John Wells is an amazing man. He’s full of ideas and has a love of the outdoors and animals that shines through in every film. You can’t help but love these endearing moments as John captures the spirit of the animals living their great big lives down in Texas.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I started my working career as a fashion photographer in NYC. From there I started my own prop and set building business that I had for about 5 years. After 15 years in the big city I got tired of the crowds and stress and moved to upstate NY where I worked as a carpenter. High taxes and horrific mortgage payments every month forced me to sell that house and I decided to get away from it all…people and high prices. I was lucky (the housing market was just beginning its’ downward spiral) and got a full price offer on my house withing two weeks of putting it on the market.
What is your life like living on a farm in Texas?
Technically, it is not a farm (or ranch for that matter). Just an offgrid homestead in the desert. Without huge bills to cover each month – live is pretty peaceful now…no stress…plenty of time on my hands.
How did you begin as a filmmaker?
I have studied a lot of vloggers on YouTube. Rather than trying to copy the styles of the successful ones – I just try to present things in my daily life in an interesting way. I have a lot of experience documenting my life out here by shooting still photos for my daily blog over the past 9 years.
Why did you decide to use a GoPro for your films?
The main cameras I use are my Canon T3i and the GoPro Hero 3+. I used the GoPro for “the bucket” because it has a waterproof housing.
Can you tell us about some of the animals on the farm? There are certainly a lot of characters!
My “pets” are Ben the longhorn and my roosters – Chupa and Manny (Manny is named after my UPS driver). I rescued Ben when he was 10 days old after his mother accidentally drowned – and bottle fed him for 4 months. He will be 5 years old on July 1st. He weighs over 2,000 lbs now and has a tip to tip horn measurement of 69″…and he still thinks I am his momma. Ben is a longhorn / watusi cross. The rabbit named George was a rescue brought to me a couple of months ago (a neighbors cat caught him). I kept him caged for a couple of days to make sure he was OK then I released him. Over the years my desert cottontail rabbit population has grown rapidly since I put out food and water for them. None of them are up for a cuddle but they are all used to me and are semi-tame. A wild javelina (Javier) comes in every day to have dinner with Ben. Two different herds of wild burros come by occasionally. Outside of these critters, I occasionally see jack rabbits and coyotes. Luckily I only see (and kill) only one or two rattlesnakes per year. Other less frequent sighting are badgers, raccons, and skunks.
One of your recent films “The Bucket” has been featured all over the world. Can you tell us about the making of the bucket and your experience since making the film?
I got the idea to do “the bucket” when I was making a list of films to do this year. I shot another version of it 7 years ago with my old adopted mascot Benita (an old longhorn that sort of adopted me.) Having the video go viral was totally unexpected and a bit crazy. Luckily the frenzy is short lived – like the attention span of the people who got sucked in by it.
Can you tell us about your life and sustainability and living off the grid. Why did you decide to pursue this lifestyle? What can we learn from you about sustainability?
As far as my life off the grid goes…it is just a simple way to live (if you know what you are doing). Although I have electricity (from solar panels) and water (from rainwater catchment) pretty much mastered, I am far from being self sustainable. I have tried gardening in my greenhouse and have had limited success, but I have little patience for farming. There is still a lot to learn about how to successfully grow food in the desert and I have future plans for my greenhouse. Funny thing is: when people ask me what have I found to be the most effective way to feed myself out here, I reply…Amazon Prime.
You live near Terlingua? What kind of town is it? What do you like to do when you go to town?
Even though Terlingua is a very small community (and everyone is pretty nice), I really prefer to be alone so the only reason I “go to town” is for shopping. I generally do a supply run to Alpine (65 miles north) about once a month. Living in NYC for 15 years took its’ toll on my ability to be around other humans. I have mastered the art of being able to be happily alone. I don’t mind having a large blog and now YouTube following because I really don’t have to interact with them.
What are you some of your up coming film projects?
Future film projects are a secret…but I have 2 per week planned for the rest of the year. A couple more viral hits would be nice because that is the only way to make money on YouTube. Ultimately the goal is to grow my channel subscriber base enough to pay for my health insurance – I don’t need to become a “YouTube millionaire”. I have always been responsible and paid for my own health insurance – but thanks to Obamacare, my premiums have skyrocketed. My monthly expenses are pretty low and health insurance is a huge percentage of it.
How has your life changed since you starting making films of your life on the farm?
The only thing different since I started concentrating on my YouTube channel this year (my channel is 10 years old but I never really did much with it) is that I have to delete a lot more emails every day and turn down media offers (30 so far). Coming up with ideas and actually executing them is second nature to me since I have been documenting my daily life for 9 years.
More about John Wells:
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