Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Hero's Journey: Jenny Fulle Has Led a Charmed Life of Her Own Making-With Strength and Smarts, She Went from Preteen Legal Hero to Janitor to Power Lesbian Film Executive

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Hero's Journey: Jenny Fulle Has Led a Charmed Life of Her Own Making-With Strength and Smarts, She Went from Preteen Legal Hero to Janitor to Power Lesbian Film Executive

Article excerpt

When Jenny Fulle was 18 she scrubbed George Lucas's toilet. It was 1980 and Fulle was already a minor celebrity, half-remembered as the baseball prodigy whose determination forced Little League Baseball to allow girls to play.

But Fulle's rubber gloves were merely creating the backstory for an amazing second act a modern Horatio Alger story in which a gay protagonist goes from janitor to executive vice president of a movie studio with not so much as a black eye in the process.

As executive VP of production at Sony Pictures Imageworks the company responsible for all three Spider-Man pictures, both Charlie's Angels films, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other marvels of special effects and animation--Fulle is one of the most powerful lesbians in Hollywood. And she's pulled herself to the top without the help of nepotism or a formal education.

"I had just dropped out of college and wasn't quite sure of what I wanted to do. I was floundering a bit," she remembers. "So someone said to me, 'Would you like to clean toilets for George Lucas?' and I said, 'Hey, that sounds cool.'"

She started working at Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas's special effects compound in the San Francisco Bay area, and became captivated by the energy of the studio. At 23 she became a production assistant, a coveted stepping-stone that can lead to bigger things if you're smart and tenacious enough.

"After a couple of years in production, it was, 'Oh, little Jenny--she used to be a janitor and now she's a coordinator. Isn't that cute?'" Fulle says. "People were putting me in a box, and it wasn't because of my sexuality or my gender but the fact that a few years earlier I was emptying their trash."

Tired of being known as the cleaning lady, Fulle packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles. It was as much a personal choice as a professional necessity: "Up in Marin County, I was the only gay."

Fulle landed production gigs on many hypermasculine films, including Arnold Schwarzenegger movies Total Recall, Eraser, and True Lies, and surprisingly, didn't experience much sexism. "Certainly, I've felt like I've come up against the boys' club, but it hasn't been impenetrable," she says. In fact, occasionally she's gleaned confidence from the most unlikely experiences.

Once, in her early days in Los Angeles, she found herself on a movie set feeling out of place and trying desperately to look like she belonged.

"Whoopi Goldberg was there," Fulle recalls, "and she came up to me in front of all these people and said, 'Didn't I fuck you at Woodstock?' I felt all the blood drain from my face. It was definitely an icebreaker."

To Fulle, Hollywood's homophobia is directed largely at actors; players behind the camera aren't subjected to the same degree of hostility. "I've been out publicly since I came out of the womb, and I've never been closeted at work," she says. "In the film industry you want something that people will remember you by, and I think my outness has only helped me."

It certainly hasn't hurt. The promotions continued with Fulle advancing at Hollywood's premier digital studios, such as DreamWorks SKG, before being tapped by Imageworks president Tim Sarnoff for her current position.

"Jenny is everything this industry should stand for," Sarnoff says via e-mail. "She's gotten to where she is today with hard work, determination, and a sense of humor. Her strength is important as well--she can lift more than I can."

The executives' working relationship produced hits like Superman Returns, The Aviator, and the Spider-Man movies. …

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