Phyllis de Picciotto
Paul Wellman

Thirty years ago, Phyllis de Picciotto went before the Santa Barbara City Council and asked for a grant to start the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where she served as artistic director for many years. Needless to say, I’ve always admired and respected this classy dame — and if it wasn’t for her chutzpah and vision, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Not that she is resting on those laurels. Right now, Phyllis produces short journalistic films with her husband, Stan Roden, that can be seen at her website as well as on She finds this stage of her career consistently challenging and fascinating. The films require lots of hard work, but the pay-off is tremendously inspiring because of the people she features.

She put down her camera to answer the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your motto?

Imagine the possibilities. Dare to do the impossible.

Who do you most admire?

All the people who follow Steve Jobs’ advice: “Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Somehow they already know what you truly want. Everything else is secondary. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

What do you like most about your job?

The freedom to follow my visions, ideas, and often outrageous dreams.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Walking on the beach at sunrise. I do this every day. This my time to greet the day, to become one with all that surrounds, me and to be grateful.

What is your greatest fear?

FDR said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

What is your greatest extravagance?

Sweets. I love candy, especially dark chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cakes, and pies. Bring it on.

What is your current state of mind?

Joyful, playful, and excited because I see my life simmering with possibilities.

What is the quality you most like in people?

I love exuberance, thoughtfulness, humor, and a dedication to purpose, including keeping one’s word. People fascinate me, especially when they genuinely share themselves. I love to listen to what others think and how they see the world.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

I suffer when people take themselves way too seriously. I am uncomfortable when they cannot get out of their own way.

What do you most value in friends?

Kindness, compassion, silliness, and a great big laugh. My friends have helped me during dark times, especially with silliness and laughter.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I see the glass 9/10ths full of possibilities.

Which phrases do you most overuse?

“Does it get any better than this?” And “WOW.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would have loved to have been a dancer. The notion that I could express myself fully and completely with body movement thrills me.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Be more capable with current technology.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being open and eager to challenges and opportunities. Years ago, a friend told me, “One door closes and another door opens.” That wowed me, because it is true.

Where would you most like to live?

Right here.

What is your most treasured possession?

My 11-year-old red Prius because it gets 48 to 49 miles to the gallon. Does it get any better than those?

Who makes you laugh the most?

My husband, my daughters, my grandchildren all make me LOL. Every now and then I read a cartoon in the New Yorker and I LOL because I get it.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

All the filmmakers who saw and currently see that there is a bright, exciting future for visual storytelling.

On what occasion do you lie?

I’ll never tell.


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