Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed Julian Starks, an established actor, independent filmmaker, and author of a fine art photography book, LIFE BEHIND BARS VOL. 1, an informative and heartfelt portrayal of the animals on the brink of extinction. (Read the reveiw here or watch book trailer at this link).
Note: a portion of the proceeds from the “LIFE Behind Bars” Vol. I book sales and all associated merchandise will go directly to the institutions where the animals were photographed.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Julian Starks has been a force in the world of the Arts for most of his adult life. Julian began his career in New York City as an established working actor, having studied under acting teacher legends, Sanford Meisner and Bobby Lewis, as well as Martin Barter at the famous Neighborhood Playhouse Theater in many mediums including theater, independent film, national television shows and commercials. He studied at The School of Visual Arts in New York City and eventually decided to move to Los Angeles to further his education at the UCLA School of Film and the Los Angeles Film School to further his opportunities in filmmaking and television. He is negotiating the release of his first independent feature length documentary, “A JOURNEY TO SUNDANCE”.
‘A JOURNEY TO SUNDANCE’ is about the spirit, dreams and struggles of independent filmmakers from all over the world, as well as his own 13-year battle to finish this film.
He later graduated from the BROOKS INSTITUTE OF PHOTOGRAPHY in the Ventura, CA to continued his passion for storytelling in a new medium… It is this medium that best offers us the pleasure of sharing Julian’s love of animals as he presents, LIFE BEHIND BARS VOL. 1, his first Fine Art Photography Book.
Julian has spent much of the last several years traveling the world photographing wild animals. At various sanctuaries he was educated to the many dangers animals experience in surviving in the wild, often dying or suffering due to the actions of humans. Julian was moved to create ‘VISIONS OF THE WORLD Inc.’ to make a difference for these animals by announcing their plight and by donating proceeds to sanctuaries and to animal rights causes.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
Official Book Website: https://www.visionsoftheworld.org
Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?
When I decided to embark on this Journey, it was from my love for Lions and growing up watching Mutual of Omaha presents…Jacques Cousteau etc…
I had always wanted to visit SHAMBALA, Tippi Hedren’s Preserve in Acton, California. Tippi is the beautiful Blonde actress in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” movie. As soon as I walked in, there was a Giant Male Lion in this enclosure. It kept staring at me as I took countless Photos. It was “Henson”, Tippi’s favorite and main Lion. He is on the Cover of Life Behind Bars Vol. 1.
I spent three hours there and as the group and I were leaving, out came Tippi to greet us.
For about an hour, she talked to us about why she started this Preserve in 1973 and that ”It was a necessary evil” but, because of climate, poaching and Game hunting she had to protect these beautiful Animals.
Initially, I wanted to do a book that was definitely against caged wild Animals. I hated it when my Mother would take us every weekend to the Cincinnati Zoo when we were small. I asked her why the Lion there kept pacing back and forth in his cage. She said it was “Stir Crazy, which at that age, I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good.
After hearing Tippi’s point-of-view, I decided to take the whole year off and travel America to 12 other Zoos, Preserves and Sanctuaries to see why they were started.
I knew after my year’s travel and talking extensively to staff, that it is a “Necessary Evil” to have Wild Animals captive, but unfortunately, to preserve these fragile animals there had to be a place to protect them.
I also discovered, that the Zoos of old are not the Zoos of today. All of the places I visited, especially the Cincinnati Zoo, were in fact giant open enclosures compared to the old days. They emulated their wild habitat as close as possible.
What does literary success look like to you?
success will be accomplished when my book gets and continues to get great reviews that spark sells, then garners publicity and attention that gets me, the Author, attention.
Do you find writing therapeutic?
Absolutely! When I sit down to write to Classical music, my mind goes crazy with ideas and passion. But, most amazingly, my mind never focuses so much. It’s kinda scary how “ZEROED” in I am on the subject I’m writing about.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. I’m so energized that I could write for hours, without stopping. But, when I finally stop writing, I’m totally Knockedout physically and emotionally.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Big Egos never help! In Film School they taught us, as Directors you have to leave your Ego at the door when shooting a film and leading crews of many people.
Trust in the people you have hired and that are Volunteering. They are investing their time, sweat and tears in your project, so show then respect and listen. Egos just get in the way of a great project going forward and flourishing.
And most importantly, surround yourself with People who know more then you do. Let their expertise enhance you and your project.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
You have to be original and true to yourself. You never know what the public wants and/or likes. If you concern yourself with that nonsense, then you will never have an emotional link to your work. What touches you is all that matters!
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! If you’re not emotionally invested in your story, then why the Hell would anybody else be emotionally invested! If you have come to Hell and Back just to get your story on pages, then the reader will feel and go through that Journey with you.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
To have a logline and premise to your story. You have to know this and then put it down in an Outline, so you have a Road Map to follow once you start writing. In “A Journey to Sundance”, my first Feature Documentary film, it took a total of 13-years to finish! The biggest reason, other then paying for the
entire film myself; was that for the first 5-years, I didn’t know what the logline and premise was for the film. I was right out of Film School and just jumped right into filming. It was a horrible mistake that happily added to the film’s charm 13-years later. https://www.ajourneytosundance.com
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
MONEY! It is so easy for me to start on one dream or another. I have many. But, after the mess with me film and pouring over $300,000 into it, I can no longer be that reckless.
I have to have a budget in place and the funds to match it, before I can go off on one of my famous Passion projects.
One day, I’ll hope to have other people’s money to match my Artistic vision.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
Finding Agents who represent new writers. They are stuck in their old ways of finding new writers, by only accepting referred writers. You just can’t get in front of anyone worth having as an agent.
I decided to finance, shoot and published “Life Behind Bars Vol. 1, because I knew if I didn’t finance it, I would have never found the backing for it. Now I am positioned to have acquired founding because of the success of this book. So, that will get me to Africa for my second Wild Animal book.
Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?
Absolutely! One thing I learned in Film School and translates to the Book World is you have to swallow your pride and listen to all critiques. Throughout my 13-year film I had several “Focus Screenings” for audiences from all walks of life. That’s how I found out what my Logline/Premise was for my film.
On the Questionnaire after the film, the last question is; “In one sentence, tell me what this film is about”. One lady wrote; “Your film is about YOU making your first feature film which happens to be about the Robert Redford and the Sundance Film Festival”. That’s my Logline!!!
I spent years trying to make a film about the festival, when she simply said, “No. It’s about YOU”. Brilliant!
So, back to the book Reviews, YES!!! Find out what other people (not family & Friends) but people who aren’t vested in you and your book. They for the most part, if honest, will let you know where you and your book stand.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Proofreader!!! No matter how smart you may think you are, you will make grammatical mistakes. And that my friend, will get your book or script tossed into the garbage can. I used three Proofreaders and each one found some mistakes the previous Proofreader missed.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Read Books! I was a sports jock and class clown, so I never really read books. They put me to sleep or I would drift off into my imagination – “The True Artist”.
That hurt me a lot when it came to writing scripts. I had to go and learn Grammar in my twenties. But, it paid off.
After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?
By how strangers react to the book. That’s Gold!
What in particular attracted you to this genre?
I have always loved Lions and other wild Animals. As a young kid watching “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” show with my Mom, I would always tell her “one day I will go to Africa on a Safari to see Lions”.
This book is about the Lions and Wild Animal’s in Captivity. I’m going to Africa to photograph the Wild Lions and other Beast. It will be a comparison book between wild and captive animals.
If you could only change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
As someone told me about being born March 20th; on the cusp of Pieces and Aries. They said, “I am very passionate about all of my dreams and ventures, but I will always loose interest and move on to the next one, whether or not I’m finished with my current project.” So true it hurts to think about the projects I’ve abandoned throughout my life. Change my aloof way of life.
Are you a feeler or a thinker?
Both. Hard to sleep at night. So many things rolling around in my Head.
What is your greatest failure? What did you learn from that failure?
My little brother, like me was an actor. Years ago, he was going in the wrong direction in life and mixed up in drugs.
He loved the Soap Opera; “The Guiding Light”. He called me when I lived in NYC to ask if I could help him find a writing template for the Soaps. He wanted to write a spec script and send it to the producers of “The Guiding Light”. I was in a hurry and told him I would find it and send the template to him. I never did. It slipped my mind, because I was so wrapped-up in my little struggling “Actor” world I forgot about my little brother in need.
Years later after totally falling into drugs, he was hit by a car and killed. To this day, I blame myself, because I could have taken a little time to help him with his passion of “The Guiding Light” and made it a priority to get him that wring template. Maybe that would have helped him turn his life around.
I have never made that mistake again. I have gone out of my way when family or friend comes calling.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
The most fascinating and funniest moment came at the San Diego Safari Park. I was photographing this female Gorilla. I use a flash even in the day to get a pop in the pupils of the animals. So, as I’m clicking away at the Gorilla and flashing my light in her face, everyone behind me starts to laugh hysterically.
I stopped and asked this sweet little lady why she was laughing, and she said the Gorilla I was photographing “Flipped me off”!
I said “No way” and looked back at the series of photos I took, and low and behold, you can see the flash popping in her face, and I guess she had enough of that and decided to respond in her own sweet way. Flipped me off!
So, you can see this awesome photo page 81 of Life Behind Bars Vol.1.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I desperately, hope that readers get the urgency of the plight of the Majestic creatures. These are animals that are or will be facing EXTINCTION from this planet! We as humans can be the reason to prevent that. But we have to act NOW!
How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?
Ethical Choices; “Ethics addresses questions of morality, such as what makes our actions right or wrong. Animal ethics focuses upon the constantly evolving way in which society thinks of nonhuman animals.” World Animal Foundation”
It amazes me how many people do not prescribe to the Ethical Choice definition above.
Nothing angers me more, then seeing some COWARDLY CLOWN dressed up like a tree sitting in a perch with a High Powered Scooped Rifle waiting to blown the brains out of an un-expecting beautiful animal or seeing the dead Elephant or Rhino minus their tusks or horns of ivory or watching a Japanese whaling boat harpoon a beautiful Whale running for its life.
This is what drives me to photograph and educate people who can make a difference in how we treat these beautiful creatures and how we treat these horrible trophy hunters, poachers and whale killers.
What makes this book important right now?
Every day we are seeing the erosion of Wild Animals habitats by climate warming and/or the eradication of these animals by Hunting. Poaching etc…
What sort of a relationship exists between you and the characters you created in this book?
I found out when I was a little kid, that I always had a way of making a sound to a domestic animal that got their attention, thus getting them interested in me. As I traveled around photographing these Wild Animals, that was still true. I can make a lot of different Animal calls that have served me right, thus getting me the attention of the Wild Animals!!!
How did you decide on this title?
When I saw the first day of Photographs of the wild Animals, I noticed that all of the Primates would run up and grab the bars separating us and look at the camera with a face of desperation and sadness. I remarked to my Project Manager how sad they looked being behind bars the rest of their lives. Thus, “Life Behind Bars” Vol. 1.
How crucial is it to have a working title before you begin a project?
It’s extremely important to have a Title and Theme of what your book is about. If you get confused, just go back to the Title and the Theme and they will lead you back on the correct path. I used those lessons while forming the idea and then executing the theme of the book.
What’s next for you?
Visions of the World Inc. announces our next project “LIFE Behind Bars…Except if You’re Free” VOL. 2 which will focus on the conservation efforts of the Gorillas and Big African Cats in their natural habitat –Africa!
We are dedicating this second book in this series of books to DIAN FOSSEY, whose work regarding the conservation of the Mountain Gorilla’s has been an inspiration for our project.
Furthermore, we intend to approach and hopefully create a strategic collaboration with The Ellen Fund, a wildlife fund created by the humanitarian Ellen DeGeneres in conjunction with her Ellen DeGeneres Center, a brand new part of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which is dedicated to the protection and conservation of the endangered Mountain Gorillas.
Secondly, we are also covering the big African cats, which are among the most charismatic species in the world. However, despite their iconic status the public is neither fully aware of their endangered status nor understands the difficulties encountered by those who want to preserve these magnificent animals in their local environment.
The first goal of this project is to present the safaris in Rwanda (Gorillas) & Kenya and Tanzania (Big Cats) as models of species protection and conservation. The second goal of this undertaking is to create an emotional connection through pictures between people and the animals. The third goal is the ultimate comparison book of Animals in captivity vs. Animals in the Wild! Gorillas and Big Cats!
Thank you your time and consideration. Live long, Prosper & Peace to all!
Julian Starks – Founder/CEO/Photographer
Categories: BookView Review Interview