Monday, June 11, 2007


Woman in Film

In 1992 I broke up with Los Angeles and left her for another city.

I got here in the fall of 1985 to begin my freshman year at LMU. I was in the big city going to film school! I loved my time at LMU, the roommates, the dorms, the crew team (crew rules, by the way), the film classes. Oh the film classes. I remember my first day of an intro to film class and it was in a movie theater. Okay, we say screening room now, but back then--holy cow I'm in a movie theater for school!!!11! The other great part about going to LMU was that I had four protective years to get to know Los Angeles. From the comfort and safety of school life, I could explore LA at my own pace. I grew up in a small town and so while I couldn't wait to get to LA, it was still a bit intimidating. Best way to get to know Los Angeles? Get a job as the Editorial and Animation classes Teacher's Assistant and drive from LMU to FotoKem twice a week -- no freeways. My little red bug and I just cruised it and I learned how to drive in LA. I'm a very good driver, definitely a good driver.

After graduation in 1989 I went on a backpacking trip to europe with friends, then came back to start living the high life in film! Okay, not so high at first. But after two years of work I got a job as visual effects coordinator at Boss Film Studios (RIP) on Alien 3. I was stoked to have a great job on a big movie. It meant I could save money and travel again! So I saved and saved and told everyone I was going to travel again and the show came to an end and I went. My bosses at Boss complimented me highly by asking me to please stay and work on Cliffhanger, but I said no. I had to travel, europe was calling me back.

That was 1992 and while I love to travel, that trip was also the camouflage for my break up and running away from LA. I didn't know how long I would be in europe and I decided I was going to move away from Los Angeles when I got back. Why? Because I hated it here. That is what I told myself. I missed the small town feeling of where I grew up. I missed knowing exactly where to go to find a windshield wiper or my favorite foods or my favorite beach. The beaches here are so big and impersonal. The last straw was that I got into an accident. I was the last person in a line of 4 rear-end smashes on the 405 north/101 interchange -- you all know about that severe right lane slow down. Luckily, no one was hurt and I did all the right things, my insurance was good so it was all covered. Then came the morning when I woke up at 6am to someone knocking on my door "Julia Rivas?" "Yes?" "You've been served." I was being sued by one of the people two cars ahead of me. I was so mad. I thought, if this had happened where I grew up, I would know someone in the accident or the cops or someone related to someone. And NOBODY would sue me! Furious. Of course, I found out a bit later, I had been on the business end of an insurance scam.

I'd had it with this big, impersonal, harsh, hot, dry, brown, too-sunny, lame-ass city. Fuck the movies, I was out of here.

I moved to Seattle since it was someplace I had been to once and liked and I knew some people from LMU there. And it was completely different than LA. They have seasons, but more importantly, they have *weather* in Seattle. It rains there. A LOT. And I love rain. Love it. It even snowed enough in the winter to be fun, not harsh. And the fall, oh the colors! And the spring--Oh man, the flowers bloom all over the place! I was in heaven. I found a place to rent with a nice roommate and found two part-time coffee jobs, neither of which was at Starbucks. I was a barista and made about $850 a month and lived a very nice life on that. Incredible.

A friend in LA introduced me to a friend who lived in Seattle, a guy named Mark. Nice guy, he was into film and photography and taught school in Seattle. I came to his class one day and talked to students for a little while. He asked if I would help him with a photography project and I said sure. So we met at an empty warehouse and he had a reel of 35mm movie print. (It's called "sound fill" which is so old-school analog of me to say.) Here is what we came up with (click for bigger):

He called it "The Unbearable Lightness of Being Julia." I called it Woman in Film. The print he gave me is dated 5/93.

I lived in Seattle for about ten months (August 1992 -- May 1993). I stayed in touch with all my film friends in LA and knew about all kinds of job possibilities. I never stopped loving the movies and really had no idea what I would do in Seattle. Then in April of 1993 I had an epiphany. I had an amazing two weeks where my eyesight, my third-eyesight, became crystal clear. If felt physical, like the lenses in my eyes were being manually focused so I could see sharply as I never had before.

In that two week period songs came out at me -- two very important songs. One was Johnny Nash singing:
I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day.

What I love about that song is that is based on reality -- the obstacles in life aren't gone, they are stiil there, but now I can see them clearly.

The second song that spoke to me loud and clear was by 10,000 Maniacs called These Are Days (from the album Our Time in Eden). The lyrics are:

these are days you'll remember

never before and never since, I promise
will the whole world be warm as this
and as you feel it, you'll know it's true
that you are blessed and lucky
it's true, that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you

these are days you'll remember

when May is rushing over you with desire
to be part of the miracles you see in every hour
you'll know it's true, that you are blessed and lucky
it's true, that you are touched by something
that will grow and bloom in you

these are the days
that you might fill with laughter
until you break

these days you might feel a shaft of light
make its way across your face
and when you do
you'll know how it was meant to be
see the signs and know their meaning

you'll know how it was meant to be
hear the signs and
know they're speaking to you
to you

The signs were speaking to me and I decided to move back. Once I decided, things fell into place crazy fast. My roommate found another place to live, no problem. I called my old landlady in LA and she just had someone vacate her rent-controlled studio apartment in Santa Monica (two blocks from Montana) and did I want it. Um, YES! I called friends and lined up job interviews.

By the end of May 1993, I got back together with Los Angeles, realizing that it wasn't LA's fault, it was my own. The problem had been in my brain and heart and soul all along. I wanted my small town life and big Hollywood career all at the same time. And I finally figured out I couldn't have it both ways. Most of all, I wanted to make movies. This photo of me wrapped up in film is apropos and I'm going to frame it and hang it in my office.

I don't ever want to be without the movies and without my city, La Ciudad de Nuestra SeƱora la Reina de Los Angeles.

Did LA and I instantly kiss and make up? No. That's not how relationships work and that is a blog post for another day.

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1st of all, I LOVE that photo of you. You MUST frame it and hang it in your office. You look like a 50s pin-up girl to me. 2nd of all, that was such a fun read. I loved learning more about your life experiences. I feel like I know you better already. Lastly, I understand the reluctant relationship with LA. I'm still trying to figure out how to make it feel like "home".
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