Julian Higgins is a Los Angeles-based writer and director. Originally from New Hampshire, he received a BFA in Film from Emerson College and an MFA in Directing from the world-famous American Film Institute.
His AFI thesis film, “Thief” – inspired by little-known events in the early life of Saddam Hussein – won the Narrative Gold Medal at the 2011 Student Academy Awards, as well as Best Drama and Best Director honors at the 2011 Student Emmy Awards. “Thief” also won the AFI’s Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award, the Vision Award for Best Short Film at the 2011 Heartland Film Festival, the Angelus Film Festival’s Triumph of the Spirit Award and 22 other prizes. The film is currently playing festivals internationally.
On the strength of the film, Emmy-winning producer-director Greg Yaitanes invited Julian to shadow him during the final season of the acclaimed television drama series “House”. Julian directed episode #15 of the season, which aired on April 2, 2012. In order to direct the episode, Julian used his 2011 Heartland Film Festival prize money toward his Directors Guild of America fees.
Heartland: What are some films you consider to be truly moving pictures?
Julian Higgins: Let me start by saying that I absolutely believe movies can change our lives. Not every movie does, of course, but it’s possible. Art is about change. Great films make you consider your own world in a new way, make you feel something new, make you see things in a new light… effectively, they make you into a new person. So for me, calling a film “truly moving” is a very good choice of words: you go into the theater one way and you come out changed. You can’t ever go back to the way you were before. Ironically, when movies deal with the darkness of the world and life’s most difficult struggles, they can make us feel so full of hope. In that vein, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the most truly moving films I’ve ever seen. It’s astonishing that a story about a tragically paralyzed man can also be a story about the pure joy of being alive. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and a real inspiration to me as a filmmaker.
Heartland: What have your experiences winning at Heartland and other festivals taught you about being a director?
We took a lot of risks making the film, and even though the subject matter is very foreign, the process of creating it was a personal and organic one. So it was an incredible validation to see how well the film was received. I think “Thief” was a very full and honest expression of my voice as a filmmaker – that’s exactly the kind of work I hope to make throughout my career. I’m still a young director and there is still so much for me to learn, but now I can push forward confidently now that I’ve learned there’s an enthusiastic audience for the kind of stories I want to tell. That is priceless. Read more »