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Tech Triumphs

Meghan Hochstetler

Meghan HochstetlerHer life running Robinson Film Center reads like a really good movie. 'Once upon a time…'

Title: Executive director of the Robinson Film Center, 617 Texas Street, Shreveport

Hometown: Shreveport

High School: Captain Shreve, Shreveport

Now resides in: Shreveport

Degree: BA, journalism

What brought you to Tech? I wanted to be a journalist since I was 7. When it came time to choose a college, I applied to several schools with acclaimed journalism programs. I was actually leaning toward another school when I got a phone call from Tech journalism chair Wiley Hilburn. Mr. Hilburn was a Louisiana celebrity and a writer I looked up to immensely. I was over the moon that he would call me at home! We had a great chat – he talked to me about the kinds of things I would do in the journalism program at Tech. He also offered me a scholarship, which pleased my parents. 

My parents met at Tech, so they were biased in helping me decide. I grew up going to Tech football games and Lady Techster games. Tech is in my blood, it just took the phone call from Mr. Hilburn to really seal the deal.

What are some of your favorite memories of Tech? I really blossomed as a student and as a young person while at Tech. There were so many opportunities, and I think I might have tried them all! My home was certainly at the Tech Talk office. I was there far more than I was in my dorm room. The people on staff with you become more than just coworkers and classmates; they become your best friends and the people you share life with.

I was in Sigma Kappa sorority, which was not only a lot of fun, but also taught me responsibility and some pretty solid leadership skills. I’m still friends with many of my Sigma Kappa sisters who live in Shreveport. It’s funny how you can run into someone after not seeing them for almost 20 years and pick up right where you left off.

Sorority parties, late nights working on the Tech Talk, and TV-watching dates with my roommates are the memories that stand out the most. But there’s one other thing that left a lasting impression on me.

One day, I had a lot of work to do at the Tech Talk. So much so that I thought it was more important to get that done than it was to go to class. The problem was, the class was Mr. Hilburn’s. I got a handwritten note from him in my Tech Talk box the next day. It read, “Meghan, you don’t skip my class. – Wiley.” I never skipped his class again.

Tell us about your professional life after Tech: My senior year at Tech, I got involved with the Wesley Foundation, which is a campus ministry of the United Methodist Church. I ended up with an internship there the year after I graduated. That internship led to a 13-year career as a youth director in the United Methodist Church in Shreveport and Bossier at Broadmoor UMC and Asbury UMC. Youth ministry is a job that will keep you young but will also wear you out!

At the same time I was working in the church, I was also writing a weekly column for The Times in Shreveport. While I never entered the field of journalism full-time, my journalism education from Tech has served me well in every job I’ve had.

In 2011 I came to the Robinson Film Center, a nonprofit independent movie theater in downtown Shreveport. I began work here as a media educator, meaning someone who teaches students about media literacy (understanding and communicating through film and other media). I later became the education director and then programming director. In May of 2016, I became the executive director. I’m honored to be a part of this organization. I think it’s one of the best things in Shreveport (and I thought that before I worked here).

We’re the only independent movie theater in our region, but we’re truly more than just a movie theater. We give our audience opportunities several times a week to hear community speakers before and after our films, we often pair movies with themed dinners and drinks, and we have monthly series that cater to groups like families with kids, senior citizens, women, science fanatics and book lovers. I can’t imagine a more fun or more fulfilling place to work.

How has Tech helped you in your career? I learned so much at Tech. I learned how to write. I learned how to meet a deadline. I learned how to receive constructive criticism. I learned how to work as a part of a team. I learned how to talk to anyone about anything (thank you, rush). I learned that historical geology is not a career path I need to pursue.

I’ve taken that education with me out into the world, and I’ve done OK so far. In addition to what I’ve learned, it’s also about who I’ve met. Tech grads are all kindred spirits. It may be because we’re sometimes outnumbered by the Louisiana school to our south, but I think Tech people really stick together.

What is your advice to today’s freshmen? Have an open mind. Get involved in as much as you can. Try a little bit of everything. Go to class. It’s amazing how much better you’ll do when you show up. Learn as much as you can from both your professors and older students in your field. Have fun!

Where do you see yourself five years from now? Ten years? Well, for starters, if you told me 10 years ago that this is where I would be, I wouldn’t have believed you. So, I don’t know if I’m too good at predicating the future. I’d love to stay at RFC as long as possible and continue to improve and strengthen our organization.

Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s …: Don’t underestimate yourself. Hard work and diligence will take you far, no matter what the job is.

What are 10 of your favorite movies? (That’s right: 10!): Well this is impossible. OK, I’ll give it a shot.

Also, Whiplash, Stealing Home, Blue Valentine and anything with Kate Winslet in it.

There are so many more. Why would you do this to me?

Name five of your favorite books: This is just as hard as the movie question.

You didn’t ask me about music, but I’ll give you my two cents on that topic anyway.

The three Bs.

You’ve been ‘in charge’ at the Robinson for several months now. What are the challenges you face? Working for a nonprofit is always challenging. A third of our annual budget comes from unearned income, which are essentially donations. There’s not really ever a time you can slack off on cultivating that unearned income – it’s so vital every month of the year. So that is a big challenge.

Another challenge is keeping our audience engaged. We’re open six days a week, so we’ve got to come up with exciting programming to present to our community on just about every day of the year. We want to keep the audience we have and gain new audience members as well. I think that mostly boils down to giving our audience the best experience possible and encouraging them to come back again and bring a friend the next time.

How can people help, and how can the Robinson help people? This one is easy. People can help by buying a movie ticket and having dinner in our Abby Singer’s Bistro. That’s the No. 1 way to help. If you’d like to go a step further than that, become a member of Robinson Film Center. We’ve got affordable annual membership levels starting at $55, going up to $5,000, and everywhere in between. These memberships keep us going and make us a stronger film center.

How do we help our community? We bring the best cinema in the world to Shreveport. We give people a space to experience film as art and to dive deeper into what they’re seeing on the screen through unique programs and expert speakers. And we’re a lot of fun! Where else can you have a beer and eat chicken and waffles while watching a movie on the big screen?

What would be an ideal “Robinson date” night? Start with wine and cheese on the Abby Singer’s balcony overlooking Texas Street in downtown Shreveport. Follow that up with either a filet or Cajun chicken pasta. Once you’re nice and full, head downstairs to choose your movie. You can go with the best in new releases, or come on a night where we’re showing a classic film. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll end up with a romance like Casablanca. Send your date to the concessions counter for popcorn and your choice of a soft drink, wine or beer (or you could order a specially crafted cocktail from the bar upstairs). Enjoy the movie and then hope for a goodnight kiss on the sidewalk under the light of our marquee.