Julian, you are Executive Producer of the documentary Kiss the Ground, narrated by Woody Harrelson, which will premiere on Netflix on 22 September, and have produced other environmental documentaries in the past such as Whaledreamers and Women of the White Buffalo. What drew you to this particular project about soil regeneration?
There are a lot of doom-and-gloom exposés about climate change out there, and rightfully so, but it’s always nice to watch and learn from something that brings hope. That is what drew me to become involved with Kiss the Ground— the message of hope. In this film, we’re not only bringing the climate crisis to the forefront, we’re offering a feasible solution that could impact the entire planet.
What do you enjoy most about producing and how did you begin your producing career?
I think what I enjoy most about producing is watching how the completed films can influence people to see an issue from a new perspective, or learn about something new and inspire them to take action. I began my producing career with Whaledreamers, which was an effort to bring awareness to The Mirning People in Australia after I learned about their struggles to preserve their land and culture.
Did you know much about the biosequestration process beforehand or was this all a real learning curve for you? During the making of the documentary what were some of the biggest revelations for you regarding this process, and the profound ways in which it can heal the planet?
I was well-versed in the devastating effects that carbon dioxide has on the planet by way of greenhouse gases, but I didn’t know that biosequestration could be the answer to restoring atmospheric balance. I’ve always believed that nature can solve nature, I just perhaps didn’t realize there was a simple solution to such a monumental problem, literally right at our feet.
What valuable or optimistic messages are you and your fellow filmmakers hoping that viewers will take away from Kiss the Ground?
That science can bring miracles, and that if we work together, the planet’s problems that once seemed impossible to solve can be overcome.
Are you looking to set up any healthy soil initiatives that can build upon the discoveries made in the documentary that perhaps people can become involved with?
The film’s debut won’t be the last you hear of our movement. Our team at The White Feather Foundation will certainly explore creative ways to communicate how individuals can take action based on the film’s learnings.
How do you personally keep positive in the face of what seems like a constant, mindless onslaught of destruction wreaked on our planet? Are there any things that you particularly like to do to help recharge and retain balance such as meditation, spending time in nature, getting lost in your photography or your music?
Without question, the 24/7 reminders of the harm we’re doing to the planet sadden me, but I do my best to find light in spite of it, because it’s a destructive mental path to go down otherwise. All of the things you mention are ways that I cope, especially my almost-daily 3-6km power walks in nature. At the water’s edge, or on a deserted trail high in the mountains are where I truly disconnect and reconnect with what’s important. I wrote a piece for our charity about this for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day earlier this year.
As a bestselling children’s author, do you remember spending lots of time in nature as a child, and did your mum, Cynthia Lennon, encourage this love and appreciation for nature and the environment?
Absolutely—I was a kid who played outdoors morning to night, climbing trees and running around with my friends in the countryside of North Wales. Mum always encouraged time in nature and seeing how many kids are growing up today, attached to their screens and devices, I’m grateful I was raised in a simpler time. I think the more we expose children to nature, the greater appreciation they have for taking care of it.
When writing the White Feather Flier three-book set which encourages children to love and appreciate the planet and care for the environment, did you find it challenging to find a way to convey such complex subject matters and make them relatable to children?
Writing for a young audience was definitely a new experience for me. I was lucky to collaborate with my friend Bart Davis on the series, who was already an accomplished author when we began, so that definitely helped. But yes, taking very real and sometimes frightening concepts and making them not only understandable, but enjoyable for a young audience was not an easy feat, though I enjoyed the process very much.
In 2007, you founded The White Feather Foundation, which supports environmental and humanitarian issues from around the world. How did the organisation begin?
Years ago when I was young, my Dad told me that if he were to pass away, he would let me know he was okay, or that we were all going to be okay, by sending me a white feather. Then, when I was on tour in Adelaide, Australia, promoting my album Help Yourself and it’s No 1 Environmental Single Saltwater, I was resting in my hotel when the manager called my room and summoned me to the lobby where an Aboriginal Tribe was waiting to speak with me. There, one of the tribal elders presented me with a white male swan’s feather and said “You have a voice, can you help us?” because their people were battling to save their culture. I had goosebumps head to toe and recognized this as a sign to shift my life away from music and more toward humanitarian work. In the course of getting to know The Mirning People, I made the Whaledreamers film about them, and to ensure the proceeds went back to their tribe, I formed The White Feather Foundation. Now, we not only help with the preservation of Indigenous cultures around the world, but our areas of giving have expanded to the environment, clean water, education and health.
As a visual artist, you have a passion for photography. Can you tell us about some of your influences, and have any of these found their way into your visual style of filmmaking?
I have always felt that I observed life in a different way than others, so I’m thankful that photography has given me an outlet to express that. Landscapes are my favourite thing to capture and Ansel Adams is someone I admire in that respect. Where people and fly-on-the-wall glimpses of life are concerned, I’m inspired by Mick Rock, Henry Diltz and my dear friend and mentor, Timothy White. I’m not sure how much of my visual style is reflected in filmmaking—that’s probably a better question for the audience.
Having diversified in music, photography, filmmaking, acting, and writing during your career, is there one discipline you feel more drawn or inspired by going forwards?
I enjoy working in each area, of course, but most recently I’d say photography has been at the top of the list. I’m happiest when I’m heading into unknown territory, exploring areas I’ve never travelled. There are so many places and cultures I still want to see and share with the world.
Kiss the Ground premieres on Netflix on 22 September.