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Amazon Prime features ‘Balloon Animal’ by Vero Beach High grad with ties to Riverside theater

NewsAmazon Prime features 'Balloon Animal' by Vero Beach High grad with ties to Riverside theater

From acting on stage at Riverside Children’s Thespanter to having her film released through Amazon Prime, Emmspan “Em” Johnson has paved her way as a storyteller.

Bspanlloon Animspanl” is being released on April 7 through Amspanzon Prime Video; however, some Treasure Coast residents may have had an inside look at the film after it debuted at the 2022 Vero Beach Film Festival.

The 1 hour and 28-minute coming-of-age film portrays Poppy Valentine, a girl in her mid-20s, trying to break free from her family’s traveling circus and the expectations of her community and father to run the business. Valentine falls in love with small-town America and finds herself questioning what she wants for herself.

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“It’s a coming-of-age story and I do feel like at any age, you can still be figuring out who you are and what path you want to take in life,” Johnson said about the film. “And you don’t really have to have everything figured out by 18, especially nowadays.”

While she began writing the independently, Johnson later co-founded First Bloom Films, her production company, which produced the movie when it began filming in 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic temporarily put a pause on the entertainment industry.

The film began filming in March 2021, was shot in 12 days, took four months in post-production and finally wrapped in August 2021.

Headshot of Em Johnson.

Growing up in Vero Beach

Involvement in the arts from an early age fueled Johnson’s desire to be a storyteller, although she had aspirations of being an actress at first.

“I really think (Vero Beach) gave me a great start to just finding a love for art, creation and it’s just such a welcoming community,” Johnson said, “so I felt so much hope in terms of being in theater or just being able to be an artist because I feel like everyone there really appreciates the arts.”

After graduating from Vero Beach High School, Johnson attended Rollins College in Winter Park, where she made the switch and began pursuing screenwriting and directing. That led her to get her Masters of Fine Arts from Columbia College Chicago, then move to Los Angeles.

While the Vero Beach community fostered her adoration for the arts, she hopes her journey can inspire the next generation of artists like herself.

“I hope that people in Vero Beach, especially if they’re in the arts — like younger people in the arts — if they’re planning on getting into film or theater or whatever it is, to know that it’s possible to still do that and it’s a long journey, but it’s not impossible,” Johnson said. “For all those artists that are living in small towns, I just hope that they can see that it’s possible to go somewhere bigger and still make it happen — even though it’s scary.”

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