Catching Up: Q&A With 2016 Holle Award Winner Julius Damenz
By Mike Vernier & Dana Murray
At this time last year, Black Warrior Film Festival had come and gone. Films had been screened, panels completed, and awards given. But among those awards was one the festival hadn’t seen before, and student filmmaker Julius Damez went home with $10,000 because of it. In its inaugural year, The Holle Award for Excellence in Filmmaking, which celebrates unique vision and style, was presented to Damenz, his short film Infinite winning him the prize that The University of Alabama is now proud to give annually. But the then Lindenwood University student’s success didn’t stop in Tuscaloosa; Damenz went on to win a multitude of awards and garner international praise for Infinite. Now graduated and living in L.A., Damenz lent us some time and some insight into his past experience, his present life, and his future in film.
Tell me a bit about the journey of creating Infinite.
Infinite was based on a poem that I wrote about dealing with the indifference of human life as a whole. It was a very personal, even depressing, piece that turned into a voice-over arthouse type film and was brought to life by my incredible narrator, cast, and crew that consisted of my good friends. So it was really a small niche film, which made it even more surprising when it got these recognitions and awards.
Infinite not only won you last year's Holle Award, but it also won you a College Emmy. How does it feel to be getting such significant praise for your work?
It feels amazing getting such praise for our work. As filmmakers, we always want to reach an audience, and we want people to identify with our stories. These awards show that we were able to do exactly that. It’s a great feeling, but it also motivates us to work even harder in the future.
You also got the opportunity to work on the popular Scream Queens over the past summer. What are some things you learned from this experience?
Being on Scream Queens and being around some of the best in the business allowed me to learn a lot about the craft of filmmaking. The biggest takeaway, however, was learning about the politics and logistics that come with such a big production, which was interesting to see and totally different from small indie productions.
Now that you're living in L.A., where do you plan on going from there?
I definitely want to continue directing and writing short films. However, I also want to continue my career as a director of photography in commercials, music videos, and narrative films.
What advice would you give to young filmmakers just starting out in the industry?
One piece of advice I would give is to stay true to what you like and make the films you want to make. Authentic and unique stories [are] what make you stand out. On the other hand, not everybody is a writer or director. Find out what position on set you enjoy and focus on that. It’ll make it easier to break into the industry.
Why should student filmmakers get involved with Black Warrior Film Festival?
I feel like BWFF is a great place to meet motivated student filmmakers. I have met a handful of filmmakers in Tuscaloosa that I later met again in LA. The screenings were a lot of fun, too, and the selection of films was really entertaining. And of course, you can win some amazing prizes!