Pop Life


Editor and Cinematographer
Chris M. Johnston

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“Pop Life” a full-length documentary written and directed by Marquis Smalls

Pop Life delves deep into the topic of popular street drugs in the music and party scenes, from college frat houses to raves, in order to get a first-hand dose of what exactly happens in these environments where drugs are exchanged, played and consumed openly and enthusiastically.



How we got here:
After the success Marquis Smalls had with the Hating Obama documentary, he made the decision to bring me back for his next project “Pop Life” by Moguldom Studios. This topic required a lot more sizzle and visual interest.  I joined the team as the editor in post and second cinematographer with Sean Cokes, our director of photography.

This film has a huge spectrum of interviews from musicians, actors, talent managers, DJs, drug dealers/users, D.E.A. agents, psychologists, scientists, neurologists and more. Interviewing rapper FABO and his crew was a trip, literally… his crew was sipping Lean through the whole conversation.  We met up with rapper Cap 1 in his studio to hear his thoughts. Besides his growing career, he revealed that he was kidnapped for ransom a few years back.  At the time he traveled with a suitcase full of guns everywhere he went. And we were embedded with a drug dealer and his close friends in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Besides the spectrum of conversations we filmed, this documentary itself had a few twists of its own. The studio wanted to touch on a long list of topics which made sense because the ideas fell under the premise of “does drug use influence music or does music influence drug use?” But what they didn’t anticipate was the amount of setup time and conversations it would take to expose all of these topics and points of view. Marquis decided to host this documentary to move the narrative more efficiently from one subject to another. I thought this was a brilliant idea because we were able to cover a lot of ground even though the cutting room floor was flooded with great moments.

Looking back on the making of Pop Life, I edited this documentary three different ways with three different directors. While I think each director I worked with was able to make a compelling film, I am most fond of Marquis’ first cut.  He was able to deliver all of the topics originally requested which made for a fast paced, interesting and compelling film that made you feel like you had a little buzz while watching. Apple iTunes had the third cut for a while and now it’s on Amazon. This published final cut is good as well because we narrowed down the topics and let those select conversation breath.  Again, we could not have done what we did, three times, without the vision of Marquis Smalls, producer Catina Jones, Adelin Gasanar, Charles Isaiah Lemons, Wesley Baynes, and Star Smith. All these people were instrumental in overcoming hurdles and completing this film as a team.

Fun note, during one of my late nights working on the first cut of Pop Life, I ran into Wesley Snipes in the full marble men’s restroom.  I remember walking out saying “hello” and he nodded and returned the greeting as he walked in.  That was it, not much room to start a conversation but I thought it was cool.  Wesley was a part of Lions Gate who had a partnership with Moguldom Studios and his mobile gym was on property.

At the time Moguldom Media Group was known for the very popular Bossip.com and Madamenoire.com black entertainment and lifestyle websites.  With their online success they found an audience that wanted more content about certain topics and that led to Moguldom Studios sometime in 2013.  As of late 2015, Moguldom Studios closed their doors.  Moguldom produced an impressive catalog of 15 documentaries and two comedy TV series in just two years. Let that sink in for a moment, that’s a lot of content!  Some of their more known titles were: Gunland (2014), The Swirl (2014), Bottoms Up (2014), Knifed up (2014), Bleaching Black Culture (2014), Hating Obama (2014) Black Church Inc. (2014), Father Forgive Him (2015), and the Bossip Comedy series (2014).

You can learn more about writer/director Marquis Smalls at streetdreamsfilms.com