The Smooth Life

Jamie Johnson is so pretty.

My friend sent me a link to a podcast a few months ago from The Moth, a series that features true stories told live. The storyteller was Jamie Johnson, a documentary filmmaker who made Born Rich and The One Percent. Because I am the world’s slowest emailer, I only listened to it this morning, but I was so glad I finally did.

Johnson tells the tale of how he and his father became estranged after the debut of his first film. When, after months of silence, the two finally sat down together, his father told him, “You just don’t get it, Jamie… there’s a reason why rich people don’t talk about money.” When pushed to explain what he meant by this, Johnson’s father just pulled a mysterious videotape marked “1972” from his bookshelf, handed it to his son and left the room.

The tape turned out to be a documentary film critical of the family’s business dealings in South Africa during apartheid. In the credits, Johnson discovered his father listed as a producer. Eventually, his father told Jamie the story of the film, and how, after it was released, the family company’s CEO called to reprimand him. “Life isn’t going to go well for you if you keep working against the world that you’re a part of,” the CEO told him. And at that moment, Johnson’s father made a choice to change. (more…)