Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Leonardo Ostergren Interview Pic

Interview: Frida Board Member Leonardo Ostergren

Have this article read to you, listen to it like a podcast

You might not always see them around the theater, but everything we do at The Frida wouldn’t be possible without our Board of Directors! Working with our Executive Director Logan Crow to make the high-level decisions that keep our theater functioning, they also connect and interface with other groups and organizations to raise awareness of what we do as well as colloborate on community events.

One such member of the Board is Leonardo Ostergren (pictured above in the middle with his arms outstretched), who I actually knew back when he was just a volunteer! Working with him on the Friday crew way back when I was just a volunteer myself, it’s been amazing to see him rise from helping with concessions and introducing movies to helping direct The Frida. I had the privilege of interviewing him for the blog when he got Volunteer of the Month but that was before the pandemic, so imagine what a pleasant surprise it was when he approached me about catching up and seeing where he was five years later. A lot has changed since then (as he touches on in our interview), but one thing that hasn’t changed is the energy and enthusiasm that Leo brings to our theater.

Tell us about your time and role with The Frida.

So since we last talked, I think I had I mentioned wanting to get involved with the Rocky Horror crowd and helping on Friday nights. I continued with that, and I just appreciate everything that The Frida continues to do for the community.

One of the major milestones of everybody that’s living on this planet was COVID, and it was during COVID with the shutdown of all the businesses that we had closed down. During that time, we learned that we were more than our building: we did over 160 pop-up drive-in events and at the time the thing was social distancing, so these were really safe events that brought the community together. Well, we had to be 12 feet away from each other but we were at least with other people, so these were very moving events for me and I thought they were so, so important.

My part in that was I introduced everybody who came to those events for at least 155 of them (I only missed a handful.) It was great to hear the community say “We appreciate you guys doing this, this is so important, thank you,” and it was great to be able to take it back to Logan and say “Hey, this is feedback from the community.” Without Logan, we wouldn’t be doing this: we obviously need our audience, but it’s the dreams and the direction that Logan has laid out that have brought us to this point.

Since then, I’ve been part of the Board of Directors for about four years now to help things move on at higher levels. We’ve had different milestones and steps along the way that I just continue to be so proud and so humbled to be a small part of such a great force.

What is your history with movies and cinema?

I still remember having my grandmother take me to see a movie called Star Wars. I was a young kid at the time – seven, six, something like that – and just loved it. At that age, I was really interested in special effects and how movie magic was made. At that time especially – before CGI or anything we could design on a computer – it was practical, so I found it even more intriguing.

It’s not that we don’t see beautiful things in movies anymore. One of the most beautiful visuals that I remember seeing of recent years was the afterlife in Coco. The pullout on that big city and just all the beautiful detail and everything just moving, I’m getting goose bumps as I think about it. But it was all done on computer: with practical effects, you had to physically create and make everything that you were seeing on the screen, so it was a different and amazing time.

That’s when I got bit by the bug, I would say. It’s been a long time and there have been different things throughout my lifespan that have kept me not on the path directly but close to it. I’ve done a lot of technical, behind the scenes stuff. I went to a vocational video school where we learned to wire up a three camera studio with the editing suite in it. I’ve gone to Northern Arizona University for film. Always had that in the background but I’ve always just been drawn to the idea that the dreamers who put their dream to film put their dreams to actual motion and the power that those visuals and storytelling has.

Video recorded by Leo at the grand reopening of the Orange County Museum of Art, with a big crowd saying “hi” to Executive Director Logan Crow.

What are some changes you’ve noticed over the years here?

One of the biggest ones that I was really proud to see was getting our lighting updated. We had a new general manager come in and install these nice lights like they have in the Dolby Theatre in LA. Also getting new carpeting was such a great upgrade.

We’ve also got our 35mm camera all up and running, we’ve got [See It On 16mm founder] Michael Aguirre who brings us film events.

Being part of Science on Screen, which we were just getting into when I started, so now that’s become like a regular program.

Something else that’s new is another Board Member, Atalia Lopez, has started hosting our Trivia Nights, which brings a lot to The Frida. It brings attention, it brings people, it brings community together, and it’s a great time.

On that note, I just want to share how much I love our audience: our audience is the best, hands down the best. One of the things during COVID is we had a Members-only screening of Taxi Driver. The weather was inclement, which meant in this situation light rain and wind, and when you have a 40-foot projection screen, wind is not good. Also, if you’re using electronic equipment, you don’t want it to get it rained on, so just not the best time. But what I remember is that we had about 30 RSVPs for the Members screening and at the time 30 was a lot because it was just Members and, again, this was during COVID. So, it was raining, we had wind, it was not a beautiful day, and you know how many Members showed up? All 30. 30 of our Members sat out in the rain and drizzle in their cars, and it’s just moments like that this I love.

What are some of your favorite memories of your time here?

One of my favorite was we had a couple that had their first date at The Frida Cinema and they also came and got married at The Frida.

I love that we continue to get support from Greg Sestero from The Room. I really enjoyed meeting him, what a great guy! I got to introduce him for the COVID Room screening.

To take it back to COVID, we actually had a lot of great times at the drive-in. We had our Star Wars night where we had Darth Vader and the Imperial Guards dressed up, we had so much other stuff going on, and just everyone coming out and appreciating it.

I feel like your question may be a trick question, Reggie, and here’s why I’ll say it! Whenever someone asks me how I’m doing at The Frida, my answer is always the same: I’m never better than when I’m at The Frida because every event we have is always its own amazing event, so to say only a few is tricky.


More to explore