Julie Rubio on set, directing 'Too Perfect' in Orinda.

Rubio Rolls Cameras in 'Too Perfect' Orinda

Michael Fox August 18, 2010

Calling from the sunny suburbs this past Monday while the Too Perfect cast and crew takes their lunch break next to a fountain in downtown Orinda, writer-director Julie Rubio remarks with a laugh that her shoe just broke. Footwear problems, of course, don’t register as even a blip on a production with a warp-speed, nine-day shooting schedule (plus a couple of days for pickups). A more pressing concern, given that Rubio describes her self-financed second feature as Stand By Me meets American Graffiti, would be obtaining quality performances from child actors without the time to rehearse and film double-digit takes. But one gets the distinct impression it takes much more than that to faze Rubio.

Too Perfect follows a group of boys celebrating the last day of junior high school. Not yet sexually active or into recreational pharmaceuticals, these suburban adolescents are primed to explore their horizons. On the cusp of new adventures, they can’t see the bumps in the road straight ahead.

“Movies portray children these days in such a negative light,” Rubio declares. “They’re always doing drugs, or drinking alcohol or having sex. I know these kids but they also have these pure beautiful days where they’re just kids. There is this innocent moment sometimes before life hits you like a two by four. You’re a kid, having a good time and boom—one moment, life changes. There’s death, there’s divorce.”

A PG-13 film is both a dramatic shift and a natural progression for Rubio, a Los Angeles native who lived in Hawaii, New York, and London before moving to Orinda 12 years ago. A longtime yoga teacher, Rubio’s filmmaking resumé includes a pair of instructional videos, Yoga Can Balance Your Life and Yoga for Weight Loss (currently in postproduction) and her feature debut, Six Sex Scenes and a Murder, a noirish mystery that played San Francisco’s Lumiere in May, 2008.

In response to my question about the inspiration for Too Perfect, Rubio says simply, “I have a 14-year-old boy, and I’ve been watching him and watching his friends for years.” In fact, she cast her son, Elijah Kahleo O’ Kalani Stavena, in the central role. This particular detail, combined with Rubio fronting the dough for the picture, might make you think “vanity project.” I’d submit that it requires more than vanity (and cash) to obtain a pair of Red cameras, enlist a crew of 45 and a cast of 18 and undertake scenes at locations such as Miramonte High School and the Orinda Theater with a hundred extras. (And if a low-budget indie feature is self-indulgent, what do you say to a hundred-million-dollar self-financed gubernatorial campaign?)

Given that she’s raised half the budget for her next film, a psychological drama set in Hawaii called Masked Truth , one gathers that Rubio isn’t reluctant to pitch herself and her projects. In other words, self-financing Too Perfect wasn’t her first choice.

“I’m sick and tired of waiting for someone to pay for it for me,” Rubio declares.  “When you get to write it, produce, direct it and pay for it, you get to make every single choice you want. And I’m fortunate that I’m able to do that.” She immediately adds, “But you can’t do anything without an amazing team of people.” Her collaborators, all of whom worked on Six Sex Scenes and a Murder, are DP Marty Rosenberg, art director and AD Christine Gilb and producers Ramona Maramonte (whose daughters also have key parts in Too Perfect) and Jody Yvette Wirt. Once production is wrapped, Rubio plans to hunker down immediately with an editor in Los Angeles.

When it comes to locations, Rubio can’t say enough about shooting in her burg. “It’s a really amazing little town,” she effuses.” Cinematically, it’s beautiful when it comes to the whole 1940s, 1950s look. The Orinda is a great art deco theater. We have all these amazing sets, basically, just sitting here.”

Along with the brick-and-mortar past, Rubio is taking full advantage of present-day social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogs—she’s using every avenue to build buzz for Too Perfect. What she won’t do, however, is expose the film before its time to piracy.

“This movie will not be online, it will not go out in the world, until someone pays me for it,” she declares. “And guess what? It still might get pirated. But I still want to get my money back. Not my investors’ money. My money. I can’t bet on the stock market. I can’t bet on the real estate market. I can bet on me. Because I know me.”

Notes From the Underground
Aparna Mallardi’s 2009 philosophical/art feature, Mitsein, screens Sunday, August 29 at UCSF’s Genentech Hall in the Indian Film Festival of San Francisco. … The updated and expanded Fifth Edition of David Thomson’s The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (Random House), recently named one of the five best film books ever in a Sight & Sound poll, hits bookstores October 26. ... Judy Irving’s The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill will close the fall season of PBS’ Independent Lens December 28. Expect even more tourists in 2011.

  • Nov 3, 2011

    Essential SF: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

    With riveting characters, cascading revelations and momentous breakthroughs, Epstein and Friedman’s work paved the way for contemporary documentary practice.

  • Nov 2, 2011

    Essential SF: Susan Gerhard

    Susan Gerhard talks copy, critics and the 'there' we have here.

  • Nov 1, 2011

    Essential SF: Joshua Grannell

    Since its first event in 1998, Midnight Mass has become an SF institution, and Peaches Christ, well, she's its peerless warden and cult leader.

  • Oct 31, 2011

    Essential SF: Karen Larsen

    Universally warm sentiment is attached to the Bay Area's hardest working indie/art film publicist.

  • Oct 28, 2011

    Joshua Moore, on Location

    Filmmaker and programmer Moore talks process, offers perspective on his debut feature and Cinema by the Bay opener, ‘I Think It’s Raining.’

  • Oct 26, 2011

    Essential SF: Canyon Cinema

    For 50 years, Canyon Cinema has provided crucial support for a fertile avant-garde film scene.

  • Oct 24, 2011

    Signs of the Times

    Director Mina T. Son talks about the creation of ‘Making Noise in Silence,’ screening the United Nations Association Film Festival this week.

  • Oct 20, 2011

    Children’s Film Festival Moves in and out of Shadows

    Without marketing tie-ins, plastic toys or corn-syrup confections, a children’s film festival brings energy to the screen.