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Breaking the Barrier

DARE TO DREAM : Band-Aids and Life Advice

I recently sat down Zoom-style with Bridget Johnson and Lucia Agajanian, director/filmmaker and producer of Breaking the Barrier, A Documentary about Non-Traditional Skaters. These two filmmakers represent an impressively focused, adept, and connected contingent of young women I could have only dreamed of being like when I was their age. Both Bridget and Lucia knew they wanted to be filmmakers by the time they were in high school. Though they didn’t meet until relatively recently, when Bridget embarked on making her recent documentary, Breaking the Barrier, you wouldn’t know it. To this writer, they speak the same language; they are impassioned by the same work and work ethic and appear to be two peas in a (filmmaker’s) pod.

(Top left to right): Sid Denila, Bella Garcia, Annabelle Otterbacher, and Fran Matias. Photo Credit: Amy Limpinyakul

Breaking the Barrier chronicles Chicago-based OnWord Skate Collective’s undertaking to build and bring a portable public skatepark to city parks and other public spaces that are void of such structures. The collective was formed in the early months of 2021 by Lid Madrid, T Smith, Cath Hodge, Deb Hwang, and Bridget Johnson. Most important to OnWord is to provide a safe space for the historically under-represented people of the skateboarding landscape: women, LGBTQ+ and non-gender-conforming (NGC) skaters –not to forget either the younger or older subsets as well. These skateparks also provide (smaller) obstacles catering more to beginners thereby eliminating one of the more intimidating aspects of skate parks.

Breaking Barriers Film Crew Shot (2022) , Skyler Gram, Amy Limpinyakul, Bridget Johnson, and Abby Griffith

Founders of the OnWord Skate Collective, 2022, Deb Hwang, Cath Hodge, Bridget Johnson, Lid Madrid and T Smith Photo Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis

Bridget was a curious and proactive twelve-year-old. She not only began making short films (a horror film was her first, no less--a genre that remains true to her heart), and playing guitar, but she also began skateboarding. After wiping out, and without the support one might want during a situation like that, Johnson stopped skating for a handful of years, until her friend and OnWord co-founder, Lid, got her back into it during the early months of the pandemic.

Bridget Johnson (2022) Photo by Jamie Kelter Davis

The perseverance demonstrated by this young twenty-something stems from the need to draw any positivity possible during a great time of loss. Bridget’s mother passed away when Bridget was a young teen, and despite this traumatic event, she used the camera her mother gave her to make films, focusing her energies on making the best out of the worst. The name of Johnson’s Dare to Dream Productions comes directly from this sentiment. Remaining true to her perseverance, she notes “we stop dreaming when we get older, and our childhood self…goes away. Talk to your childhood self and keep dreaming…make your childhood self proud!” This statement holds impressive strength considering her history. Could it be the discipline of her inner skater…or her inner filmmaker? How about a combo deal?

Bridget and her Mother , 2002, Bartlett, IL

Lucia Agajanian Photo by Adam Birch

Although during Lucia Agajanian’s high school years she had been drawn to filmmaking, she hadn’t recognized it as being a realistic career. Agajanian studied at Northwestern, beginning as a neuroscience major but quickly realized it was not her calling. A viewing of Kirsten Johnson’s Camera Person (2016) set Lucia on her path full force toward documentary filmmaking. Following graduation, she quickly devoted herself to the filmmaking community in Chicago. Agajanian discovered Johnson through her social media postings about making her Breaking the Barrier documentary. Johnson knew she needed a producer and Agajanian knew she wanted to be a part of the endeavor.

Breaking the Barrier is currently in pre-production and the crowdfunding stage. The short film was screened at DePaul’s Premiere Film Festival in 2022 where it won the Best Documentary Short. Bridget and Lucia are remarkably driven and dedicated to building a network and connections and the completion of the full feature eventually bringing it to other film festivals around the country. With Johnson’s Dare to Dream Productions, where positivity, tenacity, and mental health are key values, this writer has no doubt we’ll be viewing this film in no time. To donate CLICK HERE !!!

Enjoy the Playlist!!


Jenny Sampson was born and raised in San Francisco and currently resides in Berkeley, California. She earned a B.A. in Psychobiology in 1991 at Pitzer College and has since dedicated her time to her photographic endeavors: wet plate collodion, traditional black and white photography and commissioned portraits. Sampson is a member of The Rolls and Tubes Collective. Her first monograph, Skaters, was published in October 2017 by Daylight Books and Jenny’s Skater Girls in September 2020. The Rolls and Tubes Collective published their book, A History of Photography, in October 2021.

Additional Information Links

Proof of Concept : use password: onword12

Braking the Barrier Go Fund Me

OnWord’s IG: @onwordskateco

Photos by Jamie Kelter Davis : @jaymiey


FILMMAKERS 🎥🎬 Director:Bridget Johnson @bridget_johnson_1212 Producer: Lucia Agajanian @lu.p0le DP: Amy Limpinyakul @pancakeparty 1st AD: Abby Griffith @abbygriffith19 Sound: Skyler Gram @sweet.hunna INTERVIEWEES 🎤 Fran Matias @francis_matias Sid Denila @sydryl Bella Garcia @beellaaaa Annabelle Otterbacher @maximumotterltd Margo O’Connell @poetryapologist Kelsey Nowak @kelsinkino Lid Madrid @lidmad Kennedy Pony Deb Hwang @0kitoki Brenda Wu @museummoshpit ONWORD CREW 🛹 Lid Madrid @lidmad T Smith @terr.itup Cath Hodge @catherinegracehodge Deb Hwang @0kitoki Bridget Johnson @bridget_johnson_1212

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