Q&A with Lia Gotz

Lia Gotz. Photo by Jason Stilgebouer.

Lia Gotz, who graduated from SFUAD as valedictorian with a film production degree in May 2017, spent the first two months after graduation couch hopping and house sitting while working three jobs and producing the short film Paperless. She now works at Meow Wolf creating a documentary and plans to move to L.A. at the beginning of next year.  

Jackalope Magazine: In what ways do you believe you have been successful since graduation? 

Lia GotzI think I’ve been able to overcome my fear…of uncertainty. I’ve been able to accept it. And by doing so, I’ve opened doors for myself, I’ve opened opportunities. I’m not afraid to take a job or to take an experience, or say yes to something. And I’m not afraid to say no, either. I’m not afraid that this may be my last job. 

And when someone is scared, what advice would you give them on overcoming that fear? 

The first step to anything in life is acceptance. Accept that you’re afraid, accept what you’re afraid about, look at it, and ask yourself, ‘Why am I really afraid of this?’ Are you afraid of failure? Are you afraid to lose? Are you afraid to disappoint somebody? I’d say accept what the actual thing you’re afraid [of] is, because once you know the answer, you won’t be as scared anymore…you understand what the fear is. And when you understand something, you can move forward, you can find a solution, and you can solve that problem. 

How did your experience at SFUAD influence your success after graduation? 

SFUAD has always been a small university which…forced me…to find the people I wanted to work with and just work with them so much that we got to a point [where] I could work with them without even having to think about it.  

And I think SFUAD led me to understand how important relationships are in the workplace environment. So, I have been able to go out into the world and I have been able to work in an office on set and in so many different environments. 

SFUAD is not a theoretical school, but SFUAD allowed me to experiment. And so, I have a lot more experience [as a result of] going to SFUAD. 

In what ways were your expectations different from what actually happened after graduation? 

I wanted to be a producer’s assistant, but I didn’t really try and apply for that because I already had jobs lined up when I graduated. So I didn’t try and that’s what I’m changing: I’m going to try. I definitely wanted to be a producer’s assistant…which I can definitely get because I’ve done it before. I want to go get it in L.A. now and it’s a lot harder out there. 

Can you talk about the film you made after graduation? 

Right after I graduated…I went into a six-day shoot for a short film called Paperlessa passion project [with] my best friend who’s also my business partner. We’re two single Latino women in the United States working towards our dreams, and so when we graduated, we wanted our thesis to be a short film that would then be used to be sold into a feature of a single Latino mother in the United States trying to be an artist to represent the artist’s struggle, and also the struggle of women and…the struggle of minorities.  

What projects have you done since then? 

I currently work for Meow Wolf Entertainment, working on a [documentary]. I was asked to produce a couple of the PSAs for New Mexico Women in Film. I was working for them and received an award. I was very honored. They choose, like, four volunteers they want to recognize and so that was really cool. And then I’ve also been working on a variety of short films [and] music videos.  

I [also] just worked on a Poliça music video three weeks ago [and] road-tripped all over New Mexico for a week. That was nice. I also flew to San Francisco [and] did a documentary…so they flew me out there. 

Who have been your most influential connections since graduation? 

College professors. My friends. I think your peers are the biggest connection you will have outside graduation because they’re in the exact same place you are. And if you have a group of five people and each of you go off and find a different job, those are already five connections in five different companies that you have. And although they may be starting from the bottom, at least they know people and they’ll be networking for you.  

What is your hope for the future? 

I’m going to start my own production company in about seven years. That’s my game plan. I’m going to get my MBA in a year and then I also want to do the American Film Institute’s [AFI] producer’s program. I’m going into entertainment business and then the AFI producer’s program. 

I’m a very planned person…I’m very hardcore, which is why I’m a producer. So, for my future, I want to work on things that make me happy. I don’t care if I don’t sleep, if I don’t eat, if I work 16 to 18-hour days, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I think people think about the journey too much, [but] I love the journey. 

What advice would you give soon-to-be graduates? 

To go ahead and freak out. It’s normal. And to rely on your friends because it’s scary and even though it doesn’t matter how much people want to tell you that it’s not, that it’s fine, that you’ll figure it out. You’re still going to be freaked out because it’s the first time in your life you’re not studying, you’re not in school, you don’t have a set plan…but that’s OK. [The] whole world is waiting for you and…you can do whatever you want and you don’t have to do what your degree told you to do.  

I think there’s a lot of expectations that go through a graduate’s mind. I mean, first of all, you’re getting told you’re amazing, you’re awesome, you’re going to go out there and get jobs right away. And I think that’s the reality that brings so much depression upon recent graduates, is that they don’t realize that jobs aren’t waiting for you. You have to go out and find them. 

What is your statement as an artist? 

…It’s the most cliché thing I can ever say, but my entire life has been based on ‘This too shall pass,’ because, for me, I’ve gone through difficult situations and I’ve put myself in difficult situations…and I’ve always found that it doesn’t matter how bad it is or how sad and angry I am, and how much I think the world is angry, or how much people are mad at me…it doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, you can fix anything. 

And your sadness will end. Your happiness will end. Your anger will end. Everything in life comes and goes, and if you can come to an understanding that you’re just a part of a natural cycle, then you don’t get worried about things. 

This interview has been edited for style and clarity.