Producer Julie Manriquez and the Cultural Relevance of Her Spark Documentary
Julie is a freelance marketing and creative writer, screenwriter, and producer. Julie currently works as associate producer for nonprofit, Amateur Films, LLC. As content contributor and writer for the company’s current documentary project — Spark: A Systemic Racism Story — Julie also oversees post-production marketing and outreach to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion leaders within corporations, organizations, and academia. Julie specializes in original content for diversity, health and wellness pub
lications; technology and lifestyle brands; and she counsels high school seniors through the college application process. How did you get involved with SPARK? I became involved with SPARK very organically early on in the pandemic. I’ve always been an activist and social justice seeker, so I attended a handful of Black Lives Matter marches in June after the murder of George Floyd. Most of these were in urban areas, but there was one located in my neighborhood in La Jolla — a conservative, predominantly white suburb of San Diego — on June 12th. Although our little slice of suburbia is more liberal than it was 20 years ago, I didn’t have high expectations. Our community turnout was surprising! The event was very well organized by students and activists outside of La Jolla and I think some of the speakers may have even changed some antiquated views in our older, white demographic. It was there that I ran into neighbors Tom and Mary Gegax. They invited me to a (socially distant :) gathering at their house to view photos from the march with some other activists and creatives from our community. Tom threw out the idea of pulling together a team to tackle creating a documentary film as a quarantine project. I was instantly on board. As a writer, I was thrilled to have a meaningful project to work on during a very dark time. The idea of offering a resource that could possibly be used to educate others on becoming allies during a time of racial reckoning was energizing. What do you want the viewers to get out of this film? I want viewers to recognize it’s not enough to simply say you're not a racist. Check yourself. Do more. Live an antiracist life as a committed ally. There is a huge difference between using the words “I am not a racist” and “I am an antiracist.” It involves unpacking unconscious bias, addressing our inner selves and our inner workings. We have to scrutinize how and why we’ve been taught the “history” that we have learned. From there we can begin the unlearning process.
What has it meant to you personally?
I learned so much more than I thought I would. I had a lot of work to do, and I still have a lot of work to do. I’m grateful for the opportunity to delve deeper. How and when do you feel fulfillment? In terms of SPARK, I feel fulfilled when I receive messages from viewers, whom I may have considered to be closed-minded, that are sparked to self-examine their biases and commit to doing the work. What is something that surprised you as a result of working on SPARK? When your eyes are open, possibilities are endless. As a result of this project, I’ve met so many wonderful people. The National Conflict Resolution Center’s A Path Forward Task Force reached out to me to join their team. Through SPARK, I’ve met local activists while volunteering and we’ve helped cross-promote our non-profit projects including San Diego’s Breakfast Block Mutual Aid (@breakfastblock_mutualaid) and Ride For Breonna (@rideforbreonna) to raise awareness of systemic racism’s role in societal failures and policing. It’s clear to me that people have an appetite for this kind of content and thus, the gifts that come from that interest in action steps toward change are endless. Were you ever discouraged? If so, how did it affect your creativity? Quarantine was definitely discouraging for all, and we were no anomaly. We were in a very unique situation — creating a film during a pandemic. Obviously logistical aspects and collaborative barriers were discouraging.
What do you see as the future for SPARK?
In six months, I would love to see us back to “real life” and hosting a live, official premier of SPARK. It would be so exciting to share this work in-person and establish deeper connections and engagement within communities. In a year, I would like to continue to see the appetite to learn about antiracism and the ability to easily share our message of allyship. In ten years, I hope that SPARK is considered a historical film about a problem that “was” and “is no longer.” My wish is that the idea of systemic racism will someday be considered an historical relic. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? I’m hoping that doors opened by this project will lead to connections to other film projects, possibly getting my feature-length political dramedy script, March, produced.
How do you balance work and life responsibilities? I fly by the seat of my pants just about every day. I like that consistency simply doesn’t exist. I wear several hats: I am a college prep counselor, yoga teacher, retreat leader, and freelance writer. I’m grateful that I’m in a place where I can be choosy with the projects I take on.
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship? In terms of social justice, I look up to Stacy Abrams. I think both sides of the aisle will admit she is a force to be reckoned with! I also look up to people who emulate Ms. Abrams who are regular people in my neighborhood. They are doing the tough work of challenging a broken system. I deeply appreciate Catherine Cox, who, with a team of badasses, manages our local Ride For Breonna: a relentless grassroots movement that hosts events every weekend and educates the public on what action steps to take to bring justice for Breonna Taylor’s murder. How did you reach your level of success, given the sector’s gender gap and racism especially among women leadership? With this project, I credit executive producers Tom and Mary Gegax. They treated everyone on the project equally and all of our voices were heard. Each person was given the respect and space they deserved throughout the creative process. Are you working on any new events or upcoming projects? I am currently pitching my original screenplay, March, which addresses how an administration that set out to stifle progress actually led to the birth of today’s reimagined women’s movement. In addition, I am working with the National Conflict Resolution Center to promote their upcoming free virtual event on May 15th, featuring this year’s Peacemaker Award recipient, Dr. Anthony Fauci: “peacemaker-awards” Past featured speakers have been bestselling authors, Ibram X. Kendi (How to be an Antiracist), Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility), and Arthur C. Brooks (Love Your Enemies). Click on the link to register to join live or view at your convenience. There is sure to be thought-provoking discussion and follow-up resources available. What advice would you give someone like you that’s just starting and wants to make an impact? Be open and be curious. Opportunities arise when you trust yourself to be present, mindful and accepting of every moment. Where can the readers follow you? Instagram - @julie_goes_ham Spark website - https://spark-doc.com/