What is it we are QUESTING for?
It is the fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us.
Questing for it is not an ego trip;
it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself.
There is nothing you can do that’s more important than being fulfilled.
You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence;
in this way you will find, live become a realization of your own personal myth.” – Joseph Campbell
“Like the treasure of so many mentors who just have tremendous enduring love and faith, Tim did not give up on me. He changed my view of the world by overwhelming me with kindness and he spent time listening to help me process my past and focus on a brighter future. With patience, he reflected the love and integrity that I am and that which is within all of us. It takes just one person to shift a life forever. Therefore, all of us together have the potential to shift humanity.” – Santiago Rizzo
From the STREET to STANFORD to WALL STREET to
TRUTH, FORGIVENESS, HEALING, & MAGNANIMOUS LOVE
OUR – QUEST
“Love is the Only Energy That Can Truly Heal.” – Santiago Rizzo
”With the privilege of safety and love comes a responsibility to share with non-judgement with all those who are stuck in the pain. Deeper empathy and compassion comes by sitting in other’s pain and not running away from the uncomfortable conversations, even when we have the power to avoid them. Avoiding does not heal. Only the truth can heal. The pain can bring awareness and then the opportunity for acceptance with forgiveness and humility. This is how those of us with the privilege of love and safety pay back our debt. This is what Tim did for me and what Quest can do for others.” – Santiago Rizzo
“By the age of 12, I had been arrested several times, was sent to a juvenile detention center, a foster home, and learned to isolate and live as a my man; no child should have seen or experienced some of the things that were almost a daily part of my life. No child should be thrown away – Mentors are true Angels.” – Santiago Rizzo
Beyond the Shame to Santiago’s QUEST – The Truth Always Rises
“An Eternal Tribute to Loving Mentors Who Reached Out”
Your Past Does Not Equal Your Future…
And like so many children facing situations far more difficult and complex than mine – I learned to believe and would want them to believe there is a pathway for success.
This means moving forward even when you are aware that you need to heal. Acceptance of the discomfort is the hardest part, but there will be better days ahead – you’ve got to Trust Your Struggle – because with acceptance comes a powerful force of forgiveness to yourself and others. And then you can breakthrough to your dreams – the ultimate Quest — with an action of Magnanimous Love. But, you cannot give up!
The Helping Hand of Love.
There are really wonderful people who would not have ever been as successful if not for a helping hand from a friend or mentor. I’ve found that many times, these people are willing to “give back” and help others.
I never got to where I am today by myself. I was helped by a village of mentors, extending love, trust, hope and inspiration. You’re not alone. Please ask for help.
“A Man Must Pay His Debts.” – Mills (writing his book report, “Escaping the Past”, late at night by the Marina, from the book SHANE by Jack Schaefer)
“Many of us isolate and push people away because of pain. Hurt people, hurt people and I was definitely hurt. I acted out the aggressive energy that was inside of me. We act with aggression and abuse in ways we aren’t aware of. I was so upset that I used to hit myself, not knowing that I was simply trying to numb the pain. Then I was judged and isolated more. For many, this is the beginning that filled so many young lives with so much confusion, pain and anger. Stay determined and patient. Be gentle. Share what’s really happening so other can help.
Pain is your gift to bring you through to the other side. When you release your tears, you will feel relief. But you must stop hurting others. When you hurt others, you hurt yourself and it makes healing harder and harder. No matter what you have done, Love will forgive you if you are honest, give back when you can, and be of service so others do not make the same mistakes. As Tim says in the movie “Lying might get you what you want in the short run, but honesty will get you what you need in the long run.”
Today, the pain comes far less frequent. When it does, I get a headache, and I am aware that it’s just my body telling me it’s ready to release. With stillness, meditation, and prayer, the tears will come. If you trust your struggle and are honest, things will get better. For years I thought it would never get better, but that was just fear of the pain. Integrity is the way out.” -Santiago Rizzo
A Courageous Heartfelt Journey
I have some great memories of Stanford and met many incredible people that brought me out of my shell. Some of them faced far more difficult and dangerous journey’s than my own. And they had every reason to give up – they just never did. Their drive inspired me and so did the pain. It has been a courageous heartfelt journey.
And Then It Happened.
All the success and titles Wall Street offered did not release me from a deeper truth about making a difference, giving back, helping others, encouraging and inspiring others. And the movie, and my new shift to showcase the power and reconciliation that come from giving, sharing, and reaching out – showing Love, to others — became a driving force.
“I do not sugar coat in this movie. My intention from the beginning has always been to heal through honesty, reconciliation, and love. That by far is the most difficult journey. It requires awareness and responsibility for our own hate and judgements. We must solve our problems (#10 in Tim’s Rules to Live By). When we manifest negativity, we manifest fear. Fear and love are opposite energy vibrations. We cannot come to love when we are in fear but fear can lead to love.” – Santiago Rizzo
“Water Seeks Its Own Level.” – Mills (in scene with Art Buyer played by Santiago Rizzo)
“We were going to cut out this scene at first – because it’s almost too much. We create our “story” of lies – to cover up the truth and the hurt. When everything seemed like it was out of control and I felt powerless, that’s when I was determined to find a turning point. I had to find it myself. Little did I know the power of Love, Faith, and Forgiveness was about to overtake me – by what could only be described as “The Universe being in Perfect Order” or “the hand of ‘God.’”
“Filming took a lot out of us. I pressed everyone to the edge – that’s what I wanted people to ‘feel’ and ‘experience’. There will come a ‘breakthrough’ moment where something more powerful arrives and you declare: enough is enough. And that’s when you can let go and be free like a seagull flying in a winter sky.” -Santiago Rizzo
What 5 things do you want to say to the children who are in underserved communities — facing such odds to help them keep their belief and drive going — even in the face of impossible odds?
FOCUS ON SCHOOL! School is the way out and no matter how hard it is at home, if you focus on school, you will empower yourself. Not everyone gets into Stanford and the status of that is not as important as your heart and coming to love.
TRUST YOUR STRUGGLE — If you trust the pain and adversity you feel and face, you will find the solution, answer, the bigger and better way. I promise it will get better if you do the hard work. There are support groups out there if you look online and none of us can heal and succeed by ourselves.
TAKE THE FIRST COURAGEOUS STEP — SEEK HELP — We need a healthy family and some of us didn’t grow up with that so talk to your teachers, school therapists, share what’s going on. If the adults know what’s happening then there’s a much better chance they can help you find support… go toward the love and safety.
A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. A POSITIVE OUTLOOK. — Changes everything. That’s what I call seeking/giving/and being about LOVE. Release the hate. Feel free to reach out and share. I am on Instagram at santi_rizzo. The some of the pain/adversity can be a gift that you may not be able to see yet. Trust that and eventually you will see your power and take action from your heart. You will teach through love, not aggression. You are a powerful love that only you can give yourself. No matter what you’ve done, if you focus on the truth and getting better, love won’t judge you.
Read Tim’s Rules to Live By at the end of the movie… they are also at www.quest.film
QUEST – The Movement
What important thing happened and is happening for you while traveling around the world at these prestigious film festivals?
The truth is rising all over. We all have shadows that we need to bring to light. Quest has won 7 Awards so far which is incredible, yet humbling. We have a responsibility to give back now.
If you could break your dreams down into 3 BIG QUEST’s that you wish to communicate to the world — what would they be?
I dream that we can become more aware of our energy and privileges. Regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status, if you grew up safe and secure, you are privileged. I dream that we judge one another less so we can listen and understand why we react so differently.
I dream that we start accepting the truth and each of us do more work on understanding the inheritance that brought us here and accept it. Once we are fully aware and accept, then we can transform and realize that the inheritance does not need to be us. The process of acceptance is a long one and energy doesn’t lie, but if we accept the pain or privilege we inherited does not define us, then we can connect with nature/spirit/the stars and realize we are all family. Our body is the prison to this soul.
If we do the first two, Action from the heart will come more frequently. We will pay back our debt to ourselves and others and live in a safer and more just world.
And if there’s a 4th, I would like to have safety again for a family of my own. I dream of being a father. Kids are some of the greatest teachers.
Rising from the Dark Side of Human Nature
By Mick LaSalle (Critic for the San Francisco Chronicle)
The Graffiti Artist’s Promise
Santiago Rizzo made his debut film, ‘Quest,’ to honor the middle-school coach and teacher who refused to give up on him.
By Mick LaSalle
Photography by Patrick Tehan
It happens, but not very often—a movie that shows you something you might never have known about, that opens up a pocket of human experience in a way that’s moving and illuminating. Currently on the film festival circuit is Quest, director Santiago Rizzo’s lightly fictionalized drama about his own harrowing childhood. By the time Rizzo, ’03, started his freshman year at Stanford, he had seen more of the dark side of human nature than most of us encounter in a lifetime.
“I lived by the Ashby BART station,” recalls Rizzo, ’03. “Now Berkeley is an affluent place, but when I was growing up, it was not.” His parents divorced when he was 5, and his mother remarried. That’s when his nightmare began.
“My stepfather was nice to my mother,” Rizzo says, “but he was a monster to me.” When his mother wasn’t around, his stepfather beat him. But when Santiago told his mother what was happening, she didn’t believe him.
“That was the hardest blow,” he says. “My stepfather was very manipulative. He would threaten me, and out of fear, I used to tell people the bruises were from soccer practice. The times I did tell my mom he hit me, I would get beaten when she went to work.”
Police officers came by the house often — his younger brother would call them whenever Santiago was getting abused. But his brother was so terrified of their stepfather that he couldn’t say anything when the officers arrived, and the stepfather’s version of events prevailed. “I had a lot of resentment toward authority because they did not protect me,” Rizzo says.
He started spending more and more time on the street. “The street felt safer than my home,” Rizzo says. Starting when he was 8 years old, he would go to the nearby gas station to wash windows for tips, and he slept at his friends’ houses as often as he could.
“I learned how to charm my friends’ parents so they would keep me around,” he says. “I had a code word I would tell one friend’s mother on the phone and I could head straight over there.”
One day, tired of getting beaten, he pulled a knife on his stepfather. “He was a good seven feet away, and I just wanted him to know that he needed to stop,” Rizzo recalls. “He walked right by me and called the police.”
For Self Protection.
Rizzo was only 12 years old. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and spent the night in juvenile hall. “I remember getting strip-searched. It was the scaredest I’d ever been as a child, alone in a cell and sweating like a man. I’d never smelled that kind of smell coming out of my body. It was like a skunk’s smell.” He eventually went to a foster home, where he spent several weeks.
Around that time, Rizzo became a graffiti artist, which only got him into more trouble. His tag, SEEP, was soon all over the East Bay. By the time he was 13 and attending Willard Middle School, he was tagging dozens of times a day — whenever he was on the bus, whenever he saw a clean surface.
“When I was a kid, nobody believed I was SEEP,” he says. “I ended up wanting recognition, and the way I got it was through petty crime and graffiti.” Tagging became an addiction. “It was a rush, a dopamine hit — a way for me to be seen. It was also a way for me to be defiant toward the world when the world wasn’t particularly kind to me.”
‘Instead of punishing me or throwing me out of the house, he offered me $1,000 to get straight A’s that semester.’
The boy was on a destructive path. And then he met Tim Moellering, a teacher and the after-school activities coordinator at Willard. He was also the school’s football coach.
He had just finished talking to Rizzo’s homeroom class about the sports program when the assertive seventh-grader followed him out of the room and posed a question: Was he too small to be on the football team? To his surprise, the coach said no. “I was extremely athletic,” Rizzo says. “I played linebacker. Tim would tell me that though I was the smallest and most annoying, I made the team because I was the most aggressive player on the field.”
Rizzo had plenty of problems, including fighting and getting suspended. But Moellering — who believed there was no such thing as a bad kid, only a bad situation — saw his potential. He set out to earn Rizzo’s trust by showing the boy that he trusted him. Moellering asked Rizzo to tally the money collected at the school dance. He tasked him with mopping the basketball court. He noticed that Rizzo consistently worked harder than anyone else.
And Then It….Started! Slowly At First. Then Faster and Faster.
But change came slowly. “I was very skeptical of any adult,” Rizzo says. “I was probably meaner to Tim than anybody he’d ever met. Yet he still did not judge me.”
Moellering started allowing Rizzo to stay at his house when he had nowhere else to go. When he was 14, right before Rizzo entered high school, he moved in for good.
QUEST.FILM TRUTH REVEALED – AS THE WOUNDED HEART CRIES
But Rizzo’s struggles didn’t simply end. Early in his friendship with Moellering, he had earned a reputation for selling marijuana. At one point, someone broke into Moellering’s house and stole a quarter pound of Rizzo’s stash. “Instead of punishing me or throwing me out of the house, he offered me $1,000 to get straight A’s that semester,” Rizzo says. It worked.
“Because Tim had such respect and such compassion, and didn’t preach but asked me questions, it was impossible not to listen to him. When someone is so honest in front of you, you can push it away, you can get defensive, but at some point you’re going to get reflective. When I got Tim’s love and recognition, I didn’t need the graffiti anymore,” Rizzo says.
THE HARD WORK & DEDICATION
Rizzo started putting energy into school. He became student body president in his junior year at Berkeley High, and he focused on having a future and getting into a good college. He first encountered Stanford in 1998, when he was one of the 22 students accepted into the competitive Stanford Youth Environmental Science Program, founded by Michael McCullough, ’88, MS ’88, and Ana Rowena McCullough, ’95, JD ’99. Michael McCullough remembers Rizzo as being “a nice kid, smart and resourceful.” He also recalls how hard Rizzo worked.
In his six weeks on campus, Rizzo fell in love with the university. Months later, he was accepted. “That program and then Stanford really helped my confidence and helped me realize I have something to offer,” he says.
At Stanford, Rizzo majored in economics. “I wanted to make money,” he says frankly. “I didn’t want to be poor — I grew up poor.” He minored in psychology and was a few courses short of a second minor in drama. The latter proved handy. “Tim wanted to write a book about [our life together],” Rizzo says. “I said, ‘Why do that? We should write a screenplay.’ ”
The idea of turning their screenplay into a film was on Rizzo’s mind when he moved to New York after graduation. He worked in finance, first as a stock analyst and later as the founder and managing director of Outlier Capital Management, an alternative-energy hedge fund.
“I was saving money,” Rizzo says. “One year, I made almost a million dollars, but I was sleeping in a studio above an Indian restaurant. I was very frugal.”
In 2010, seven years after Rizzo left California, he packed up his New York apartment and headed for Berkeley to care for Moellering, who was battling pancreatic cancer. It turned out to be Moellering’s final year. He died on January 18, 2011, at age 53.
“I was sitting with him alone, holding his hand, during his final breath — and when he took it, I whispered in his ear that I would make this movie for him,” Rizzo says.
Keeping that promise has come at a cost. Rizzo had to go back into the pain of his childhood — a pain that he had previously buried in work. To raise money for making Quest, he sold the house he and Moellering had bought together in 2010.
Santi’s Quest – SOLD OUT!
“I gave up my savings, and I don’t know if I can go back to Wall Street or my career as I had it,” Rizzo says. “But I have a beautiful piece of art that I hope gets into the world.”
And it is getting out there. At the Mill Valley Film Festival in October, Quest sold out its two screenings within 48 hours, and a third screening was added. It was also screened at the Austin Film Festival and slated for the Napa Valley and Fort Lauderdale festivals in November. Rizzo’s film depicts his home situation and his life on the street, leading up to the day that he moved in with Moellering.
For Rizzo, making Quest was about passing on to others what Moellering gave him. “I wanted to share Tim’s love and the inspiration of all the other mentors in the world who were courageous enough to love when everyone else had given up,” he says. “I wanted to inspire other kids to trust in their struggle and to know they’re not alone — that often the child who is most disturbed and the most intense has the most potential, if he or she can channel his or her energy in the right direction.” •
Dash Mihok is an American actor best known for playing “Bunchy” Donovan in the Showtime drama Ray Donovan. Mihok has been featured in roles in films such as The Day After Tomorrow, Perfect Storm, The Thin Red Line, Lifted, Romeo + Juliet, I Am Legend and Silver Linings Playbook. He has had starring roles in independent features such as Telling You and Loveless in Los. Angeles
LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS
Lou Diamond Phillips is an American actor and director. His breakthrough came when he starred as Ritchie Valens in the biographical drama film La Bamba (1987). Phillip was nominated for a Golden and won an Independent Spirt Award. He made his Broadway debut in the 1996 revival of The King and I, earning a The Spirit Award nomination for his portrayal of King Mongkut of Siam. Phillips’ other notable films include Stand and Deliver (1988), Young Guns (1988) Young Guns ll (1990), Courage Under Fire (1996), Che (2008) and The 33 (2015)
Lakeith Lee “Keith” Stanfield is an American Actor and rapper. He made his feature debut in Short Term 12 (2013), for which he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. He appeared in the horror film The Purge: Anarchy, the Martin Luther King biopic Selma as civil right activist Jimmie Lee Jackson. He appeared in the film Dope, N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton, where he portrayed Snoop Dogg. In 2016, he appeared in the Oliver Stone biopic Snowden and began starring on the Donald Glover Golden Globe award winning TV series, Atlanta. In 2017, he appeared in the critically acclaimed film Get Out, and is the star of the movie Sorry to Bother You.
From 2008 to 2013, Brandt portrayed Marie Schrader in the AMC drama series Breaking Bad. She auditioned for three different roles before being offered the part of Marie. In 2012, she was cast as Sandy in Parenthood. Brandt was cast as Annie Henry on The Michael J. Fox Show, which premiered in September 2013. Her performance was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. In 2014, Brandt was cast as one of the lead characters in the ABC series Members Only created by Susannah Grant, but the series did not go forward. She currently stars in the CBS Series Life in Pieces.
“Quest is Greg’s first lead role in a feature film. Prior to getting casted as “Mills”, Greg co-starred in ABC’s The Middle, CBS’s NCIS: New Orleans and Hawaii Five-O. Greg lives in Los Angeles where he has pursued acting since the age of eight, studying Stanislavsky and Meisner. When Gregory is not on set, he enjoys playing basketball, spending time with his dog Archie and hanging with his family.
Santiago Rizzo’s Quest – The Truth Always Rises
Confronting What Happened & Rising Through the Pain
By Alicia Alexandra Nichols (Emcee for the Napa Valley Film Festival)
The Bay Area native’s first full length feature film paints the true story of an abused student athlete and underground street artist. A fresh faced talent collective of sincere performances mirror Moellering own reputation as an integrity keeper. Quest pulls at life’s bitter scars while urgently cauterizing wounds with the sweet ointment of laughter. The beat of the film is hard hitting with a threatening pace. Rizzo proved both clever and blameless as he directs viewers through the complex sub urban milieu. Cityscapes and tender moments are rhythmically interwoven into Rizzo’s battle cry as skillfully as a Sade’ song. Tim Moellering, played by Dash Mihok, proves a solider of love by moving the boundary markers between parent and teacher.
Did Someone Hurt You?
One of the most affecting moments, jolting the heart, is when Mills (Greg Kasyan) asks Moellering, “did someone hurt you?” His reply helps us to appreciate there is more than one way to hurt a child. Abandonment and addiction personally pre-enrolled me into the School of Hard Knocks. My earliest memories are living in group home facility for infants and toddlers. Not soon thereafter kinship/foster care placements before settling in the wealthy enclave of Marin County. Abuse, power, privilege and passion are personified through the Berkeley Unified School district and the juvenile justice system. The audience became witnesses to the process of false reasoning behind some authority figures’ gut punching indecisions. The ramifications of psychological/emotional, verbal abuse and neglect does not discriminate based on class, social standing and or socio- economic status. What may Santiago Rizzo teach us? That a student’s best gift to his mentor is effort.
Simply Put Quest Is A Conversation Starter…
Quest deserves wide release so that parents, professors/teacher and caregivers alike may watch and discuss this film in the privacy of their own homes, cafeteria screenings and coming of age slumber parties. End domestic violence and crimes against children by refusing to keep silent.
Hollywood must have the courage to allow Quest to reach the masses so we may pause, rewind and press play- over and over again until every tear is wiped from our eyes and pain and outcry are no more. The power of a kind word spoken at the right time is evident in this twenty first century masterpiece. A teary-eyed full Napa Valley Opera House, above the Blue Note at the Historic Margit Moldavi Theater, audience rose to their feet in a triumph of tearful applause.
Thus, encouraging special guest actor Robert Iturriaga on stage for Director’s Q&A session where Rizzo briefly closed his eyes and spoke of mankind’s spiritual need – a revolution of core knowledge in advocacy for youth and young adults.
Quest successfully embarks on a mission of changing the status quo in Hollywood as it swept audience and jury awards for Favorite Actor; Favorite Feature and Best Lounge Feature. This is newcomer Greg Kasyan’s second win in this category.