We had the good fortune of connecting with Julie Bayer Salzman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julie, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
The mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote: “You can’t fight the waves, but you can learn to surf.” To me this idea is critical if we want to live our lives with some grace, fun, and fluidity. Change is constant, we know this. Life is constantly changing! And yet, despite our knowing this, so often change is a source of stress for people. Why? Because we like consistency, predictability, routine. So it’s like we’re in conflict all the time between the ideal and the real. We get tied to this notion of things needing to be a certain way so that we can anticipate what’s next – we can PLAN for it – so we can succeed at it. As Westerners, we equate “success” to “winning” as opposed to success being more a matter of one’s state of mind. Are you still a winner if you’re miserable? We fear this idea of “failure” when in fact failure is merely a construct of our making. What is failure, really? How is it different from trying something that didn’t achieve the intended results, and what if the intended results were created by someone with unrealistic expectations? Did you still fail? I would ask: Did you have fun? Did you learn something about yourself in the process? Do you know what to do better next time? If so, then you didn’t fail. You just had a human experience. To me, life is not about winning or losing, success or failure; it’s about being present to every moment, and feeling that our work has purpose, and contributes something positive toward our collective well-being. We can look at ourselves as victims of circumstance and be at the mercy of external conditions, or decide to be a willing participant. I don’t see much sense in fighting what happens, or trying to control everything — that only leads to resistance, frustration and turmoil. Yes, we have to do what we can to mitigate dangers, bolster our strengths, plan for what we hope to happen; but ultimately we don’t have control over the final outcome. What we do have control over is how we respond to what happens in life. If we don’t learn how to relax our bodies and minds and go with the flow a bit, we’ll drown. Personally I’d rather learn to surf. It takes time, yes, and it’s not always easy, but in the long run it’s what is necessary if we want to live happy, fulfilled lives.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Where to begin? I knew I wanted to make documentaries fairly early-on, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to survive financially doing them. I ended up spending over a decade in the world of television commercial production as a way to funnel money into documentary projects. And then my son was born, and I quickly realized I could not realistically run a commercial production company, in order to make documentaries on the side, while raising a family. I’m a good multi-tasker but that was too much! One of those three things had to go, and that’s where I took a HUGE risk and walked away from the lucrative, full-time commercial work so that I could start to focus on my own creative projects while being a mom. I began writing my first screenplay and making a couple of short films. While wobbling my way through this major transition, rather ungracefully at times I admit, I luckily came across mindfulness and enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to develop a practice of my own. One day, as I was deep into a meditation, I envisioned a film that communicated the elegance and simplicity of mindfulness. That film, “Just Breathe”, turned into a viral hit and prompted me to develop a series of short, experiential films that teach people the value that a mindfulness practice has over a course of one’s lifetime. I didn’t endeavor to do this work ten years ago; it just happened. As life unfolds and more lessons are learned, I enjoy sharing how I and others process these journeys. I try to craft mini-respites from the chaos and noise of social media, the 24/7 news cycle, politics, and overall negative, fear-mongering storytelling. I see my role as a filmmaker as one that focuses on fresh perspectives and life-affirming experiences. I’m not trying to change the world, but if I can provide a little depth and beauty to someone’s day, I’ve succeeded.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’ve spent 20 of my 22 years in LA all in Venice, so on day one we’d do an epic bike ride. We’d cruise up and down the beach bike path and eventually stop for happy hour at an old staple, James’ Beach. Dinner would have to be at Hama Sushi, not because it’s the best (it isn’t), but it’s my neighborhood vibe and I’ll always love it. Day 2 we’d drive up the coast to Malibu, have lunch at Neptune’s (because the biker scene is always a trip), and spend the afternoon hiking up in the mountains. Afterwards we’d watch the sunset at Moonshadows while sipping a cocktail. Day 3 we’d maybe walk around UCLA (because I have a thing for college campuses), blow through Bev Hills just to see it, get into Hollywood (Amoeba records, the Boulevard, the sign, etc.), and then hopefully catch a show at The Troubadour later that night because it’s my favorite venue for live music. Day 4 would have to be a DTLA kind of day – museums, grand central market, the arts district… There’s always a new restaurant or bar to find, and I’d definitely want to try out something new. Day 5 might be a SilverLake/Echo Park/Los Feliz/Griffith Park kind of day – a little shopping, walking, sight-seeing. I’m sure I’m missing something but at the moment that’s all at the forefront of my mind.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Aw…so many people. My son and husband to start – they force me to grow, always. I wouldn’t be me without them! And then there’s my mom of course, because, well…mom. The founding principal at my son’s elementary school was a huge influencer in my life — Alison Kerr. I’m not sure I would have come to mindfulness at the time I did had she not been at the forefront of social-emotional learning. Then there’s the Mindful Schools organization, where I first did my training not just for my personal practice, but then for my teaching certification. The teachers and administrative staff have been incredibly supportive of my film work on the topic of mindfulness from the beginning. Lastly, Jon Kabat-Zinn himself, whose words and teachings have left the deepest imprint on my heart and soul. During the pandemic, he did live-stream meditations daily for 10 weeks straight, and those sessions kept my and thousands of others’ spirits afloat.