April 2015 volunteer in the spotlight: Kristin Torres
Occupation: Kristin currently works as a hostess at The Daily Grill and is on her way to graduate school in the fall at the University of Missouri, where she will pursue a master’s degree in Russian Studies. She first studied Russian language and literature as an undergraduate, she said, after starting out as a journalism major. “But then I decided that I was really into the arts and humanities, and since I wanted to be more of an arts reporter, I decided to focus more on literature, film, and foreign language, so I could do international work.”
Have you visited Russia? “I’ve had the privilege to be there twice. The first time was in 2013 in St. Petersburg, working as an arts reporter for an internship, and then I also got a scholarship to go to St. Petersburg State University to study Russian. The second time was in 2014 in Moscow for another internship. I worked for a university as a language teacher and a cultural ambassador for American culture.”
What are some of your hobbies outside of school? “I love to travel. All the money that I save up is pretty much blown on experiences and travel. I’ll go and buy thrift store clothes so that I can save up all my money for traveling. I’ve gone to Seattle this year, I’ve gone to Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri. I love meeting different people and feel most at home, most myself, when I’m at an airport dragging my suitcase behind me. I want to be a jet-setter person eventually, doing international work. When I’m in town I really like riding my bike all over the place, and now the weather is nice enough right now so I can do that.”
What would you like to do after school, and where do you see yourself in the future? “I kind of want to do a bunch of things. A lot of my friends are professors or doctoral students, and once they become professors, they have their teaching jobs, but in the summers they get grants to go do documentaries, or research for a book, or go do an art exhibit. So because I’ve basically been raised at Fresno State, my mom has worked here since I was five, one day after my M.A. I’d like to go for a Ph.D. in Russian studies, or maybe anthropology. I’d like to get a post somewhere and integrate all my interests in language and film and documentary and journalism.”
Your mother seems like an inspiration to you. Can you talk more about her? “My mother is Debby Gamez and she works at Fresno State as the office coordinator for Mass Communication and Journalism, but she has also worked in the foreign languages department, which is kind of funny because that’s basically what I do. It’s kind of mirrored. And she’s also in education, so my life has kind of followed her through every department that she goes in to. She definitely is a role model to me because she didn’t go to college herself, and she has worked so hard to get me there. If it wasn’t for my mom working at Fresno State, I wouldn’t even have any exposure to college. No one in my family went to college, but because I was raised around the campus, I saw all the cool things that students and professors get to do. When she got to the journalism department, I was a freshman in high school, and I didn’t even know what journalism meant. And there was this poster on the wall about a summer journalism workshop, and that was how I met Jefferson Beavers, who was an instructor at the workshop. So that’s how I got into journalism, and that’s how I got into the school I went to, and all the other things that came after. She has been the catalyst for everything I’ve ever done.”
What are some of your favorite movies? “That’s hard, because it always changes. I went through a Wes Anderson phase for a long time, because I loved all his movies, even though I kind of think he’s parodying himself now. But “Rushmore” may be one of my favorite movies. I really like old Russian movies. There’s a movie called “The Cranes Are Flying,” which has beautiful cinematography. I really like documentaries, like “Levitated Mass,” which came to Filmworks. At first I thought it was going to be the most boring movie about a rock, and it’s about modern art, and what is art? I really liked that they made it more about the viewers, more about people who went to see that rock, and a lot of those audiences were Latino or working class, or just not usually the people who go to a museum in L.A. and talk about what art is. So I thought it was really surprising and I enjoyed that. I just got back from a film festival in Missouri, and they had one following this Russian family who lived in a trash dump for twelve years. I don’t remember what it was called, but it was pretty amazing, and I want to do something like that one day. I want to be a documentarian.”
What’s your favorite film you’ve seen at Filmworks? “My favorite film was “May in the Summer.” It was the Palestinian American director that I loved. There are a lot of narratives in film about Palestinian immigrants coming to the United States, and hers was kind of backwards, as an American going back home to Jordan, near Palestine. But going back to where her mother lives and experiencing what it is to be sort of in that culture, but also being a fish out of water in your own culture, so that was really interesting for me because I feel the same way, being raised only sort-of Mexican. I don’t speak Spanish very well, so I related to it. Filmworks actually brought the director, Cherien Dabis, and I wrote an essay about how much I liked the film, and she retweeted it. So that was my favorite.”
How did you get involved with Filmworks? I started officially being a volunteer in October 2014, after I got back from Moscow. I knew what Filmworks was, but it wasn’t until Jefferson was more involved that I really heard about it. He has done a great job with social media and the media tours each month, so that’s how I got involved. I also enjoy CineCulture, and they collaborate. I know Mary Husain very well, so I volunteer for both.”
What’s one of your most memorable experiences with Filmworks? “There was once that I did an audio postcard project. We started a campaign called “I Heart Film” and since my background is in radio journalism, Jefferson thought it would be cool if I stood at the doors to the theater and tried to catch people before they go in and ask them what they love about film. So there I was, and people were thinking ‘who is this person with all this strange gear?’ Because you have this mic that’s kind of intimidating. People are scared of it. So I had to interview people, and at first I was introductory and polite, but eventually I realized it wasn’t working, so I just stuck the mic in their face and asked ‘what do you love about film?’ and they wouldn’t even think about it. They would just answer, and they wouldn’t ask what I was doing. So I got to meet a lot of different people and do something really directly related to what my background is. A lot of times when you do volunteer work, you just stuff envelopes or do something that anyone could do, but when you get to pull something from your own skill set, it’s pretty rewarding.”
What’s your typical volunteer experience for Filmworks? “I deliver handbills in the Fresno High area, and I have voiced several Filmworks PSAs for Jewel FM. And I’ve been on the media tours with Jefferson to see what it is like. I’ve done stuff before the screenings too, either handing out and collecting surveys, doing the audio project, or helping Dr. Husain check in her CineCulture students.”
What’s in your Netflix queue right now? “I don’t actually have a Netflix anymore, but I do have Sundance Doc Club, which is the Netflix of documentaries. So I watch a lot of that. There’s a section about former screenings that were shown at the True/False Film Festival, which is something I’ve attended in Columbia, Missouri. They had a really great one called “Kurt Cobain, Montage of Heck,” based on a journal entry where he described his life as ‘a montage of heck.’ It’s an amazing film, I’ve watched it a couple times, and the way they utilize music is beautiful. Then there’s another one called “How to Survive a Plague” about HIV and AIDS, another one called “The Act of Killing,” and a sequel called “The Look of Silence,” all of which I got to see at True/False. So even when I’m not here or in Missouri, I’m really immersed in film.”
What other films would you like to see at Filmworks? “There are a lot of really incredible contemporary Russian films right now. “Leviathan” is one. There’s also another one called “Another Year”, which is really big in Russia, about this young couple, and the girl is getting these really great professional opportunities and her husband is kind of lagging behind, and so you see their relationship essentially dissolve. She is going on to all these exciting things and meeting people, and he is a taxi driver.”
What’s your favorite thing about Filmworks? “My favorite thing is that it makes me feel for one Friday a month as if I were in L.A. or San Francisco, because you get access to films that we don’t get here. I’m always hearing about film news. I read a lot of different film publications and blogs and they’re like ‘this is the film that everyone is talking about,’ all these think-pieces and blog pieces, and I think I’ll never be able to see that film unless comes out on YouTube, and then I hear that Filmworks is going to bring it, and I’m ecstatic. That’s why I volunteer, because I believe in their mission and want to support it any way I can.”
Filmworks thanks all of our April 2015 volunteers: Cleo Bauer, Lorna Bonyhadi, Michelle Fraser, Richard Flores, Megan Ginise (intern), Neal Howard, Carl Johnsen, Kathryn Johnsen, Monica Marks-Rea, Sarah Nixon, Dominic Papagni, Andrew Ranta, Gene Richards, Susan Rogers, Justin Secor, Colby Tibbet, Kristin Torres, Jon Veinberg.
To meet our past volunteers in the spotlight, and to find out how you can volunteer with Filmworks, visit our volunteer page.