As the 21st century goes on, continuing advances in technology have played a significant role in the way we live, work and communicate with each other. At the same time, the growing rise of artificial intelligence-based technology has brought an equal balance of wonder, fascination and concern among inventors, media observers and everyday people alike.
The promise and dangers of both modern and future technologies have been explored in countless films and TV series, ranging from Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, to the acclaimed 2015 indie sci-fi thriller EX MACHINA, and USA’s hit suspense drama MR. ROBOT, just to name a few. Of course, memorable characters and stories are a major part of what makes them effective, and the new French language sci-fi drama JULIE (now streaming 2 special “preview” episodes of its pilot on its DailyMotion page, see link below) is no exception.
Created by Camille Chastrusse (who also co-stars), JULIE combines all those elements to bring viewers the story of its title character (played by Marion Plantier), a young woman who, in many ways, is just like the rest of us. Unbeknownst to anyone, including herself, Julie is more of a hero than she imagined.
Having a steady job at a Paris translation firm, Julie is also attempting to move on from the heartbreak caused by her ex-boyfriend Benoit (Sebastien Robert), who broke up with her so that he could explore the world beyond the City of Light. However, once he returns to Paris, he does so at the very company Julie works for.
Suddenly, Julie’s otherwise ordinary life is drastically changed when she sees a troubled, yet talented A.I. system developer turned hacker, Vincent (played by Chastrusse), being savagely attacked by thugs on a nearby street. Just as soon as she fights them off, though, Julie notices that Vincent’s phone has been left behind.
On it contains a highly sensitive program that penetrates into Julie’s computer. Little does she know, though, that the program belongs to the powerful tech company Paris Dynamics, which fired Vincent due to his erratic behavior, and now sees him as a security risk. From there, Julie embarks on a quest to fight the threat to humanity posed by the corporation’s dangerous technology, while protecting Vincent from its nefarious clutches.
The series’ cast also features Chantal Baroin as Julie’s mother Marie, who just happens to be Paris Dynamics’ deputy director in charge of operations. At the same time, she cherishes her daughter, and is equally moved by the principled woman she’s become. In addition, Aissata Sy plays Amanda, Julie’s boss and a close friend of Marie.
Chastrusse originally developed JULIE as a way to examine the growing prominence of artificial intelligence in today’s society, and the risks that such a disruptive form of technology are already posing to the world at large.
As time went on, though, the need to bring viewers a compelling, character-driven series that combines heart pounding suspense with an equally memorable protagonist at its forefront, became especially crucial for the show’s creator.
“At first, I wanted to explore how A.I. are starting to replace people at work or in their daily life. Soon, I realized I wanted to have a strong female character to lead this story because I always felt that my favorite sci-fi story had also this strong female main character,” says Chastrusse. “Then it just became the story of this particular girl and how special she was. I felt that I needed to personalize the story as much as I could in order to explore all those themes about A.I. that I cared about.”
As a character, Julie shares obvious similarities to such famed sci-fi heroines as THE TERMINATOR’s Sarah Connor, ALIEN’s Ellen Ripley, Capt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from the 2003 reboot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. “She’s brave, like all those characters, and she doesn’t hesitate to take matter in her own hands,” explains Chastrusse, who adds that unlike those aforementioned favorites, Julie’s path towards where she’s going, and how viewers will understand her journey, is linked strongly to where she’s come from.
“Maybe what sets her apart is that she has a background that needs to be explored to tell the story,” he says. “Sarah Connor, Ripley, Starbuck and Bayta (Darell, of Isaac Asimov’s FOUNDATION novels) are pretty much defined by the choices they make in the present. Their past does not count much. It does with Julie.”
JULIE is also significant in the way it depicts female characters on-screen. Since the 1985 introduction of the Bechdel test, an exercise that challenges writers and filmmakers to create scenes where two women discuss any topic except for a man (or men), it has become the measuring stick for all forms of media when it comes to ensuring accurate and equal portrayals of women in entertainment.
Knowing full well the importance of giving viewers a realistic presentation of female characters, Chastrusse prides himself on making sure that JULIE achieves the standards set by the Bechdel test in every episode of the series. With much of his favorite sci-fi fare featuring determined, courageous women as its protagonists, Chastrusse is also aware of the responsibility he and other filmmakers have to defy Hollywood’s outdated and stereotypical view of women on both sides of the camera.
“All I know and all I see is that women are not given enough opportunity to be the main character and a strong character. I now can’t bear to see a movie with only one woman, who often needs a man to rescue her, and is treated as a sexual object,” explains Chastrusse. “A few years ago, I would not have minded, but I realized how all of this was part of patriarchal culture, and it was our job, as creators, to offer another vision; another way of telling a story.”
A commitment to realism also plays a major role in Chastrusse’s approach to the characters, story and situations found in JULIE. “In the movies, you don’t see enough girls helping a random man who’s being beat up in the street. But the truth is, it happens every day. I’ve been witness to more women helping strangers in the subway, or in the streets, than men,” he adds. “Maybe they don’t kick ass like Julie does, because we’re in the real world, but they do stand up. I think it’s time to tell more stories that are truer to what actually happens.”
Equally important to Chastrusse is his determination to provide equal opportunities for women to succeed in every aspect of JULIE’s production. In an industry that continues to be tilted heavily against women, especially when it comes to their efforts to build a career in acting, directing, writing, producing and management, Chastrusse does his best to involve talented female actors and crew members heavily on each episode’s shoot.
“On screen, I always asked myself if a woman can play the part. And if there is really no reason that it should be a man more than a woman, I choose a woman,” he says. “Behind the scenes, I’m working with a group of friends who are ready to help. One of them is a girl who really want to make a career as a gaffer, which is a strong male dominated environment. I just think it’s silly. She’s one of the most competent people I’ve worked with.”
Filled with intense drama and suspense, and a powerful female character at its center, JULIE both entertains and challenges viewers to think about the consequences and risks that come with the dizzyingly rapid growth of modern technology. Even more, the series also encourages those who watch to consider their role in making our world a better place to live, and the responsibilities we all share while working toward achieving that goal.
“JULIE is a science fiction series that explores a world where the main character has been living a life of lies. It’s thrilling, beautiful, and packed with action,” says Chastrusse of the series’ concept. “The message of the show is that you can be part of a change, that you shouldn’t just let things happen if you don’t want them to. Julie is the story of people who chose to act, at some point, to change the world, for better or for worse.”
ON THE WEB: http://sunnytales.net/juliewebseries