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…
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.
We completed our latest Look What She Did! shoot at the end of August in Julie’s backyard (and two in the front yard– we got wild). Our all-gal crew was amazing (!) and we filmed nine interviews in just one weekend, our biggest shoot ever. Two incredible, inspiring days filled with crazy-great women talking about other crazy-great women. Stay tuned, we’ll be posting new videos soon.
Here are our newest co-conspirators:
Writer/director Julliette Carrillo on writer/director Jo Anne Akalaitis
Theater Critic Sylvie Drake on the mind-blowing Queen Hatshepsut of Eqypt
Screenwriter Anna Thomas on anthropologist Carobeth Laird
Documentary filmmaker Grace Lee on Civil Rights activist Grace Lee Boggs
Filmmaker Tamar Halpem on journalist Nellie Bly
Actress Elisa Bocanegra on playwright Maria Irene Fornes
Downtown Women’s Shelter communications director Ann-Sophie Morisette on homeless advocate Mollie Lowery
Musician/writer April Wolfe on badass aviator Pancho Barnes (yes, she’s a woman…)
Playwright Laural Meade on suffragette Sara Bard Field
Okay, second visit to the Emmys– way more relaxed. We knew our way around this time, starting with driving up Pico instead of Olympic to get there, which saved us at least 20 minutes of waiting in a line of cars. Good start. We also knew to eat a little before we left, AND I brought almonds in my purse in case we became desperate. Turns out this was unnecessary because not only did they have mini-burgers in the lounge when we arrived (Kenn had one and said they were good) in the middle of the broadcast Jimmy Kimmel sent around lunch sacks from his mom filled with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, a cookie, an apple and a juice box. By that time everyone really was hungry and we — along with 7000 of our over-dressed colleagues — scarfed it up. It was a kick to see elegant men in their tuxedos and women dripping in diamonds licking their fingers and enjoying the pbj’s. One of my favorite moments. Thanks Jimmy’s mom.
Walking the red carpet was more chill this time, too, despite the 100 degree heat because they’d erected a cover and hedges and had water available and all the folks guiding us along were cheery and helpful. They did a great job of moving thousands of socializing people into place for an on-time start to a live broadcast. Not easy and they did it with grace. I don’t know if it was aired on the Emmy broadcast, but before the show started three kids from Stranger Things sang and danced Uptown Funk and I LOVED it. They were adorable and fun and super-talented. Glad I was in my seat ahead of time to see it.
I’m pretty bad at recognizing famous people and I kept saying to Kenn: Look, that’s so-and-so! and he’d say: No, it isn’t. And he was right. I mis-identified several seat-fillers but thank god I didn’t request their autographs. Meanwhile, I was so delighted to see some of my favorite people up on the big screen for their nominations, including Lili Taylor, Felicity Huffman, Lesli Linka Glatter, Lily Tomlin and many more. When Lily Tomlin didn’t win, you could see her mouth the words “Oh, damn it!” I love her. Also absolutely loved that Susanne Bier won best director for a limited series. She is a phenomenal director and it makes me so happy for women of talent to be recognized. Then, of course, our own Regina King won best supporting actress in a limited series for American Crime, and we leapt from our seats with tears in our eyes. Okay, Michael McDonald and I did, not Kenn, but he was proud of her, too. Turns out Regina’s win was the ONLY win of the night for anyone from broadcast television. Gave us a little lift.
Afterwards, we tromped over to the Governor’s Ball (my feet in stiletto heels were beginning to scream at this point… ah, vanity…) but when we walked in– the decor was breathtaking. Kenn says it’s like the most over-the-top high school prom you can imagine. Last year it felt like we’d been catapulted out into the universe and this year it was more Hobbit-like with lush, draped greenery
hanging from the fifty-foot ceiling. An elevated, wedding-cake-like platform in the middle held an orchestra and singers who keep shifting through the evening. Magical.
We found our table then wandered around talking to friends and colleagues. Very happy to see some of our brilliant Season Two cast including Joey Pollari, Elvis Nolasco and Connor Jessup, as well as Ms. Cherry Jones, who will be joining us for Season Three. Damn, it’s fun to know amazingly talented people who are all such sweethearts.
Dinner was yummy and at our table we ate, drank and chatted with writer-producers Diana Son and Keith Huff and his wife Georgette, as well as our AD Kayse Goodell. Really lovely.
And we were out– except for the long walk back to the valet. I admit removing the stilettos and enjoying the red carpet in bare feet! Goodbye 2016 Emmys.
Regina King accepting her Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress
The Look What She Did! team convened the first meeting of its Founding Board of Directors on Sunday May 15th, 2016. It was an inspiring gathering of brilliant women in support of our project and we are truly grateful for their wisdom and vision as we create a sustainable organization to celebrate women of achievement long into the future.
During the meeting we passed the By-Laws of our new company, discussed future interviews (including out of town shoots!), made plans for fundraising and partnerships, and of course elected Officers and Committee Chairs.
Board members include Ellen Gavin, Courtney Graham, Julie Hébert, Janice Hebert, Lucia Jacobs, Tegan Molloy, Julie Sgarzi and Melinda White. Like all Look What She Did! gatherings… the food was yummy. Onward!
Julie is thrilled to announce the launch of the cool new website for her backyard video project Look What She Did!
Check out the mosaic homepage with all the beautiful faces (and videos) of the women who have been interviewed so far. It’s a quite an inspiring collection. Some have even called the mini-videos addicting! See for yourself: www.lookwhatshedid.com or click on the image to the left.
The mission of Look What She Did! is to share stories about the lives and impact of under-recognized women who have transformed the world. Please go by our Connect page and tell us about an astonishing woman you know who deserves more recognition.
Check out the site and learn about some crazy-great women as told by some crazy-great women!
For the last few years I’ve been writing prose in addition to my usual scriptwriting. I’ve taken a few workshops with the inimitable Jack Grapes which have been instructive… and a blast. I’m working on a collection of short stories, but meanwhile here’s a crazy lighthearted piece to get started. I’ll be posting more prose and poetry on my website periodically. Hope you enjoy it.
Adam and Julia come over for dinner. I grill oatmeal skirt steaks, sea bass and rotisserie a chicken, which takes much leisure-suit longer than anticipated because we run out of propane in the middle of it. They’re cool, especially because I ply them with Margaritas. I make Adam’s beach umbrella twice as strong, doubling the tequila, but he slurps it down so fast I stomach-pain to get him another before Julia and I are even half way done with our screened-in porches. Julia helps me finish up the grilling while the guys chat in the interview room, nibbling on handcuffs and olives. The ears of corn keep going up in flames but I’m not bothered, I’m writing my play. Jim calls “Emergency!” but I say we have to pick tomatoes first. Finally, the flurry of food and smoke settle and we sit down to eat. For some reason, Jim starts talking about the Monkees and we can’t get off the living-room-floor subject for an hour or more. It’s crazy. Jim is trapped in a pratfall monologue. Julia keeps asking Red Buttons questions and egging him on and Adam and I are falling asleep in our meaty-rific plates. Suddenly Jim stands up and yells, “Okra in my nose!” and runs into the house. We’re mystified, but secretly relieved the Monkees story is over.
We start talking about movies and other things, a regular conversation, not a monologue and Hushpuppy swamp girl is being dissected when Jim sweeps back in saying, “Where was I?” Oh Lord. He tries to pick back up with the Monkees but I ask what happened to his rainbow suspenders and he proceeds to describe a stalagmite in his nose, which no one wants to hear about. “I thought it was pepper,” I say, but he corrects me, no it was a giant grandma falling out of his nostril and he wanted to save us from seeing it. But now he’s talking about it and it’s just as bad.
“How about those Jets?” Adam offers, grinning bleachers through his lips. Back to the Monkees and we settle in for a long make-out session on the sixties. And of course the possible murder because of greed and the hot-cha-cha-cha third wife and her criminal brother. Oh yeah. Disco halter tops, white-jeans-so tight-youhave- to-zip-them-up-with-a-hanger days. We’ve floated around to the seventies, I guess. Eventually we realize something is wrong with the skirt steaks, way, way, way too coast of Spain hot, wait I mean salty. Briny. Salt-lick-like. Yeah. Jim takes a bite, warns off the others and throws them away. What a coyote dinner.
When I bring out the tarte tatin for dessert I put the platter of French window-box chicken onto the coffee table to get it out of the way, then race back inside for the whipped cream. When I come back down the hall vacation people are screaming and the dog looks guilty. Magnolia. She stole the chicken and dragged it across the kissing-in-a-tree patio, smearing Julia’s pretty red flats in the process. I walk out with a sequined parrot on my head and serve the whipped cream. Ta-da. When Jim disappears to clean up, we talk of work, Adam and I, with Julia asking the probing pogo-stick questions, as usual. Leading us into the John Street of it all.
“Was your dad a good dad?” How’d we get to that?
Jim walks out and looks at me to see what I will say. Little League, check; hardworking, check; still married to my mom, check. Yellow-gray-hair-involved, I say, stern from a distance. “Not engaged,” says Jim. “Involved, but not engaged.” Okay. I begin the defense, the tidal wave of good deed and sofa-talk moments with my dad. Before he blew it. Now I’m in my own Monkees monologue and I can’t creature-destroying-Tokyo get out of it. Adam is drunk on tequila so he doesn’t care and Julia seems deeply fascinated. I think she can turn her hi-beams in any direction.
The looks begin, time to leave, they’ve had enough of motel parking lots. Easing toward the front door and an elegant Walker Percy goodbye, I notice Julia is barefoot. I don’t realize until later her dark red satin roses were smeared with chicken grease from Jojo’s caper. Bad dog.
Julie was honored to continue her work with John Ridley and Michael McDonald for the second season of critically acclaimed American Crime on ABC. The Writers Room on this series is one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse, on television, leading to the powerful, original storytelling the show is known for. Collaborating with these writers was an unforgettable experience. Ridley and McDonald extend this dedication to diversity both in front of camera and behind it, creating an artistic community reflective of our society. Julie directed Episode Four and wrote Episode Nine. Shooting with the mondo-talented cast and crew in Austin was the highlight of 2015.
Check out the promo videos below for American Crime Season 2!
American Crime Season 2 promo video:
American Crime Season 2 Episode 4 promo directed by Julie:
American Crime Season 2 Episode 9 written by Julie:
Last weekend we accomplished our biggest-yet Look What She Did! shoot, involving 8 crazy-great women telling us about 8 crazy-great women. Hey, wait a minute, one of our interviewees was a guy, the first one ever on our project. Rick Zieff offered to do his interview in drag, but we decided that was unnecessary as we are flexible and open-minded gals. Rick was invited based on his sheer enthusiasm about his subject, Ernestine Fields, the Teddy Bear Attorney, a woman who has created a national program called Comfort in the Courthouse to help children in Family Court. Ernestine visited our backyard set on Saturday and we were thrilled to meet her in person and hear more about her projects.
Our harmonious all-female crew had a tremendous time working together (stringing up tablecloths in the lemon trees to diffuse the sunlight…) and listening to stories of women who fought to change their worlds and created important, lasting effects for all of us. On Saturday we heard about a brilliant scientist/artist from the 17th century, an Academy-Award winning costume designer who inspires unconventional beauty, the first Black female novelist who wrote her major work while hiding in the Underground Railroad, and one of the seminal founders of Jazz in America– unheralded women who we want to know about!
Susie Landau Finch on Milena Canonero.
Sunday we started with a beautifully told story by our lead editor, Farrel Levy, on an artist-nun who saw spiritual meaning in the most unlikely places.
DP Sevdije with umbrellas.
We also heard about the first art photographer, a woman who elevated photography from its designation as archival by daring to infuse her work with feeling; we finished the weekend hearing about the woman who founded the Feminist Health Initiative, a housewife who shocked everyone with her radical commitment to women’s control of their own bodies.
Jan Oxenberg talks about Carol Downer
I am so grateful to my friends who took the time to tell us these inspiring stories, many of whom are not that comfortable in front of a camera. It is the core mission of this project that we should hear stories about real women from real women, and I so appreciate your commitment in showing up for this lovingly hand-made series.
And to our mind-blowingly great and dedicated volunteer professional crew– thank you. It would not be possible without the generous gifts of your time and talent.
Going to the Emmy’s for the first time was a trip. Our show, American Crime, was nominated for ten Emmy’s, the most for any broadcast show.
Juliet Hébert and Lori-etta Taub at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards
That was amazing and happily, our own Regina King won for her brilliant work, but she was the only one for us that night; however, all the writers and our spouses were seated close to the front (just behind the Orange is the New Black folks with whom my husband kept trading jokes…) so we had a close-up view of the stage and all the luminaries. In the excitement of getting ready I forgot to power up my phone, which died soon after we arrived! So not too many behind-the-scenes photos… but here’s what I got:
Lessons Learned (in case there is ever a second trip to the Emmy’s…)
Andy Samberg gets it started
1. Thank the person who does your hair, then brush it out after they leave.
2. Pay attention when your spouse asks “Are you sure you want to wear that?”
3. Four-inch heels are for people under fifty.
4. Safely ignore all of the above because no one’s looking at you anyway.
5. Drive your own car.
6. Meet your friends ASAP. The crowd is nervous, over-dressed and desperate.
7. Beware of martinis with too much vermouth! The bartenders are cute, but…
8. Remember: You are a VIP. One of 7,000 VIP’s in attendance. Hmmm.
9. Be jovial when you are herded into chutes designed to move cattle, er, I mean VIP’s.
10. Smile when you lose, cry when you win, and don’t skip the after-party. The food’s good.