Film Forum

Volunteer Spotlight: Sky Sweet

Our August volunteer in the spotlight, Sky Sweet, is a yoga-loving English teacher who always comes back to the films of Jim Jarmusch.

Our August volunteer in the spotlight, Sky Sweet, is a yoga-loving English teacher who always comes back to the films of Jim Jarmusch.

September 2015 Volunteer in the Spotlight: Sky Sweet

Occupation: After years of working in public relations in Los Angeles, Sky opted for a change of pace and currently teaches high school English for Fresno Unified School District. “After working in public relations, you know, and being in Los Angeles — it just wasn’t fun anymore. It wasn’t very meaningful,” Sky says. “So I decided to go into teaching for a nice change. I didn’t expect to teach in Fresno. But I love it. I have great classes, great students, and I work at a really good school.”

What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of work? “I do yoga. I’m a certified yoga instructor and I also teach meditation classes. I write and belong to a writing group. I try to publish when I’m able to, and I watch a lot of film! I’ve been doing yoga for about 20 years and I think people are drawn to yoga for different reasons, but for me, it taught me to relax. It’s not just for exercise. It can be meditative and actually very intellectual to use your mind and stay focused. It helped me to develop that focus and after taking classes for 10 years, I went to go get my certification.”

“I think yoga helped me not to quit teaching!” Sky jokes. “When I got into teaching, the yoga really helped me to decompress. At one point, I was even taking yoga six days a week!”

What are some of your favorite movies? “I love Jim Jarmusch. I love his movie ‘Dead Man’ with Johnny Depp. I like ‘The Hustler’ with Paul Newman — that’s a classic! I’m a big Woody Allen fan; his films are great. ‘Broadway Danny Rose’ is one of my favorites. I watch a lot of Bollywood movies, too. I really like Bollywood and you really have to be committed to watching Bollywood movies because they’re like, minimum, three hours long.”

“Right now, I’m focused on directors, so I just watch their filmography and start from the beginning. I keep going back to Jarmusch. There was a recent film he did about vampires and he didn’t get a lot of credit for that movie, but I just thought that was really beautiful. He shot it all in Detroit, which I thought was amazing that he was able to incorporate that city. I thought it was a brilliant film, but he didn’t get a lot of great critiques for it.”

What’s in your Netflix queue right now? “I actually don’t have Netflix. I don’t watch TV and I don’t have cable, so what I basically do is borrow from the public library and then go to Filmworks. I also go to the CineCulture screenings at Fresno State. Honestly, some of the best, really exciting films that have come through this area have been shown at those two venues.”

“A beautiful French film that I’ve recently seen is ‘The Hedgehog.’ The public library is amazing. They just have an incredible selection. They’re very current and it’s rare when I don’t get films from there. The staff does a wonderful job in trying to make a lot of film available for people.”

What movie are you excited to see next? “It’s really obscure and it just premiered in New York, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see it or not, but it’s called ‘Gurukulam.’ It’s a documentary and it’s about an ashram [a spiritual retreat] in southern India. I just think that it would be really neat to see. It’s about what it would be like to live at an ashram like this and study this particular Swami’s teachings.”

How did you first hear about Filmworks? “I think it was through people I knew who were volunteers, or maybe an email that had been forwarded to me and I was just hooked. I’ve been watching films there for the last 8 to 10 years. I didn’t grow up in Fresno, so one of the things that was really hard about transitioning here was that there are a lot of films that premiere in Los Angeles or New York that we just don’t have access to here. I think film isn’t as culturally important here, in a lot of ways, and Filmworks just stepped up and said, ‘Hey, we need to have the community have access to a lot of films, especially foreign films.’ Foreign films give you a different perspective and we really need that.”

What’s your typical volunteer experience for Filmworks like? “It’s such a good time. I love it. I probably get into trouble because I talk too much. But I get to see friends, colleagues, fellow yoga classmates and I just get to see the community and say ‘hello’ to. It feels like family.”

“I’m just amazed at some of the people that come out to see these films. When we screened the Saudi Arabian film ‘Wadjda,’ I was floored at how many people from the community came out and there was just a really great turnout. I think it’s a really unifying element for the community and I think it serves a special purpose, and it’s also fun! I love saying ‘hope you enjoy the show,’ because I do want them to have a good time and enjoy it as much as I do.”

What has been your favorite movie at Filmworks? “Probably ‘Wadjda.’ I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I thought the director was able to make a commentary without getting too political and pointing the finger at anyone or blaming anybody; she just told the story that was brilliant and was able to get through the politics of the Muslim community without offending anybody.”

“It was such a positive, feminine story to tell about women being empowered in an oppressed country. At the same time, it was really intimate and you get attached to the character and rooting for the little girl to get her own bicycle. The bicycle was so symbolic and meant her being progressive and able to participate in a modern, civilized world. It was complex with a lot of messages, but also a simple story about a little girl wanting a bike.”

What’s one of your most memorable or unusual volunteer experiences with Filmworks? “I think there’s just something about seeing a beautiful story well told and seeing it from an international perspective. Seeing a story told from a different lens, other than an American or Western lens, I think that’s the biggest joy I get.”

“I have kids in my classroom from all the world: Cambodia, Laos, Germany, Mexico and so on. I think it’s stories that unites us. I think it’s common themes for all of our lives to connect to and story is really powerful. Being an English teacher and writer, that, to me, is the best experience: being exposed to how other people are experiencing the world.”

Filmworks thanks all of our August 2015 volunteers: Lorna Bonyhadi, Frank Dougherty, Richard Flores, Teresa Flores, Megan Ginise, Satch Gonzalez, Karen Hammer, Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval (discussant), Carl Johnsen, Kathryn Johnsen, Yvette Mancilla (intern), Monica Marks-Rea, Sarah Nixon, Gene Richards, Susan Rogers, Richard Stone, Sky Sweet, Lorraine Tomerlin, Michael Torres, Jon Veinberg, Benjamin Woodcock.


To meet our past volunteers in the spotlight, and to find out how you can volunteer with Filmworks, visit our volunteer page.

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.