Julius Horsthuis got his first video camera at age 12. Inspired by what he saw in films like “Terminator 2” and “Back to the Future,” he started to dream: one day, he would make movies, too.
So when he got rejected from film school in his native Amsterdam — not once, but three times — he didn’t give up. Several gigs and one lucky discovery later, Julius is living the dream, creating films out of mathematical landscapes and earning several Staff Picks along the way.
We sat down to learn more about Julius’ work, including an explanation of fractals and advice for aspiring filmmakers. Scroll on for excerpts from our conversation, and be sure to check out his Creator Spotlight video above.
How did you get into filmmaking and visual effects?
From the time I got my first video camera at age 12, I really wanted make films. I applied for film school in Amsterdam three times and they rejected me three times, so I was like, Okay, I’m just going to learn on the job. So I got little jobs on film sets — sound assistant, clapper loader, camera assistant, that sort of stuff. I was also playing with computer animation software as a hobby.
At some point, I got more into visual effects. But visual effects wasn’t the thing I really wanted to do. I still wanted to make my own films. Then in 2013, I discovered fractals. I was like, Wow. This is something. I don’t have to create anything, I don’t have to model anything; I can make films through these fractals. I’ve stayed on that path ever since.
What is fractal art?
Fractal art is basically an animation of a mathematical landscape. You have fractals that are mathematical formulas, and if you run them through a computer, you get all these really weird and otherworldly landscapes. A fractal artist or fractal filmmaker uses those landscapes as a storytelling device, film set, or realm scape to do lots of interesting things.
What is your film “Our Fractal Brains” about?
“Our Fractal Brains” was an attempt to do something a little bit more poetic. I wrote this little poem and I got all these pieces of text in the fractals, which is interesting because it’s a way to merge fractals with something else. I think it works; it gives a reason for every fractal piece you see, and it gives a natural progression and an emotional curve. Then, with the addition of music, it builds up to this climactic moment.
Which do you prefer: 2D or 3D/VR?
I don’t have a preference between 2D or VR. They’re different mediums and they’re both interesting. For VR, you definitely have to watch it with a headset and not just on a computer moving your mouse to look around. There’s also another medium — the full-dome format — which is used for planetariums and domes. I’m really into it. It’s immersive as well, but you can experience it together and not just solitary with a headset. I like all those formats; they all have pros and cons.
What’s the coolest part about working with fractals?
Fractals are definitely niche, but one of the cool things about that is you can be the first person to explore or figure things out. I’ve been able to take a couple of dives in there to show people the possibilities. Another thing I enjoy is that the software isn’t built perfectly yet. There’s a lot of room for improvement and a lot of potential. I hope other people will be able to build off of what I’ve done.
What does Vimeo mean to you?
For me, Vimeo is really close to my heart because it was my very first ‘like’ of anything I’ve ever done as a fractal artist. I remember when I saw the email on my phone that said, “You’ve been Staff Picked.” I was over the moon. That was my goal, like, One day I’ll get that. I was very proud.
Advice for aspiring filmmakers?
It’s weird because I never aspired to do what I do now. You grow into it. I think what’s important is to enjoy what you’re doing but have the feeling that you’re learning something new and being exposed to new challenges.
Video by Anthony Arfi.