Cinequest Volunteers

As filmmakers and enthusiasts roll into town as a part of this local film festival, behind the scenes there is a crew of staff and volunteers that year after year support Cinequest and make this event a reality.

Based in the Silicon Valley, Cinequest has been ahead of the curve in integrating creativity and technology. With the Cinequest Film Festival (CQFF) and Picture the Possibilities (PTP) program, the organization unites the filmed arts with Silicon Valley’s innovation so that artists, innovators, and youth can create and connect—and transform the future.

Voted Best Film Festival by USA Today readers this year, CQFF showcases premiere films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology to encourage global connectivity between artists, innovators, and audiences. The festival presents over 90 world and US premieres by more than 700 participating filmmakers from over 50 countries each year. While celebrating these diverse premieres, Cinequest showcases and implements innovations that have revolutionized filmmaking, exhibition, and distribution.

CQFF’s highest honor, the Maverick Award, recognizes bold, visionary, and creative forces—exemplary in Silicon Valley innovation and the film arts. Awards have recognized guest artists such as Harrison Ford, J. J. Abrams, Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Kingsley, Kevin Spacey, and Sir Ian McKellen.

Over 100,000 people attend CQFF, yet the festival experience is warm, personal, and electrifying. With CQFF’s hospitality and state-of-the-art venues, all within three blocks of each other, the festival aims to create a sense of home for guests coming from near and far. After all, Cinequest’s mission is to connect members of the global community with exciting advancements in art and technology.

Important, too, to Cinequest’s mission is fostering the next generation of artists and innovators. Cinequest’s PTP project is a leadership program designed to help youth across the globe develop the skill set, confidence, and inspiration to pursue their creative dreams, whether those lie in the realm of the arts, of science and technology, or of both. PTP City Sessions introduce participants to the 7 Powers of Creating program, during which they practice the creative process by making films with mentors. At the PTP Summit Silicon Valley, youth have the opportunity to connect and share their creations with luminaries in art, science, and technology.

It takes quite a team to serve global participants with CQFF and PTP, and volunteerism has been key in ensuring the organization’s success. Cinequest was founded and run entirely by volunteers for its first three seasons, and the spirit of giving remains a trademark element of the festival. Over 700 volunteers, interns, and pro-bono professionals augment Cinequest’s staff and board contributions, allowing Cinequest to produce its programs while building a true sense of community.

Chris Garcia

ChrisG_094Above all else, I like to keep busy. I edit fanzines, a half-dozen different titles—two of which have won the Hugo Award, which is the Oscars of sci-fi. I produce documentaries, help run book giveaways at comics conventions, host three podcasts, edit comic books, work as a curator at the Computer History Museum, and—perhaps my favorite of all—I serve as the co-director of short film programming for the Cinequest Film Festival. I started volunteering for Cinequest after having my heart broken in a brutal break-up. In 2001, my first year volunteering, I worked all but one day of the festival as a theater manager and almost immediately after the festival asked if they needed help viewing shorts. I received an excited “Yes!” and I was off and running.

As a guy with wide-ranging interests, I didn’t just stick with theater managing. I’ve written for the program guide, helped run the VIP Lounge, been a theater announcer, even hauled hundreds of program guides to Napa and Santa Cruz (in the same day!). For almost a decade, I presented Critics for a Day, a program giving fourth graders the tools to critically watch short films. One year, I set a personal goal to teach kids the idea of “genre,” and the kids not only got it but also began using the term in class! Maybe more than any other thing I’ve accomplished in my years helping out, giving those 100-plus kids that arrow for their academic quiver has been the most inspiring.

When not announcing films, I love interacting with the filmmakers. I can often be found in the VIP Lounge, chattering happily with folks or interviewing them for one of my podcasts. I just love surrounding myself with so much talent. Also, the snacks are always wonderful in the Lounge.

Christine (Chris) Marcoida

ChrisM045I was born and raised in San Jose. I graduated from Willow Glen High School and received a bachelor of science in marketing from Santa Clara University. I worked in the technology and medical device industry for more than 25 years before joining the City of San Jose in September 2015.

I’ve always loved movies—they are such a powerful medium to communicate and influence thought. I also love to escape into the stories, the characters, and the cinematography. There’s something magical about watching a movie on a large screen.

I am active in the San Jose community as a volunteer for local groups. I joined Cinequest as a volunteer in 2011 as a speaker/presenter on the theater operations team as a way both to volunteer and receive the benefits of seeing amazing independent films for free! What I didn’t know the first year I volunteered was how much fun I would have! I think I’m addicted to being part of the Cinequest family!

What I love about volunteering with Cinequest is hard to nail down in just one word. I love the people—the staff, co-founders Kathleen Powell and Halfdan Hussey, the volunteers, filmmakers, and patrons! I am inspired by their commitment to five-star diamond service. Personally, I love the chance to work on the California Theatre stage. The last time I was on stage as a performer was 1983. I credit children’s theater with providing me a playground to learn how to develop confidence in myself, think on my feet, and adapt to last-minute changes.

I return each year because I feel part of a wonderful community and family with the Cinequest staff, volunteers, and patrons. I want to be part of delivering an unforgettable experience.

Nathan Louie

NathanLouie_024I’ve been a greeter for the Cinequest Film Festival for over 20 years, and I’m honored that I’ve contributed to the Cinequest experience for this long. You’ll find me at the festival’s big events wearing any number of extravagant outfits, from a dapper all-white top hat and tails combo to an elaborate Beijing Opera costume. The last outfit is my favorite thus far. I picked it up while visiting the Summer Olympics in 2008.

I was born in San Francisco in 1940 to a Chinese immigrant father and a Chinatown-native mother. After graduating from San Francisco State University, I volunteered as a teacher at the California Migrant Ministry in Clearlake, California. I then became a teacher at Lower Lake Elementary while also teaching inmates at the Konocti Conservation Camp.

In 1966, I moved to San Jose to begin teaching at the Santa Clara Unified School District, and I pursued a master’s degree in teaching at San Jose State University. I spent 38 years with the District before retiring. I also spent six years managing apartments while I was teaching so I could buy my own house.

I was first introduced to Cinequest by a friend, and I’ve been a constant volunteer since. Two years ago, I sponsored one of the films screened: a Chinese film called Parallel Maze. I never imagined Cinequest would make such a big difference in my life, so it was a humbling experience that they named the Nathan Louie Volunteer Award after me.

I always enjoy seeing a lot of the same people come back again and again. I hope you all attend this unique film festival and find out why it’s such a colorful and beloved addition to San Jose.

Mary Nguyen

MaryNguyen_0038I am a junior at Sacramento State University, where I study nursing, and I hope to enter the Army as a commissioned officer upon graduation. I have spent a year in ROTC and have enjoyed long-distance running over numerous years, during which I have placed in many races.

Required to do service hours during high school, I chose to volunteer with Cinequest and have continued my involvement for the past seven years. I have worked in theater operations for six years, managing a theater as well as performing the roles of Camera 12 liaison and assistant to the director of theater operations. I have also worked in the ticket and box office department. During the festival, I have either taken time off of school to dedicate myself to the organization or traveled back and forth between San Jose and Sacramento. I enjoy meeting new people, both filmmakers and patrons, during the festival, and I have had the honor of meeting some incredible Mavericks over the years.

I find myself taking on new and challenging roles, successfully accomplishing them, and getting great satisfaction from volunteering not only with Cinequest but also with military support groups. My latest involvement has been volunteering at the San Jose USO and assisting the South Bay Blue Star Moms with their fundraising and care packaging efforts to send snacks, toiletries, and assorted necessities to deployed troops across the world. My hope is to be able to continue supporting these different organizations for many years to come.

Sandy Wolfe

Sandy_061After practicing divorce law for 27 years, I knew it was time for a change. I retired in 2001 and looked for an activity that would fulfill my passion for movies, which had begun as a little kid watching New York City’s Million Dollar Movie on daytime TV (despite my pleas, my parents would not allow me to skip school in order to watch Mighty Joe Young for the thousandth time). I contacted Cinequest, and I must have said something right because almost immediately I was thrust into watching films and writing for the festival program guide. Eventually, I became a documentary programmer, and I now help choose the documentaries that show at Cinequest. Over the past 15 years, I have screened almost 4,000 films, and although I do get bleary eyed at times, it is always quite gratifying to discover a gem and especially satisfying when the Cinequest audience appreciates and enjoys the films as much as I did when I first saw them.

In my spare time when I am not screening submissions, I watch old movies on Turner Classic Movies. I write a weekly blog with my extremely subjective recommendations and commentary on the films that will be airing on TCM that week. Name a movie, and I will have an opinion on it—whether I have seen it or not.

The Cinequest team has become a real community to me, and I treasure the friendships that I have made with everyone involved with the festival, from the staff to other volunteers as well as the filmmakers and audience members whom I have met over the years. I never envisioned myself watching movies all day during my retirement—but someone has to do it, and I’m glad it is me.

Photography by Daniel Garcia

Article originally appeared in Issue 7.5 Serve

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