Julia Huffman is the producer and director of the award winning documentaries Medicine of the Wolf and Wolf Spirit. This interview is from July 2016.
Julia can you tell the readers where you grew up?
I grew up in Southern West Virginia with a few years living in “Philly”, Philadelphia.
Can you tell us about a childhood memory that helped create who you’ve become now?
My parents “dropped out” of living in the city, when I was very young and joined a “back to the land movement.” They really re created themselves and didn’t follow the norm of mainstream society. This influenced me deeply. I developed a close connection to the land and to animals growing up in the hills and hollers of WVA. Nature is my base. I am interested in finding new ways to do and say things in this life time and my parents really taught me by their example to be true to that inner voice.
Can you tell us about a person in your life that inspired you?
Jane Fonda. Beautiful spirit inside and out. An incredible activist and honest. I think we dismiss honesty at times In our culture, but she always struck me as someone who doesn’t apologize for who she is, but can admit openly she made a mistake. We all do. But the humility it takes to be out In the public eye and work on the many environmental issues she has over the years and then also say, “I missed the mark there”, to me, takes incredible courage.
People don’t realize how many years this woman has been using her voice, money and celebrity to speak out for women, human rights, Indigenous rights, and environment… It goes on and on. And lastly she is actually a bit shy by nature, but does it anyway, because she believes in it, I relate to this!
Can you tell us a little about your post high school studies and why you chose them?
I got a degree in broadcast journalism, at Bethany College in West Virginia. I wanted to be a news reporter at one time.
Can you tell us about a person that helped develop your creative artistic side?
So many. At a point in my life, I learned, finally, to ask for help and I have been blessed to have found several amazing mentors over the years.
One of my latest is actress Sheryl Lee. She really liked the film and we found each other through a mutual friend. I always thought her work was very cerebral and magnetic and so we had this mutual admiration, which is a good starting place. She is incredibly generous with her talent and time. She is a teacher by nature. She has shared gems of wisdom with me and supported and inspired me to be true to my creative and ever evolving intuition.
You chose wolves as the subject of your award winning documentary Medicine of the Wolf. Can you tell us what led you to that choice?
I have always loved wolves. My connection to them, like many, is through my first dog Bozo, he was my soul mate. You’ve heard the term, “the wolf is in your living room? Well Bozo was my “wolf.”
My film was really this amazing opportunity for me to learn more about the dog’s wild cousin, the wolf, right along with the viewer, I really went on that journey.
Medicine of the Wolf Trailer
As a director can you tell us what was the most challenging segment to film in Medicine of the Wolf?
All of it…ha ha. I call myself, “Me myself and I Productions”..
I say that with a smile, there are S0 many people who donated time energy, money love…into making it! And it certainly IS a WE film. But I bit off a huge chunk in wearing most of the hats. And I am grateful; it’s the doing that makes us learn.
But maybe the pain was the hardest. The wolf hunt was happening when we were making it and I felt like the whole time I was sprinting (and I was) I had this crazy notion that I needed to save them…And I, we, do. And it took a toll.
As a director can you tell us what was the most rewarding segment to film in Medicine of the a Wolf?
I loved ALL of it truly. But being with Jim and my amazing crew up in Wolf country, in Ravenwood for several shoots was MAGICAL, it gets under your skin, the beauty and rawness of that country. And all that Jim shared and gave and revealed in the film was the biggest gift and life changing experience, I truly cherish and admire Jim so very much, he is one of my teachers.
Can you tell us how has the making of the film Medicine of the Wolf touched you spiritually?
…..It changed me. I am fairly quiet about this, as I believe now that some of what we experience in life is sacred.
Chi Ma’’iingan, Larry Stillday who is in the film and has since passed, shared with me, that the Medicine of the Wolf is love, this I know now on a core level.
Can you tell us how the overall production of Medicine of the Wolf enhanced your professional career?
Well. I was invited to do a TEDx talk in Fargo, My talk is on the Healing power of Wolves, so that is a big honor..I have traveled all over now with the film, many seem to really like it. Maybe I am recognized more now as a director. I think as women, there are still a very low percentage of us getting our projects seen and so I am honored to help carry that torch for us.
Now let’s talk wolves. Can you tell us why you think the topic of wolves drives such fear and hate in some people?
I think that the wolf issue in many ways represents a mirror into our own selves; meaning they remind us of our capacity to love deeply and hate deeply.
And just like the political battles and the bashing you see around us now, many humans seem to need to vilify something.
The wolf in my mind in certain circles has become a scapegoat of misplaced anger and resentment.
Can you tell us what about the wolf inspires you? Why do you champion him?
The wolf has given so much, just by being. The film was a thank you for all that they have done for the planet and for us humans.
You’ve chosen the topic of Celebrating the wolf for your Ted Talk; can you tell us why you chose that topic?
We have been so programmed to believe that wolves are bad and evil, its everywhere in the news…ISIS attackers are labeled ”Lone wolves” The Wolf of Wallstreet…etc etc etc.
And anti wolf groups continue to spread propaganda about wolves that is incredibly destructive.
So my intention is to speak only of the wolf in the positive and celebratory way that they rightly deserve. I believe that words and ideas…can change hearts and minds. We’ll see! J
Julia’s Ted Talk
Final question. Can you tell us what’s next for you?
At its birth in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was viewed in great part as an oversize zoo, its diverse animals managed like captives in a menagerie. But in the decades since, much has changed.
Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk summed up today’s more expansive view in a recent interview: “Rather than manipulating wildlife to do what we want it to do, we strive now to secure habitat to let wildlife do what it needs to do—to let natural processes play out as best we can.”
Indeed, the arrival of the modern environmental age has brought many dramatic changes to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Take the case of the black-footed ferret.
Within circles of conservation biology, there are animals known as “Lazarus species,” those believed lost to extinction that seem, miraculously, to rise again.
Mustela nigripes, a member of the weasel family, was believed to have gone extinct by the 1980s. The ferret preys on prairie dogs, and when those rodents were deliberately annihilated from much of the West to make way for livestock in the 20th century, ferret numbers dwindled and appeared to wink out. Click HERE to read full article.
Notoriously elusive, cougars vary their range in response to their prey, mostly elk and deer. In winter they favor the shallow snow in the northern reaches of Yellowstone. This cougar was caught on the prowl by a camera trap set behind an elk rack on a cliff.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DREW RUSH WITH THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE