We had the good fortune of connecting with Julia Weisberg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julia, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
When I was child I sought things that made me feel special or unique in some way. During that pursuit, I discovered I was a clumsy, aloof child; not good at sports, math or science. I certainly was no Spielberg running around with my friends making movies. I spent much of my childhood alone, I didn’t have many friends growing, but I was far from lonely. I made-up fantasy stories in my head and lived in them for many years. I created entire worlds, people and situations, all centered around me, a 9-year-old girl from Santa Rosa. I suppose looking back now I was so desperate for attention I created completely selfish worlds in my head where I was a princess or some type of warrior who everyone loved and admired. For many years I searched for something that made others want to know me in some way. Around 15, I fell in love for the first time, or whatever conception of love a 15 year old could muster up. He moved next door, the sweetest face you ever saw, his house smelt like coffee beans, he was a soft spoken boy not passionate about much. However, he was completely obsessed with movies. His library was filled with hundreds and hundreds of DVDs. I remember him telling me about Stanley Kubrick and the Coen brothers. I spent a whole year sneaking over to his house and watching all his favorite movies. We’d spend hours talking about the stories we watched, and how we’d do things differently. These conversations made me feel special as an 15-year-old girl desperate for to be seen and valued. It felt nice to have someone listen to my thoughts and ideas. Many of those moments spent with him have come to define me as a filmmaker, and for that, I am grateful I knew him. Truthfully, the days spent with him were some of the most pure and beautiful of my life, and they colored what felt like a rather grey and troubled existence prior. I faced a lot of complexities in my youth, things that were hard to understand and forced me to grow up too soon. Too this day, I still grapple with many of the events and people from my youth. Sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops, begging someone to find me and tell me they understand me, they feel what I feel, or if they don’t, they’ll just listen. I spent a lot of my life drowning.
For most of my late teens and adult life I wrote. After I turned 23, I started making movies out of the stories I wrote. My only training: The conversations and movie nights spent with the boy who lived next door. The moment I stepped behind the camera I knew that it was the meaning of my life. I had never felt so much freedom in my voice, so much passion centered on one thing, and so much hope for my future. Making movies, especially about personal stories, makes me feel brave. It has given me the freedom to release the stories that once trapped me in my past. Now, my stories make me feel powerful, beautiful and worthy. Directing has given me the ability to confront the ghosts and terrors of this world, while also clinging to the delicate but steadfast beauty of what it means to exist.
Most of all, I am deeply inspired by peoples reactions to films. I found hope in realizing people are moved by stories that I recognize in my own life. In a way, my films have become my rooftop, calling out to the rest of humanity, unifying us as complex beings who have more in common than society would like us to realize. A story can be simple but still intensely compelling. A film can be intimate but be widely understood across vastly different demographics.
This creative pursuit has awarded me the courage to no longer seek my validation in others. No longer do I believe that being special is something I need to prove. Everyone has a story to tell, and directing has allowed me to believe my stories have a place and a voice of their own, all while connecting to others in the most profound ways. This is the very meaning of life for me, our stories.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
To be a filmmaker, or really any creative, you have to be a self starter. The film industry can be brutal, and you get knocked down so many times. It’s really easy to stay down. Some may even say it’s the smart thing to do. I hate being this cheesy but it’s the truth: to be a filmmaker you have to just keep going. That’s something I look inward and feel most proud of. I’ve always pushed myself to keep at it. The thing about being an artist in general, it isn’t just the constant rejection of those around you, it’s the self rejection that digs deep. We are usually always our own worst critic, and it’s easy to talk ourselves out of doing things. Especially as you continually compare yourself to perfection. I’ve made so many films that are just sitting on hard drives, that if were leaked I’d consider closing up shop. I’ve spent so many nights lamenting over failed projects, stories that never saw the light of day, contemplating my decision to dedicate my life to this.
Though, at the end of the day, I look back at everything I’ve done and see so much growth. Even in those first couple of films. I am a firm believer that it takes a miracle to get a film made, especially as an independent filmmaker. I feel proud to have revived myself through the constant struggle of self doubt. I’ve discovered, my passion is my greatest gift. I just continue to be grateful for every opportunity to tell a story and be a part of a community I truly love.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am a true California girl, born and raised. A week long trip is a long time, and I’d be pretty determined to show my friend all my most precious spots. So for the sake of this imagination trip, let’s say my friend and I can transport. I would of course spend a day or two showing her around L.A. I’d take her to Monty’s and all the best vegan places around town (there’s so many). I’d also take her walking at Griffith around sunset. Perhaps we’d transport an hour south and hit some private beaches in south laguna. The third day I’d take her on a drive up the 395. You definitely wouldn’t want to teleport because it’s such a special stretch of road and you really want to see every part of it. If there was one thing I could recommend to anyone it would be to drive up the 395 from the Mojave all the way up near reno. You pass by the most striking mountains you’ll see. You can also drive down almost any side road and find some kind of treasure, whether it be a trout filled river or red granite rocks, or hot springs. It’s all there!
After spending some time exploring the Eastern Sierra, I’d teleport us to my home region, San Francisco and Sonoma County. I’d take her to china beach, the presidio, and get some food in the Richmond.
After a few days in the city, I’d take her up to Buena Vista Winery, their pinot noir is the best. We’d walk around Sonoma square. I tear up just writing about it, it’s such a truly special place that reminds me so vividly of my grandfather. He liked to feed the ducks in front of the courthouse then walk through the cemetery telling ghost stories. I’d probably do the same with her.
I’d end my trip by walking with her along the Russian River, a place that speaks to my soul. I spent most of my childhood playing in the shallow waters, staring up at the redwood trees.
Our walk would end at Goat rock, right where the Russian River ends and flows into the pacific ocean. Nothing but miles of ocean in front of us. We’d sit there quiet until we were ready to part.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Quinton Cameron Avan Hardwell