Q&A: UMN Theatre Alumnus Ian Truitner

The L.A. filmmaker discussed his international film, UMN recognition and preparing the next generation of film makers.

Kate Drakulic

Recently awarded the UMN Alumni of Notable Achievement Award for his work as a filmmaker and media entrepreneur, Ian Truitner was in town to see his film to its final destination at the Twin Cities Film Fest. The theater graduate sat down with A&E to discuss his past, the present and film’s future.

Can you describe your journey from UMN Theater, to the military, to Penn State?

Well, military and theater were actually congruous. I have some funny stories about that because the two worlds are completely different. I think that the whole military has become much more open and accepting of various types of people, which is great, but at the time that I was in it, it wasn’t. I would go from theater plays to my military exercises, sometimes in the context of 12 hours.

Did you see any parallels between theater and the military?

There actually is, and that’s what my lecture is about … combining incongruous elements in such a manner to make yourself productive in what you want to be doing. I think everybody has a unique story to tell that sometimes we try to suppress because we don’t think it applies to that scenario. I think that there’s so many different ways to find yourself within the context of whatever you’re doing. You should never discount things that you don’t think fit.

Congratulations on receiving the UMN Alumni of Notable Achievement Award. What does that mean to you?

It’s a fantastic honor. It was kind of surprising. I see the list of other people that got the award and they have these really incredible, accomplished careers, and I always feel like, especially in a large market like L.A., your accomplishments are never enough. So, to get [the Alumni of Notable Achievement Award] is kind of a retrospective honor.

Have you always had this filmmaker goal in mind? 

Yeah, when I was working at Disney I found myself directing projects even though what you would call me was an administrative assistant.

What are you currently working on?

I have a film that’s screening at the Twin Cities Film Fest, called “Beyond the Trek,” originally called “Telios,” but the distributor renamed it so it would sound more familiar to fans of “Star Trek.” It’s a science-fiction film, so I can understand why they did that. I also have a technology company [called “Randian”] that I started a few years ago… we just commercialized our platform two months ago. 

I’m also teaching a program called “Minors Making Movies.” It’s teaching younger kids in the inner-city and underprivileged areas [of Orange County in Santa Ana] that filmmaking is a potential career path for them. The kids range from third, fourth and fifth grade, and it’s an after-school curriculum. We get kids on their feet and show them the basics of filmmaking.

Why is elementary education important to you?

I can speak personally that a lot of the things that informed what I ended up doing later on developed during that time. “Star Wars,” is the first movie I remember watching, and it profoundly affected the way that I saw the world. So many movies that I saw after that, and the first play — it was a high school play and I’m not sure it was even any good but it blew my mind.

I think that if you expose kids to things like that early on, not just educate [them about film’s] existence, but also give them the initial steps and means to discover for themselves how to do it, then you’ve empowered a whole new generation of people. Whether they do that or something else, at least they have that in their potential skill set of understanding.

What advice do you have for students who aim to enter the film industry?

I would say there’s nothing like your own motivation. If you want to do something, go and do it, because whether you do it within the context of [an] educational system or an academic situation… you have to manifest your own reality.

That comes with pulling the pieces together and articulating the vision. The most important thing that you need to do is to be able to communicate your vision to other people, and have them believe in that vision.

Nothing really magical… is easy to do. It takes a ton of hard work. It takes a ton of dedication. Even if you get pushed back, just keep moving forward. Expect the first thing that you try isn’t going to be that good. My first endeavors were terrible. I would never show them to anybody now because they would think I’m a joke, but all of those things were steps toward what I was eventually able to pull off.