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Filmmaker Julian Pinder

Filmmaker Julian Pinder

Julian Pinder - film makerFor Filmmaker Julian Pinder, life doesn’t get any better.

Published in the High-Desert Star, winter 2016

Spread out in the vastness of the high desert landscape is a unique and magical community of creative, inventive and enterprising people from many different disciplines with many different gifts. Some live here; others are passing through. All of them leave a mark that touches the land and the residents of the Morongo Basin. Many, have a far wider influence.

Julian Pinder, filmmaker, and artist just bought a run-down Pioneertown house and rebuilt it himself. It’s home for him and his significant other, model and singer, Yasmina Jones. Pinder, a contemporary mix of Che Guevara and Hemingway is a rebel, art-focused, and his own person with a definite streak of wildness. He spent day after day in the hot summer sun pouring concrete, shoring up walls, cleaning up the yard and searching for bales of straw to build a wall around the property.

His art is his life, and his way of life is whatever excites his passions at the moment. He’s willing to take chances and throw himself wholly into a film project, the same way he built his house – building it from the bottom up, adding precious art finds and mixing them up to create his vision. The result is a house or a film, that stirs the imagination and excites the desire to find out what Pinder is thinking.

The wild-man, rebel persona started early in Pinder’s life. At the age of 16, while spending a year in a Paris high school, he became restless. What they taught did not fit with the way he saw things and borrowing his philosophy from the filmmaker, Werner Hertzog, ‘Do it and fail and do it again,’ he decided he needed to learn from experience. After meeting a friend at school who had lost most of his family in the war in Kreševo, and was eager to return to his home and see what was left, Pinder agreed to go with him and document the experience. That film was his initiation into filmmaking.

Pinder approaches everyone of his films differently. “I think,” he says, “knowing where you’re going in a documentary, goes back to the idea of approaching different projects in different ways according to how they need to be attacked and choosing the right weapon for the job. You’re not going to go after a wild boar with a spoon and conversely you are not going to go after a tub of ice cream with a gun.”

Julian’s first film ‘Land’ is a true story of land development in Nicaragua, at a time when it was politically volatile. As newspapers and magazines were hailing the country as ‘The New Cancun’, three naive Americans, looking to hit it big, started constructing resorts for American tourists. As political tides turned and former revolutionary leader Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas sweep back into power, dreams of poolside riches gave way to death threats and armed assaults.
Pinder, who got to know all of the players, says, “I seem to be drawn to incredible characters, for better or worse. Sometimes,” he adds, “they are not good people.”

Bad people can make great characters and ‘Land’ premiered to sold-out audiences at HotDocs, North America’s premiere documentary film festival.

Pinder’s second film, ‘Trouble in the Peace’ set in a remote northern Canadian agricultural community is an intimate, real-life psychological thriller’ documentary about a cowboy artist and his young daughter and a town in change. The main character, Karl Mattson is struggling with the invasion of Big Oil and Gas exploration when a mysterious ‘pipeline bomber’ begins setting off explosions. Mattson wants to protect his daughter and make a statement, but he does not know what to do. The community becomes violently torn apart, and Pinder chooses to stay around, developing a sometimes explosive but ongoing relationship with Mattson until both the film and the events evolve into Karl deciding upon a most singular and personal course of action.

What is truly unique in Pinder’s approach to his projects is his focus and willingness to become absorbed into the place and people’s lives until he is one with them. At the beginning of ‘Trouble in Peace’, when he was still deciding on the direction his project would take, he had a full crew and lots of heavy equipment. When he decided to make Mattson the subject of the film he knew the man was far too shy to agree to be filmed. Pinder sent everyone away, and by spending six months and handling all the filming himself, he won a place for himself in the town and found a way to tell his story.

The best films often take you on a journey you would never have seen or experienced. Those films might be described as iconic, but that is not a word Julian
would use for his work. He says, “What you want with every piece of art is to have the sense it has a border scope. The best art is finite and narrow and brings you to something greater. Maybe it’s iconic, but that sounds presumptuous to say about myself.”

He would rather say, it is about “striking a cord, finding a legacy, and transcending cultures.”

Asked about financial success, Pinder admits it differs with every project. “It’s like an old Vaudevillian thing. Sometimes the town goes crazy and buys all your snake oil, and sometimes they run you out of town with a pitchfork.”

His third film, ’Jesus Town’ is about a small town in Oklahoma that had been staging the ‘Prince of Peace’, a passion play, for 88 years. When the man, playing Jesus retires, his replacement, a young man with a deeply personal secret takes his place, and the discovery threatens the town tradition.

‘Jesus Town’ was a huge challenge logistically. It was a cast of 200 untrained actors in 1930s style costumes. The backdrop is a massive outdoor set of Jerusalem. Oklahoma was freezing with intermittent snow or rain. There were two units (film crews with cameras) covering six characters. “Very Challenging,” Pinder repeats.

Pinder’s work includes television, feature films, and wide national release, commercial spots, MTV’s Rock the Vote campaigns, Grammy-nominated music videos and in his earlier days, experimental art-house shorts.

“Every moment of every film is a major challenge,” Pinder says as he describes the inner voices that rage relentlessly along with the unpredictability of the weather, constant equipment failure, and crew breakdowns. “If you do it [film making] long enough, you will run into everything. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong.”

As far as his high desert move goes, Pinder has been coming to Joshua Tree for about 15 years, and he loves what he says is “this desert’s rough edge mixed with a tinge of civilization. I love the tough and tumble, bar brawling edge to America,” he adds. And he loves the artists that are flocking to the high desert. “I love cities, but I need my space. I need quiet,” and then he shifts directions and says, “I need quiet to be loud myself. I love the freedom and space. Shooting guns, motorcycling, building, gardening, writing. How could life get any better? It’s kind of like Mad Max meets Greenwich Village in the 60’s.”

Pinder is currently moving into fiction, has a script in development, and is co- writing and producing a tv show starring Sally Struthers.

‘Jesus Town’ is on Showtime. ‘Land’ is on iTunes and airs frequently on various networks worldwide. ‘Trouble in The Peace’ also airs frequently. All are available on DVD / blue ray from the distributors, Kinosmith, and Cargo Releasing, respectively. The latest film, Population Zero, is finished and slated for release early 2016.

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