A longtime Franklin resident is the subject of a recently released documentary by a local filmmaker.
A screening of the work, “Robert, Portrait of an Art-er,” by Hamden filmmaker Jessica Vecchione, will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Franklin Free Library.
She previously produced and directed the award-winning documentary, “Bienvenidos a Fleischmanns — an Immigrant Community in Rural America.” Vecchione said Wednesday that she met the artist, Robert Johnson, about nine years ago.
She was living in the Franklin area when she came across tracks while cross-country skiing in hills outside the village.
She was told they probably belong to Johnson. When she met him, he was wearing skis from the 1950s, leading her to think, “this is someone I really want to know,” she said.
She had the opportunity to go to his house in the village and saw his intricate stonework in his backyard.
Through his profession, he has also created similar pieces at the homes of several Franklin residents, including Tom Morgan and Erna McReynolds, who are featured in the documentary.
After seeing his collections of household appliances from previous generations, she realized this was someone who needed to be the subject of a documentary. When she started to do video productions in 2007, “it was always on my mind.”
“I don’t really know what to think of it yet,” Johnson, 62, said. Although he was born in Sidney, he has lived in the village since 1972 in a home that belonged to his grandmother. He saw the documentary about two weeks ago.
“If it wasn’t about me, I’d say she did a very good job,” he said.
He isn’t planning on attending the Franklin showing. “It’s flattering,” he said, but he doesn’t want to take it too seriously.
Franklin Free Library director Linda Burkhart said when she heard about the film she was quick to offer the library for a screening. She said she has known Johnson for more than 25 years and has always been impressed by the beauty of his stonework, whether at locations around the county or in his backyard.
“He’s a very unique individual who is a part of the Franklin community,” she said. “This is someone who is doing something very difficult to do in our culture.”
The documentary shows the “uncompromising vision” in his works, including the landscape of Delaware County that is so important to him.
She said she feels “energized” when talking with him. “It makes me feel a little bit free to do what I want to,” Vecchione said. “He doesn’t feel like he is doing anything out of the ordinary. He’s really kind of an inspiration to me.”
She received funding from the New York Council on the Arts’ Decentralization Program, administered in Delaware County by The Roxbury Arts Group.