Marisa Xochtl Jimenez.  Photo by Sun Beam

Marisa Xochtl Jimenez. Photo by Sun Beam

 

I never thought in a million years I’d be managing a film studio, especially in this grand and beautiful Land of Enchantment.  That was never my dream growing up as little girl. I found my place in the world by doing the things I love and being inspired by the people that surround and support me.

My family has actually been the core of who I am today. My father was a State Judge in Texas and now he's an attorney who donates his time to people who are unable to afford legal services. My mother was employed with the Social Security Administration, serving in different capacities, including District Manager until her retirement in 2017.  She was constantly giving back her time and energy, helping people and ensuring they received their entitled benefits.  My parents both came from poverty-level homes. My mother grew up in the projects in Downtown LA. They both moved up the ladder and went on to do amazing things. All they wanted for their children was to ensure they had a good education and reach their individual aspirations. They taught me  work hard, stay committed to the things I say yes to, be kind and help others as much as I can.

I was the baby in the family and looked up to my two sisters who really knew what they wanted. I was that young artistic kind of girl that who did not know what she wanted and very insecure. Bullied most of my middle and high school years, I was blessed to have a family that kept me moving to achieve my full potential. Through it all, my parents would always say, “You can do anything,” but at that time I didn't know what that meant. I am grateful that they constantly and unwaveringly supported me in all my ups and downs.

And not to sound cliché, that statement truly did encourage me to continue forward in my career and I even use it today when I speak to young students afraid of their futures and insecurities.  I tell them I felt the same--that's just who we are. We can't help it. We’re artists. We’re dancers. We’re perfectionists. We want it to work out perfectly. But the funny thing is when art happens, it's never done perfectly. Well a least not for me… It's always kind of a wonderful accident. I truly believe the Doing is the Art. That’s when one is immersing themselves in the idea of creating something new and training to be the best. That’s Art.

I have been a dancer since I was three years old. I always loved dancing because it helped me overcome my insecurities and I was truly happiest when I danced. Around the age of four, I ended up having a major head injury and they told me that I would have a slight learning disability that I could compensate with therapy.   Guess what?   I did!   I also had to overcome a physical issue with balance while walking.  I did!  I was even told I would never be a professional dancer by some of my dance teachers but GUESS WHAT? I DID.

I truly believe the Doing is the Art. That’s when one is immersing themselves in the idea of creating something new and training to be the best. That’s Art.

I became a professional dancer in 2006. Traveled, was in commercials, tv shows, in over a 100 of live shows, danced for the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company for over 10 years, danced for TaskForce dance company, choreographed and taught inner city kids how to dance hip hop, salsa and modern for over 20 years.  Thinking back about what the doctors said, I did what they said would be impossible, however I went on to get my bachelor’s degree in Dance and Political Science from Loyola Marymount and then my master’s AND I just kept dancing.

After all of that, I knew I wanted to accomplish much more.  I wanted to test my abilities.  I was an artist, a dancer and sometime around my mid-twenties, I couldn’t help but feel that dancers were being disrespected. I was constantly asked to BE SEXY but NOT TALK. Wear this bikini and if you don’t you won’t get paid. We were objectified or just bodies told what to do. I knew that a lot of my friends and myself included had a VOICE that was rarely listened to.  I wanted to figure out how our voices could be heard.  This led me to further my education and I received my Master's in London in Dance Anthropology in 2009 from Roehampton University. Once again, I loved my work in London because I was surrounded by extraordinary people from all over the world sharing their stories of dance and culture. I had found a field that I was drawn to because it fused everything from the critical thinking, to cultural awareness, to the historical originations of dance. Dance Anthropology is the study of how and why humans move non-verbally. Before there was religion, before there was language, humans connected using body movement…DANCE. To me a light bolt struck me, and I realized that my whole life I have been communicating with my body movement and I no longer wanted to be objectified but HEARD.

This inspired me to create my first documentary because I strongly felt if I was going to explain this significance and relationship between communication and bodies, I needed to be able to show the dance. I made my first film with my own money, my own crew (Mateusz Klejam and I) and rented all the equipment. I used all my money I earned from my waitressing job and English and Salsa teaching jobs to fund my film.

I made my first movie, which I absolutely loved making and remember thinking, “oh my god, I'm the worst filmmaker, but I love this. This is amazing. I can’t wait to do it again.” Luckily because I put my heart and soul into it, I was awarded distinction.

 
Photography by Sun Beam

Photography by Sun Beam

 

Filmmaking became my passion. I loved how one could share their experiences, knowledge, ideas and possibilities into a film. I especially love it when the story is from a Voice that deserves to be heard and listened to. It's everyday people just writing the story of how they see the world.  There are so many different ways to tell a story…different perspectives, different people, different lives, and different experiences.  It's beautiful to me.

After I graduated, I flew back home to Los Angeles to be with family but also surround myself with Film and TV professionals and landed several jobs in film. I worked in production and post production for a few years.

I loved how one could share their experiences, knowledge, ideas and possibilities into a film. I especially love it when the story is from a Voice that deserves to be heard and listened to. It's everyday people just writing the story of how they see the world. 

In 2012, I was excited to join Raleigh Studios as Studio Coordinator and from there my career in Studio Operations took off. I found my calling that merges all my skills and experiences into one. I have helped over 100 productions from London, California to New Mexico.   I enjoy hearing about the project and figuring out how to help make their vision a reality.  That's also why I love working with young people because if they stay focused, love what they do, it's going to all work out the way it should.

With some hard work and passion, “pinch me” moments do happen; like having the George RR Martin’s team reach out and recruit me to run his nonprofit Stagecoach Foundation. I was the Executive Director for almost two years.

With my background in Film and TV, I was able to combine my experiences and my passion to help others, I was supported by George RR Martin and Parris McBride-Martin to set up workshops and educational programs all over the State of New Mexico. With a group of close friends who are amazing film professionals, we traveled to different tribes and trained them on how to make their own films.

The best part about my job, was seeing young students get excited about creating their own films and telling their own stories. the secret to film is working hard and loving what you do.

In the film industry, the majority of us are kids who want to play, be creative, think outside the box, have fun, learn, and explore. You just have to do your time. No task can ever be too small. Even in the position I am now, I am fully capable of doing whatever task lies before me. I'm a team player. And once you show that, once you show that you are a team player, it works for everyone.

At 35 years old, I am currently the Executive Director of Albuquerque Studios, working for the largest studio management/lighting and grip equipment company in the world: MBS3.

And yes, getting to where I am today wasn’t easy. I am human and take my work very personally and emotionally.

Of course, people ask me questions about being a “Woman in the Field” and I think many women struggle in various fields because they are women. And because I take my job to heart, I struggle with “Am I capable of this?”  “Do they respect me for what I have accomplished?” “Do they see me as an object?” “Can I do this?” Etc.

The best part about my job, was seeing young students get excited about creating their own films and telling their own stories. the secret to film is working hard and loving what you do.

I feel compelled to overachieve because obviously, gender carries into discussions of qualifications, equality in pay, harassment issues, etc.  I've always been seen as sexual, I think people judge me based on my ethnicity, gender and my background in dance. However, I have learned to not listen to the other perceptions of me and look at all the things I have accomplished.

Through it all, I have never stopped doing the things I love. The more job responsibilities I get, the pressure seems tangible some days but I’m doing what I love and that’s what I focus on.

I’ve learned to define myself as strong, independent and bold.  At the same time, I’m caring and emotional.  It’s not about gender politics.  This is who I am. This is how I want to be.

I simply define myself as a capable, intelligent studio executive director.  Don't consider my gender. I have qualifications and experiences. I got here on merit and experience and hard work.  It’s not about gender or sexuality.

Today, we need to have diplomatic conversations and cultural understanding of one another.  We need to respect other’s views even when we disagree.   

Looking back on all of this, and the shift of my journey through life, I have fallen several million times and gotten up each time, which to me shows that I’m unable to stay down. I never gave up, I never will. I’ll always support my family, friends and colleagues whenever they need me. I am grateful for all those who encouraged and supported me in my career.

Don't consider my gender. I have qualifications and experiences. I got here on merit and experience and hard work.  It’s not about gender or sexuality.

And even in my new role, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that goals are achieved, and individuals are respected: my staff, my colleagues, my clients, my bosses.  I truly love working in this industry. I wouldn't be anywhere else. I am where I am because I love what I do. This is my calling.