Student Artist Profile: Jazzlyn Ortega

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Published September 15, 2018
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The Montclarion
Jazzlyn Ortega sits in a room full of graffiti wearing a "Paterson Raised" T-shirt.Photo courtesy of Hazel Fernandez

Jazzlyn Ortega is a junior studying film at Montclair State University. Whenever she is not working on a film project, Ortega expresses her creativity through realistic sketches of popular people and characters. For Ortega, art is an extension of herself and her major allots her the space to combine what she is passionate about with where she comes from.

Q: When did you know you wanted to study film?

A: I knew I wanted to pursue film in my junior year of high school. I came from a small high school, and I think I was the only one who wanted to study film. At times this was discouraging and I thought I was delusional. When one of my friends got shot and killed, that’s when I knew I had to do this. One of my dreams is to create a film to pay homage to him and have a screening in my hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. I always wanted to do something where I can showcase my art skills, and I was naturally kind of bossy even though I didn’t want to admit it.

Q: Do you think you have to have the ability to self-assert to “make it” in the film industry?

A: Absolutely. It’s that idea of ‘speaking it into existence.’ Sometimes I doubt myself, but I can’t let it take over because I’ll never make it. I have a lot of people counting on me but most importantly, I feel like I owe it to myself.

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Jazzlyn Ortega (middle) directs on the set of her short film, “Carma.”
Photo courtesy of Andrea Bonilla

Q: In what ways has your upbringing and hometown helped cultivate you as an artist and assisted you in standing out in the film program?

A: There’s a lot I could say about Paterson and I’ll probably make a film about it one day, but growing up in Paterson has become a big part of my artistry. If you’re from [the] North East you’ve most likely heard many negative things about Paterson. Growing up in a place that has been tainted by corruption, drugs, gang activity and death has allowed me to push harder and stronger to reach my goals. There’s so much rich culture and beautiful history in Paterson and I think it’s time for it to be recognized for that. #RIPMoni.

Q: How does your drawing/artistic background affect the way you approach film projects?

A: Everything has to be perfect whether it’s a drawing or a film. I mostly do realism when I draw. I try to be as detailed as possible so that’s a challenge.

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Artist and filmmaker Jazzlyn Ortega drew this picture of Tyler the Creator.
Photo courtesy of Jazzlyn Ortega

Q: What’s a film everyone should see?

A:I think ‘Boyz n the Hood’ is a very important movie everyone should watch. It has very powerful and emotional messages about gentrification, fatherhood/motherhood in the black community, police brutality, among other things. Please watch it if you haven’t. It plays like every Sunday on BET.

Q: Favorite position you’ve held on set?

A: Definitely DP [Director of Photography]. I get anxiety when I’m not behind the camera.

Q: Is there a singular artist or auteur who influenced/inspired you?

A: A lot of people, things and events inspire me. However, Steve Jobs really pushed me to pursue film as career. I don’t know why when he said, ‘Don’t settle,’ it really stuck with me.

Q: How does film allow/help you not settle?

A: Every time I watch a film whether it’s good or bad, I remind myself how much I love this industry. If I see a really good film I’m like, ‘Wow I really want to do that.’ If I see a bad film I think to myself, ‘What could I do to change it?’ It’s that feeling of happiness that makes me want to be a filmmaker. I don’t want to do anything else knowing there’s a whole world I would love to be a part of. I can’t think of doing anything else. Ugh, I love film so much.

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Jazzlyn Ortega completed this drawing of Kill Cell from the hit show, “Dragon Ball Z.”
Photo courtesy of Jazzlyn Ortega

Q: What does pursuing a degree in the arts in 2018 mean to you?

A: It means absolutely everything. I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. This isn’t just [the pursuit of] a job or a piece of paper. Art is my life.

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