Julie Hotz: Adventurer, Filmmaker, and Photographer
Every month at Make Muse we’ll feature an interview with one of our Muses to explore who they are, what they do, and what they think about being a woman in their respective fields, or chosen careers.
This is Julie Hotz’s story.
“One day I was working on a behind the scenes shoot. I was sitting at lunch and the main camera team was sitting at a different table and I looked at them and they were all these like, white dudes. I realized the reason there's always been a woman on the camera team on the sets that I've worked on was because I was the woman.”
Julie Hotz was born and raised in Dallas, TX where she grew up with her three sisters. She was homeschooled by her mom until she went to college in East Texas. She later attended graduate film school at the Florida State University and had dreams of creating the next big independent film, which eventually lead her to Los Angeles, and yes, to work on some independent films.
Julie considers herself to be an artist, although her medium tends to be film and photography. She’s directed, she’s been a cinematographer, and she’s worked on all kinds of sets in the camera department from commercials to studio features, and even some TV.
Currently Julie talks to me from her Brooklyn apartment, where she’s recently moved from Los Angeles.
Julie has a tenderness about her. A softness. A femininity. A sweet cadence to her speech that makes you want to just listen to her tell stories for hours. And then she says something super surprising, something that Hollywood would say is “against type.”
For example, that she spent a year hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. A long distance hike that spans from Mexico to Canada, covers two mountain ranges, is about 100 - 150 miles, and can take months to traverse. And ya’ll, she’d never ever done anything like this before. She’d never even really hiked before.
Julie: (Hiking the) Pacific Crest Trail in 2010 deeply changed my priorities and kind of rerouted my life a little bit. It sounded like just the ultimate adventure. And I felt like I wanted something that would really take me outside my comfort zone because for most of my life I had achieved most of what I set out to do. And I really wanted some kind of adventure that was totally outside my experience and wheel house. I never backpacked before and it was such a learning curve and it was so physically miserable in the beginning but then as the trip evolved, things didn't go as I planned. I failed. I separated from my group because I couldn't keep up with them.
I promised myself that I would come back and finish, and when I went back in 2013 to finish I realized that it was something I wanted to be part of my life long term. And I learned to hike my own hike and to rise up from failures and make what I could of this.
Julie: I was learning life lessons exponentially and that can be a little addicting and it can sometimes make coming back to whatever you want to call your regular life, (feel like) you're not living your best life. But then I think with the lessons I've learned, to be able to apply that to all the parts of my life wherever I'm living whether it be the city, the mountains, on a job, on location, it makes every time I go outside even if it's just across the street to the park, a special time.
After her big cross-country adventure, Julie landed in Los Angeles more officially and began her career as a photographer and filmmaker.
Julie: I did a feature called “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. And I have worked on shows like HBO 24/7 which took me to the Philippines and Mexico and Macau. I've also done a lot of commercials which I never would have thought that I would have enjoyed so much. Because they take me to new places all the time so, like I’ve gone from Ford Explorer commercials out in the woods, to Budweiser Super Bowl commercials, which sometimes I feel conflicted about.
Make Muse: What do you mean you're conflicted about doing a Budweiser superbowl commercial?
Julie: When I first got into film making I had such grand goals of being able to tell a heartfelt story, whether it be a documentary or narrative that could bring to light important subjects or tell an uplifting story or help change things. And in reality I was not able to pay my bills by doing just that. So I met some wonderful people who shot a lot of commercials and I got to learn a lot of things from them which helped me in all the projects I do now. But some of them would be these car commercials or beer commercials and there would be times that I would get off of set and I would be, like I'm not doing something to help society by selling beer during the Super Bowl. But then again I'm also so thankful that I have some resources at my disposal that I would never have had if I wasn’t working with so many different people and so much different equipment.
Make Muse: And let's be honest we all have to get paid.
Julie: Absolutely, no one has a 401K for me to just take.
Make Muse: Let’s talk about your aesthetic reel which feels like a visual form of poetry at least in my viewing of it, and I notice that it seems to only feature women.
Julie: I think there's a couple guys that snuck in.
Make Muse: Was this by design or was this a happy accident?
Julie: I wanted to show the variety of different films that I've worked on especially in the outdoors and when I watched it as a piece, I realized just how many women I had in it. It is so rare to see and I feel so honored and privileged to be able to work on things that do feature women in roles that we don't always see like in the outdoors climbing and hiking.
Make Muse: So let's go back to the idea of being able to work on these projects where you are working with a lot of women.
Julie: It’s never a surprise to work on a crew with all men. Most of the crews that I've worked with would be all male especially if it was an outdoor situation. And then I would show up to set and whoever was driving the pass vans are like, "Makeup and hair is over there." And I’m like, no, I'm for the camera department. All of the sets that I've worked on that have been all women or are women centric, it’s been some sort of a fight or it’s been a dream or vision of somebody. I always notice when there is a woman especially a woman at the helm on the project. And now it’s become really important for me to pass this on to other women. And now that I am starting to get into more positions where I can help hire people, I’m really excited to be able to hire other women or people of color.
Make Muse: What do you think about the current state of feminism in a country.
Julie: I think it is great that we're having conversations about it all the time because I think it is a very complex topic. And I've been really excited that more conversations about intersectional feminism have been happening. Recently my mom asked me a question and it totally caught me off guard. She was like Are you ashamed of being white.
And I don't know if it's because I'm much more liberal than my family or if I've expressed anything that may have led her to believe that because I'm in an interracial relationship but no. Sometimes I think my heritage of baking casseroles isn't as exciting as something else. But the only thing it means to me, being white, is that I need to listen right now and I need you to listen to people who have other experiences. And I feel that that is really important in feminism right now. And I think that it's a really important moment to listen to intersectional feminist whether it be you know coming at intersection from being a person of color or being queer or trans but to not just have my agenda. As a white feminist.
Make Muse: Do you have anything else you’d like to share about your experiences?
Julie: One more thing about Maura and (Make Muse)- I love her make-up-less for a year thing. I love makeup and you know if you want wear all the makeup in the world or never wear a drop again. I don't care at all, do what makes you feel good. But one of my rules for me was no makeup on the first date because I don't wear it a lot. Like I do not want to lead any guy on. I want them to know this is how I look. And this is how I usually operate. So first dates. No makeup.
Make Muse: That sounds pretty empowering.
Julie: Yeah. It's like, now I don't have the expectation that I set that I have to keep living up to, I can just be myself.
Author: Beth Brandon Jensen