Actor and writer Jen Tullock, whose Sundance sensation, ‘Before You Know It’, comes out this week. Photography by Rozette Rago

How to Make It in Hollywood When You’re Gay, Female, and Thirtysomething

Jen Tullock is ready for her moment. Is the moment ready for her?

Rosecrans Baldwin
Published in
23 min readAug 28, 2019

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ToTo be recognized four times on the way to a 7-Eleven was completely bizarre for Jen Tullock. She didn’t even look like herself. She had on winter gloves, dark sunglasses, black Sorel boots, and a boxy coat color-blocked in red and blue. If anything, she looked like an art thief who’d just stolen a Mondrian, but this was the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah, and Tullock was in town to promote a movie she’d dreamed up nine years earlier with a fellow waitress. Now her face was on posters, in programs, attached to party flyers. The night before, Werner Herzog had wished her congratulations. “It’s crazy,” she said, hustling down a crowded icy sidewalk. “It’s crazy that it’s even happening.”

A few minutes later, Tullock paused to catch her breath. Park City sits among mountains at 7,000 feet. Visitors often experience symptoms of altitude sickness, like headache and dizziness. Stores in town sell bottled oxygen to skiers and mountaineers as a cure. In mountaineering, a “false peak” is one that appears to be the top of the mountain until you reach it, then you see the real summit still looming, previously obscured from view. Tullock stood across from the theater where her film, Before You Know It — co-starring Judith Light, Mandy Patinkin, and Alec Baldwin — would premiere the following night. She had no idea if people would like it. “I hope they will,” she said. “Obviously.” And yet, wasn’t getting into Sundance the true peak? If the movie turned out to be her breakthrough, what would that even look like? Tullock was just resuming her trek when it happened again: A woman crossing the street ID’d her, turned around, and rushed over. She’d seen her on a panel that morning, the woman said, and couldn’t wait to see the movie. “I wish you so, so much luck,” she said, squeezing both of her hands.

Days were strange. Everything she had done for over two decades had been to reach this moment. It was everything she’d ever wanted. And she had no idea if it would make any difference at all.

IfIf you were assigned the role of Jen Tullock, you would be told that your height was 5-foot-4, your eyes were penetratingly blue, and…

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Rosecrans Baldwin
GEN
Writer for

Author most recently of The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of the Year). Next book, about Los Angeles County, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus Giroux x MCD.