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.
Hey ya’ll, I just finished directing the second episode of this season’s American Crime, written by the almighty John Ridley and involving a conflagration pulled off with the help of my old buddy Tom Bellissimo. The episode will air in January. So loved working with our returning ensemble… Felicity Huffman, Regina King, Richard Cabral, Benito Martinez, Connor Jessup… and with our stellar new cast… Cherry Jones, Sandra Oh, Dallas Roberts and Tim DeKay. A real honor.
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