An inspiring woman of many talents, Julie Robinson truly enjoys creative collaboration with her producing partner D.J. Higgins as both of them strive to make movies with a meaningful message.
A Mental Health Counselor by day / during the week, Julie embarks on her creative talent of filmmaking at night or on weekends. It was on one of these weekends in early April that I had the privilege to meet her in person on the set of the latest D.J. Higgins directed short film “Smack”, which she co-produces.
While studying at Clark-Atlanta University Julie received her BA in Communications with a concentration in Film & Television. Since her undergraduate years, she has participated in the Connecticut Film Industry Training Program where she also received a certificate in the script supervisor division. While working as a Mental Health worker by day, Julie went through Sacred Heart University’s FTMA graduate program in the evenings where she received a MA in Film & Television. Films she worked on include “For Us The Living – The Story of Medger Evers,” “Officer Down”, “Hello, I Must Be Going”, and the recently released film entitled “The Volunteer”, starring Aunjanue Ellis.
Julie, who is also a writer/director, has made two short films, “The Talk” and “A Moment in My Life”. She has collaborated on several short films and co-wrote her first feature film, “Meet Mario” with her filmmaking partner and long time friend D.J. Higgins.
Recently, Julie has taken on the role of producer within the Meet Mario Productions organization, helping to bring “Pasquale’s Magic Veal” to the screen and completing production on “Smack” as well as “Santino”, three short films written and directed by D.J. Higgins.
Read the interview with Julie Robinson. Her thoughtful answers show her caring nature, which definitely is an asset to any film set.
What drove you to get involved in film productions?
My last semester in college, I was able to intern as a PA on the set of a PBS production, “For Us the Living” – The Story of Medger Evers. My first day on set, (a period piece) I was asked to polish a room full of old shoes for all the extras to wear. At first I was upset because this isn’t what I had anticipated doing but after I finished the task at hand I was given a walkie-talkie and taken to set. Upon my arrival I saw director, Michael Schultz, (Car Wash & Cooley High) working with actors like Irene Cara and Howard Rollins and at that moment I knew I was in the right place. From there I was directing extras, picking up equipment and taking notable Black actors to set like, Roscoe Lee Browne, Paul Winfield and a very young Laurence Fishburne. After my first 14 hour day I went back to my campus apartment exhausted as hell, set my alarm for 4:30am and happily went back every day after that for the next month to what I felt was the best time of my life, making this movie. It was that day I knew that I wanted to make movies for the rest of my life.
What is your favorite movie, and why?
Spike Lee’s “School Daze” is one of my all time favorite movies. I love narrative films and I love musicals. “School Daze” encompasses both and because I am a product of a HBCU, “Clark-Atlanta University”, I totally understood, appreciated and identified with the entire movie. This was my life for 4 years and to see it on film gives me goose bumps every time I see it.
If there was a book or film about you, what would the title be, and why?
“Conceptual Thinker”. As a child I was always coming up with ideas for stories or songs. As I grew up especially during my teenage and young adult years, I was constantly writing brief thoughts and ideas for movies and it seemed like lyrics and melodies would never leave my head. I just had this knack for creating ideas and when I started to put ideas together it would end up as a concept for a story or a song.
Which actor or director has influenced you?
Two people that have influenced me are Debbie Allen and Spike Lee. I’m a huge Debbie Allen fan. I’ve watched her do her thing from dance to acting to directing and through it all she has not skipped a beat. Not only does Debbie do it all but she empowers others along the way and provides opportunities for talented individuals to chase their dreams as well.
As for Spike Lee, well, he’s been a hero of mine long before he became known to the world. When I was in college in the late 70’s, early 80’s, Spike was also in school at Morehouse College in Atlanta. I think we were about two years apart. Spike was always doing things on campus and then he made a movie, I believe it was called, “The Talented Tenth” or similar, and the fact that they were filming all over campus was crazy cool to me. I never actually met him but I remember him around campus and he definitely left his mark on me as I watched him make movie after movie showing me that this movie thing could be done even by me.
What setback or failure have you overcome in life and what did you learn from it?
There was a point in my life where I realized I wasn’t going anywhere and life was just passing me by. Grateful that the God I serve is a God of many chances, I reached out to Him and He saw fit to point me in the right direction. It was then I truly knew for myself that God would never leave you or forsake you. To this day, I don’t do anything without Him.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is my education. My parents were hard working blue-collar folks from the South that made sure my brother and I were educated. Both of my parents didn’t go far in school and for this reason they made sure we graduated high school and went on to college. Their biggest quote was, “once you get your education can’t nobody take it away from you”. I truly believe both of my parents were smiling all over heaven the day I received my Masters from Sacred Heart University.
What do you admire in other people?
The things I admire in other people are the things they do really well; their talents or abilities, which set them apart from everybody else. Maybe a person can play the piano really well or maybe they have the ability to remain calm in crazy situations, stuff like that.
Has there been a book or film that changed your life or had a major impact on you? Which one?
I think reading “Roots” and “The Color Purple” and then seeing them come to life on the big screen were both major moments for me. My parents came from the South and like many African American families, slavery and segregation are their tree roots. Reading these books then seeing these films made me realize how important it is to continue to tell the African American experience to the world whether it be on a large scale or a memorable moment.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Well, God willing and I’m still here, I hope to be retired from the mental health field and making independent feature films for the masses, with D.J. Higgins. All day, everyday!!!
How would you like to be remembered?
When my time comes, I hope the preacher will be able to say “Let the work I’ve done, speak for me.”
What is on your bucket list?
Honestly, I never thought about “a bucket list” but here goes:
Go to fashion week in New York and Milan.
Travel abroad, especially Paris and Italy.
Be able to do something really special for my brother Jack.
Buy a car that I want, not one that I had to get.
Have the No. 1 movie in the country.
Write a song that will stand the test of time.
Be able to give the people I love the most something they want or something they need.
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Karynne Summars is an author, screenwriter, film producer and freelance journalist. She is a contributing writer for several international magazines. Her feature articles cover entertainment and culture as well as international travel and personal development. Born and raised in Berlin, Germany, Karynne currently resides mainly in New York with additional residences in Berlin and Marbella, Spain. Website: www.karynnesummars.com