A B O U T J O H N N Y S Y M O N S
Johnny Symons is an Emmy-nominated independent documentary filmmaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His film DADDY & PAPA (2002), about the personal, cultural, and political impact of gay men raising children, was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, aired on PBS and international television, and garnered multiple Best Documentary awards. His feature documentary BEYOND CONCEPTION (2006), about the relationship between a lesbian surrogate and a gay male couple as they conceive and bear a child, premiered at the Florida Film Festival and aired on Discovery Health Channel. ASK NOT (2008), an award-winning feature-length documentary about the impact of the "donít ask, donít tell" policy in the US military, broadcast in 2009 on PBS' Independent Lens, and screened for Congress at the US Capitol. He and filmmaker S. Leo Chiang are currently producing OUT RUN, a feature documentary about LGBT politicians running openly for elected office in conservative parts of the developing world.
Symons is the co-producer of the Academy Award-nominated LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY INTO DAY (2000), a feature documentary about South Africa’s search for truth and reconciliation, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at Sundance and broadcast on HBO. He has worked as a freelance director, producer, and cinematographer on numerous award-winning documentaries.
Symons has been creating films since 1991, and has dedicated much of his documentary career to revealing the complexities of gay people’s lives as a means of countering homophobia. His work has screened at more than 200 international film festivals and is used by hundreds of college educators and community organizers to build awareness of LGBT issues.
His past films include:
BEAUTY BEFORE AGE (1997), an exploration of the fear of growing older in the gay male community (NEMN Gold Apple Award, International Documentary Association nomination)
SHAVING THE CASTRO (1995), a portrait of a 70-year old Castro Street barber shop (national public television broadcast)
OUT IN AFRICA (1994), an exploration of black African gay life (Best Documentary, Turin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival).
Johnny’s other documentary credits include:
WITNESS TO GUANTANAMO (in production)
IT’S STILL ELEMENTARY (2008)
STRESS: PORTRAIT OF A KILLER (2008, National Geographic/PBS)
LOST BOYS OF SUDAN (2003, PBS)
BUBBEH LEE AND ME (1996, HBO)
THE CELLULOID CLOSET (1995, HBO)
In conjunction with his production company Persistent Visions, he has worked as a producer, director, cinematographer, and editor for numerous clients including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the PBS gay and lesbian cultural affairs show In the Life.
Symons graduated with honors from Brown University and has a master’s from Stanford University's Documentary Film and Video Program. He teaches film in various Bay Area institutions, including Stanford, University of San Francisco, and the California College of the Arts. Symons is currently a Fellow at the Sundance Instituteís Documentary Film Program.