On a Friday night in February, Tisch senior and Fusion Film Festival co-director Nicole Quintero Ochoa stood at the front of a Tisch theater filled with over 150 people, picking the pepperoni off her slice of pizza.
“Hello! Welcome! I have a question. When is the festival?” she joked.
A chorus of people told her that Fusion was next week. This was the final full team meeting before the start of Fusion, an annual event at NYU celebrating women in film. The room was filled with a tense excitement but Quintero Ochoa kept the mood light, cracking jokes the whole time and throwing in her own stories.
Gabriela Alcalde, one of the other co-directors for Fusion, said this positive attitude and warmth is what allows Quintero Ochoa to captivate a crowd and lead effectively.
“Nicole has this one-of-a-kind energy that fills up the entire room.” Alcalde said. “She’s extremely positive and that’s important during stressful situations such as Fusion.”
Along with the other co-directors, Callahan Zacks and Natalia Bougadellis, the group organizes screenings, panels and competitions to celebrate women in the film, television and new media industries as well highlight a new generation of storytellers at NYU. For this year’s festival, there were events commemorating women across all areas of media including those leading the way in video games and comedy.
Quintero Ochoa traces her passion for film back to her upbringing in a close-knit family. As a kid, she moved around a lot because of her father’s job, often times relocating to a completely different part of the world — going from Mexico City to Seoul, South Korea to Connecticut. When her little brother was born, her family filmed hours of footage of him. Quintero Ochoa edited the footage into short films and, after seeing the emotional reactions she could inspire in her family, decided she wanted to study film.
Now, she is studying film and TV in Tisch with minors in producing and business of entertainment, media and technology. Her involvement with Fusion began during her first semester on campus, after she casually came across the recruitment meeting on a search for free cookies.
“I was walking into Third North one day and I saw a flyer that said: ‘Free Insomnia Cookies, come to the recruitment party!” she said. “So I ended up going because I kept hearing about these Insomnia Cookies, like everyone freshman year was talking about them.”
But after the cookies were gone, the passion of the organization’s members remained.
“I heard about the festival and loved everything the co-director said about the mission of celebrating women in film and TV,” Quintero Ochoa said. “And the amount of people that were there was just awesome.”
Quintero Ochoa’s tireless work ethic and consistently positive attitude hasn’t gone unnoticed by her fellow Tisch students. She has been asked to work as an assistant director on as many as 10 student projects per semester since her freshmen year. She has a reputation for being able to bring order to any set and fix any emergency situation.
Susan Sandler, the faculty advisor for Fusion and a Tisch professor, said her popularity is a result of how she selflessly commits herself to the projects of others, even as much as her own.
“She is excellent at management and stands by a project from pre-production through the last details of post,” Sandler said. “Nicole’s commitment is profound — she offers every director her full support to get exactly what they require to fulfill their vision for their film.”
Quintero Ochoa favors the feeling of fulfillment she gets from helping others turn their dreams into reality over directing her own films.
“I prefer hearing someone’s stories, hearing someone say ‘this is what I want’ and me turning around and being able to say ‘let’s do it, I will help you get what you want,’” she said.
Moving forward, Quintero Ochoa hopes communities like those she’s found in Tisch and Fusion make a larger impact on the film industry as a whole. She believes that having this kind of access is what’s necessary for combating pervasive gender bias in the industry.
“I don’t think gender should be a question. It shouldn’t be about whether you’re male, female or transgender. Opportunities should be open based on talent, not gender,” Quintero Ochoa said. “I think Fusion is doing the right thing where we’re supporting each other, building a network of amazing female students and creating access and opportunities.”
Read about more of this year’s Up-and-Comers here.