Known as one of America’s premiere concert and theater organists, Walt Strony has performed at seven Plaza Classic Film Festivals, having accompanied Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman in 2018, Sherlock Holmes in 2017, The Phantom of the Opera in 2016, The Mark of Zorro in 2015, Safety Last in 2014, The Thief of Baghdad in 2013 and The General in 2010. Walter, a protege of organist Al Melgard, made his public performing debut at age 18 with films and symphony orchestras all over the world, and is frequently featured at conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the American Theatre Organ Society, which twice voted him its Organist of the Year and inducted him into its hall of fame in 2011.
Mexico’s Viviana Garcia Besne is a writer, director, film editor, documentarian and film preservationist. Viviana, who graduated from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, also is the granddaughter of Mexican filmmaker Jorge Garcia Besne, who made the first El Santo movies, and the grand-niece of Mexican filmmakers and exhibitors Pedro A. Calderon, Jose Luis Calderon and Guillermo Calderon, whose string of border movie theaters included the Colon in downtown El Paso. Perdida, Viviana’s documentary about the Calderons and their mixed legacy, was a critical success and a hit on the worldwide festival circuit, including the Plaza Classic Film Festival in 2012 and 2018.
Based in Tepoztan, Morelos, Viviana helped establish and runs the Permanencia Voluntaria and Baticine, an archive of more than 300 neglected Mexican films, such as wrestling and fichera (showgirls) movies. It also houses a small community movie theater. Both suffered damage in last year’s Mexico City earthquake. The collection includes the recently restored Sombra Verde, El Fantasma del Convento and the Calderons once-controversial Aventurera, which was shown at the 2018 Plaza Classic Film Festival.
With a contacts list that reads like a who’s who of the entertainment world, veteran television producer and director Karen Cadle has produced and directed hundreds of celebrity interviews. She has run her agency, Karen Cadle International — one of the leading sources of celebrity guests at memorabilia and autograph conventions — since 1996. Karen first gained recognition for her eight-year stint on TV’s Hour Magazine, where she produced and directed presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and stars such as Robert Redford, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. In demand as a celebrity producer and director, she has produced specials with Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis and others. Her producing credits include Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and The Whoopi Goldberg Show.
British rock icon Morrissey refuses to watch films released after 1970. Laura Emerick, digital content editor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and formerly the arts editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, agrees in principle with that philosophy, if not to that extreme. Her all-time favorite films all predate that watershed year: Vertigo (1958), The Leopard (1963), Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Golden-era films are among her passions, and that’s why the Plaza Classic Film Festival has become one of her favorite annual destinations — she has appeared at 10 of them! At the Sun-Times, she served for 20 years as the editor for film critic Roger Ebert, who used to insist that “if a movie is in black and white, there’s a better than 50 percent chance it will be worth seeing.”
Scott McGee has shared his extensive movie knowledge with Plaza Classic Film Festival fans for five straight years. Scott is the director of program production at Turner Classic Movies. As part of the team behind the TCM Classic Film Festival and the TCM Classic Cruise, he has programmed and introduced films and interviewed special guests at both events. He serves as host of the TCM Podcast, and has spoken at the George Eastman House, the Plaza Classic Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, as well as various universities and civic clubs. He is currently researching a forthcoming book on stunt work in movies.
Writer, director and animator Zach Passero is an El Paso native who, from a young age, knew he wanted to make visual stories — an inkling fueled mainly by cartoons and Jim Henson. Zach attended the USC Cinema School, focusing on production and animation. He has been working as a director, editor and animator for films, television and commercials. He frequently collaborates as editor for Lucky McKee’s films (Red, The Woman, Tales of Halloween and and PCFF 2014 inclusion All Cheerleaders Die). He also edited horror sleeper Jug Face and NBC/Universal’s Brian Keene’s Ghoul. His animation sequences have been featured on Showtime’s Masters of Horror. In 2008, Passero directed the feature film, Wicked Lake. It and his Motel, Glimpse have been shown at the Plaza Classic Film Festival. His animated shorts, created with his wife Hannah, have been touring the world in film festivals. Zach has been a part of the film festival from the start in 2008. This year, he is curating the Local Flavor showcase with Lucky McKee.
Bart Weiss is an award-winning independent film and video producer, director, editor and educator from Dallas. He is mostly known as the director and founder of the Dallas VideoFest. He produces the TV show Frame of Mind on KERA TV in Dallas, and is the artistic director of 3 Stars Cinema. He has traveled to Nigeria, Pakistan and China to show American documentaries for the U.S. State Department. He has taught film and video at Texas A&M’s Visualization Lab, Southern Methodist University, UT Austin, and West Virginia State College, and is currently an associate professor at UT Arlington. He is a former president of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF), former (and founding) board member Dallas Artists Research and Exhibition (DARE), past vice president of the Texas Association of Film and Tape Professionals (TAFTP), founder and past president of the West Virginia Filmmakers’ Guild, and co-founder of the Dallas Video Festival and the Video Association of Dallas. He has been a video columnist for the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald, and United Features Syndicate. Bart received an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University in 1978 and a B.A. in Radio TV and Film from Temple University in 1975.