Borrego Sun - Since 1949

The Purple Couch


Last updated 9/28/2015 at 5:03pm

A production still from our shoot at Mission Beach. Seated, conducting the interview, is Co-Creator/Producer Cheryl Johnson, with Co-Creator/Director Michael Johnson standing in pink. Seated on couch is Encinitas resident and business guru, Will Marre.

It's another beautiful morning in Borrego Springs and you're driving down Palm Canyon Drive. Then, off in the distance, you see a strange purple shape. What in the world? Is it an illusion? Is it an alien sighting? Nope, as you get closer you realize, the unexpected shape is a piece of furniture! A comfortable little slice of a living room set is nestled aside Christmas Circle.

You're looking at "THE PURPLE COUCH."

More specifically, you're looking at the main set piece for a unique, local film project The Purple Couch: Stories From America's Living Room. This project's purpose is to encourage participants to sit down, relax, and tell personal stories all while seated comfortably on The Purple Couch. These stories will move us, make us laugh, cry, and just maybe make us feel more connected to one another.

Local residents (and filmmakers) Michael and Cheryl Johnson created "THE PURPLE COUCH" project to re-connect storytelling on a more personal and fundamental level. The idea began at a simple dinner party while sitting in their living room and socializing, when Cheryl asked her company, "What was a defining moment in your life?"

The Johnsons felt they'd always had deep connections with their close friends, yet, as Cheryl explained, "We'd known some of our guests for over fifteen years, but what they shared that night amazed us."

The insight was the beginning of an ambitious filmmaking idea: homes are where stories are most often shared, but since you can't bring the whole community into a living room, they decided to take the living room into the community. From there, they'd let people share their stories, just like they did at the dinner party.

"Throughout the ages, the art of storytelling is how we learned and how we connected with others. Fewer and fewer of us are really sharing, and too few of us are really listening," says Cheryl.

"And so, 'THE PURPLE COUCH' was born. The color purple was chosen because it symbolizes courage, wisdom, spirituality, love, royalty, creativity, and the divine, among other things. And not inconsequently, it is the color you get when you mix red and blue together."

Now, to stimulate both a cinematographic event and to help create a community film for the Borrego Springs Film Festival (BSFF), Michael and Cheryl are developing production of "THE PURPLE COUCH" right here in Borrego Springs! The first filming event will take place during the 50th Annual Borrego Days celebration.

"THE PURPLE COUCH" production team hopes to get Borregans (and visitors) to come forth and share, to speak about stories important to them. The couch will be placed in front of local Borrego locations like the Borrego Art Institute, Big Horn Fudge, or The Borrego Sun to help create attention from the festival goers and encourage participation.

Variety is the spice of life and this event will definitely add some spice to the soon to be iconic 50th Anniversary Borrego Days event. After all, students from the Class of 1965 will be here to have a class reunion. Imagine their take on the changes that have occurred in Borrego since their graduation so long ago. They certainly should be encouraged to take a seat, "on the couch!"

If you or someone you know would like to be part of this event, please contact local residents, and co-producers of the BSFF "THE PURPLE COUCH" film, Matt Nothelfer and Alicia Wszelaki. They will help coordinate preliminary interviews and help people learn how to be a part of this fun and historic community movie. Please reach out to them via or call 312.788.7763

For more information, and for film examples of "THE PURPLE COUCH" online, visit:

Come on board and have some fun with this unique project. Come and share your story on the purple couch!

Incidentally, it should be noted that The Purple Couch won an Emmy Award in the 'Advanced Media' category for the initial version of the project's website and another three Emmys for the pilot episode that aired locally on KPBS a few years ago. One Emmy was for the program itself, one in the category of Editing, and one for its original music composition and arrangement.

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