Well… there’s a new play in my life and I’m feeling grateful. I started thinking about DRUNK AT THE BASE OF THE BODHI TREE years ago and in fact wrote a short story about the main character, but it didn’t really take off until I did a week-long Silent Writing Retreat with Erik Ehn last summer in Bolinas. I had no intention of writing about that character, but she kept showing up in response to Erik’s spiritual/poetic/artistic process which helped me access deeper levels and surprising turns. His request was that we write a play in a week, so that’s what I did— but it wasn’t very good. That was in June. In November I was fortunate to have a residency at Ucross in Wyoming. (An experience I wrote about HERE.) I thought I’d be rewriting the play… but when I reread it I threw it out completely and started over. So it felt like I wrote a new play in two and a half weeks… but it was actually years in the making.
I first heard the play read in a small group of friends at the Ebell in January, getting some very useful feedback. DRUNK AT THE BASE OF THE BODHI TREE was a finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival this year, but I was unable to make those dates, which kind of broke my heart. Then— surprise!— The Boston Court chose the play for its summer festival. I’m thrilled to have a chance to work on it with actors and director Jessica Kubzansky. We’ll have a public reading on July 28th at 4pm in Pasadena.
DRUNK AT THE BASE OF THE BODHI TREE is a three-person, ninety-minute play about a chance encounter— a hiker discovers an injured woman face down in a ditch— that changes both their lives.
I’ve joined Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle as Co-Executive Producer for their fourth season. The series is loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, imagining an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II.
It’s been crazy to immerse myself in that world. The first week I had a dream about Josef Mengele! I thought what have I gotten myself into now… but as it turns out I’ve gotten myself involved with an incredible group of people and the experience in the Writers Room has been tremendously satisfying.
I’m also happy to report that a series I’ve been developing with Keith Griffin Gordon for Noah Hawley’s company, 26 Keys, has been picked up by FX. Onward!
The non-profit I’ve been running for a couple of years, Look What SHE Did! has been fortunate to attract some pretty wonderful people to support it, but no one has been more creative in her approach than the amazing Rose Lopez, a French teacher at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose. I met Rose last summer and our mission resonated so deeply with her she adopted us in a manner I find breathtaking and inspirational. First, she supported us financially from her own pocket.
Then she participated in a charity tournament and made us the recipient of her winnings. (That check was a fun surprise!) She also introduced us to educational organizations that will make our videos available to schools across America and she took the lead at her high school to conduct a film shoot with her students, based on our methodology. As if that wasn’t more than enough, Rose introduced us to The Ambassador’s Circle and Bay Area 360, groups dedicated to promoting people and organizations who DO MORE GOOD. Rose and I did a podcast which you can listen to here. For the promotion of the podcast Bay Area 360 put together a short reel about Look What SHE Did! that really captures what we’re about. You can watch it here.
Look What SHE Did! is super-fortunate that Rose has joined our board. I just want to take a moment to publicly thank my dear friend Rose for her commitment and follow-through. She’s a rare and special woman, and I’m proud to know her and work with her.
Do you love the Coen Brothers’ first film, BLOOD SIMPLE, like I do? I’ve seen this movie so many times— I’m crazy about it. When film critic April Wolfe invited me to do a Switchblade Sisters podcast, talking about a genre film that’s influenced my own work as a director— there was only one choice. I loved digging into what makes the movie great, why it stays with you, and how it affected me as I was figuring out film directing. (I admit to stealing a shot from Blood Simple on my first TV directing job.) April did her homework and I learned some fascinating things about the making of the movie that I didn’t know.
We also got onto the subject of working with amazing actors like Francis McDormand and Felicity Huffman. (I’m not embarrassed to say I gushed a little… but when you’re dealing with talent like that, damn.)
Take a listen on the Switchblade Sisters Apple Podcasts feed or the Maximum Fun website (HERE) and let me know what you think.
I interviewed my friend filmmaker Jessica Yu last week for Live Talks LA, at the New Roads School in Santa Monica, about her new book Garden of the Lost and Abandoned. It was a lively discussion with a lovely audience.
Jessica was so taken with a woman she met in Africa while making a documentary, Gladys Kalibbala, that she felt compelled to write a book about her… even though she’d never written a book before! You’d think that must mean Gladys is a pretty amazing woman… and you’d be right. Gladys’ story is kind of mind-blowing. With nothing but her own meager journalist salary to support her Gladys has taken on the job of reuniting lost and abandoned children in Uganda with their families. And if she can’t find their families, she takes responsibility herself for their well-being and even their educations. Gladys’ work is a powerful reminder of the difference one person can make.
We’ll be doing a Look What SHE Did! interview with Jessica about Gladys eventually, but in the meantime, get the book and read the story about Jessica’s experience following this astonishing woman around Uganda, witnessing persistence, love, courage and dedication in action.
I spent the month of November on a writing retreat at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming..(www.ucrossfoundation.org) and my oh my what a wonderful place. It’s a thousand acre working ranch that supports residencies for writers and visual artists. They offer a studio, meals and uninterrupted time to work on the project of your choice. Heaven.
I worked in the Marvelous Studio and it was. I forgot to sign the guestbook, but was very impressed by the other writers who wrote notes there, having worked in this studio before me. I think their hovering spirits helped me focus in the most creative and fruitful way I’ve experienced in years.
I worked at a standing desk overlooking a field of frozen grass, old bent trees, and herds of deer, antelope and cows. As always, ever-changing nature— weather, animals— never fails to inspire. It snowed, it rained, it was so sunny I had to close the blinds… and it was rutting season so I saw a lot of deer frolicking and chasing each other, hopping fences like you and I take steps.
The wind was my companion throughout and even made it into the play I was writing.
I finished a draft of a play called Drunk at the Base of the Bodhi Tree. It was started in a silent retreat with Erik Ehn in June in Bolinas, and I definitely owe him and the other silent retreatants a debt of gratitude. The ground for the play was turned there and the seeds planted; in November, with the deep attention made possible at Ucross, the first draft was completed. First new play in several years.
I also started a second play, working title— Just Curious. This one is a science story and will require some research, but I hope to get a draft out later this year.
I also (miracle!) worked on a few prose pieces, including an essay called I Can’t Close My Mouth, which I’m submitting for publication now, about the long-term effects of sexual assault and the obstacles I’ve faced in trying to tell those stories in television from a female point-of-view.
All said, it was the most productive time I’ve had as a writer in many years and I could not be more grateful to Ucross and to Mame Hunt and Roberta Levitow for introducing me there. BTW— I’m now working at home at my new standing desk! Fingers crossed to keep the productivity going…
Here’s a Look What SHE Did! storyteller as interesting as her subject. I met Dr. Lucia Jacobs (UC Berkeley neuroscientist) in a talkback after one of my plays at the Magic Theater. We went out for a drink and hours later we hadn’t run out of things to say — about science, art and you know, the general meaning of life. It was two am on a foggy San Francisco night as we made our way back to our cars knowing a true friendship had been formed. These many years later, the conversation continues. I’m in awe of Lucia whose work on animal consciousness and olfaction is as deep and true as her work as a writer of plays and a creator of miniature theatrical spectacles. She’s a force, and it’s no surprise her astonishing woman — Sarah Blaffer Hrdy — is a mind-blower.
You’ve heard of Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould, but have you heard of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy? Hrdy is an anthropologist who proved that females — like males — are competitive, independent, and sexually assertive beings. (Shocking!) Oh yeah, and they don’t just mate to reproduce, they can actually enjoy sex.
Hrdy’s findings were groundbreaking not just for scientists, but for feminists too. In this video, Lucia recounts the incredible untold story of disrupter Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, the biologist our textbooks should have included.
Here’s our latest video on jazz marvel Lil Hardin, told to us by filmmaker Judy Chaikin. I know you’ve heard of Lil’s husband— Louis Armstrong— but you may not know about Lil, a genius in her own right. Check it out.
Also, I’m excited to announce we’re launching our first fundraising campaign during the month of March, Women’s History Month.
We’re thinking about it as a month of Creativity and have been working away on a series of new videos, which we’ll post at the beginning of each week. (We’ve got some good ones on the way…) We’ll also be sharing stories and anecdotes across social media, celebrating lots of astonishing women.
Our goal is to raise $15,000 which will be used for our first out-of-town shoot in the Bay Area this summer. We’ll be in Silicon Valley filming women in Tech, in Berkeley with women in Science, and in Sausalito interviewing women in the Arts.
When we started this backyard video project we had no idea it would connect with so many people. Our videos have been shared thousands of times and are being used in classrooms around the country. As we build our library, expand our audience and develop partnerships with schools, museums, and community groups, we realize the moment is right for us to grow into a thriving, sustainable company with national impact.
We’d love your help to make this happen.
Right now, as we prepare for our campaign on March 1st, I ask you to share Look What She Did! with your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. It’s easy. The videos are short, friendly, informative, and pretty inspiring. A sweet distraction that’s good for you and doesn’t add to your waistline.
Please go to our website (www.lookwhatshedid.com), find your favorite video and forward it to folks who would enjoy it. This small action will mean so much to us, and your friends and family will thank you.
Thanks for sticking with us. You’ve been our first community, our founding audience, so to speak, and we are so grateful for your presence and your support.
Laura Tremaine, host of the podcast The Smartest Person in the Room, interviews Julie Hébert about her career in theatre, film and television. Julie takes us on an inspiring journey from small town Louisiana to her current position as Executive Producer/Writer/ Director on the award-winning ABC series American Crime.
We get a glimpse of the dynamics in the Writer’s Room of a television drama and the responsibilities writers feel to their audiences. Julie discusses being a woman in a male-dominated industry and why it’s important for directors to wear boots. We also get a sneak-peek into current and future projects.
Laura leads a fascinating conversation giving an inside view into the workings of Hollywood and the life of a free-lance writer/director.
Hi friends! I’m delighted to be moderating a discussion Friday night November 11th with Dana Calvo, Jeanine Oppewall and Cynthia Pusheck, creators of the new Amazon show Good Girls Revolt. We’ll talk after a screening of their pilot at the beautiful Wilshire-Ebell Theater. I’d love to see you there. Come and get some inspiration from this true story of women banding together to create change.