Little movie, big ambitions for filmmaker

Baltimore native Jackie Julio hopes first film will open doors

June 15, 2007|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,Sun reporter

The silver pendant around Jackie Julio's neck says it best, though it says it in the cursive characters of Sanskrit. Luckily, the English translation is provided on the back: "fearlessness."

That quality is what drove Julio to abandon her planned legal career in Miami, where she was interning as a prosecutor, for the uncertain lot of a filmmaker.

Fearlessness is what allows the native Baltimorean to forge full steam ahead as co-writer, co-director, co-producer and co-star of her first feature film, Hold On, which has been shooting this week in Lutherville.

And it is what allows Julio to airily dismiss her disability - she's quadriplegic and has used a wheelchair all her life - as "a minor inconvenience."

"Jackie is a dynamo," says her brother, Ted Julio, owner of Della Notte Ristorante in Little Italy, which is providing the catering for the cast and crew of the film.

"When she sets her sights on something, she goes after it 100 percent, and she doesn't relent until the task is completed. Others might be set back, but Jackie is never discouraged."

Hold On is equal parts quirky, funny and sad. (The film's title is based on an old civil rights song, and the filmmakers hope to get permission to use Bruce Springsteen's recent version on their soundtrack.)

It tells the story of Rose (played by Julio), a brilliant physicist who uses a wheelchair. She carefully calculates physical formulas of weight, velocity and the angle of incline, and uses them to meet the man of her dreams.

The 15-minute film co-stars Julio's business partner, Doug Olear - a former Golden Gloves West Coast middleweight boxing champion-turned-actor - and features Dominic West, star of the HBO television series The Wire.

Julio likes to joke that she does her own stunt work. In one scene, her character, Rose, loses her balance and falls over in her wheelchair. Because Julio's ability to move independently is limited to her left forefinger, that scene involved some hazards for the actress.

"I was surrounded by about 20 people off-camera who grab me and make sure I don't get hurt," she says.

"We did 11 takes. 11."

Hold On has a budget of about $25,000 and was financed through donations and Julio's savings. Four days of filming at The Cloisters, a 60-acre estate in Lutherville, were scheduled to end today.

The film will be edited this summer. Once the final cut is made, Julio and Olear plan to enter the short into the film festival circuit.

The business partners met about six years ago through a mutual friend, and she asked him for advice on a screenplay she was writing. He read the script and suggested that she shoot a short film. She inquired whether he wanted to make it with her.

In March, the two formed their own company based in Los Angeles, where they both live, called Do Not Panic Productions.

If Hold On receives a positive reception from festival audiences, the pair plans next to shoot a low-budget feature.

They also hope that Hold On will provide a tape that can be shown to casting agents.

"Jackie really takes direction well, and that's rare in actors," Olear says.

"She also keeps it simple, and in film, less is more. I think she'd be just perfect for television shows like CSI or Ghost Whisperer. Once we have a little tape of her that we can shop around, I know that casting directors will be interested."

But at the moment, the partners were concentrating on filming the final scenes of Hold On. Because of West's demanding schedule, shooting was scheduled to resume at The Cloisters at about 3 a.m. this morning

"It's crazy," Julio says. "Neither Doug nor I has slept more than a total of 15 hours in the past five nights.

"And we're loving every minute of it."

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

Jackie Julio

Birthplace

-- Baltimore

Residence

-- Los Angeles

Current project

-- Co-writer, co-star, co-director, co-producer, Hold On

Career

-- Served an internship as a prosecutor in Miami. Studied music theory for 10 years. Has co-written the lyrics for three country songs under consideration for recording.

Education

-- Bachelor's degree, political science, University of Miami; law degree, University of Miami. Attended the University of Miami Film School.

Doug Olear

Birthplace:

Passaic, N.J.

Residence:

Los Angeles

Current project:

Co-writer, co-star, co-director, co-producer, Hold On

Career:

Golden Gloves West Coast middleweight boxing champion, 1989.

Has a recurring role as FBI agent Terry Fitzhugh on the HBO series, The Wire.

Performed in Shear Madness for a year at the Kennedy Center as police Lt. Nick Rosetti.

Appeared in the HBO made-for-television film, Something the Lord Made, set in 1940s Baltimore.

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