Attending UCSB at the same time, Cindy Green and Jon Fitzgerald were two ships that passed in the night. Off campus, they found a perfect partnership
“We like to joke that had we met there, we for sure would not have connected,” Cindy Green Fitzgerald quips of missing Jon Fitzgerald at UCSB, which they attended simultaneously. As her augmented surname suggests, the story has a happy ending. They wound up meeting off campus and were married at Sunstone Vineyards in Santa Ynez. That was in 2000. Today, they are the parents of Sidney, 17, and Grayson, 11.
Did you meet at UCSB?
CINDY We did NOT meet at UCSB, but were there at the same time. We like to joke that had we met there, we for sure would not have connected. We must have, at some point, either been in the same class, the same dining hall or at the same party (or at least have passed each other on the bike path). Wouldn't it be fun to have a way to figure that out. We were completely and utterly oblivious to the other’s existence while at UCSB. We met in LA through a common friend, and because we shared a love for playing beach volleyball. We ended up playing together as partners for the first several years of our relationship.
What were your experiences like at UCSB?
CINDY: I was all in on the academic experience. I was athletic but didn't play organized sports or join the Greek system. I had a goal to get to Italy in my junior year, and to go to graduate school. I was very serious in this regard, and I had to take out loans and work to pay for college, so while I did have a lot of fun, I was a very serious student.
JON: I certainly took advantage of campus point. I was a surfer and my roommate was actually on the surf team. I would surf most days in between classes. A lot of beach time too. Smash ball and beach volleyball were popular pastimes. In between study sessions in the RBR. I did okay academically but was not as strong a student as Cindy. I was hosting progressive parties while she was in the library, in early days there. Once I declared my major (Film Studies), I had serious motivation and really enjoyed that. I was friendly with teachers, especially Barry Tanowitz from Biology and my screenwriting professor, Paul Lazarus, who was truly a mentor. We would occasionally play golf together. Sadly, he has since passed away, but was very helpful throughout my career. Both he and [Professor] Janet Walker were very helpful when I finished my movie and it was released in Santa Barbara.
There certainly seems to be some overlap in your career interests. Do you feel that your career paths influenced one another?
CINDY: It was Jon, at the start of his new job running the AFI Film Festival, who thought I should take a chance and shift paths, and start fundraising for the event. My shift to that path was entirely a result of this one conversation. I had so many ideas on how things should be done, and he just gave me the runway to chase it, and, as it turns out I was really good at it! We are both natural entertainers, we love to throw events, and well, we enjoy it whenever we get the chance to do that in our personal or professional lives.
JON: It has been fun having Cindy oversee sponsorship and marketing for all of my festival events. She has amazing ideas and totally gets the integration of the "sales" and the creative "exhibition" for sponsors.
Some couples feel that it's important to draw a hard line between work and marriage. Others blend careers seamlessly. Given that your careers today seem to align in some respects, do you ever see yourselves collaborating or do you think it's essential to keep work as a separate space?
JON: It's hard with an entrepreneurial spirit to have normal "hours" or on/off times. Ideas and demands come at random times. We do try to keep sacred family time though, and Cindy is a great cook & entertainer. So, we have dinner together most nights and host guests quite often. We've also managed to have some fun "business" trips, where my work brings us to cool places. For example, we all spent time in the Bahamas for a fest I produced there. And Cindy joined me in Venice, Italy for the film festival there. She speaks Italian so she had a turn showing me the ropes, and we also saw some great movies that I invited back to AFI.
CINDY: Sorry for the bad joke, but marriage is work and anyone who says otherwise isn't, well I don't know. We work hard at the business of having a family together, and we have tried working together professionally on and off through the years. When I was full time at home with our kids, I advised on some of Jon's projects, but for the most part we try (and fail) to mostly keep our professional lives separate. Neither one of us has jobs that can be "left at the office". We are always on, which is hard, but also allows us other flexibilities. Jon is a creative at heart, and has started and pursued so many different amazing projects, so naturally we discuss every aspect and how those ventures can be successful, and how they affect our family.