When Julian Higgins ’08 submitted his film Thief to the 32nd Annual College Television Awards, a program of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, he doubted that it would win anything. “I knew it was a really ambitious project,” said Higgins, “and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it work.”
To his surprise, Higgins’s film won the First Place Drama Award. What started as his thesis film, Thief is a fictionalized story about Saddam Hussein, in which the former leader of Kuwait gets wounded and is taken in by a family that nurses him back to health. The story takes place many years before the Gulf War began and depicts what would have happened had that family met Hussein again after the war.
“I’ve always been interested in making movies that engage with historical situations and political context,” Higgins explained, “but with the human story at the center of it.”
At the awards ceremony, Higgins was also presented with the Directing Award.
“I’m extremely proud,” said Higgins, “but what I’m most proud of is that I was able to explore the moral gray area of life. I was able to tackle some big moral themes without preaching a message. I think the questions of life are more important than the answers.”
Higgins came to campus this spring to visit VMA Associate Professor John Gianvito’s BFA class. While here, he screened Thief and his film No Wind, No Waves, which he completed for his BFA thesis in film at Emerson. He said he enjoyed talking to students about his filmmaking process and urged them to “do what you are passionate about and hope that it intersects with the marketplace. Don’t design your work to fit the marketplace.”
Higgins also said that his experience at Emerson taught him how to hone his artistic skills as a filmmaker. His teachers encouraged him to think about the difference his films would make in the world and how he would tell a compelling human story. “It’s important to be engaged with the world,” said Higgins, “That’s what Emerson taught me.”
After graduating from Emerson, Higgins attended the American Film Institute, from which he graduated in April 2010. Now he is focused on his next big goal: making a feature-length film.
“After I finished Thief, someone told me, ‘The easy part is over, now the hard part begins,’” Higgins noted. “It’s true. I’ve still got a lot more to do.”