Meet new Denver Film Society programming manager Ernie Quiroz
A decade of continuity for the Denver Film Society ended with the departure of programming manager Keith Garcia last month. Denver film fans who came to trust Garcia's vision needn't worry, though -- the show will go on, and the newest addition to the DFS family is already on the job. Coming to Denver from the sunbaked city of Phoenix, new programming manager Ernie Quiroz is already on the job, ready to bring his own take on film to the movie-loving masses. Due to the need to book films in advance, it will be a bit before his stamp is apparent at the Sie FilmCenter -- after the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival, Quiroz says, and some of his plans won't come to fruition until early next year. So in the meantime, we sat down with the latest addition to Denver's film scene, learning everything from his background to his vision for film programming for the DFS.
Westword: Can you tell us a little about your background and what you did before you came to the Denver Film Society?
Ernie Quiroz: If you go way, way back, I worked in a Blockbuster Video. I dropped out of college, starting working at Blockbuster Video, and I had always loved movies. Working [there] you just see so many movies. You get five free rentals a week and I probably watched all my five free rentals and borrowed somebody else's rentals for the week, then went to go see what was new in the theaters. I worked there for about five years and just saw so many movies. I think that was sort of my film education.
You watch so many movies and you start to think, "Hey, I could make a movie." So me and my friends started making movies. This was right around the mid to late '90s, when guys like Kevin Smith, Tarantino, all those guys were making movies and it seemed like, "Oh, anybody can do it!" We gave it a shot and [I] ended up at film school in community college in the Phoenix area. Over the course of a couple years, we managed to make some films that got into some festivals -- some features and some shorts. A couple got into Sundance, Tribeca, couple of different festivals. I was mainly the producer.
I spent a couple years on the festival circuit with some projects, then decided I wanted to go back to school and finish my degree. That's when I went to Arizona State University, finished my degree in film and media studies. While I was going to ASU, I ended up volunteering and interning at the Phoenix Film Festival -- the horror and sci-fi festival which they also manage, the Scottsdale International Film Festival -- so I've been with film festivals on both sides, as a participant or volunteer or staff member, since '04 or '05.
My last big job was running the film program at the Phoenix Art Museum. I ran that for about three years. In 2010 they received a grant to redevelop their film program. The film program before I got there, they were showing maybe about twenty to thirty films a year and they wanted to take it up to the next level. I increased the scope of the programming and they ended up doing about 120 films a year. We did first-run films, films that museums had never shown before in the past. We showed certain films just as an art form, equal to anything else the museum would do, like photography and sculpture. I really tried to promote the idea of film as an art form equal to anything else. Then we did some other film series -- more horror films, more documentaries, more challenging films. The members loved it. They really liked it. Attendance went up, revenue went up and I was able to do a lot of really great things at the museum. Now I'm taking the next step and bringing it to the Denver Film Society.
Did you have any connection to the DFS before you were hired?
One of my first goals at the museum, three years ago, they didn't have a model of what the film program should be. I started there as an intern before I was hired full time. One of my jobs as an intern was to research what other people were doing -- other institutions, other museums, other film centers -- and then sort of develop a plan of action based on that. I just started researching other institutions across the country and the Denver Film Society was one of them. They were doing so many great things -- showing local films, holding these mini-festivals, having filmmakers come out. Of course, the Starz Denver Film Festival. They were one of the organizations I looked to to model what I wanted to do at the Phoenix Art Museum. Then I just sort of kept an eye on them over the last couple years, then the opportunity popped up. They needed a new programming manager and I applied and they hired me.