LBB UPRISING: Finding One’s Field with Julia Pitch

The Los York director speaks to LBB’s Josh Neufeldt about challenging herself, combining many passions under the filmmaking banner and the industry’s need for greater inclusivityIf one travelled back in time to ask the child-version of Julia Pitch what she wanted to do for a living, the answer wouldn’t have been filmmaking. But to be fair, what child dreams of a specific career?
For the now director, who is repped by Los York, there were simply too many options to make such an immediate call. On a given day, Julia could be found doing anything from playing street hockey with her two younger brothers to finding twigs and building fairy houses with hot glue. “[Filmmaking] seemed so far away from how I grew up in Dallas — a quirky, curious kid who didn’t watch a lot of television.”
Julia adds that she also had a passion for art. She attended art classes and often spent hours in her room drawing models from her mother’s Vogue and Neiman Marcus catalogues.
“My first job was when I was 15 and a swim instructor and counsellor at an art camp for kids,” she says. “My first internship was at a small music venue in Dallas doing posters and illustrations behind the stage. I was always doing something creative, but it took me a bit to find my home as a filmmaker.”
This prevailing love of art is actually what led to Julia attending both the Rhode Island School of Design, as well as the Maryland Institute College of Art. “I loved everything about school,” Julia says. “I would stay up all night with my friends in the studio listening to music and making art. It was a big playground to create and talk about philosophy and theories.”
While in Baltimore, Julia received her first taste of the filmmaking world. In the light of the 2014 vacant housing epidemic, Julia collaborated with her friend Tarek Turkey to produce and co-direct a documentary called ‘Vacant View’. “We shot over 200 hours of documentary footage. I learned a great deal about producing, directing, and the politics of being a white filmmaker entering communities that were not my own.”
For Julia, the filmmaking experience proved irresistible. She would hone her craft at Refinery29, where she learned how to produce, shoot and post supervise videos.“I learned purely through repetition,” she adds. “My work got better with each project. I was not only shooting and directing, but also submitting budgets, rights and clearances, carnets, and even managing invoices. Each producer functioned as a mini-production company.”
Julia’s time at Refinery29 was a success. While there, she helped the video team grow from 10 people to 120, and she helped execute projects including the series ‘Daughters of Paradise’ and ‘Sound Off’, both of which received Webby nominations.
But ultimately, Julia wasn’t ready to settle on being a producer. She left Refinery29 to explore other creative avenues such as directing. She still remembers her first professional project. “I was hired to direct/DP/edit someone’s Kickstarter video for $500. It was totally uninspiring, but I saw it as a challenge to practise my craft and I was excited to get paid to get better. I took it very seriously.”
This serious attitude paid off. Through hard work and dedication, Julia got the chance to DP ‘The Country Club’ – her first narrative feature. It was a career changing moment. “‘The Country Club’ gave me the confidence I have today and taught me that I can do anything with the right crew and support,” she says.
And while the confidence boost that came with this was significant, perhaps even more important was the fact that Julia had found directing to be her calling. She admits that the cliché of “if you love what you do, it never feels like work” applies to her experience as a director.
Another benefit is that filmmaking also serves as a way for Julia to gather her past passions under one umbrella. As she says, “All of my interests shaped an appetite for creating, and filmmaking was an expression of that creativity that I came to discover. Working in film is a lesson in humanity. I get to meet people, go places, and enter spaces and conversations that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to.”
But just because Julia loves working in filmmaking does not mean the industry itself is perfect. In fact, she strongly believes that the industry needs to do a better job of being inclusive. An example of this can be found in the “all female crew” hiring practises some studios use. While Julia recognises that it has benefits, and that it provided the bulk of her income while freelancing, she also thinks that it represents the industry’s overreliance on binaries
“I encountered a circumstance on an ‘all-female’ set where a producer didn’t want me to hire my regular AC because they didn’t identify as a woman, because they are non-binary,” Julia says. “I fought the producer on this but I didn’t win. I thought they were missing the point of the initiative. Genders go beyond male and female.”
Julia adds that specifically, the “all female crew” initiatives were started to help the industry be more inclusive of all genders, which means more than just female and male inclusion.
She also hopes to see an increase in the diversity of the industry’s crews. “It’s not enough to hire women or people of colour as assistants, or hair, or makeup,” she says. “There needs to be diversity above the line for real change to start to happen.”
Equal to Julia’s desire to challenge the status quo is a desire to challenge herself. On a personal level, she struggles with incorporating writing into her routine, and the need for a good social media game.
“I know self-promoting is always necessary, but for me, there is something about chasing likes/followers that feels like time that’s not as well spent as reading or self-care,” she says. “I’m overwhelmed by the concept.”
But Julia adds that with consistent reflection, she’s able to double down and put in the work required to overcome these challenges – creating a strong end product that reflects the passion she feels for filmmaking. And that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
“At the end of the day, I’m just searching for happiness,” she says. “Making stuff makes me happy, and I like overcoming challenges. My drive is less for monetary gain – although that’s great – and more for working on projects I believe in with people I care about.”