Know Your Neighbor: Todd Ritchie

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When Todd Ritchie first took the role as theater manager at the Taos Community Auditorium in August 2016, he planned to welcome everyone - those involved in the arts and those of various demographics - to the creative space. Today, his goal remains the same.

"The auditorium staff has always welcomed the public to the facility, but not everyone knows that they can attend events even if they don't have a membership, and they're able to rent for special events," Ritchie said during a recent interview at his TCA office.

Ritchie's present position evolved from a lifetime of work. His England-born father, M. Ian Ritchie, met Joyce Maxine, then a teacher originally from South Dakota, in Wyoming. The couple married and had four children. Todd, the eldest, was born in Riverton, Wyoming next to the state's only Native American reservation. Three siblings followed: Kristen (Rick) Battles of Santa Barbara, California; Andrew Ritchie who owns restaurants in and near his home community of Huntington Beach, California; and Alisa Ritchie (married to Peter Kolshorn), part owners of Taos Mesa Brewery.

Until the age of 11, Todd grew up in Wyoming. In 1969, the family moved to the San Francisco Peninsula area (San Mateo, California) where his father sought employment in the mining industry.

A San Mateo High School graduate, Ritchie attended San José State to study art.

"As a kid, I was always a filmmaker. On a lark, I submitted an application to the San Francisco State Film Program. A total of 150 applied and 20 were accepted. I was one of the ones who were accepted. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in arts and film. Then, I went to work on movies," Ritchie said about his career beginnings.

His first job, film shipper, was at Renaissance Rialto Theaters, where he was responsible for film shipping and delivery to theaters in the film chain in the San Francisco Bay area.

His next position, manager of the York Theater, included running a 1,500-seat, double-feature, daily-change movie venue. He supervised counter staff, custodians, projectionists, security personnel and an assistant manager. He ordered, inventoried concessions, maintained film traffic, organized film screenings, maintained the plant, created reports for the home office and completed payrolls. He also completed special events such as festivals and benefits.

From 1986 to 1989, Ritchie returned to the Renaissance Rialto Theaters as a film shipper and assistant manager.

For a change of pace, Ritchie served as the technical director of the San Francisco International Film Festival from 1987 to 1989. He was responsible for all technical aspects, including the make-up and break-down of all screened film, management of film traffic and working and screening needs such as P.A. systems and projections.

After many years of living in the San Francisco area, Ritchie moved to Los Angeles. From 1989 to 1996, he combined his creative skills plus newly-emerging computer applications for Landmark Theaters, where he worked as a graphic artist, designing ads, calendars and all other art needs with other graphic artists in an art room.

In the Film Shipper/Marketing Department, he created a database to manage the job of shipping film for the largest art house movie chain in the country that included 100 weekly and daily change screens.

He also provided all marketing materials such as posters, standees, trailers and press kits. During the same period of time, 1992-1996, Ritchie worked in a high-end service bureau responsible for design, layout, pre-press and electronic output as a production artist at Insight Communications/ Digital Art Center in Glendale, California.

Upon moving to Los Angeles, he created promotional and packaging material for over 75 video and DVD releases as creative director for LEO Films and designer for Landmark Theaters, producing display ads, directories, print and web support for over 125 screens across the U.S.

While working for various companies, Ritchie also pursued his own special projects. He opened BlackBal Studio, a design firm providing independent filmmakers and small film distributors with marketing material.

"I opened an ad agency in the basement of my house. My clients liked the idea and I was able to save them money for about two to three years. When I left this endeavor, I still made movie posters." said Ritchie. He cited a "fun" project in which he partnered with Tai Seng of China.

The company converted a Chinese campaign into a U.S. campaign, including video boxes, laser disks and more key art. This was the beginning of the DVD era.

He also worked on websites for corporate accounts and completed other artwork for the movies and magazines on an independent level.

"I needed a break from art work, so I delivered for Meals on Wheels. While this work didn't really provide money, it provided something else - I realized that I wanted to help the community," Ritchie said, a sentiment he carried into his future endeavors.

Ritchie loved Taos after several visits with his sister Alisa and decided to move here. His grown sons Angus and Miles visited Taos, but decided to continue their residency and schooling in Glendale, California.

Ritchie worked as a doorman and security person at Taos Mesa Brewery Company, of which some of his family members own part interest.

Later, he used his skills to manage shipping and phone and Internet orders at Taos Herb Company. At this job, he met Marlene Tafoya, who he terms "the love of my life. We share the same interests, values and aspirations."

The couple married last year.

His life with Marlene includes her excellent cooking - enchiladas (his favorite is cheese), tamales and chicos. Marlene also likes to cook chicken. Ritchie DJs The Forge, a heavy metal show on KNCE radio Friday evenings from 10 p.m. to midnight. Heavy metal is Marlene's favorite music, and she formerly DJ'd with him. Ritchie also loves playing with computers and reading experimental novels and science fiction.

Since his move to Taos five years ago, Ritchie has noticed many special places, including the gem that is the Taos Community Auditorium.

His vast experience in theater-related work ranges from sound to distribution to management to the technical end of the business among other pertinent tasks. Ritchie loves film festivals.

He worked as projectionist/ technician for Taos Shortz Film Festival for several years. The people, the energy and the fact that "part of the world comes to you" creates much excitement. He later served as the on-call projectionist/ technician at the TCA for six months and then accepted his current position.

Besides festivals, he finds the Taos Community Auditorium's activities much to his liking. "This job has a good feel. I like to make things happen. Currently, I'm encouraging one-minute shorts on global warming, thus involving most aspects of the community.

One of the things I enjoy is working with people to help with projects. As theater manager, I'm able to work with different demographics and formats, keeping in mind that this is a business. Theater, music and film are some of the aspects of what we do. I encourage members of the public to participate," Ritchie concluded. "The TCA is good for the community."

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