Meet Julian Thedford, The Howard Grad A Part of The Next Generation of Filmmakers

Meet Julian Thedford, a 2022 Howard University graduate who is a part of the next generation of filmmakers.

He was recently named one of the HBCU filmmakers of the year by the National Black Movie Association as his debut project “When I Wake” premiered at Amazon Studios last summer and has gone on to receive eight festival selections. Thedford also launched his own production company earlier this year called Lucid Village Productions

A Chicago native, Thedford’s work is committed to uplifting the voices and experiences of his community.

Credit: (IG: @photosbyjordanj)

Thedford has been interested in filmmaking since he was very young and recalls his first experience on a set when he was in eighth grade. He was invited by a filmmaker to visit the behind-the-scenes of a show and remembers the experience as “just the most amazing thing” he’d ever seen.” 

From there, Thedford continued to take an interest in filmmaking and decided to study it at Howard University. 

Although the young filmmaker originally didn’t have any intentions of going to Howard, he fell in love the second he stepped on the campus. “It was the first time I got to see a diverse group of black people and for me, that was the most appealing thing about it,” Thedford said. He described it as a “love at first sight type of moment.” 

Thedford also highlighted how the curriculum at Howard was one of the selling points when it came to deciding what school he was going to attend. “A lot of the classes centered around social justice, or just kind of social change, especially in the scope of film and television, and that’s something that none of the other film schools I was looking at offered.” 

Creating meaningful art is extremely important to Thedford. He credits his Howard professor, Denise Hart, as one of his biggest influences when it comes to powerful storytelling. “There’s so much power in the stories that we tell and the media that we consume and so really kind of understanding that while I was in school was what shaped my perception of the industry as well as just giving me a guide of how I would conduct my life and my career.”

Using what he learned at Howard, Thedford has gone on to produce a powerful piece of media with his debut film “When I Wake.”

 “When I Wake”  is centered around a teenage boy who begins to have recurring dreams taking him through the stages of grief after witnessing the death of a friend. The short film was inspired by Thedford’s real-world experience of witnessing a shooting on Chicago’s South Side while out walking his dog with his 9-year-old brother. 

While processing over what could’ve happened to him or his brother, Thedford turned to poetry to express his emotions. A couple of months later, he reached out to a writer and close friend, Brianna Mottey, to help expand his experience into a story. 

Serious about his craft, Thedford shot the movie three times over the span of three years, from 2019 to 2021, proving that the third time’s a charm. What started as a 5-minute film turned into a 40-minute film, captured entirely by a two-person crew, with Thedford some days directing, while operating the camera and audio equipment simultaneously.

Credit: (IG: @photosbyjordanj)

The film premiered at Amazon Studios in LA in the summer of 2022, which Thedford says is the proudest moment of his career so far. “That was by far, kind of I guess the mountain top if you will. The month prior to that I was editing every single day, I was staying up for 14 hours a day, just working. And so, then to finally put it on screen, and then for it to be received the way it was received, was just a dream come true for me.”

After the success of “When I Wake,” Thedford launched his own production company, Lucid Village Productions.  The company is based between Chicago, LA, and Philidelphia and specializes in healing narratives says Thedford. “Our whole production company is kind of centered around creating narratives that get you thinking and thinking about how can we move on from situations. How can we heal from situations? Because a lot of times I feel like we don’t publicly display, a guideline or answers for questions like those.”

The future is bright for Thedford as his long-term goal is to have a major feature film completed by 2030 — for right now, his next project is in the works. “I can’t say too much about what it’s about but it explores black masculinity as well as family dynamics,” said Thedford. “It’s like a 20-minute thriller that takes place in the woods, and so, I really think we have something special with this film. I’m hoping that we can hit a major festival once it’s complete.”

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