Julian Higgins ’08 won the Gold Medal for Narrative at this year’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 38th Annual Student Academy Awards for his film, Thief, a fictionalized story about Saddam Hussein. He is one of only 12 students in the United States selected as winners in this year’s awards. View his acceptance speech »
Thief began as Higgins’s thesis project at the American Film Institute, where he went to study after earning his BFA at Emerson. In the film, Hussein gets wounded and is taken in by a family that nurses him back to health. The story begins many years before the Gulf War commenced 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.”
While at Emerson, Higgins filmed No Wind, No Waves, which he completed for his BFA thesis. He 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.”
The Academy established the Student Academy Awards in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. Past Student Academy Award winners have gone on to receive 43 Oscar nominations and have won or shared eight awards. At the 83rd Academy Awards earlier this year, 2010 Student Academy Award winner Luke Matheny took home the Oscar for Live Action Short Film for God of Love. Tanel Toom, another 2010 Student Academy Award winner, also was nominated in the Live Action Short Film category for The Confession, and John Lasseter, a 1979 and 1980 Student Academy Award winner, was a nominee in the Adapted Screenplay category for Toy Story 3.
Higgins’s film Thief also recently won the First Place Drama Award from the 32nd Annual College Television Awards, a program of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation.
Now Higgins 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 said. “It’s true. I’ve still got a lot more to do.”