The secret to any successful artist usually has a great deal to do with the business person standing behind them. Julia Toke, 28, a Cleveland-based multitasking mother of four, has been the resident know-it-all for James since he opened his studio last fall. With a no-nonsense attitude and witty demeanor, she’s making contacts and taking names all over the city– and beyond.
So how did this beautiful partnership come to be?
Jules: I first met James through a mutual friend, Jason Feiler, at a freelance producer call. I impressed “the shit” out of James, who asked me to meet with him. Over glasses of single malt scotch, naturally.
James: SO, how it really went down is like this. Jules thought I was full of shit. She thought I was selling her a dream, like it was too good to be true.
Jules: We met for a specific project but I convinced him that he should hire me full time. At the end of our conversation I told him I would start working at the end of the month, shook his hand, and walked out the door. 25-year old Julia would have been jumping up and down but 33-yr old Julia knew this shit wasn’t gonna happen.
James: Why does no one ever believe me when I say or do things like this??
Jules: Because successful creatives don’t CHOOSE to leave Manhattan, pick Cleveland of all places to open a beautiful photography studio, and hire a 31 year old full time producer… that’s pretty much the exact opposite of what normally happens here. But I guess we need to get used to these sort of things happening now since this city is becoming a mecca for artists like James.
James: Wait how old are you?
Jules: Shut up.
James: So basically I was trying to hand off as much work as I could that was keeping me from being behind the camera and Jules definitely fit the bill.
Jules: I told you that my job would be to make sure you’re behind the camera as often as possible. Which means all you have to do A and Z while I take care of B-Y and you loved that. The final interview would be dinner at Black Dog Kitchen and Bar— I think that I’m having interview-ee dinner with Erica and J, so I get there super early, order an appetizer, and he texts me at the last minute and says “make sure you get a table for eight.” I love meeting new people, so rather than being nervous I was psyched, put me in a room full of people I don’t know and I’m happier than a hog in shit. —–Find a classier way to say that.—–
James: Yeah, Maddie… if you could make her sound classy and intelligent that would be great! But in all honesty, the purpose of that interview was really to see if she could think on her feet, manage an unruly group, and she of course had to be able to hang.
Jules: I want to talk about twerking in the van on the way to Roar Along the Shore.
James: No!!… Bad producer… bad! I told her later that night she had the job, but that I didn’t wanna mess around with the paperwork and all that shit, so she had to figure out how to do that part. Which essentially boiled down the the fact that during her first day on the job… she had to hire herself.
Jules: And I did.
Photo by Jason Thomas Crocker