Filmmaker Feature: Julie Leibee
Name: Julie Leibee
Screenplay: Saturn Returns
Logline: 30 years after her top-secret mission goes awry, astronaut Birdie Bell returns to Earth unaged — and now she’s the same age as the daughter she left behind.
Festival: Women’s Comedy Film Festival in Atlanta 2021
City you’re based in: Los Angeles, CA
Short Bio: Julie Leibee is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles. Originally from Maryland, she spent the first chapter of her career as Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador and a nonprofit fundraiser in Washington, DC. She’s worked as an assistant to the late veteran comedy writer/producer Eunetta T. Boone on “Raven’s Home” and to Shira Piven on the upcoming film “The Performance”. Her pilot “Saturn Returns” won Best Short Screenplay in the 2021 LA Film Festival Independent Filmmakers Showcase. Julie also works as a consultant to a variety of nonprofits including Consumer Reports, National Geographic, Pew, Farm Sanctuary, the National Immigration Law Center, and Thorn.
Favorite Quote: “Wake up, you idiots! Whatever made you think that paper was so valuable?” – Kurt Vonnegut, in Galapagos
Interests/ Hobbies: My two senior rescue chihuahuas, hiking in Griffith Park, deep talks with friends.
An internal pull, while caught on an unfulfilling, though outwardly successful, career path.
What are your upcoming and active projects?
I’m working on a feature project about El Salvador, a comedy about the dark hand of American Capitalism in Central America, something I’ve rewritten a million times about kids growing up in a biodome on Mars, and a collaboration tv project with a friend that I’m excited about. And, I’d love to keep working on Saturn Returns.
What type of stories interest you and why?
Ones that only one person (or team of persons) could have written — from their own unique perspective and experience. Parasite or Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, for example, and Ted Lasso and Fleabag Season 2 — projects where you can see the humans behind them, what they care about, and how they can continue to surprise you. And, I love a good high concept sci-fi or spooky mystery — Yellowjackets is blowing my mind right now. I love the story and the brilliant roles for so many women of different ages.
What is your genre of choice?
Surprising blends — like “Palm Springs”, or I just saw a screening of “The Final Girls” at the New Beverly. So, comedy/sci-fi/drama/horror/spoof/romances.
How are you creating a path for yourself in this industry?
It’s hard. This is my second career — I still support myself financially with my first (nonprofit fundraising). I’ve been lucky to find great mentors and assist on some really cool projects.
What inspires you as a storyteller?
Seeing/reading/hearing other great stories!
How do you prep for a film, from writing to being on set?
I haven’t made anything of my own yet, but from an assisting perspective I think preparation is key and a team you trust and enjoy is key. Set days are tough, with crazy hours and rushing and it’s hard for me to take care of myself in that environment. I have an official Hubble Space Telescope that says “Conscious expectation of the unexpected” (my dad worked on it), so I keep that in the back of my mind. And as much sleep as possible — like a camel with water. A sleep camel.
What is the first thing you do when you get a script?
Dive in as a fan! Then I go back and read for whatever purpose it’s been given to me.
What are a few lessons you’ve learned from your recent project(s)?
A big one is that I want to learn to produce ethically and equitably. Taking care of the entire team and crew is so important.
What practical tips do you have for indie filmmakers (budgeting, marketing, directing)?
Make stuff with your friends. Make new friends. And, follow up with people in a cool, normal, non-obnoxious way. Learn whenever and wherever you have the chance.