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.”
Laura Emerick will introduce several films and give Film Talks during this year’s Plaza Classic Film Festival.
Ross Kagan Marks graduated from New Mexico State University in 1990. Ross was one of the youngest graduates of the prestigious American Film Institute Directing Program, where he received his M.F.A. in 1994. He directed the award-winning film Showdown on the Rio Road, featuring Robby Benson, and Homage, which starred Blythe Danner and was written-produced by the late Mark Medoff. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Other directing credits include The Twilight of the Gods, executive produced by the late Garry Marshall; the award-winning short film Princess; and The Heart Outright, adapted for the screen by Mark Medoff from his play of the same name, a sequel to When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? He is currently in post-production on his fifth feature film, Walking With Herb (due in the fall of 2019), starring Edward James Olmos, George Lopez, Kathleen Quinlan, Christopher MacDonald and Billy Boyd. It is the final screenplay from Mark Medoff, who passed on April 23, 2019.
Ross teaches at New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute. He is the Executive Director of the Las Cruces International Film Festival.
Ross Kagan Marks will interview Kathleen Quinlan before screenings of ‘Apollo 13’ at 7 p.m. Friday, August 9 in the Plaza Theatre, and ‘Clara’s Heart’ (written by Mark Medoff) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, August 10 in the Plaza Theatre.
Scott McGee has shared his extensive movie knowledge with Plaza Classic Film Festival fans for six straight years. Scott is the senior director of original programs at Turner Classic Movies in Atlanta. 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.
Scott McGee will introduce several films as well as interview Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross with ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ at 7 p.m. Friday, August 2 in the Plaza Theatre, and ‘The Legacy’ at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, August 3 in the Plaza Theatre.
Lucky McKee is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and novelist from El Paso best known for work in the horror genre, such as the 2002 cult hit May, the 2006 schoolgirl chiller The Woods and the notorious 2011 Sundance shocker The Woman. He produced last year’s The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott, which received its United States premiere at the Plaza Classic Film Festival.
In 2006 McKee joined Showtime’s groundbreaking anthology series Masters of Horror, directing the one-hour original film Sick Girl. McKee also contributed a segment to the 2015 anthology film Tales of Halloween. McKee has recently shifted his creative sights to noir-thrillers with Blood Money, starring John Cusack, and the upcoming Kindred Spirits, starring Caitlin Stasey, Thora Birch and Macon Blair. He has also co-authored three award-winning novels with Jack Ketchum: The Woman, I’m Not Sam and The Secret Life of Souls. He has been curating the Plaza Classic Film Festival’s Local Flavor showcase with Zach Passero since 2018.
Lucky McKee and Zach Passero will host ‘Local Flavor I’ at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 3 and ‘Local Flavor II’ at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 10 in the Philanthropy Theatre. They also will host the Local Flavor Awards at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 11 in the Foundation Room.
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, PCFF 2014 inclusion All Cheerleaders Die and last year’s The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot).
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 for the second time and finishing work on his animated The Weird Kidz.
Zach Passero and Lucky McKee will host ‘Local Flavor I’ at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 3 and ‘Local Flavor II’ at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 10, both in the Philanthropy Theatre. They also will host the second annual Local Flavor Awards at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 11 in the Foundation Room.
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.
Walt Strony will accompany the silents shorts ‘Battle of the Century’ (Laurel and Hardy), ‘A Trip to the Moon’ (Georges Melies) and ‘Crazy Like a Fox’ (Charley Chase) as part of the free Plaza Days I program at 11 a.m. Thursday, August 1 in the Plaza Theatre. He also will accompany Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘The King of Kings’ at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, August 4 in the Plaza Theatre.
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.
Bart Weiss will introduce several films and host the annual Filmmakers Brunch at 11 a.m. Sunday, August 11 in the Foundation Room. This year’s brunch will focus on his new “go-show” project, a video/podcast mashup for mobile devices called ‘The Fire Bones,’ and he’ll demonstrate the new DaVinci Resolve Cut Page.