Maggie Mackay, Board Chair
Maggie Mackay developed her interest in film as a child in NYC, where she spent hours at Film Forum and her local video store, Rare Bird Video. Mackay holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Film Studies from Claremont Graduate University. Among many gigs, she has been Senior Coordinator of the Sundance Documentary Fund, Senior Programmer of the L.A. Film Festival, and Director of Nominations for the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Mackay proudly came “home” to her video store roots when she joined Vidiots in May, 2016.
Patty Polinger, Vice Board Chair, Founder
Patty Polinger established Vidiots in 1985 with Cathy, her friend since age 3, with a mission to offer the community a wider range of films and events. Before Vidiots, Patty worked in International Theatrical Distribution for MGM/UA Entertainment. Her favorite genres of film are foreign and documentary, with a fondness for films with a dark side like… The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Crumb and Withnail and I.
Cathy Tauber, Vice Board Chair, Founder
Cathy Tauber opened Vidiots in 1985, after she and her childhood friend Patty saw a need for renting more interesting, independent, foreign, cult documentary films, which were not available anywhere at the time. Before Vidiots, Cathy worked in the music business, spending several years working for Frank Zappa. Cathy Resides in Topanga Canyon, with her husband and dog, Olive, who likes to hang out at Vidiots.
John Achorn is an actor, director and teacher. He has specialized in the commedia dell’Arte for over 40 years. He studied under the late Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, with whom he helped found the noted Dell’Arte School in Humboldt County, where he has returned several times over the years to teach commedia. As a Visiting Assistant Professor, Mr. Achorn has taught acting and directed productions at The University of Redlands, UCLA, USC, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He has presented film discussions of seminal comedy movies in conjunction with his commedia instruction, with an emphasis on silent clowns/comics, the early talkie pioneers and screwball comedies. In his course on the History of Comedy at Emeritus College, he has examined British film comedy, the screwball comedy tradition, and the rise and development of the TV Sitcom. He currently teaches Shakespeare, American Novel and History of Comedy at Santa Monica Emeritus College. Mr. Achorn also is involved with the Virginia Avenue Project where he teaches at-risk teens Creative Dramatics. He has recently translated and adapted the play A Sensible Girl by Jean de Palaprat (1692), and is working on a documentary on Carlo-Mazzone-Clementi.
Schawn Belston is Senior Vice President of Library and Technical Services at Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Schawn began his career in feature post production. In 1997, he helped start Film Preservation program at Twentieth Century Fox. He has also served on the Board of Directors for Outfest.
Danièle Neuharth has been a Vidiots member since 1989. She is a non-profit fundraising professional who has worked on national events at the Sundance Institute, the American Film Institute, Film Independent, Art Center College of Design, and most recently as Director of Development at the University of Southern California. She is thrilled to focus her personal passion for cinema in supporting the preservation and growth of the unique community that is Vidiots.
James Pong is currently CFO of Annapurna Pictures. He is a media and entertainment executive with a diverse array of experience advising in all aspects of entertainment business strategy, with a particular focus in business plan development, capital management, deal analysis and negotiation, risk analysis, and emerging business models. Previously he was with Sony Pictures Entertainment and he began his career in investment banking and strategic consulting.
Claudia Puig is president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and a nationally recognized entertainment journalist. Currently a critic for NPR’s Film Week and contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, she was USA Today’s film critic for 18 years and host of The Screening Room video series. Prior to that she was a Los Angeles Times staff writer for 11 years. Claudia was a speechwriter for AMPAS and is currently program director for the Mendocino Film Festival. Much in demand as a moderator for entertainment industry Q&As, she has a consulting business specializing in film analysis and diversity consulting and also teaches a college class on Diversity in the Media. A native Spanish speaker, Claudia studied at Universidad Ibero-Americana in Mexico City. She has a B.A. in Communications Studies from UCLA and an M.A. in Communications from USC’s Annenberg School. She was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times as one of 14 film critics making media more inclusive and is the winner of the Roger Ebert Award for Excellence in Film Criticism from the African-American Critics Association.
Emeritus Founding Board Members
Patricia Meyer holds a BA in history and literature from Harvard University and MA in fiction writing from Boston University. For the past 20 years, she has had a diverse career as a motion picture and television screenwriter and producer. With her passion for dark comedic true crime stories, she has had the privilege of writing numerous screenplays for Martin Scorsese, Harry and Mary Jane Ufland, Brillstein-Grey and Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions. She has also written projects for every major studio as well as the networks, including a CBS movie and miniseries. Meyer’s first production, the ABC miniseries The Women of Brewster Place starred Oprah Winfrey and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Miniseries in 1989. Throughout the 1990s, she developed and executive produced multiple network movies. She made her directorial debut in 2003, with The List, a short tragic-comedy starring Corbin Bernsen and Ashley Williams. Before joining the AFI faculty, she taught screenwriting and development at Chapman University. Meyer has been a Senior Lecturer in Screenwriting at the AFI Conservatory for the past five years and will continue to teach screenwriting there and produce special events in the fall.
Ric Mondragon is a design consultant and contractor. Ric joined Vidiots in 1985 as its first Manager and was a major force in Vidiots’ success. Ric has an extensive knowledge of film, is a community activist, and has a talent for inspiring people.
Susan Stangl, MD, MSEd, is a family physician at the Downtown Women’s Center, a doctor-patient communications consultant and associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In addition to her work in medicine, she is active in local theater as an actor, director, singer, musician and sound designer; and she has directed, acted in, and edited several short films. She wholeheartedly supports the work of Vidiots to make their unique collection available to the public.