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!
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…
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
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!
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: