Abamedia is an Austin, Texas based company that specializes in two areas: media production
and archival media licensing. The company uses its unique US-Russia business platform to
better access the global media market and clients that include leading cultural institutions,
businesses and media companies in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Since 1978, Abamedia
founder J. Mitchell Johnson has produced award-winning documentary and feature-length
dramatic productions for the global marketplace.


After completing graduate film studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles,
Johnson began his professional career in Washington, DC working for four-time academy-
award winning director Charles Guggenheim as an assistant. After two years with Guggenheim,
Johnson moved back to his native state of Texas and co-founded Fort Worth Productions, Inc.
There he began working as an independent filmmaker focusing mostly on arts and cultural
documentaries. His directorial debut was the 1977 Van Cliburn Piano Competition documentary
for PBS prime-time, Contest to Carnegie Hall. This award-winning piece ushered subsequent
arts and cultural documentaries for both PBS and The Arts Channel (now A&E) including USA
(now Sundance) Festival-winner, Moses Pendleton Presents Moses Pendleton.

In the second half of the 1980’s he founded J. Mitchell Johnson Productions, Inc.(JMJP), and
put together a team of filmmakers that produced videos from a production base in Budapest,
Hungary in collaboration with Eugene Fodor, the well-known founder of Fodor’s Travel Guides.
The project was eventually sold to Random House in 1993.

In 1994 JMJP co-ventured with ABC News in New York a 22-part television series produced for
the newly formed Russian TV network ORT. Soon after, with assistance from a group of
partners, Johnson expanded JMJP’s activities by creating an independent media development
partnership named Abamedia. During this period Johnson also produced a dramatic
experimental feature film, World Without Waves, that won Santa Fe Film Festival’s Milagro
Award and premiered at Moscow’s International Film Festival.

In parallel, the Abamedia team and a group of archivists and computer scientists started an
online catalog project of Russia’s pre-eminent documentary film archive at Krasnogorsk, Russia.
Five years later, Abamedia’s project evolved into (RAO) which features a
database of 45,000 non-fiction films owned jointly between Abamedia and the Federal Archive
Service of Russia. From this effort sprung Abamedia’s PBS Cold War television series, Red
Files, which won the International Documentary Association’s “Best Limited Series” award in

Since that time, Johnson focused Abamedia on building its RAO on its archive licensing
business while experimenting with new technologies aimed at alternate methods of monetizing
archival resources. In 2009 Abamedia began a Soviet computing history project with the
Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. This led to new contacts with the
emerging US-Russia information science and technology exchange industry. A by-product of
the Soviet computing history project was a media project featuring the work of the MIT scientist
Norbert Wiener, the so-called father of the science of cybernetics.

In 2010, Abamedia established a base in Rostov-on-Don, Russia while simultaneously focusing
on media projects in and around San Francisco due to an increasing demand for US-Russia
cultural exchange. In addition to the Computer History Museum Soviet computing history
project, Abamedia kicked-off the “Fort Ross Media Project.” Fort Ross, a California state
historical site located 90 miles north of San Francisco, is a major touch-point for US-Russia
diplomacy efforts.

Meanwhile, in parallel to the above media production activity, RAO’s licensing efforts began to
expand. In 2015 RAO began work on a media archive initiative with the Chinese company,
Shanghai Media Group based on a unique Soviet-era archival collection.


The Russia-San Francisco media activities led step-by-step to Abamedia’s current media slate
of production work including the feature documentary, Saving North (2020 release). Two other
major documentaries are also in production: Remaining Human: Becoming Norbert Wiener and
Coming Round: The Kashia Pomo’s Struggle for Homeland.

Johnson is the past-President of the Lone Star Film Festival and serves on the board of San
Francisco’s TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy where he also consults on and
participates in media production efforts. Abamedia and Johnson also have produced four short
films for the Fort Ross website in support of citizen diplomacy efforts. The most recent of these,
Common Ground, premiered in San Francisco in October 2019 at the annual Fort Ross
Dialogue event that featured the former governor of California, Jerry Brown.


In addition to J. Mitchell Johnson, the Abamedia team is fortunate to have long-term working
relationships with a highly experienced and esteemed group of advisors, academics,
consultants and industry professionals who regularly participate in varying capacities on specific

Next Generation Leadership, Strategy & Marketing – Philip L. Johnson is a co-founder and
Chief Product Officer for the telemedicine company, responsible for the
company’s product research, development and implementation as an IT-based platform. Before
Enzyme, Philip served as the first product manager for marketing platform Main Street Hub (now a GoDaddy company), and after that head of product &; growth for at-home lab testing
company In 2017, he started 90 Degrees South, a consulting company that
provides strategic guidance on developing, growing and scaling winning B2B and B2C products.

Director of Photography, Co-Director and Co-Producer – Robert Elfstrom has earned a
reputation for award-winning productions and cinematography.  His impressive library of work
has appeared on prime time television and the silver screen, including: NOVA: The Race for the
 (Emmy Award winner); American Masters: Finding Lucy (Emmy—Best
Documentary); NBC Prime Time Specials: Bill Gates (Tom Brokaw Special); Discovery
Channel: Cathedrals of the Sky (astronomical telescopes); HBO: Paul Rodriguez: Live in San
; Feature Films: Gospel Road (with Johnny Cash), Hi Mom (directed by Brian DePalma,
starring Robert DeNiro); Feature Documentaries: Gimme Shelter, The Running Fence, The
Wrapped Islands
 (Maysles Films).

Consulting Producer – Dennis Bishop has a proven record of shepherding award winning
motion picture productions in various media, from the independent film The Trip to Bountiful to
the Showtime pilot, Dexter, as well as when he served as Vice President of Production at HBO
Pictures on films such as And The Band Played On. His success has not been confined to
filmmaking but also while managing several companies in different industries. He has worked off
and on with Mr. Johnson since 1982. He was a Resource Advisor for Robert Redford’s
Sundance Institute, served as Director and later Advisor of the Lone Star International Film
Festival, and was co-founder of Earthx Film Festival, which is part of Earthx, the largest
environmental organization in the USA, if not the world. As an educator, he has served as an
Adjunct Professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts, guest lectured, and mentored for the
Producers Guild and Directors Guild. In 2009, Dennis created the curriculum for the Associates
Degree Program in Motion Picture Production at KD Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic
where he served as Chair from 2009 to 2019. He is actively producing documentary films and
consulting on feature films.  

Senior Editor – Johnathan Sanders, Ph.D is one of the West's leading experts on Russian
film-based visual culture. He has written two books on the subject – 1917: The Unpublished
Revolution (NY: Abbeville Press, 1989); and, with Hedi Hollinger, The Russians Emerge (NY:
Abbeville Press, 2002. Sanders has worked extensively on television news programs, specials,
and documentaries, including consulting on the website component of the award-winning Red
Files series, produced by Abamedia for PBS. He spent a decade as a Moscow-based CBS
news correspondent. He served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. He is
also a working still photographer: his pictures illustrate Richard Threlkeld’s book, Dispatches
From the Former Evil Empire
. He is currently Director of the project On the Russian Future, and
a consultant on international broadcasting and media matters. An Emmy-award winning
filmmaker, Dr. Sanders is currently a Professor of Journalism at the Stonybrook University
School of Journalism, State University of New York.

Marketing and Development Consultant – Steven Leibman provides Abamedia with funding
and distribution strategies.  Mr. Leibman was previously Abamedia’s Senior Vice President of
Creative Affairs; Vice President of Tom Schulman Productions at Touchstone Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures; Independent Media Consultant (e.g., Universal Studios); Independent Feature
Film Development Consultant; Director of Marketing and Communications for The Los Angeles
Theatre Center and Connecticut’s Hartford Ballet; and President and COO of The Thinking Cap
Company, the pioneering, licensed genre movie merchandise firm, with properties including The
Empire Strikes Back
Raiders of the Lost Ark, AlienBladerunner, and Star Trek, among others. 

Consulting Producer – Gabor Beszterczey, Ph.D is an international journalist and producer of
over 200 documentaries and series programs for Hungarian and international television, most
recently as the western correspondent for Hungarian TV Channel 1. Dr. Beszterczey was the
Producer/Director for over half of JMJP’s Fodor’s film projects, and served as International
Producer both for JMJP’s Made in Russia commercials (for the Russian Channel CTC) and
Yanks for Stalin (The History Channel). Currently he serves as a Senior Programme
Management Officer for the United Nations in Kenya.

Media Industry Advisor – Bruce Maggin has been in the forefront of creating a succession of
new businesses that have increased consumer entertainment and information alternatives.
During his career, he has held senior management positions in virtually every segment of the
media and communications industries. Mr. Maggin headed the ABC Multimedia Group, one of
the five divisions of ABC, Inc. In that role he was responsible for centralizing and expanding
ABC’s activities to address the impact of the digital world. Mr. Maggin has been a member of the Board of Directors of several companies including cable networks, Lifetime and ESPN. A
member of the New York State Bar, he received a BA degree from Lafayette College and JD
and MBA degrees from Cornell University.

Advisory Partner, Program Development – John T. Healy has established a reputation as
one of the broadcasting industry’s leading international executives. Under Mr. Healy’s guidance, Capital Cities/ABC created a series of important and lucrative relationships around the globe that positioned the company as the premiere television distribution organization in the world. In
1979, Mr. Healy was instrumental in the creation and success of ABC’s cable ventures including Arts & Entertainment, Lifetime, and ESPN. Mr. Healy has also been a Director of the International Council, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Web Design and Programming – Charles Morpheus has provided freelance media design
services for various clients over many years and has worked with Abamedia since 2005 on such
projects as Abamedia’s home site, Abamedia’s feature film World Without Waves, Russian Archives Online, Norbert Wiener Media Project, Norbert Wiener Learning Center and others. In addition, he has been a composer of electro-acoustic music and sound for 30+ years, including sound design for video and interactive training projects, live electronic performances and a multimedia ballet presentation at The Dallas Museum of Art.

A Tradition of Community Service

In tandem with his filmmaking projects, J. Mitchell Johnson has contributed to the community in
a wide variety of positions by serving (past and present) in a variety of positions:

  • Board Member of The Russian American Center, San Francisco, CA
  • President, Lone Star Film Society and International Film Festival
  • Culture Sub-Committee member of the US-Russia Joint Presidential Commission –
  • Washington-Moscow
  • Chairman of the Media Panel for the Texas Committee for the Arts
  • President, Texas Independent Producers Association
  • Chairman, Education and Technology Panel, US-Russia Exchange Symposium of the U.S.
  • Embassy in Moscow, Russia
  • Board Member and City Committee Chairman, Fort Worth Sister Cities International
  • Board member of the Mental Health Association of Tarrant County