TRF junior wins two awards for short film, plans Kickstarter campaign for next film

By Georgie Silvarole

November 20, 2014

Newhouse student Lina Ortega knew she wanted to produce a short film and enter it into an international festival.

What she didn’t know was that she’d win two prominent awards for her first attempt: “Disaster’s Recipe.”

Ortega, a junior television, radio and film major, filmed “Disaster’s Recipe” during her 2013 summer break at home in Puerto Rico. The short film, which contains adult themes and language, features six actors, four of whom comprise the family central to the plot. The characters in her story all go home to the same house, thinking no one else will be there, to do something in private. Each wanted and needed an empty house, and disaster ensues.

“I’ve always wanted to do something that was ‘film festival material,’” Ortega says. Unlike many Puerto Rican films, Ortega says, “Disaster’s Recipe” is a dark comedy—and not your typical story.

What happens in her story, “could happen to any family in the world,” Ortega says. “Like what happened in ‘Disaster’s Recipe’—you’re not supposed to laugh at that, but it’s kind of funny because it all comes together in the wrong moment.”

To make filming easier, Ortega wanted her film to be in Spanish and to be shot in her own home. In the summer of 2013, she borrowed lights and sound equipment from a friend, rounded up six actors and actresses with the help of her high school drama teacher, and shot the entire film in one day. She laughed when she admitted the film had “really no budget at all” since everyone agreed to work for free.

“It was the first time I actually thought about every shot,” Oretga says of filming. “You know how you can imagine something, and then you actually see it in the camera and you’re like, ‘Yes! This is what I want!’”

Although the filming was relatively without hiccups, Ortega did not finish editing “Disaster’s Recipe” until May 2014. She lost her edited footage once. Luckily, a friend had the original material saved on a backup drive and Ortega had to start over. Editing the film a second time, however, meant Ortega wasn’t able to submit the film until a year after she shot it.

Newhouse student Lina Ortega (right) poses with one of her film's actresses at the Cine Campus festival.

Ortega says editing the second time around was actually easier since by then she knew much of it by heart. She also had another year at Newhouse under her belt by then, which she used to her advantage.

Ortega finished editing the roughly six-minute film in May. She then submitted it to 10 film festivals in June. Two festivals accepted her film: Cine Campus International Student’s Film Festival in Puerto Rico and the Caracas International Film Festival in Venezuela.

Learning that her film was accepted into a Puerto Rican festival was thrilling, Ortega says. Ortega’s film was screened four times during the Cine Campus festival Aug. 14 to 20. She was able to attend one of the screenings but had to leave the festival early to return to Syracuse University for the fall semester.

“It was great. I went to the opening night, I met a lot of people, I made a lot of connections,” Ortega says.

Her parents accepted the awards for Best National Script and Best National Actress on her behalf.

“I wish I could have been there,” Ortega says.

Ortega has been a regular volunteer at the Cinefiesta International Short Film Festival in Puerto Rico since 2010. She plans to work on another film during the winter break and wants to submit that one to Cinefiesta. She and Sergio Acuña, a junior at the Georgia Institute of Technology, are working on the film together. They have launched a KickStarter campaign to raise money for the film, she says.

Ortega wouldn’t say much about her next project but did offer this: the story involves a stylist who, as she’s closing up her shop, must help a friend with a makeover before her funeral. The stylist, Ortega says “has to work (an) emotional and physical makeover.”

“And what happens at the end, I dunno!”

Georgie Silvarole is a sophomore newspaper and online journalism major at the Newhouse School.