Liz Tiedtke practically grew up at Enzian. Now she’s stepped up to help run the Maitland moviehouse, where she’s spearheading a major expansion while keeping film buffs happy.

Liz Tiedtke_WP_002

As a child, Liz Tiedke ran errands at the art-house cinema her aunt founded.

If you’re into movies that don’t feature zombies, superheroes or futuristic teen warriors, chances are you’ve visited Enzian. Maybe you’ve attended the Florida Film Festival, which the Maitland moviehouse hosts each spring. Or maybe you’ve dropped by the adjacent Eden Bar for a drink and then gotten curious about the films inside.

Still, you may not realize that the single-screen “art house” — which has been showing American independent cinema, foreign films and movie classics for nearly three decades — wouldn’t even exist if not for the Tiedtkes, one of Winter Park’s most prominent families.

And even if you do know that, you may not be aware that the family’s current representative at Enzian is 28-year-old Elizabeth Tiedtke (pronounced TEEDT-key), whose friends call her Liz or Lizzie.

“It’s not just a place that’s important to the community,” she reflects. “It’s also my family legacy.”

For Liz, Enzian has always been the family business, or one of them, anyway. Her Aunt Tina founded the nonprofit theater; her paternal grandfather, the late John Tiedtke (who never tired of pointing out that he didn’t care for movies), funded it; her parents, Sigi and Philip, ran it for many years and created the Florida Film Festival (which this year is April 4-13); and her older brother, Alex, was project manager for Eden Bar.

“She understands Enzian as good as, or better than, anybody ever, and partly because she grew up there,” offers the theater’s president, Henry Maldonado. “She has this love for Enzian like you might have for the house by the lake that you would go to every summer. She is appreciative of it and protective of it.”

On a recent weekday afternoon, Liz and I are having drinks at Eden Bar which is, naturally enough, her go-to hangout. The place is almost deserted at this hour, although it’s a beautiful, temperate day — perfect for an open-air bistro like this one.

Subdued music wafts our way from the bar. A train whistle sounds in the distance while Liz sips her usual: soda water and grapefruit juice, straight up. 

“I used to drink soda water with apple juice when I was younger, which is a traditional Austrian drink,” she says with a nod to her heritage. The theater itself, in fact, is named for a flower found in that country.

A beanpole in a navy-blue hoodie, Liz wears crisp bluejeans and has tied her blond hair in a ponytail. Her alert azure eyes and peaches-and-cream complexion, not to mention the crossed-oars emblem on that hoodie, combine to give her a collegiate look and a preppy vibe. Meanwhile, her longish features — similar to those depicted in Amedeo Modigliani portraits — suggest a soulful side.

Looking at this lithe young woman, you might suppose she’s a dancer or maybe an actress. Actually, she’s a numbers person with a degree in finance from Rollins College. When I emailed her to request this interview, this is what she wrote back:

Sure thing! But I fear I have the most boring job of all of us 🙂 I mostly work budgets and look at construction drawings!

And while that’s true enough, her response also indicates a reflexive modesty that may go along with being a Tiedtke. She seems to know that she needn’t call attention to herself to become the center of attention

Liz Tiedtke_WP_005

Like mother, like daughter. Sigi Tiedke ran Enzian with her husband, Philip, while young Liz romped about the facility. Liz’s aunt, Tina, founded the theater and her paternal grandfather, John, funded the venture.

In some ways, it’s a small, small world for Liz Tiedtke, who lives in Winter Park, about a half mile from Enzian. Her parents’ home, also in Winter Park, is three-quarters of a mile away, and she works from her mom’s old office at the theater.

“Enzian’s one year older than I am,” she says in a voice that reminds me of her mother’s: professionally crisp yet musical and friendly. “So I very much grew up here.”

In another sense, though, Liz is worldly. She studied acting for a year at NYU and spent another year in New York at SoHo’s French Culinary Institute. A few days before our interview she’d been in Guam, and on the very morning of our interview she’d been in Atlanta to resolve a minor passport issue for a trip, a few days later, to India.

The man in Liz’s life is attorney Gourav Mukherjee, whose father is originally from Kolkata (aka Calcutta). That trip to India — ostensibly to meet his father’s side of the family — turned into an even more meaningful journey when Gourav proposed. He popped the question in front of the Taj Mahal at midnight, beneath a full moon.

When Gourav, who grew up in Kissimmee, met Liz about a year ago through a mutual friend, he had never heard of her eminent family. If he had, he says, “it might have made her unapproachable.”

But he soon came to see that the Tiedtkes are, as he puts it, “very humble people who care a lot about the community.” Liz’s heart certainly seems to be in Winter Park and Maitland — and she is bursting with childhood tales of Enzian escapades.

In second grade at Park Maitland School, she felt “very cool” because she was the only kid her age allowed to cross the street, a special dispensation granted because the theater where her mother worked was just steps away. She also felt cool swiping chocolate-chip cookies from the theater’s kitchen — that is, until the chef left her a note ordering her to cease and desist.

As the Orlando Sentinel’s movie critic at the time, I first met young Liz (or Pinky, as she was sometimes called) at the theater. She and her brother struck me as mischievous imps who scampered around the place and didn’t have much time for adults. Turns out they were busy doing things like building a fort under the stage.

One of Liz’s more vivid childhood memories involves being playfully threatened by actor Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Boardwalk Empire), who was in town for the film festival. Buscemi and his wife took her to Universal Studios, where she was selected for the “Ren & Stimpy Ring Toss” during a faux game show. She picked Buscemi as her partner.

“I had these big foam rings and he had to crouch in a fake litter box and wear a Stimpy head,” she recalls, cringing even as she laughs. “I had to throw rings around his neck, which was just horrifying for me.”

At the end of the festival, he wrote in her program, “I’ll get you back some day. Much love, Steve.”

Liz Tiedtke_WP_007

Enzian, located in a retrofitted historic home, opened in 1985 with a screening of D.W. Griffith’s silent classic Broken Blossoms. The star, Lillian Gish, was on hand and said she hoped to serve as the fledgling venue’s “rabbit’s foot.”

Even as a child, Liz worked at Enzian, passing out pencils to mark film-festival ballots and running assorted errands. At age 15 she took a proper job in the box office. Over the years, she’s also been house manager, projectionist, cook and, briefly, events coordinator.

“She’s basically served in every capacity here at the theater,” says programming director Matthew Curtis. So a few years back, when Enzian found itself without a manager, her father suggested that she step up.

“Enzian isn’t large compared to a lot of organizations, but it has so many different challenges it’s like a half a dozen different businesses under one umbrella,” explains Philip Tiedtke. “There was pressure there.”

In 2010, Liz became the theater’s director of operations; two years later her official title became executive vice president of Enzian, Eden Bar and the Florida Film Festival.

While struggling through her difficult first months on the job, she began to focus on putting the operation’s finances in order. This she accomplished by hiring some new staff members and showing them how to balance budgetary concerns with creativity.

“When she was little, it was drawings and mazes,” says Sigi Tiedtke, who notes that her daughter has always enjoyed solving puzzles. “She loves challenges and she always has.”

Liz’s other puzzle-solving accomplishments at Enzian have included overseeing its recent renovation and creating the Wednesday Night Pitcher Show, an ongoing series of free — sometimes outrageous — films that are projected on an outdoor screen near the theater. It’s an effort, she says, “to reach out to the film lovers out there who might be intimidated by what we’re showing inside.”

In addition, Liz has recently been spearheading a major expansion at the theater that would add two additional screens, a second lobby and more parking. The project might be completed as early as 2015, the operation’s 30th anniversary year.

Although Liz says she is “firmly committed” to remain at Enzian through the expansion and then some, she doesn’t plan to be there forever. While she is, however, she’s helping the theater to flourish as a social environment.

Liz seems to have always been drawn to that sort of thing. Her mother chuckles at the memory of her daughter chatting on a toy telephone, pretending to invite people to dinner. And her fiancé has also noticed her tendency to foster conviviality.

“When we first started spending time together,” Gourav muses, “I found that she would really spend a lot of time concerning herself with making sure that everyone was having a good time, everyone was participating, everyone was involved.” 

That’s the sort of spirit Liz would like to encourage at Enzian. “I’m really not a very comfortably social or outgoing person,” she admits. “But I love throwing dinner parties: cooking a bunch of food, serving it and seeing people eat and be happy and hang out and enjoy themselves.”

Basically, what she wants is for theater patrons to feel at home, as if they were members of an extended family. While we’re there, at least, we can all feel like we’re Tiedtkes.


FAST FACTS

Print

When: April 4-13

Where: Enzian in Maitland and Regal Cinemas at Winter Park Village

Scope: 55 feature-length films plus 118 shorts, at last count. Included are foreign, classic and American independent movies.

Opening-night feature: The Trip to Italy, the sequel to The Trip, the hilarious British comedy from actor, comedian, impressionist, writer and producer Steve Coogan (Philomena).

Spotlight features: Dom Hemingway, with Jude Law; Joe, with Nicolas Cage; Words and Pictures, with Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche; and For No Good Reason, a documentary (featuring Johnny Depp) about Ralph Steadman, the cartoonist closely associated with gonzo-journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

Retro cinema: Goldfinger will be screened to mark the 50th anniversary of the 007 classic. Other retro selections include The Big Lebowski, the 1998 cult favorite with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the cast; Murder on the Orient Express, celebrating the all-star whodunit’s 40th anniversary; and the Oscar-winning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, a 1970 Italian crime drama.

Celebrity guests: Several are expected but only Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) had been confirmed by press time. He’ll be there with his new film, Last I Heard, in which he plays — what else? — a mobster.

Filmmaker Forums: Filmmakers, programmers and other film professionals will take you behind the scenes in these free presentations.

Tickets: For most individual films, tickets are in the $9-$11 range. Festival passes and packages are also available.

Additional information: floridafilmfestival.com

— J.B.