©2020 All Right Reserved. J. Mitchell Johnson Productions, Inc.
the story of a struggle for human
and cultural survival in the mysterious
and insular world of the Russian North
An outsider from England, photographer Richard Davies, enters this mysterious and vast region of the world with the hope of documenting both the glory and the tragic demise of its rapidly disappearing Wooden Churches. Along the way, Davies finds it more and more difficult to escape this world emotionally and otherwise.

I am an American filmmaker who has been living and working between the US and Russia for more than 25 years. Over this period I have made movies and created media projects about Russia. In 2009 I married my wife who is a Russian citizen, and prefers living in her homeland. That's why I began to spend significantly more time in Russia than elsewhere.

J. Mitchell Johnson, filmmaker
Living in Russia has given me the opportunity to begin exploring its hinterlands, and allowed me to independently begin shooting documentary footage about subjects that interest me while also spending time back in the USA. As part of my East-West filmmaking passion, in 2011 I met the California people who are behind the American non-profit group, the Fort Ross Conservancy, Inc. (FRC).

FRC exists, among other reasons, to promote for the benefit of the public the interpretive and educational activities of Fort Ross State Historic Park. Fort Ross, founded in 1812, was a Russian outpost before California became part of the USA. Fort Ross today has also become a platform for US-Russia citizen diplomacy, and FRC promotes projects that celebrates the US-Russia relationship, past and present.

The year 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the founding of Fort Ross, and a donor made it possible for the well-known Russian wooden architect and builder, Alexander Popov, to create a wooden windmill like the one that used to exist at Fort Ross during the early 19th century. The plan was for Popov to build the windmill at his building compound in the northern Russian town of Kirilov, and then break it down and ship it to Fort Ross in time for a series of events marking the bicentennial celebration.
Thus, Saving North becomes now a story of personal and material transformation that occur in various dimensions and time-zones to people and non-human objects alike, both in front and behind the camera.
As a result, Davies has becomes well-known for his obsession with Russian churches and the culture of northern Russia. The New York Times and other global media publications feature his story in newspapers, television, radio and magazine articles. Now Davies, somewhat reluctantly, finds himself in a new and unexpected role as one of the global spokespersons for a growing movement to keep the last of these disappearing churches "alive."

Noted British architectural photographer Richard Davies spends ten years traveling the Russian north in search of these disappearing churches for his acclaimed book of photos and essays, The Wooden Churches of Russia.
Richard Davies

In 1981 he graduated from the Moscow Architectural institute, and later that year moved to the Arkhangelsk region to be engaged in restoration of wooden architecture of the Russian North. It was then and there he began work as an architect and carpenter that specialized in Wooden churches and monuments

Born in 1951 in Moscow, Alexander Popov originally studied engineering before eventually finding his calling: architecture, building crafts and restoration of wooden monuments and other structures.
Alexander Popov

It's main objective is to support the revival of wooden temples of the North, and "unites caring people seeking to preserve the ancient shrines of Orthodoxy and monuments of wooden architecture in both the regions of Arkhangelsk and Vologda, and the republics of Karelia and Komi."

Father Alexei Yakolev is the founder of the non-profit group called Obshee Delo, which when translated into English means the "common cause."
Alexei Yakolev
After completing graduate film studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Mitchell 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.
Director of Photography
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 Superconductor (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 Rodriques Behind Bars (concert at San Quentin Prison); 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 won numerous awards for motion picture productions in various media, served as Vice President of Production at HBO Pictures, and managed several companies in different industries. He has worked off and on with Mr. Johnson since 1982. Dennis has chaired committees at the Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He was a resource advisor for the Sundance Institute, served as Director and later Advisor of the Lone Star International Film Festival and Film Society, and was a co-founder of EarthxFilm 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 Arts where he served as Chair from 2009 to 2019. He is actively producing documentary films and consulting on feature films.
Consulting Producer
Jonathan Sanders, PhD
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.

Sergei Nomerkov
Creative consultant & Logo Designer
Timur Kazmin
Beta Web site Design and Construction
Immelman Bureau of Web site Projects

Stanislav Kirienko
Site co-designer, construction manager and Webmaster

Made Possible by the generous support of:
John Teutsch and Teutsch Partners, LLC

Tom & Cora Wright

Miriam Harris

Fort Ross Conservancy, Inc.

©2020 All Right Reserved. J. Mitchell Johnson Productions, Inc.