Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week, we’re going to speak with Herb Stratford. He’s a nationally recognized content creator. He’s an artist, a filmmaker and writer. He also led the restoration of the Fox Theater and is doing the same thing in Barrio Viejo for Teatro Carmen. Today, we’re going to talk about another one of his local projects, Film Fest Tucson.

Today is October 2nd, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org- we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Shogun Two, “Taiko Shuffle.”

Transcript (Unedited)

Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in Ill Pueblo, and you’re listening to KT DT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your French hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sports sponsored rock and roll radio station.

This week, we’re going to speak with Herb Stratford. He’s a nationally recognized content creator. He’s an artist, a filmmaker and writer. He also led the restoration of the Fox Theater and is doing the same thing in Barrio Viejo for Teatro Carmen. Today, we’re going to talk about another one of his local projects, Film Fest Tucson.

Today is October 2, 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to the University of Arizona, and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on downtownradio.org. Also available on your iPhone

or Android by getting our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. And if you want to get us on the show, it’s contact@lifelongthestreecar.org. That URL takes you to our past episodes and to information about our new book. And we’re also on Facebook and Instagram and podcast is available on Spotify, itunes, all other kinds of great places out there. Well, it’s not time for us to get out and meet ourselves. Apparently, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, tucson Meets herself is back up and running. This is a weekend of some people call it Tucson Eat Yourself because there’s a tremendous amount of different cultures represented through their food. But there’s also different types of folk artists. There are performances, vendors, all kinds of good. Fascinating things happening in downtown Tucson will be over at Hakama Plaza, and we interviewed the organizers way back. So if you want to learn more about Tucson meet Yourself and how it got started, or kind of what it’s all about, I can head over to

Lifelongstreetcar.org and look up episode number 49 or just put in the search bar meet yourself and you’ll run across it. The feature today is a very dynamic and apparently never sleeping individual. His name is Herb Stratford. You heard his intro. He has done all things when it comes to the film world. He’s created, he has curated. He’s a film critic. He helps put together film festivals across the country. He’s done physical work with things like the Fox Theater and now with Carmen Tiato. And we’re going to catch up with him down the road on some of those projects. Today, we really wanted to talk about something coming up here on August 13, 14th and 15. Just in a couple of weeks. It’s film fest Tucson. Just about 30 films will be presented over three indoor and two outdoor venues over that weekend. And we wanted to get more information about that and kind of how Herb gets all of this stuff done, so we sat down with them. And here’s our interview from just a couple of days ago with Herb

Stratford.

All right, so my name is Herb Stratford, and I am the co founder, co director of Film Fest Tucson. I am also a historic theater consultant. So I restored the Fox Theater, and I’m currently working on restoring the tiatra Carmen down in Barrio Viejo.

Yeah, when your name came up, I was like, oh, I’ve got to interview Herb about this project. And then someone asked me, like, well, which one? And I started doing research and like, oh, my goodness. You’re completely involved with the buildings, the material. You create the material you curate the material. So there’s something about films that you like, apparently.

Yeah. I’m not exactly sure who I can blame for that, but possibly it’s my parents introducing me to films as diverse as The Godfather and Animal House. So it all got stirred up in there somehow.

Are you from Tucson originally?

No, actually, I grew up in Chicago and I came to my parents moved to Phoenix, and so I went to high school in Phoenix, but then I moved down to Tucson in 1983 to go to the U of A, and I’ve been here ever since.

Fantastic. So we captured you and didn’t let you go, which is kind of the goal here with our university.

Yes.

I’m assuming you were a film major or something along those lines in school.

I wasn’t, actually. I have two degrees from the U of A, but they’re both in art, not in film. And so it was funny. At one point when I was doing the Fox Theater, somebody said to me, oh, did you go to college to learn how to restore a theater, or how did you learn? And I said, I just sort of made it up as I went along, and it was just a passion thing for me. Well, I don’t have a formal film education. I’ve definitely got the 10,000 hours down.

Understood. Well, I really want to focus mostly on Film Fest Tucson because that’s coming up right around the corner. But I have to touch upon a couple of your projects and maybe we can dig into them deeper on a future episode. But the Fox Theater, I’m not sure if everyone fully understands the state of that theater. When you and your group got together and decided it was worth salvaging, I’ve heard really stories. It’s like, on the verge of collapse and it was an animal sanctuary or.

Some sort of well, yeah. My favorite two store. Well, they’re not even stories. There one’s a story and one’s true. There was about 40 homeless people living in the building at one point. And we know that because one of the homeless people, once we’ve sort of locked all the doors and got everybody cleared out, became one of our volunteers, and he told us amazing stories that we could sort of collaborate based on what we were seeing in the building. So it was sort of a homeless shelter. I mean, it had been closed since the early seventy s, and we got in there in 99, so it was 97 probably. So it had been closed and empty for 20 plus years with leaking roof. But my other sort of urban legend that I love is the management company that was controlling it at one point said that they could not let anybody come into the theater because there were vampire bats in the theater.

That’s what I heard. Yeah.

So I think one time we saw a bat in there, but it did not transform into Belle Lagosi or anything like that.

Well, I’ve been spreading the vampire bat rumor, so it might be out of control at this point because there are more than one in my stories. Well, that obviously turned out fantastically for the theater and for downtown. I know it was a labor of love, but it was also just a tremendous amount of actual labor to get that to where it is now.

It was it was about seven years between starting the project and then raising we raised about $14 million. And then I ran it for about two and a half years before I stepped away. And it was definitely like another child. It was such an ordeal to do. And also, I think a lot of people don’t necessarily understand. They look at downtown now and the streetcar and the AC Hotel and all the restaurants. And really, when the Fox opened in 2005, none of that was there. Hotel congress was there. It was really build it, and hopefully they’ll come. And we all of a sudden dropped an extra 50,000 people overnight coming to shows at a building that had been empty for a long time. So it definitely had an impact on downtown. And I think that with the realtor at the other end of Congress, really make downtown work to have a couple of iconic historic buildings like the Fox and the Rialto.

Absolutely. And like you said, being in the opposite ends of downtown make it kind of bookend us with that excellence there. And then you’ve got a project which, again, I could spend the entire show on it. So I’ll reserve that for a later date because you’ve got a little more time on it. But Tiato Carmen, I was so excited when I read in the paper that the Rawlings family, who I understand purchased this building simply to make sure it wasn’t going to be destroyed, that they had reached out to you and that come to a partnership to restore that in the barrio. Vano?

Yes, the Carmen. It’s an interesting story. I had seen that building probably in the mid to late 80s, right, when I had seen the Fox sort of on the inside for the first time, and it sort of fell off my radar. I was aware of it, but I sort of forgot about it a little bit. And then when I found out that they were interested in possibly letting the building go and selling it or finding somebody to work with, I approached Don Rollings in October of actually 2019, and we started talking. And so I raised the money to do some studies and then Cobbt hit, and so we sort of delayed things. And then we eventually bought the building. Our nonprofit, Stratford Artworks bought the building and have been raising money. And we think the project is about a six and a half million dollars project, and we’ve raised about half of that so far. So we’re on the way on that project. But I think that’s probably at 2025 is when we’re going to see that one reopen.

Okay. Like I said, we have a little more time to talk about that. But as I understand, it’s not just the theater, it’s that block that’s sort of coming back to life. Because the theater itself, as I looked at old pictures, was next to a grocery store or like a produce stand or something.

Yeah, there’s basically three elements. There’s the historic theater building, which will be about 250 to 300 person capacity. Then there’s what’s mainly the Elks Club extension, which was built in the 40s right next door, and that’ll be a bar and restaurant. And then there’s an 8000 square foot patio. So we’re doing the facade work, and then we’re doing the exterior patio. And both of those will be done by spring. And then we’ll start working on the interior. So, yes, it’s almost a block worth.

Of work, and I’m excited to hear about that block’s worth of work. We’re going to have her back in a later episode to dig more into Carmen Tetra. But right after the break, we’re going to get into Film Fest Tucson and what he is bringing as far as different documentary, short films and feature films here to the old Pueblo. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar in downtown Radio 99 One FM and available for streaming@downtownradio.org.

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We’re going to jump back into our interview with Herb Stratford. If you missed the first part of the show, his bio is quite a bit to read. Just know if it has to do with films, he’s been involved with it, whether it’s creating it, curating it. He’s also helped restore some theaters here in Tucson. We’re in the midst of our conversation about Film Fest Tucson coming up here October 13, 14th and 15th. And I assume once it’s done that’s going to be a place where we might be able to catch some of the shows from Film Fest Tucson. But right now they’re probably not going to be in the theater at the current stage.

Yeah, there’s no restrooms and no heating or cooling in the Carmen right now. So you wouldn’t want to see a movie there right now. But yes, it will be one of the locations for Film Fest Tucson right now with Film Fest Tucson. Our sort of home base is the Scottish Wright Cathedral which is just such an amazing historic building, a 115 year old building. That building because they have Masonic meeting rooms that we transform into screening rooms. And so that’s definitely sort of our home base. We also do a lot of work at the AC Hotel because they always are hosting. One of our presenting sponsors is Love Block. So they’re very great to us. And then we use the outside lawn at the Children’s Museum for some free screenings and the outside screen at Main Gate Square for some of our free outdoor screenings. So we’re all over along the streetcar line, actually, ironically.

Yeah, we talked about life along the streetcar. This is films along the streetcar. Film Fest was your creation, correct?

Yes. So me and Jennifer Toyfl sort of came together and Jen, you may know from Tucson foodie and some other things, but yeah, I’ve been programming different film festivals. I did some work, obviously, at the Fox when I was still running the Fox but I was programming the Napa Valley Film Festival and did that for a couple of years and I thought I really wanted to create that same sort of film festival experience here in Tucson that I wasn’t necessarily seeing happen. So Jen and I got together and we created Film Fest Tucson. And this will be our 6th festival. It would have been the 7th year, but because of COVID and whatnot yeah, COVID.

And I will tell you, it’s easy to find because one of my favorite photos that I have is a Film Fest Tucson being broadcast across the sidewalk from atop the Scottish right and very clearly drawing people in like you’re at a movie premiere. It’s pretty cool the way you’ve done that too.

Oh, thanks. Yeah. There’s just such great iconic architecture as, you know, downtown. And we really like the idea of bringing film into sort of unique, historic Tucson buildings and the idea that this isn’t a festival that takes place at a multiplex or it isn’t a festival that you could plop down in any city in America. This really feels Tucson. So we make sure that we involve Tucson brands and Tucson experiences in a way that feels authentic. So if you come here, it’s not just for locals. It’s for people to come to Tucson. And if you come here, you’re going to know what you’re going to get. A little piece of Tucson.

Yeah, and it’s a little piece of Tucson. But your filmmakers are from all over the world, aren’t they?

Yeah, they are. And actually this year it’s interesting, maybe even more international than ever. We’ve got films from Italy, we’ve got films from Mexico, from Ireland, really all over the place. And it’s just what we do is we go story first. And so the most important thing to us is a compelling story and something that’s well done. I scout because I’m a film critic too and because I also program, of course.

Sure.

Yeah. And I look at films for the Mendocino Film Festival and Long Beach, New York film Festival. So I’m looking at over 1000 films a year. And so really I have the luxury of seeing so many great stories and then it’s just figuring out which ones are the right for our audience here in Tucson and stories that I feel are compelling and thought provoking.

So that was going to be my next question. Are you the sole arbiter who gets in or is there a committee? How does that work?

Yeah, no, it’d be a little bit presumptuous to say I’m the only voice in the room and that would not be necessarily because best for everybody because what I love doesn’t necessarily translate to what everyone loves. So I’m certainly the first line. And then I have a committee that looks also at films and we talk about that and we figure out what makes sense and if there’s an audience for that or if it’s a story we’ve already told or if there’s some sort of a natural connection with somebody. Like a lot of times we’ll partner with the Tucson Museum of Art or Mocha or the Jazz Festival or whoever it is because we found a film or story preservation or Modernism Week or anybody like that. We’re all sort of looking for films that are going to cross promote and be of interest to a wider audience. So there is definitely a group that sort of takes a look at things and it’s not just my word.

Well, and one of the things I like about your website and I’m really going to help people go to filmfeston.org, is you’ve got pictures of the venues, which I think is critical. So you understand kind of what you’re talking about with some of these historic and modern I mean, you’ve got 115 years old and you’ve got the AC, which is virtually brand new. And I was kind of surprised, I didn’t realize they even had the space for a screening in there. So it was interesting to see that. But I like it because you have your history going back to 2016. All the films that you’ve chosen for Tucson are all available for people to kind of get a sense of what you’re just talking about, how we told the story before, what’s unique. I love your website.

Thanks. And that’s one of the things as a filmmaker, I know when I was looking at different festivals to try and submit the documentary that my wife and I did, I wanted to see what the programming was for these other festivals to see if it was a fit right. If my film was a fit for the festival. So I really feel like that pedigree is really important for filmmakers and also for audiences just to see, is this a genre fest? Is this a fest that has shown films that I maybe somehow stumbled on later and fell in love with, oh, this is sort of the sensibility that I’m interested in. So I think that is sort of it’s almost like a film resume. The filmmakers trusted us with their films in the past. And here’s some of those films, and.

There’S definitely some recognizable names, things that you might be surprised to see. I don’t know if it’s considered but a smaller film festival. And then I liked it because I go back to the first year and you’ve got a filmmaker, Bill Clinton. And he is very well known. I think he’s won an Academy Award or nominated. And now this year, not only are you presenting his film, but he’s coming to town to speak.

Yes, Bill is wonderful. Bill is one of our great guests this year. We’ve always tried to show some of Bill’s work. I met Bill when I was up in Napa in probably 2013 or 14. And he’s just a great guy. And he’s such an incredible talent. For people who don’t know, he’s been nominated for an Academy Award twice. He hand draws every single cell of his films. And he’s just a great guy. And so worked out schedule wise to have him here this year. And so he’s doing the Shorts program, which actually Fits will be co hosting. And then we’re doing a sneak peek at his new feature film called Slide, which is sort of set in the Southwest, which is perfect for us. And we’re really excited about having built here.

And as soon as I understand that our local kind of well known artists from the newspaper Fitz will be interviewing him or chatting with him.

Yeah, he’s going to be interviewing him. And that just sort of was sort of a no brainer for me. I just called Fitz up and I said, you know, I could really use your help. And he was like, I can’t even believe you’re asking me this. Of course I would love to come and talk with Bill. So it was sort of a marriage made in heaven.

Well, let’s get into some of the details. The dates. How do you get tickets? And then some of the other besides Bill Clinton, some of the other notables, because you’ve got 30. Is it 30 films.

It’s just under 30. Yeah. And so basically the dates are October 13, 1415. It’s mainly the 14th and 15th, but there’s a party and a little bit of stuff going on on Thursday night, 13th. And as you mentioned, films. Tucson.org is where you can find the schedule. There’s actual descriptions of all the individual films and a grid showing you what’s playing where. And then there’s links on each film to go get tickets. And we’re doing about four things for free outdoors to each on Friday and Saturday night. And then everything else is a ticketed film, but it’s really film tickets are $10 a person, so it’s probably cheaper than going to see Top Gun Maverick. And so that’s good. Or we have passes that you can buy as well to see things and some of our other sort of higher profile things. Really. One of the most exciting things for Tucson foodies really is Phil Rosenthal. And I’m sure people are familiar with somebody feed Phil, which is the number one sort of travel and food show on Netflix with

Phil Rosenthal, who’s the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. And this is his 6th season that’s dropping just about three days after our festival on Netflix. And so Phil is coming out, he’s going to be debuting one of his episodes for us on the screen. And I’m going to have a chance to talk with Phil afterwards, which is really exciting because Phil, he’s food royalty, first of all. And then the idea that we can show off Tucson food scene to fill is really a treat.

Yeah. And I’m looking through this. You got films from older films, from like a silent film from 1828 and the whole gamut of opportunities are there.

Yeah, we’re super excited about what you’re speaking of is The Passion of Joan of Arc, which is a film that was considered lost for decades until it finally turned up in the early two thousand s. And what we’re doing is, and we do this pretty frequently, almost every year, we try and show a silent film with live music because it’s just a transformative event. And this one we were going to do in 2020 until COVID hits, so we were able to reschedule. But George Sarah is an La based composer and conductor and he has composed a score that he’s been traveling around the world with that it accompanies this film. And it’s basically a score for a quartet and voices, live chorus. So he will be performing with local musicians and vocal artists along with the silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, which is really going to be sort of I don’t care how big your TV is or how great your sound system is, this is an experience you can’t get at home.

Wow, I had no idea about that. That’s fantastic. This is amazing. I’ve seen the advertisements. I don’t think I’ve actually been to a film at Film fest. And I’m embarrassed to say that because I’m looking back your history, I’m like, man, I would have liked to have seen some of those, but I’m definitely going to make it out this year for a couple of these, for sure. I feel like this has just flown by. I can talk to you all day about the festival. You’ve made a documentary. I’d like to talk to you about that. So we’re definitely going to have to have you come back on the show, maybe down the road, and talk about some of your physical projects that’s improving the landscape of Tucson, not just the intellect of Tucson.

Love to do that. Absolutely. Whenever you’re ready, I would encourage everybody to take a look. And I know it’s a busy weekend, it’s a non football weekend, but it’s a busy weekend with events. I think when you look at our schedule, you’ll find there’s something for everybody. And we’d love to have folks come out and experience the festival.

Well, check it out. It’s filmfestucson.org. The whole schedule is on there. You might be downtown for another event and you can see one of these in the afternoon or evening to offset what else you’re doing and just spend the day downtown.

Absolutely.

Herb, thank you so much for your time and I’m sure we’ll run into other soon.

All right, thank you.

Herb stratford of Stratford Productions. He is a filmmaker, he is a film critic. He curates film festivals, he restores theaters. If it has to do with the film industry, he has probably done it. And we appreciate his time. I know he is quite busy getting ready for Film Fest Tucson. Coming up here October 13, 14th and 15. My name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to Life along the streetcar on downtown radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming@downtownradio.org.

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And while you’re over there@downtownradio.org getting your swag on, why don’t you check out our line up? We know it’s a rock mix Monday through Saturday. Drive times every day during the week with Paleo Dave. Really cool shows curated throughout the week. And then Sundays, Mr. Nature little Leaf Radio DJ Bank the musical bum put on the art of easing and right after us, we have Ted Bryanski with words and Work and then heavy metal at the top of the hour with Ty Logan and then stick around for more music. We’ve got Speakerbox X talking about the hip hop genre and playing some fabulous music, a lot of it local. V Rip does the interviews really well with some great artists in that genre. And then just keep it tuned into 99.1 or keep it streaming on the downtownradio.org. You’re going to hear some great things throughout the day and the week. Well, thanks again to Her Stratford for his time today, talking about Filmfest Tucson. And you can go to filmfestucan.org for all the details of shows

and costs and everything else that’s associated with having a good experience with Film Fest Tucson. And after we wrapped up the interview, he was telling me about one of the films that we definitely want to make sure you’re aware of, what’s called Finding Her Beat. And it’s about a Minnesota woman getting into the somewhat maledominated world of taiko drumming. And they’re going to follow that film up. It’s an outdoor film at the Children’s Museum. They’re going to follow that up with a taiko band performance. So check that out. And in honor of that, we’re going to leave you with a little music today of that genre. This is from 2011 as part of a soundtrack for the movie Showgun Two. It’s just called tycho shuffle. My name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.

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