Loading Mule

The Film

You spot a somewhat disheveled man with three fully loaded pack mules walking though your community. What the … ?

This strange and, to many, awe‐inspiring sight has been experienced by thousands of people in small towns and large cities throughout the western United States. But who is he and what is he doing? Is he lost in the wrong century? Is he homeless? Is he on a mission?

John Sears, aka Mule, has been roaming the western United States with his three mules for thirty years, trying to find balance between the man‐made and the natural worlds. The aged man and his animals sleep outside every day, moving from place to place as they please. While many appreciate Mule’s nomadic lifestyle and applaud his courage, he’s not welcomed everywhere.

The feature‐length work‐in‐progress documentary takes an intimate look at an intriguing, but controversial character, his unique experiences and adventures, and his urgent message for contemporary society. Regardless of how we personally feel about Mule as an individual, the issues he raises concern all of us: preserving open space and connecting communities together by multi‐use trails, individual freedom of movement and access to public land, and the system’s treatment of people living outside society’s norms.

The Filmmaker

John McDonald, Producer/Director/Cinematographer, has been a filmmaker for the past 35 years and established his production company, John McDonald Productions Inc., in 1980. The company has produced award­‐winning projects for industry, education and television as a full­‐service provider.

John is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the International Documentary Association, and received a degree in Cinema from USC, where he made Cotton Eyed Joe, a globally recognized documentary that made the Oscar’s shortlist.

Later, he shot the Oscar­‐nominated short documentary, SQUIRES of San Quentin.

His award-winning feature­‐length documentary The Ghost Mountain Experiment aired on KQED’s Truly CA series and on the CBC’s national Documentary series. Its festival run included Telluride MountainFilm, Big Sky, Cinequest, MountainFilm (Trento), Sedona, and the international environmental film festivals in Washington, D.C. and Rome.

On The Day, shot in Scotland, Canada, and the U.S., was released theatrically in 53 theatres across Canada, aired on the CBC’s national Bold series in 2011 and is distributed in the U.S. by American Public Television.

In 2015 John completed the feature documentary, Pipes & Sticks on Route 66, which had nationwide theatrical releases in Canada and Scotland.

Support the Film

Please be a part of the community that helps complete the documentary with your tax-deductible donation through the film’s fiscal sponsor, the International Documentary Association (IDA).* Donations are accepted through PayPal, by check or by credit card.  All donations go directly towards completing the film.

NEW: Make a tax-deductible donation of $25 or more and receive 3 collectable buttons of the mules, plus a pre-release download of the movie once it is completed. Donations of $250 or more will receive a credit in the film.

To understand more about donating through the IDA, watch this video interview with Amy Halpin, Director Filmmaker Services at the IDA.

NOTE: John Sears and the 3 Mules are not participating, working or in association in any fundraising, marketing or production of this movie, nor will they receive any financial benefit from the sale of this movie.  This is his decision.  It would go against his core personal values to do so.


* Read the IDA’s LETTER OF SUPPORT. The IDA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that oversees financial contributions to independent documentary films. The IDA requires annual reports of all income and expenses connected with the project and will make these reports available upon request. Contact Amy Halpin, Fiscal Sponsorship Program Coordinator with the IDA, to receive a financial report on the current financial status of the project. amy@documentary.org  and/or subscribe to our newsletter to see a copy of the latest financial report.