Drone pilots from over 45 countries submitted films,” Johnson stated.
Johnson is exploring other areas where her drone could be put to good use, such as the possibility of filming real estate properties for Realtors. She also started an AMA Chartered Club called “Team GlideBy" to fly and film at events. Groups at Lake Hopatcong had her fly by when they had events on or near the water.
“Our team also offers Search and Rescue assistance," said Johnson. "I have spoken with Morris County Office of Emergency Management. They have our contact info should they need an eye in the sky.”
Two short years ago, Johnson never dreamed any of this would be happening. “I love my flying camera," she said. "It makes me smile to see others enjoying my films. I used to get so excited to see my YouTube views hit 100, and now they are in the thousands.”
Antiquity Echoes will be writing a history book on Greystone, and one of Johnson’s photos made it into their book which will be released this summer.