(Photograph By Ben Ritter)
The world of John McSwain would make anyone jealous. Having enormous talent is what seems to be every facet of entertainment. A director and editor by day and a DJ by night, some consider John McSwain a professional party animal. Recently, McSwain directed a documentary about the coral life in Florida. Documenting a small group of individuals trying to save and rehabilitate the corals on the Florida coast. Moving away from editing and directing advertisements for big names, McSwain uses his talent to bring attention to a growing issue that would of gone unnoticed. I was able to sit down with John and ask him a few questions about partying, the ocean, movies, and Paris Hilton.
If I was going to offer you a drink, what would you ask for?
Rye on the rocks. Probably.
Danielle said to me that if there was an “ambassador of Florida” it would be you, How is it being on top? What Connections to Florida do you have?
Florida’s the best. I grew up in Pensacola, went to school in Gainesville, lived a year in Orlando and I head to Miami whenever I can. It’s the weirdest state, all of the stories are true.
Do people get your name fucked up with John McCain?
When he was running for president I got a lot of that. Thankfully not so much any more. Though I do still get John McClane here and there and I don’t mind it one bit. Die Hard rules.
With your latest film on Florida's reefs, do you think that this opened a door for you when it comes to documenting environmental awareness?
Yeah, hopefully. Right now I’m just really interested in telling other people’s stories, or helping them tell theirs however you look at it. Art has always been my main focus and if that can intersect with environmental awareness it’s all the better. Coral City was a story that hit both and it was a real pleasure to make it.
Coral City from The Creators Project on Vimeo.
You have worked as an editor for a lot of big names; New York Times, Nike, Reebok, and even the Google Glass project. They are incredible to say the least. What is your editing and directing process like? Thank you! Let’s see..I mean my editing and directing processes are really similar in that I have no formal training in either. I went to art schools- photography for undergrad and fine arts for grad- and both programs were highly conceptual over technical. Most of my work was video art though and really the technical side is pretty easy to pick up. But my process is just based on taking apart all that I view or experience daily and figuring out how to put everything back together neatly. To me that’s editing, directing and writing, largely. It’s instinctual and that can only work when your instincts are honed. How would you label yourself after this documentary? Would you call yourself an editor still? Film maker? Jack-of-all-trades? I call myself whatever I need to be called to get the job. My day to day is editing but I enjoy directing when it’s something that I really want to do. I write, I DJ, I play music, I make things. I’m on my way to becoming a big douche hopefully. Describe yourself in one word. Nice. Do you still DJ? How do you feel about the Florida and NYC DJ scene? I do still DJ. I play way too often for having a day job but I still love it and my parties still do really well so I don’t feel a need to stop any time soon. I don’t really like DJ scenes or associate with them though. I know a lot of DJs and I enjoy playing with just about everyone but I’m kind of a free agent. NYC’s scene is really varied. That said there’s not a lot going on right now. But even if I thought I knew all that was going on in Manhattan and Brooklyn there’s still going to be some fringe element that’s doing it way better than I have any clue about and that’s why it’s still good here. It is getting blander but there’s always something new, you just don’t know about it. I can’t really speak for Florida’s scene but Miami has a lot right now from Peachfuzz to Chocolate Sundays to whatever’s happening at Gramps or Sidebar, it’s always fun there. What were your top 5 albums of last year and top three of this year (so far)? 2014: Tony Molina - Dissed and Dismissed Jessie Ware - Tough Love Flying Lotus - You’re Dead! The Casket Girls - True Love Kills the Fairytale Taylor Swift - 1989 2015: Bjork - Vulnicura Sick Feeling - Suburban Myth Drake - If You’re Reading This… Who did you look up to when growing up? Did this person kinda guide you in the direction that you are in currently? Ian Mackaye, always. I mean, I have great parents who raised me right but they’re super religious and I couldn’t ever get into it so when Minor Threat came into my life (and then Fugazi and the whole notion of Dischord Records) and I figured out that you could be a good person, treat others well and still be pissed at the World it really blew my mind. I work in advertising so I don’t think I’m a good representation of any ideals necessarily but following his ethical stance and using it in a day to day - Does this hurt someone else? Who is this good for? - mindset has shaped the way I work, what kinds of jobs I take and who I interact with. Are you still keeping up with your new years resolutions? I didn’t make many this year but they’re always pretty much the same. Work out, party less, eat at home more blah blah blah. I am, however, keeping up with those so far so that’s pretty chill. Tell me about Vacations. Who is Vacations and how did that name come about? Vacations is a catch-all name that I use. Because I’m a Floridian in NY I keep my life as tropical as possible. On a cheesy Creative Director level it should bring pleasant thoughts to mind when you think of me. “Oh, let’s hire Vacations for this job, because he’s sunny and that will make me feel better about myself because this winter sucks.” Vacations may one day grow to embody many people but for now it’s me and my social handles and it’s starting to make more of an appearance as a DJ name and a director pseudonym. We’ll see what happens. Who is your favorite director/DJ/editor of all time? Director - Spike Jonze - He’s shown massive breadth over time. Funny, poignant, rhythmic and a deep well of creativity. He’s had a dream career. DJ - Craze - One of the best and still great. I’ve seen him a few times in Miami and he never fails. Editor - Mark Woollen - his trailers are better than the films. Your instagram bio is Director, Editor, DJ, Idiot; if you had to pick being just one for the rest of time, which one would it be? Director, though I’m already resigned to idiot. Who is your favorite porn star and why? Paris Hilton. She’s a genius. Would you ever direct porn? Only for Paris. You can check out more of John's work and life here: