Julian Van Mill

Original Cool

Origins: Ice Cube

Julian van Mil’s a director with a keen creative sense and visual style who can probably be found on any given week taking in the programming at the Lightbox (the Toronto International Film Festival’s cinema) when he’s not busy working as an animator, director, illustrator or director of photography. He’s worked on a wide variety of commercial productions, a music video for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and even a documentary about that infamous fraudulent financier Bernie Madoff. This will make the first time he’s turned his attention to ice cubes, however. I spoke to him about his background and process.

“I sort of consider it now my university degree in film, having made a feature when I was 17.”

“It stemmed from the idea to art-direct something in a really, really severe orange, over-the-top way.”

Film & Interview with Julian Van Mill
Film & Interview with Julian Van Mill
How did you get started?

I was initially in advertising and I ended up doing a series of promotional pieces for a film production company called ThinkFilm in the early 2000s and they, on a lark, decided to give me the opportunity to direct a film.

What was that film?

The film was called Snapped, which was a low-budget, fairly terrible horror movie, but I was 17 years old and it was a lot of fun and a learning experience. I sort of consider it now my, like, university degree in film, having made a feature when I was 17.

You had never thought about going to film school?

I had thought about it. I had actually went for a week, I went for a week and dropped out. I didn't enjoy it.

With projects, especially film projects, how do you approach them? How do you get started?

I look for something particular to get me going, whether it's a piece of music or one image or something I've seen before, and I sort of latch on to that and extrapolate it into a series of ideas, all stemming from one single spark of an idea that I once had, and then hopefully maintain that initial inspiration throughout the various processes you go through when you make a film.

Where did you get the inspiration for your film?

I'm not entirely sure. I think that I wanted to do something that was really heavily stylized and art-directed in a big way, and that drove the story. It was a couple things. Let me re-phrase that. It stemmed from the idea to art-direct something in a really, really severe orange, over-the-top way. Make everything totally ridiculous and hyperbolic and just over the top. And that was interesting to me. With some live action.

Two things came to mind [when watching it]: first, the Adventures Of Baron Munchausen.

Yeah, totally.

And that Kate Bush ‘Cloudbusting’ music video with Donald Sutherland.

I haven't seen that.

Are there any filmmakers that particularly influenced you, or other artists? Do you pull from other mediums?

To me, it's more from music. I don't know why. The thing that got this going initially was the soundtrack from a movie that's I believe from the early 70s or late 60s called Z. The letter Z. It's all about revolution and the soundtrack has just always been a favourite of mine and it just spoke to the tone of this completely. This has got to be the sound. Obviously we're going to do our own original score, but that certainly what got it started. It's just sort of like this groovy, funky guitar-riff that's a little bit raw and had some great energy to it, and I don't know why that got me thinking about where it went, but that's certainly what started it.

That’s the movie about the Greek Junta (“Z”)? Costa Gavras, his son is Roman?

Yeah, totally. And I'm using that as a temp score, but you know, we're going to re-do it.

What about other mediums? Is there anything else that you engage in beyond filmmaking?

I'm primarily a motion-graphics artist, so a lot of it comes from that. I've found a niche for myself doing live-action for motion graphics and that's where I'm trying to place this, doing some really imaginative, out-there things with the technology that they use to create the ice cube and the other guy's fan machine and that will be more on the motion-graphics side, but mixing it with live-action is where I really see myself working and directing.



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Article by Jay Watts for Stoli Canada



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