March 16, 2016

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March 16, 2016

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March 16, 2016

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March 16, 2016

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About Johnny

Johnny Bang Reilly was, in his own words, “a child born into cigarette smoke, canned food, white bread, and beatings.” His backstory began at the intersection of poverty and neglect; thrust out from a broken home to streets where survival was king and he was bound as loyal subject. But Johnny was a fighter in every sense of the word, so he hit back – self-trained, self-educated, self-preserved, and ultimately self-destructive. Armed with a body bent on destroying other bodies, Johnny daily breathed in hurt and exhaled hate. Hate for everything done to him, and everything he did to others. So to sedate the storm inside him, he gave himself over to drugs and booze, homelessness and incarceration.

For Johnny, life is a series of moments that demand a choice. Two paths. Light. And Darkness. The turning point came when, in a fit of calculated rage, Johnny decided to actually murder another man. He played it out a thousand times in his head, stalked, and stood at the very precipice of killing; and in that moment, an epiphany flooded in, that in killing this man, he was going to kill himself. So in that moment, he chose light. He chose to walk away. To start anew, even if everyone around him said it was too late. He wrote a new story.

Today, Johnny is a walking testament to the character that can be crafted out of chaos. At 52 years old, he has chiseled his body into the frame of a 20 year old. Not as a weapon for inflicting pain, but as a reflection of purity. He is a poet and activist, penning words that ascend to something bigger than himself. He is a father, replacing old wounds with fresh hope for the bloodline below him. And above all, he curates the art of light triumphed over darkness. And as Johnny would say, “we are all the art, the art that vibrates the poem of the heart of our creator and provider.

About Mayhem

Carved in Mayhem is the poetic depiction of one man’s unique journey. It is the picture when the forces of nature that surround one, collide with an opposing resistance of the human spirit.

Johnny Bang Reilly is a man on a journey. Like many of us, he is on a search for peace and truth, however his path to this point is what sets him apart.  His life has arched from receiving abuse to giving forgiveness, incarceration to liberation, hate to gratitude: trading in a sealed fate for an accidental destiny.

Director’s Note

When I first heard Johnny’s narration in a project, I remember the description that immediately came to mind: “honest.” Shortly after I began to research this “Bang Bang”, I found that he wasn’t just a voiceover artist, but rather a 51-year-old man who shoulders the unique burden that comes from living decades against the current.

I quickly realized his story is one that I couldn’t truly understand, having never lived through anything like it…and yet somehow I felt a responsibility to shed light on his story in some capacity. I knew I didn’t want to sugar coat it or make it so ethereal that his life experiences were diluted due to art and form. However, I also knew that through me, this piece would not be presented best as a documentary either. As the theme of rebirth emerged, and with it the concept of being carved and sculpted, Johnny presented me with a poem he wrote that was ultimately the voice this film needed.

Mayhem is a story about rising from the ashes no matter how late it might seem. In the film, Johnny has this “fuck that” moment, a realization that even if it meant starting over from scratch, it was worth it in order to save his life and the things he truly valued.  As someone who creates films and aims to tell stories that carry weight, I’ve often felt an obligation to not add to the noise, but instead inspire people to move forward. I hope Johnny’s story does just that, even if it takes a “fuck that” moment to begin again.

Production Co Note

At the heart of Johnny’s story, and the film itself, is a very real picture of redemption in the face of overwhelming darkness. It is a tribute to second chances, to the profound transformation that can come from one man deciding every single day to walk toward the good, even when society has labeled him the opposite.

This is why Neighborhood Film Co. chose to fund and produce Carved in Mayhem. Because at it’s core, Neighborhood as a production company is built on that same theme of redemption. Every year, while they create films for brands, they apprentice formerly incarcerated adults during an 8-month paid apprenticeship. Equipping them to be high-level project coordinators with a versatile skill set that can translate into many different work environments. Apprentices work with real clients, with real deadlines, real risk and reward. The goal is nothing short of complete, holistic life change.

Watch the TED talk by Neighborhood’s founder, Ricky Staub: Business Without Boundaries

This theme doesn’t stop with Neighborhood. Everyone involved in the film, at every level, sacrificed greatly to see it come to life. There is no client here. No brand behind it. No commercial payoff. But driven by their belief in the art and the message inherent in Mayhem, this A-list team was able to create what would normally be an extremely expensive piece for a fraction of the cost. And because of that, the process itself ultimately came to mirror the film: artful, deliberate, and the product of genuine community.

Behind the Scenes


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