People to Watch
(page 9 of 11)
By: Valerie Havas
If Ulster County resident Nicole Quinn has her way, more films will be made in the Hudson Valley, featuring homegrown talent and themes that are infinitely more diverse than the ones typically served up by Hollywood.
Quinn, the award-winning writer, director and executive producer of the 2007 independent film Racing Daylight, isn’t a big fan of the Hollywood movie-making machine, which she feels runs on a stultifying combination of repetition, reputation, and imitation. Many compelling stories aren’t being told, she believes, including ones by and about women, people of color, and anyone over the age of 40.
“I’m a storyteller,” explains Quinn, who is in her early 50s and is of mixed black, Puerto Rican, and Belgian heritage. Over the course of a recent interview, she told tales of a California childhood steeped in the arts and touched by racism. Magical experiences (watching Mitzi Gaynor rehearse for a Las Vegas show being choreographed by a family friend) are juxtaposed with ugly ones (finding dead animals in the mailbox after her family moved to an all-white neighborhood). And then there was the vicious Valentine’s Day card handed to her on the school bus, which prompted her mother to send her to a Catholic boarding school at the tender age of eight (an experience that inspired Habit Forming, her as-yet-unpublished memoir).
As a pre-law student at Berkeley, Quinn ditched her plans to become a lawyer on the advice of a drama professor who helped her get a union card and a job at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Ten credits short of graduating, she walked away from school and the law and into a whole new world. Her professor’s intervention “changed my life,” she says. “Or what I thought was going to be my life.”
Quinn focused on acting for a decade or so, appearing in movies, television dramas, soap operas, and on the stage. She later became a screenwriter, writing for John Singleton, HBO, and Jodie Foster’s Egg Pictures, among others.
She and her husband bought a weekend house in Ulster County in 1995, and became full-time residents in 2000. Quinn threw herself into the local arts scene, becoming a member of Actors & Writers (a group of theater and film professionals who live in the Valley), helping to run a play-writing workshop at a local high school, and serving on the board of the Poughkeepsie-based Children’s Media Project.