Julián Hernández is a talented filmmaker and writer from Bogotá, Colombia. Throughout his career, he has served as a director, cinematographer, screenwriter, and editor of several short films. He is best known having been part of the script team in “History of a crime: Colmenares” (2019) and DP in “#ProtegeLaInocencia” (2019).
At just 16 years old, Julián completed Culinary Technical Studies in cooking in 2015. He went on to study film and graduated as a professional filmmaker in Film and Television from the University of Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano in 2021.
Julián Hernández started his film career in 2016. He has worked as production assistant in large companies that work with Netflix and Fox Telecolombia. He fell in love with documentary cinema and has directed “¿Responsabilidad de Guerra?” (2018), “Julieth” (2022), and “At Knifepoint” (2021).
Julián has directed many films including: “La Santidad” (2017), and “The Briefcase” (2017). He served as cinematographer for “No Busques en mi Memoria” (2019), “The Briefcase” (2017), “Bizarre Sports – Rugby Subacuatico and Roller Derby Episodes” (2019) and “Blues” (2018); and as editor of several short films including “Blues” (2018) and “Una mente delirante” (2017).
Julián is very passionate about writing and has won several creative writing competitions, including the annual national competition for Coompemsura, one of the great companies in Colombia. He has written some thought-provoking works including, “History of a crime” (2019) from Netflix, as a content reviewer and verifier of elements of continuity and temporality and “¿Responsabilidad de Guerra?” (2018).
Currently Julián Hernández holds larger positions in multiple productions nationwide and has made commercial pieces for several companies, like OpenEnglish, Inkett Bogotá, Opitronic.com and Krak Media. He is currently in pre-production of the documentary film “At Knifepoint”.
Exclusive interview With Film Director, Screenwriter and Cinematographer Julián Hernández
NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?
Julián Hernández: In the current year, I had the opportunity to witness and collaborate by helping the production team with on-camera appearances in an independent film by my college classmates. A flawless production and gripping story about a professional swimmer who suffers several impasses before one of the biggest sporting events of her career. “Al Ritmo del Agua” (To the rhythm of the water) is already in the final editing stage and promises to be a great success. Another great and promising production is the movie “Los Malditos” (The damned). My friends and career colleagues were in charge of the production design and art for this film. I was able to accompany them and help them for a couple of days with all the set-up work. I also find myself shooting commercial spots for small businesses.
The project that I am focusing most of my attention on is a short documentary about Chef Camilo Gonzalez: At Knifepoint. Camilo is one of the best chefs in the country, an important name when it comes to Sushi and Teppanyaki in Colombia. Behind his success there is a story of effort, overcoming difficulties, passion, sweat and many knives. His success has led him to be a celebrity in the kitchen and to rub shoulders with the most important figures of the national celebrity such as J. Balvin, Nicky Jam and James Rodriguez. Camilo comes from below, he grew up in a harsh context, without his father, in one of the “hottest” areas of Medellín. Without a doubt, his history is inspiring and very interesting.
NY Elite: What is the new documentary film “At Knifepoint” about?
Julián Hernández: Well, many topics are covered. This documentary exposes the culture of Medellín and shows us how a Colombian chef becomes a reputable figure of Asian cuisine.
It is a story of growth, of success, of how you gain self-love and determine what your goals are in life. It is not just any story of overcoming. In this documentary a particular path to the top is exposed that has not yet concluded.
When people talk to you about success, you think of money, houses, cars, possessions, and fame. For Camilo none of this matters. He already has two restaurants in the main cities of the country. A car, a house, but his success and happiness are in the kitchen. His life is the kitchen and all he has and what he lives for is the kitchen.
Camilo owes everything to the kitchen and the only way he can pay it back is by becoming “the best.”
NY Elite: What other projects have you worked on?
Julián Hernández: I can’t talk much about it. Currently I am part of the script writing for a Netflix series. It will be the second season of one of the Colombian series about an unsolved crime based on real events.
The situation in my country is complicated and very sad. Artistic expression is essential to communicate and through empathy to generate social change … I am currently in the process of editing and post-production of a feature documentary entitled “Julieth”. This piece is an audiovisual essay on violence in Colombia. Julieth was a victim of a police shooting. A stray bullet in the middle of the demonstrations took his life. He was just 18 years old. It is a tribute to all the victims of police violence. Since the beginning of this project in September 2020, the police have killed at least 50 more students. Probably until this stops, the documentary will not be ready. I cannot leave any victim out of the story.
NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Julián Hernández: Yes, well, it is complicated. There are some things in particular that make the audiovisual experience magical. The first is that those who are telling a story, be it documentary or fiction, feel what they are telling. If the photographer does not feel the story, this is reflected on the screen. The love you give the product shows in the end. You cannot make a movie if you are not passionate about what you are telling. If you’re not interested in the story, turn off the camera and keep writing. The second is music. Unfortunately, it was not my strong suit in the career but a good soundtrack, for me, can shake hands with a horrible script and convey all the feelings that the image and the text could not. Now, if everything works in harmony and is well done, it is becomes something magical.
NY Elite: What have you learned since your first film?
Julián Hernández: Cinema is best made with friends. It’s the first thing I think of when I hear that question and it’s a lesson that took me several years to learn. It doesn’t matter if you have the best producer, or the best DP on set, or the best makeup artists. If there is no harmony, if there is no passion, if they are not really all connected and focused on the same interest, you are not going to make a good movie.
NY Elite: Have you thought about acting in your movies or in general?
Julián Hernández: Eh, haha. I’ve thought about it, but I don’t know if it’s a great idea. In fact, I have participated since childhood as an actor in several television shows. And I’ve made several appearances in commercials and movies, but for now I think it’s best to stay behind the camera and leave the drama to the professionals.
NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in?
Julián Hernández: Bizarre Sports. I had the opportunity to be the DP and cameraman for two of the programs. In one of them, I had to record an underwater sport. The protector was damaged and an expensive camera from the production company was ruined. But the result was beautiful and it was worth it.
La salida es hacia dentro. The pilot episode of a web series. It wasn’t a big project, but ultimately I learned a lot and had fun doing it.
Protect Innocence. It was a campaign against child abuse. A small commercial not available on the web due to copyright that was exhibited in theaters. Although, of course, I have it and I have photos of how it looked in theaters. I am proud.
NY Elite: Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?
Julián Hernández: One of the great teachers I had in my career was Carlos Sanchez. He worked as a cinematographer and camera operator on several of the most iconic films in the country. Rodrigo D, No futuro, Romeo y Buseta, La Gente de la Universal, El Colombian Dream, among others… In the years that I was able to share with him, he taught me many secrets of the industry. The fun way he made movies and all the advice he gave me made me love my career even more. I particularly remember all his advice on using the camera and how to get good shots without much thought. All his talks in the university television studio also left a lot on me.
NY Elite: What do you enjoy most about your job, your career?
Julián Hernández: What I enjoy the most is the long days of filming. Spending two days on set without sleeping and barely eating what is necessary. I like what I do so much that I enjoy seeing how the desire to continue developing a story is stronger than hunger and fatigue. And another thing that I love and enjoy about making movies is telling what I feel, and making it look beautiful. Being sad is horrible, but if you put a couple of fill lights, a background light, a counter, a flex for the dark circles of the eyes, a good song, you show it from a general chopped shot with the camera hanging on a crane, wow, being sad is beautiful.
NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
Julián Hernández: I am passionate about art. I love music, I love analog photography, I love photography in general. I love all kinds of manifestations that help express feelings. I love to write. Most of my work is based on writing screenplays, texts, essays, short stories and reviews about movies. When you have the opportunity to record something, it is fortunate and you always have to take advantage of it.
Since I was little I really like to write. I have won several creative writing competitions in my life, including the annual national competition for Coompemsura, one of the great companies in the country. For this reason, I have tried to bring the text to the screen and have images and sound of the social realities of the country. Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to serve as a director, cinematographer, screenwriter, and editor of several short films.
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
Julián Hernández: Please study something else. We are a lot. Just kidding. This is a tough industry. It is very hard to succeed in the cinema. Especially outside Europe and the United States, where countries do not have a developed industry and governments do not bet on art.
You should try to accept each project in which you have the opportunity to participate, do it with love and the best disposition. The only way to position yourself as a filmmaker is with experience and with good references. Love of art! Of course, it is possible to live from this, that is the dream but you must give everything of yourself.
NY Elite: Are you working on your next project now?
Julián Hernández: That’s how it is. The final details of the production of the documentary about Chef Camilo Gonzalez are in process. Soon I will travel with a small production team to record his life, his restaurants and his essence. It will be a story full of culture, passion and food.
Additionally, I currently hold larger positions in multiple productions nationwide and have made commercial pieces for several companies.
NY Elite: What has been your personal key to success?
Julián Hernández: This is difficult to answer. At some point in my life, especially when I abandoned my career as a cook, I understood that this could not be repeated.
When I started studying film, I was about to give up, because I am very demanding of myself. I can’t settle for anything and I get frustrated easily if what I do is not perfect. I can’t stand mediocrity.
My key to success would be perseverance and a good attitude towards everything. Receive failures with your head held high and try to improve.