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Meet Julien Turner of Dreadhead Films in Pickerington

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julien Turner.

Julien, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up in Champaign, Illinois, my brother Justen and I were surrounded by nothing but open space. What could be seen as dull silence, we saw as a fantasy playground. At the age of ten, Justen would film himself doing “unboxings” and giving product reviews for YouTube. He became pretty experienced with iMovie and the Flip Camcorder. At the time, I was immersed in a middle school where I was one of a few black students with both my parents in the picture. I quickly realized that I was the blessed one. All of my friends called my parents “momma” and “pops.” It was here that I realized that I had a unique perspective. I began to see how many students in my school were products of the environments they grew up in. Most of them did not have a voice because they did not have the necessary resources or tools to communicate with. My boys and I all played football, but I knew how to write, and so my brother Justen and I eventually used film to express ourselves. It was around this time that my passion for storytelling developed because I realized that I could tell the stories of my classmates that the world didn’t see.

In 2013, my brother and I progressed from our mini-films in the neighborhood to a full-fledged quirky short film entitled “Fridge Fury,” a project we shot over Christmas break when our family moved to Columbus, Ohio. From there, we proceeded to shoot five short films, produce a music video, capture a few high school football and basketball seasons, and produce a handful of commercials and promos between 2013 and 2017. Through this experience, we were able to teach ourselves the ins and outs of film production. In 2017, our short film “Pseudo” was an official selection for the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. There we were introduced to Sesame Street Workshop representatives, which eventually blossomed into a working relationship. In November of 2017, we became the youngest filmmakers to be commissioned to do a short film for Sesame Street for its 2018-2019 season. Around the same time, I posted an extra credit music video “XY Cell Lif3” for my biology class at Morehouse College that went viral via social media. This afforded my brother and me national exposure that landed us features on dozens of news platforms such as CNN and the New York Times. This traction provided us with an opportunity and platform to crowdfund for our biggest film to date, “Nia’s Shadow.”

In July of 2018, we shot “Nia’s Shadow,” a film about a young African-American woman with superpowers. In this film, we try to creatively combine social justice with sci-fi, and we artistically entertain the possibilities of what could happen if the practice of eugenics during slavery produced a superhuman gene that stayed dormant for generations until it was unexpectedly awakened by the current extremes in the environments of America’s inner cities (such as air pollution, water pollution, and noise pollution). We just finished post-production this past May (2019). Following this project, my brother Justen and I hope to get financial backing for a feature film.

Currently, I am also working at the Adidas US headquarters in Portland, Oregon as a Content Creation Corporate Communications Intern, combining my passions in art, business, and athletics. Further, I look forward to the starting my senior year in the fall as an all-conference linebacker for the Morehouse College football team.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We have been blessed to have some wonderful breaks to come our way, however, our young ages and our journey via independent filmmaking have been both a blessing and a curse. We were attending screenings of our short films at international film festivals around the country when Justen was 14 and I was 18. My viral video opened the doors for us to meet with executives at some of the biggest film production companies in the country. Nonetheless, our age and lack of a big production house or industry insider backer have likely prevented us from sealing a major film deal to date. However, we trust that our time is coming!

Please tell us about Dreadhead Films.
Dreadhead Films is Justen’s and my own film production company. We specialize in storytelling through film and video. Whether we are writing and creating our own films, or producing videos for artists, athletes, businesses, and organizations, our audience and clients know that what they will get from start to finish is a fresh, hip and culturally relevant work of art with a vision. Justen and I are most proud of the working relationships that we have been able to establish and cultivate at a young age, like the beloved tv series Sesame Street. We believe that what sets us apart from other independent film production companies is our deep commitment to representing our culture in our art, and creating images and tell stories that entertain, inspire, and uplift.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I am not sure that we could have done much differently. We started so young, and I am just grateful that Justen and I have parents who saw the gifts in us and have been all in, supporting us fully in all of our efforts.

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