As a young filmmaker, one can imagine how ecstatic I was to find out I had been accepted into the Tribeca Film Institute's Film Fellows program. I remember the day I handed in the two essays and video work samples required of all high school applicants and the nerves that came with it. All of that just a few hours after I, unknowingly, had a conversation with who would become my future mentor. Little did I know of the intensive interview rounds that would follow.
Every week, classes presented new perspectives and ideas. I was continuously challenged by the facilitators, the many speakers, and their understandings of the film world and our places in it. I was introduced to local community organizers and social justice advocates such as Jazz Hayden and learned of his work in the Stop and Frisk movement in Harlem; a movement that is now international with platforms standing in the United Kingdom. Being exposed to active artists such as the “Two Steves” and their work in deconstructing the realities of everyday life through fiction and seeing those concepts as public art pieces, inspired me. Getting the opportunity to speak one on one with directors like Beasts of the Southern Wild's Benh Zeitlin were enlightening talks that provided valuable insight on the efforts that go into making a feature length film.
Projects I’ve worked on given by instructors and speakers alike were not only fundamental with learning the film industry, but gave the students a first-hand look on what is needed to succeed with our own personal projects. We were each given individual attention and one-on-one guidance by professional instructors, provided by the program. The year involved developing our narrative and documentary film ideas. We learned how to write scripts and proposals, developing treatments, budgets, and concepts (work samples) of what would end up being the final product. We went through a series of intensive mock up pitches, which eventually led us to the real deal. The series of pitch panels prepared us for the professional filmmaking world. We learned how to take broad personal concepts and transform them into something easily understood, and with the funding from the institute, tangible.
The Film Fellows program is a door of constant opportunity. I have seen behind the scenes into one of the most sought after industries. Active art-making is now a personally chosen career path and no longer a dream. Traveling is something I can include in my experiences—I have been on the sets of mainstream Hollywood productions. All of the inspirational momentum that I have gained from this program has led me to start my own film, video, and music production company, Esconomy Productions, as well as producing, directing and editing my own short film, BREAKING J.A.N.A. It's an experimental narrative about a girl who is not only trapped inside the illusive confines of a room, but in her mind, as well. BREAKING J.A.N.A. will premiere at the Film Fellows graduation ceremony on April 19.
My time spent in the Tribeca Film Fellows program was educational, inspirational and most importantly proactive.
Mercedes E. Ortiz
19 Apr 2013