January 2016 volunteer in the spotlight: Suzanne Watkins

When our latest volunteer in the spotlight, Suzanne Watkins, isn’t making popcorn for Filmworks, she teaches art and design.
When our latest volunteer in the spotlight, Suzanne Watkins, isn’t making popcorn for Filmworks, she teaches art and design.

Suzanne still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up. She has learned to appreciate film for its ability to educate, evoke, and move. She lived briefly in Fresno in the 1970s before moving to Hawaii, but now she’s back, planting a new garden and learning to bloom again here in Fresno herself. Suzanne’s inspirations have been many — from Frank Lloyd Wright to Japanese art, from Kenneth Branagh to Gene Kelly. She has traveled to Paris, Italy, Japan, and Mexico, and has had her own magazine in Hawaii.  A bumper sticker on a former car testifies to the breadth of Suzanne’s interests and pursuits: “Not all who wander are lost.”

Occupation: Suzanne is a teacher, artist, interior designer, and traveler. She is a professor living in Fresno teaching three classes, one at the University of Phoenix — where, she says, she’s the entire “Art Department” — and two online courses at the Rocky Mountain College of Art+Design in Denver.

Before moving back to Fresno in 2013, Suzanne lived off and on in Hawaii for 30 years, and she served as the former chair of the fine arts department at Chaminade University of Honolulu, focusing on fine art, art history, and interior architecture and design. In Hawaii, she also had a successful design practice in high-end sustainable residential design, resort design, and preservation design for more than 25 years. Art is a passion for Suzanne. She specializes in watercolor on paper, dye on silk, collage, and lately assemblage and sculptural pieces.

Suzanne says, “The more I know, the more I realize what I don’t know.”

What do you like to do outside of work?

Suzanne doesn’t stop moving. In her free time, she is renovating a Tower District bungalow, using her interior design knowledge to make the space hers by her own hands.

“I watch a lot of movies whenever I have time – some new, some classic,” she says. “I have a collection of old movies I watch often, especially old musicals. When I can, I go to the Warnors to see their movies and this last year enjoyed seeing “The Wizard of Oz on the big screen for the first time.”

Suzanne loves to introduce her students to films or theater opportunities they might not have seen before, like “Singing in the Rain.

How did you get started with Filmworks?

“Bill Rovin, a regular Filmworks volunteer, introduced me to Gloria Burrola in early 2014, and I’ve been volunteering for Gloria ever since. I enjoy it and have made a few friends – and it gets me out since I still don’t know too many people in Fresno. Once I’m there, I can see the movies, too. In Hawaii, I was very active at the art museum and saw films at the Academy of Arts monthly with a group of friends.”

What is your typical volunteer job, and what do you like most about it?

“I’m usually assigned to concessions, and I frequently run the popcorn machine! Once in a while, I take tickets and greet the guests, which is also fun.”

What’s the most unusual volunteer experience you’ve had with Filmworks?

“On a really busy night, we can get backed up with the popcorn machine production. Once I had about 15 people waiting for popcorn – they get impatient. Even starting quite early to make the popcorn, we only get 7 cups of popcorn per batch and it can take 10 minutes to produce a batch.”

What’s your favorite film that you’ve seen with Filmworks at the Tower Theatre?  

“My favorite was “The Invisible Womanin 2014, which I really enjoyed, “Life After Beth,” Le Weekend, and “May in the Summer, and meeting the director/star Cherien Dabis. I also enjoyed the documentaries “The Wrecking Crew, “Finding Vivian Maier, “Levitated Mass. And while I missed a few 2015 movies I wanted to see [due to a heavy teaching schedule this past year] I always look forward to the Oscar-Nominated Short Films.”

What other types of films or genres would you enjoy seeing at Filmworks?

“I like a film that tells a complex story, maybe with some suspense and a strong plot resolution. I also like to see something that is uplifting, and maybe comedic in parts. I like mysteries and historic films, as well. Film violence has worn me down; I’d prefer a gentle story, with thoughtful chords.”

What movies do you want to see that are in theaters currently or coming soon?

The Danish Girl, “Carol, “Bridge of Spies especially for Mark Rylance, and” Trumbo – but, I’ll probably see them on DVD!”

What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

I’ll See You in my Dreams” … I rarely go to the first run theaters any more. I like to talk with friends about the movie afterwards, and I am still fairly new to this area!”

Back in Hawaii, Suzanne says she and her friends used to go out all the time after films, getting big orders of Chinese food before finding their way back to her home. She would be up hours at a time with them, she said, discussing the movies. Admittance to these celebrations: a bottle of wine at the door to share for all.   

What’s your favorite thing about Filmworks?  

Suzanne says she loves the experience and aesthetics of the historic Tower Theatre. Even though she says her volunteer part may be small, she loves the entire experience, helping out any way that she can. Of course, there’s the obvious pleasure of seeing the films too, she says.

Filmworks thanks our January 2016 volunteers:

Hazel Antaramian-Hofman, Frank Dougherty, Richard Flores, Trin Gibney, Megan Ginise, Satch Gonzales, Neal Howard, Andy Julian, Richard Markley, Monica Marks, Steve Ohanesian, Luis Ojeda, Gene Richards, Justin Secor, Sky Sweet, Jon Veinberg, Suzanne Watkins.

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