Laitala grew up on the Maine coast, where she developed a chronic passion for old things. She attended Massachusetts College of Art studying Photography and Film and received her Masters degree in Film from the San Francisco Art Institute. She began teaching at that school in 2002.
Laitala is a media archeologist who investigates the past and retrieves cultural artifacts from the limbo of the forgotten. Her penchant for medical imagery and relics of decay sprang from her time working in medical and dental institutions.
Laitala is deeply invested in the process of working directly with the film medium, and has been involved in all aspects of production: shooting, developing, editing and sound design as well as optically printing much of the material to transform it into celluloid strands of uncanny resonance.
Her single-channel works are often grouped into two major cycles. The Journey Into Darkness series (1997-2006) includes Secure the Shadow...'Ere the Substance Fade, Awake But Dreaming, Conquered, The Adventure Parade, Hallowed, Out of the Ether, and Orbit. The Muse of Cinema series (2004-2011), inspired by the filmmaker's research into the silent-era cinema-going experience, includes Coming Attractions, Terra Firma, Muse of Cinema, Phantogram, Spectrology and Conjuror's Box. Many of these films received funding from the Princess Grace Foundation Special Projects Grants in 2004 & 2007. Her 1997 film Retrospectroscope can be grouped into either series.
More recently, Laitala has expanded her terrain to work on hybrid film-video stereoscopic experiments called the Chromatic Cocktail series (2008-2015). She has created moving image installations including Glitter Gulch (2010), The City Luminous: Spectral Canopy (2015) and The Cosmoscope (2016). In 2012 she began reconnecting with her original love, still photography, with a set of cameraless images made with high voltage electricity. Finally, she continues her explorations with expanded cinema / projector performance works with Bay Area sound artist collaborators including (most recently) Voicehandler, Cyrus Tabar, and Wobbly.