Its been a little over a week since Julie’s passing and I haven’t until now felt I was in the right head space to share anything about it publicly. Frankly, I still can’t wrap my mind around this, but I firmly believe its better to share your thoughts of gratitude and appreciation rather than worry if the words you use to share those feelings is perfectly articulated. So here it goes…
I still clearly remember one of my first major interactions with Julie and Johnny. It was my freshman year and I had wiggled my way into a tutorial with two juniors led by J&J, we titled it “The Art of the Documentary”. Well, technically they titled it that; I had nothing to do with the content or syllabus. I was just an enthusiastic and curious freshman. In 10 weeks we were to study the ‘masters’ of the documentary medium; Werner Herzog, Maysles Brothers, Errol Morris, and Ken Burns. This was my very first professor-student impression of them. The impression that if I or another student was eager to learn and pursue something in film or photography, they would go out of their way to provide and support us in those academic and artistic explorations.
This experience was the launching point for my career at Lawrence and my professional career after Lawrence. That tutorial reaffirmed my eagerness to study film, and after that point I went on to request and be granted J&J as my academic advisors, to take over 15 classes with them in my four years, and have Julie be my honors in the arts independent study project advisor.
Being an honors project advisor means they literally guide you through each step of the honors thesis process at Lawrence. This is a year long process where you write up a proposal for the project you believe is above and beyond the ‘senior experience thesis’ that all senior art majors are required to do. She guided me through the proposal, my project development of creating a 12 photo, one short video and a book as my solo show for this project, and supported and guided me as I wrote the 25 page supplemental paper for the work. Supporting me while I wrote the supplemental paper means she literally edited around 20 drafts. I’m sure most would have given up hope in me after 2 or 3. I then went on to defend this in front of 5 faculty members all through different departments of the University. I would not have been awarded honors without her. Frankly, I would not have stayed at Lawrence without her.
After my years at Lawrence we continued to swap emails about good books to read about contemporary photography or Werner’s most philosophical outlook on filmmaking; keeping me motivated and passionate about film even in some of my hardest times right after graduation.
I received the message that she had passed while I was on location for our current film project. It was a very surreal moment getting the news while in this situation. Julie had introduced me to the Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and now I was Assistant Producing a documentary for the man. After reading the email on my phone, I looked around the car with a heightened awareness for my surroundings. I was surrounded by some of the most talented filmmakers in history and I was a respected part of their team to create this film. Reflecting on my years with Julie and where I am now my heart filled with joy. This joy is the kind of feeling that I wasn’t sure ever existed. The type of joy in your heart where you know you’re living your dreams, with no regrets for the decisions you’ve had to make along this journey.
Thank you Julie. Thank you for giving me this gift. I would not be where I am today without you, and would not know what it feels like to push my passions in life to their limits. I will take you with me on every artistic adventure I pursue, holding joy in my heart knowing that maybe one day I’ll be able to pay it forward.
P.s- Julie- I know you’re reading this somewhere and I’m sorry for all my run-ons.