What It Takes to Be a Female Movie Maverick

Cinequest's Co-Founder and President, Kathleen Powell, on launching a successful business and sharing great movies in Silicon Valley: "I am not afraid to try something."
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What It Takes to Be a Female Movie Maverick

 Cinequest’s Co-Founder and President, Kathleen Powell, on launching a successful business and making and sharing great movies in Silicon Valley: “I am not afraid to try something and fail.”

-Faye Brennan

Kathleen Powell

Great movies make us laugh, cry, and reflect on our own lives. For Kathleen Powell, great movies inspired her to leave behind her career in technology and establish Cinequest, a global company in Silicon Valley that bring directors, producers, movie buffs and students together to exercise their love of cinema.

Over the past 21 years, Kathleen and her co-founder, Halfdan Hussey, have built up Cinequest to include its own movie studio, distribution branch, mentoring and education program and renowned film festival. Every year, hundreds of movie artists, actors, and film lovers come to the Cinequest Film Festival to watch the latest innovative films and to learn more about the art of moviemaking. The festival is regarded in the industry as being the place to find the next great movie mavericks.  

BettyConfidential is a sponsor of this year’s festival, and we caught up with Kathleen to find out how she turned her passion for film into a thriving business, and to learn what she and Halfdan have planned for the future of movies.

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Kathleen, you went to school for computer science and business administration. Did you always have a passion for movies, or when did that come about?
When I was in graduate school in Boulder Colorado, I met Halfdan Hussey, the co-founder of Cinequest. He was making an independent film called He’s Still There. He managed to talk me in to producing this very low budget independent feature. It was accepted to the Venice Film Festival in Italy – the oldest film festival in the world. Through that experience, I learned about connecting film artists with an audience that loves film, and I was hooked. The amazing hospitality of the Italians inspired Halfdan and I to bring it back to Silicon Valley.

Michael Keaton

What were some of the biggest struggles you faced during the process of establishing Cinequest, and how did you overcome them?
Fundraising is always a challenge. From day one we knew that we did not want to run an organization that was operating in debt. This of course has meant that we have to stretch every single penny and are always making choices as to what we can and can’t do. We have a very small passionate staff (10 full time employees) and a lot of volunteers – usually around 500 a year, most which have volunteered for over 10 and 15 years each.

What does Cinequest offer to the film community?
It brings innovations to empower artists. It’s our position and tradition as we led the charge with digital filmmaking, exhibition and internet distribution. You “Find the future of film” at Cinequest.

You’ve produced three movies. What’s your favorite part about working on a film?
My favorite part about working on a film is the collaboration of art and business.  It takes very creative artists partnered with really great business minds to make those films that you never forget – the films that say something.

Do you have any future projects you can tell us about?
This spring, I will be working with Halfdan Hussey again in producing the feature film, TO THE DOGS, under our production studio, Cinequest Mavericks Studio. It’s based on the novel Halfdan wrote, and it will be produced in San Jose. We’re all very excited for this production to unfold!

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