Some months ago Puerto Rican director and actress Yazmin Ort?¡z premiered the 140 Project, (which she codirected along with Irish producer Frank Kelly) at the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. The 140 Project was made by 140 filmmakers of 140 countries, in segments of 140 seconds inspired by the 140 characters of Twitter.
Conceived and coordinated in the same network, the documentary looked at 140 points of views of what being connected meant, simultaneously. The range of filmmakers was diverse ranging from students to established Hollywood directors. Yazmin Ort?¡z represented Puerto Rico and the U.S. and had a segment dedicated to her father as well as servicemen in general.
Yazm?¡n Ort?¡z celebrated what have been some 18 months of good news. The previous years were marked by other nice surprises: Ortiz's screenplays Redemption and The Kidnapper were the winners of a prize from a prestigious Euro-LatinAmerican Fund and Women In Film rewarded her with a special Spotlight in its Annual Crystal/Lucy Awards, where spoke of her path as a filmmaker and humble beginnings in San Juan and where she shared the stage speaking after Jodie Foster and before Jennifer Aniston. She shared the stage with other legendary film industry stars like Piper Laurie, Jenny McCarthy and Debbie Allen.
This is a long way from the girl of an underprivileged from San Juan. But not a surprise for those that knew her beginnings.
Yazm?¡n begins her career in her native San Juan, at the young age of 5 years. She studies ballet and folkloric dance before studying classical theater with the renowned actress Victory Espinoza making her debut in musical theater at the age of 14.
She flirts with modeling at age 12 and enters the university at 16 when she obtains her first degree in Communications and later goes to UCLA and LACC to study film production; and subsequently, graduate school to obtain her Masters at California State University, Northridge, where she graduates with degrees in Mass Communications/Film. At Cal State, Northridge, she is chosen to present her paper "Dogma L.A.; the New Wave of the New Millennium of Cinematography" - a study of cinematography of new techniques in High Definition Cinematography - as well as alternatives of exhibition and film distribution.
As a stage actress she would come to work with legendary director Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet, Endless Love, Tea With Mussolini) who selects her out of over a hundred actresses to play the part of the symbolic "bride" in the production the The L.A. Opera's 'Pagliacci' in the company of her friend; the tenor, Placido Domingo.
Ort?¡z has also had small roles in American feature films. She has worked with directors of the caliber of Kenny Ortega (High School Musical), Michael Mann (Collateral), Barry Levinson (Rainman), Walter Hill (48Hrs) and her present mentor, Graeme Clifford ("Frances," "The Last Gift"); and actors such as Liam Neeson, Andy McDowell and Richard Gere. She also worked in plays at the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, Los Angeles Theater Center and the Mark Taper Forum Annex.
Before beginning to write, direct (and many times to shoot) her own movies, Ort?¡z was an executive of television with a career in public relations and marketing at a studio conglomerate. Even then, Ort?¡z never limited her film work to the profit world since she has worked on nonprofit short form documentaries for the indigent communities, victims of child abuse and children victims of war; having obtained the support of actors as Danny DeVito who would even donate rolls of filmstock for one of them.
She also served in several community nonprofit boards and has taught film production at a film school and directing at a high school; as well as having been an advisor at a High School Film Festival.
Currently, she spends her time working in her new projects; the documentary "Looking" (filmed in the cities of Athens, Santorini, Cannes, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, San Juan, L.A., Tijuana and New York), as well as her first fiction feature films; Redemption and The Kidnapper (both from her own screenplays and both winners of prizes from a Euro-LatinAmerican Fund).
Among her awards are the Women In Film Lucy Award Scholarship for female filmmakers of great promise in the Industry; the UCLA Professor of Military Science Superior Achievement Award as well as other awards of Leadership in Business.
In a nationwide search of artists she was also chosen by the National Association of Arts and Culture (NALAC) to represent the discipline of Cinematography in its Annual Leadership Conference. The same organization had a special screening of Yazmin's short films at its Annual Conference in a special night that featured hosting by Puerto Rican Award winning singer-songwriter Danny Rivera who compared her film style with that of contemporary Brazilian cinema; something Ortiz considers an honor.
And speaking of honor, her largest honor to date came when she was selected by the Berlin Film Festival to be the first Puerto Rican director to represent Puerto Rico in its prestigious Berlinale Talent Campus; a showcase of the world's new film talent. This also catapulted her induction into Phi Beta Delta - the organization of international scholars - to which New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson and Colin Powell also belong.
A follower of the Dogma 95 and Novelle Vague movements; Ortiz has participated in different film festivals throughout the world such as the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), and the Berlin and Cannes Film Festival. Her short film "El Baile" was showcased at a special screening of the Emerging Talent at LALIFF.
While editing her film "Looking", the filmmaker comments on the 140 Project, "For me it was a great honor to participate in the 140 Project; a collaboration with filmmakers from all over the world especially because the movie carries a message of global unification; something we should all think more often of these days."
Yazm?¡n is member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS), Women In Film, and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP).