3 Mules Update

We’ve posted before about filmmaker John McDonald’s ongoing effort to tell the remarkable story of the “3 Mules” man. John called me last week to tell me that he’s found an editor for his film and that he’s fundraising to complete the project. Contributions are tax deductible and can be made through 3mulesmovie.com.

Here’s what John had to say in a recent newsletter:

On December 23, 2012, I meet a one-of-kind human being traveling with three animal companions and take this photo.

My first photo of “The Mules” taken a block from our home.

A neighbor friend calls and tells me to run out of the house, down to the corner and look east. He won’t tell me what to look for, but just says, “It’s right up your alley, John!” Like so many other people, my first reaction is “Wow! I’ve never seen this before!” And then I’m thinking who is he and what is he doing? Is he lost in the wrong century? Is he homeless? Is he on a mission?

I’m intrigued and want to learn more, so I chase him down. We exchange a few words, but he is in a hurry to move on. He asks me if he is heading in the right direction to intersect the Arroyo Seco (south of the Rose Bowl), and that is enough to give me a clue as to where he might be spending the night.

The next morning is Christmas Eve. My whole family is together for the holidays and I’m reluctant to go off on a wild goose (or mule) chase. But I’m a documentary filmmaker. I sense a good story. The dog needs a walk anyway, so I head for the Arroyo in search of the guy with the mules. No luck at first, but then I finally discover him, already packing up to start on the next leg of his trip to who knows where. He accepts a cup of coffee that I have brought with me. He talks a bit, very softly.

With some reluctance he allows me to retrieve the video camera from my car. Surprisingly, with the camera running, he talks more. I learn that this 65-year-old man calls himself Mule, considering himself “just another one of the mules.” They have traveled for nearly three decades, through sixteen states and into Mexico. For the last ten years, they have lived outdoors every single day.

Mule tells me that throughout his travels he has noticed an ever-increasing urban sprawl. Much of the open land that once allowed them to move freely and spend the night in secluded spots is disappearing. More and more cars are filling up the roadways, and the expanding urban infrastructure seems to serve only one purpose: accommodate more automobiles.

His words resonate with me, and I realize then and there that I am about to embark on a filmmaking journey like none I have ever experienced.

Now, five years later, my journey is far from over.  In 200 days of filming over a 27-month period, I shot 300 hours of footage. A ten-minute short film called MULE: Living on the Outside was edited and has screened at a number of film festivals and fundraising events as I work to raise the money to complete the full-length feature documentary.

If you would like to help, tax-deductible donations can be made on my website 3MulesMovie.com.  Your support is greatly appreciated, and I look forward to sharing the completed film.

I sent a donation this morning because I think this is an important story about public space, the problems of modernity and environmental degradation. John is a talented filmmaker and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished film.

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