Experiencing Interruptions?

Balloon Animal

A young circus performer, Poppy Valentine, is stuck under the harsh demands of her father and their community's expectations. But while on a quick night out to let loose and have some fun with her friends, she finds herself captivated by small-town America, which then forces her to question everything.

  • Em Johnson
    Blush, Love Club, Aberne
  • Em Johnson
    Blush, Love Club, Aberne
  • Katherine Waddell
    Six L.A. Love Stories, We Need To Do Something, Dinner In America, Blush
  • Ruvi Leider
    TOM FORD Spring/Summer 2020 Collection at NYFW
  • Monica O'Hara
    Little French Dicks, Block, Equality of Choice
  • Ben Plotkin
    Forever Alone, Dressing Funny
  • Katherine Waddell
    Key Cast
    "Poppy Valentine"
    Dinner In America, Love Club, Blush
  • Ilia Volok
    Key Cast
    "Dark Valentine"
    Gemini Man, Air Force One, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • Michael David Wilson
    Key Cast
    Acting Out, Love, Micah
  • Danielle Baez
    Key Cast
    "Lala "
    The Dark Tapes, Ascension
  • Erin Rae Li
    Key Cast
    Season of Expectations
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Coming-of-Age
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 27 minutes 54 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 3, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    650,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Manchester Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    March 20, 2022
    World Premiere
    Official Selection / Best Actress
  • Cinequest
    San Jose
    United States
    April 16, 2022
    US Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Arizona International Film Festival
    United States
    April 23, 2022
    Arizona Premiere
    Official Selection / Best Cinematography in a US Feature
  • Kansas City FilmFest International
    Kansas City, MO
    United States
    April 28, 2022
    Missouri Premiere
    Official Selection / Best Actress
  • Brooklyn Film Festival
    United States
    June 11, 2022
    New York City Premiere
    Official Selection / Best Style
  • Vero Beach Film Festival
    Vero Beach
    United States
    June 12, 2022
    Florida Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Manhattan Film Festival
    United States
    June 21, 2022
    Official Selection/ Best Coming-of-Age Drama
  • NewFilmmakers NY
    New York, NY
    United States
    July 19, 2022
    Official Selection
  • Offshore Film Festival
    Montauk, NY
    United States
    July 13, 2022
    Official Selection
  • Durban International Film Festival
    South Africa
    July 22, 2022
    South African Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Beverly Hills Film Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    United States
    June 3, 2022
    Official Selection / Best Feature - Audience Award
Distribution Information
  • Buffalo 8
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Em Johnson

Em is a 29-year-old award-winning filmmaker, who is based out of Los Angeles. Em started her film career by working alongside her friends in a self-founded production company that worked recreationally, creating music videos and shorts, as well as commercially, creating adverts and promotions for businesses. Quickly, she moved onto short and feature narrative projects once enrolled in her MFA program and thereafter wrote and directed her first narrative feature, Blush (unreleased). Balloon Animal is her second narrative feature, which she wrote and directed under her new production company, First Bloom Films, LLC.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Balloon Animal is a story grounded in fantasy and realism set against the backdrop of a lackluster circus and a vibrant small town. While the circus evokes feelings of whimsy and excitement, this film challenges those notions in a visual and thought-provoking way. By presenting, as the eyes of our story, the perspective of a woman who has fallen out of love with the circus because she's seen behind the curtains, we give our audience context and reason as to why the fantasy no longer exists. Balloon Animal plays with themes of identity, independence, familial expectations, and sacrifice. Throughout Poppy's journey of rebellion and self-discovery, we are introduced to the burdens that lead her to sacrificing relationships in order to take back her own future and freedoms.

My films are drawn from personal experience, which is in no way unusual. For the last five years, I've been driven by my love of the human condition, touching on how tragic, yet beautiful, it can be. In particular, I focus on love and heartbreak, gender inequality, and family dynamics. Each character is flawed, struggles, and responds to situations in a unique and profound way. My goal is to study those characters, analyzing everything about them to build an infinite amount of depth, so as to showcase them on the screen in an authentic, yet cinematic way.

With all this said, I continually hold this story close to my heart. And, while the story can be universally understood and highlights my strengths as a director, it also gives us a protagonist who faces obstacles that could relate to any twenty-something year old.