Over the past five years, Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz have brought four co-written scripts to the screen—including this week’s Prime Video release, I’m Your Woman, which Julia also directed and Jordan produced. But they would be the first to admit their collaboration didn’t get off to the most auspicious start.
“We’re both from New York and we met in New York 15 years ago. Jordan was assisting a producer and I was an assistant teacher,” Julia says. “The first thing we did together was write a short film that we tried to make that was a total disaster.”
“Total disaster,” Jordan echoes.
There was no money, the shooting location—a friend’s apartment—ruined relationships, and a big chunk of content got destroyed after the DP dropped the drive. “It was a nightmare,” Jordan adds. They vowed to never do that again.
After moving to Los Angeles, getting married and planning to start a family, Julia turned back to her passion for writing.
“I thought, if I don’t ever try to make it as a writer, I think I’ll regret it,” she says. So she set off on her first script,The Keeping Room, and got an agent, all while finishing out the school year. “She was taking calls from agents from the broom closet of her school,” Jordan says.
Julia hasn’t looked back since—and she credits Jordan with encouraging her to take that chance. “It’s really scary changing careers and it’s really scary putting yourself in the center and I was very lucky to have a supportive partner, but one who also knew the industry.”
Jordan, meanwhile, continued producing. (As you might recall, he’s the La La Land producer who announced Moonlight had won Best Picture in 2017.)
“When I think of myself as a filmmaker, I think of myself as a producer,” Jordan says. “Julia came up as a writer, but then transitioned to directing. And we are co-writers now, too, so our process has evolved pretty organically since we started working together.”
It’s a process that started pretty organically, too, on the set of The Keeping Room (which Julia wrote and Jordan produced). “That’s when I first realized that I wanted to direct my next script,” Julia says. “I was watching this man direct a story that I had written about three women and I was suddenly like, ‘Why didn’t I give myself permission to tell the story myself?’”
While writing her next script, Julia came to Jordan for notes and suggestions—which turned into more. “I pretty much had to force him to take credit for Miss Stevens, which was the first movie I directed and the first movie we also co-wrote,” she says.
Ultimately, she had to convince Jordan: “You are writing. You are a writer.”
At first, the process was clunky. “We wrote separately,” Julia recalls. “I’d write a first draft and then he would revise it, and now, 14 scripts later, it’s so seamless.”
“We’re not one of those couples that’s like one person. We have very distinct ways of thinking and being and working, but they really fit together so well now, after so much time of letting that process evolve.”
Whereas it can take Jordan three days to write five pages, Julia will “sit down and very freely write 20,” Jordan says. But that’s where the pair’s combination of creativity and pragmatism comes into balance.
Jordan enters every project with his producer cap on. “When I’m writing something on a page, I’m thinking, ‘Can we get this location? Am I writing too many extras into this? How are we going to shoot this scene? Should this really be another exterior?’ Sometimes it’s good because when we put stuff down on the page, it’s very much with the intention of making it.”
With four movies in five years under their belt, Jordan and Julia have found the trick to balancing work and family is to marry the two.
“It’s no accident that as you grow and evolve and get older and get better at being a person, you also grow and evolve and get better at your job,” Julia says. “What a pleasure it is to put in that work and get to reap the benefits of it by having a really lovely, respectful, healthy process in your working relationship and in your personal life.”
Even if a script doesn’t make it to screen—and there are many in the works for Jordan and Julia—the process is a reward unto itself.
“We find so much pleasure in writing together that it never feels like a waste of time, even if something doesn’t get made, because you learn so much about yourself, about each other, about writing, about filmmaking, it’s always a worthy endeavor,” she adds.
“We prioritize collaboration in all of our work and that starts with the work that we do together,” Jordan says. “We try to be really good listeners, we try to be open to new ideas. It starts from a place of family and that that’s what we want to take outward from the script.” That extends to partners and crew whom they bring on later in the process—once they’ve transitioned into their respective producer and director roles.
As you move toward production, Julia explains, “You go from just being our two brains in our house to inviting so many people into the world of the story. [At that point,] we don’t really care who has the best ideas: We’re not precious about the work. We’re precious about the work being good.”
Bringing the work home
The time when most ideas flow between the couple is after dinner, once their 2- and 6-year-old sons have gone to bed. “We always try, every night, even if it’s just 30 minutes, to sit outside together and have a glass of wine and just decompress—and our version of decompressing is more work, I guess,” Julia says. That’s when the pair bat ideas back and forth and record voice memos about the ones that stick. This process will turn into 20- to 30-page outlines and then to writing side by side.
Using “collaboration mode” on Final Draft, Jordan and Julia pass scripts back and forth before signing off together. While Julia favors writing dialogue (“It’s my happy place”), Jordan favors action sequences. “It’s a process that starts in a variety of ways, that weave to this same point: We both just read the script together at the same time and then pass it off,” Jordan says.
While being stuck at home is an impediment to work for many, it’s something of a blessing for Jordan and Julia. “When we first became parents and we realized we were never going to leave our house again—long before quarantine—we were like, ‘Let’s just write. We have a baby who sleeps all day and all night that we have to stay at home with. Let’s just write whenever we can.’ And we wrote like four or five scripts in that time period. We made a couple of them but we still have a couple to go,” Julia says.
Making “I’m Your Woman”
So how do parents of two come to making a crime drama about a woman on the run? Doesn’t the saying go: Write what you know?
“Instead of writing a movie about two new parents in mid-2000, I think it’s much more interesting to take all those emotions and pour them into a different type of story that has nothing to do with our actual lives,” Julia says. “So, I think the ‘write what you know’ thing can be a lot broader than we’re initially taught that it is.”
And even though Jean (played by Rachel Brosnahan) is running away from killers, maybe her story isn’t too far off from being a first-time parent.
“We were watching all these ’70s crime dramas around the time that we became parents because we started to see so many correlations. Jean is thrown into this new and dangerous world where everything is uncertain and she has to keep this helpless being alive. She doesn’t know who’s around the corner, she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next and she’s isolated and having to figure this all out on her own. It’s so very much what new parenthood feels like. It’s uncertain, you have more questions than you have answers, it can be really scary, it can feel really isolating,” Julia says.
Of all the crime films they dove into when they first became parents, Michael Mann’s Thief rose above the rest as inspiration for this new film.
“I remember where I was sitting. It was in our old house, I was sitting on the living room floor and you [Jordan] were sitting on the couch,” Julia says. “There was a moment in that movie where Tuesday Weld’s character goes one way and the movie goes another—and I loved where the movie goes, it’s awesome—but I couldn’t stop thinking about her afterwards and wanting to know what happened to her.”
The next day, Julia turned to Jordan and said, “What if the movie started with that moment in the crime drama when the man decides the action is too intense for the women and the children and he needs to send them into hiding. Instead of following the man, what if it followed the woman?”
The title of their new film comes from that very scene Julia mentions, when Tuesday Weld says, “I’m your woman and you’re my man.”
“We wanted to take that part and recontextualize it for this picture,” Jordan says.
The idea was to explore a genre they both loved and shift the camera to look at the, oftentimes, secondary characters. “When you pull that thread, and try to just follow who those characters authentically were in those genres, you wind up with stuff that feels like those genres that takes you to places that sometimes feel unexpected,” Jordan says.
Letting go of the script
Once they step into their respective director and producer roles, Julia and Jordan let go. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still close to the material.
“I would say that we’re simultaneously the biggest champions of [the script] and defenders of what the work is at its core,” Jordan says. But it’s equally important that everyone on the project get on board with a singular vision. “As a producer, I very often will say that knowing what the movie is, is the more important conversation you could have. That doesn’t mean what exactly the words are on the page and you must devote yourself to them 100 percent. It is: What is at the core of this movie? Why are you telling this story? What is the story? And making sure that all of your collaborators are making the same movie that you are making.”
And while they’ll never use a “film by” credit—“The idea of sole authorship on a movie is a little bit confounding to me,” Julia says—they have a good thing going.
“You’ll never see my name on a script alone,” Jordan says. “And I don’t know that you will Julia’s either.”
“Why would I bother?” Julia adds.
It’s as though all their respective jobs and moves and stumbles have led to this seamless personal-professional collaboration. “It’s weird because now it feels so inevitable,” Julia says. “I think back to that disastrous short film we made. I was an assistant third grade teacher and he was an assistant to a producer, so it didn’t really make sense that we were trying to make a movie together. But now that I look back at it—we were always going to be doing this, we just didn’t know it yet.”
By Nadine Zylberberg