Behind every festival there is a fiery sparkplug force-to-be-reckoned-with working her butt to the bone trying to make a hundred people happy, finesse minute details, and smile like she’s spinning around in a Busby Berkeley number. Julie Gillis is this year’s LAFF producer, and no, she does not put Vaseline on her teeth. She is not performing in the festival this year, but she will be there every night, and I’ll bet you anything she could use a hug right about now.
LAFF: So there’s this book by Allison Pearson called I Don’t Know How She Does It. A lot of us in Austin don’t know how you do it, by which I mean produce this festival, co-produce Bedpost Confessions, perform in improv shows, work for Gnap Theater Projects, raise two kids, and hold down a full-time job, all while maintaining grace and composure and looking very nice, too. How do you do it?
1) Coffee in the morning, red wine at night, internet access and a steady dose of fear all day.
2) I have always been high strung. I probably have undiagnosed ADD and I tend to operate best when I have a lot of pressure on me. I get energized by doing a lot of things at once because I get bored easily with one long task. I do things I believe in strongly, like lifelong mission level strongly, so that makes the work (mostly) a joy and something that just feels like it has to be done. So I do it. I work all the time really. I should take a vacation.
3) My husband is really supportive of me going gangbusters all the time. He’d also be supportive of me taking a vacation, I reckon.
LAFF: If I’m recalling history correctly, LAFF was your idea, or at least you were the one who wanted to turn one all-female troupe coming from out-of-town to perform with Girls Girls Girls into a full-on festival way back in ’07. Is LAFF everything you dreamed it would be?
I cannot for the life of me remember whose idea it was because at the time we’d have GGG meetings and one person would have an idea and we’d mostly yes-and it to death, but I will go ahead and allow that I had a strong hand in the making of this festival and now look at what’s happened! LAFF is beyond what I dreamed. It’s so amazing to me because we’ve had a consistent group of talented, hardworking, kick-ass women who have wanted the festival to evolve, we’ve had women from all over the country come here to play and perform (and many of them have come back year after year), and we’ve really reached a point where we can and should kick this thing into high gear. The next five years are going to be awesome!
LAFF: We are a broke-ass festival, but if we had unlimited money, what would be the sexiest, biggest, brightest thing you would want to have at LAFF?
Besides a disco ball and massage therapists backstage? A documentary team? Yeah, a documentary team who would produce a film on women and how they do comedy, how they tell stories, about how women identify as performers, the challenges that still remain and how there are deep levels of difference in terms of story telling and communication styles but also amazing similarities in how humor works with all human beings. Yeah, that would be mighty cool. In fact, I’m emailing someone RIGHT NOW to make that happen!
Julie Gillis is, like Visa, everywhere you want to be the weekend of the Ladies are Funny Festival. She is an Aries.