The Sundance Film Festival is widely regarded as the premier showcase for new work from independent filmmakers. At a reception co-hosted by CreativeFuture and the Sundance House presented by HP, the inaugural 2015 Horizon Award was presented to 20-year-old Syracuse University student Verónica Ortiz-Calderón for her film Y Ya No Te Gustas (And You Don’t Like Yourself Anymore).
A native of Puerto Rico, Ortiz-Calderón has a passion for storytelling and believes “movies can be that person to talk to when no one else understands.” Her own personal story is one of perseverance, struggle, and resilience. As she puts it, it is “a complicated one.” As an only child, raised by a single mother, and the product of an extramarital affair, she draws upon these life experiences in her own creative process.
“I want my work to be beautiful,” says Ortiz-Calderón. “I want it to be able to reach out and touch every one of us.”
Finding success as a young filmmaker has not been easy for Verónica. In her own words, “I have too often been shut down and made invisible because I am a woman and I speak with an accent.”
There are many struggles creatives face as they try to break into arguably the most desirable industry in the world. In Verónica’s case, the Horizon Award proved to be her big break. The annual award celebrates and provides mentorship opportunities for talented up-and-coming female filmmakers. It was founded by producers Lynette Howell, Christine Vachon, and Cassian Elwes. Co-sponsors included CreativeFuture, The Black List, The Creative Mind Group, Indiegogo, The Sundance Institute, Twitter, Vimeo, and Women In Film.
The competition Verónica faced was fierce. There were more than 400 submissions from 200 colleges and universities worldwide. Verónica believed her dreams could not be realized without exposure to new ideas, experiences, and connections – so she went for it.
A prestigious jury of top female film industry producers, executives, and directors reviewed the film submissions. The top 14 were identified, and each filmmaker was asked to submit a CV and essay explaining who they were and why they wanted to come to Sundance for mentorship.
A poignant, haunting tale of self-awareness, Verónica’s Y Ya No Te Gustas stood out and was chosen as the winner.
Verónica’s Horizon Award win is a major step in her path to an inspired and creative career. As her journey continues, in addition to successes, she will undoubtedly encounter obstacles all creatives face in today’s digital age – including piracy and theft of their creative work through illegal websites.
While the creative community has the ability to reach an amazingly broad and diverse audience though digital outlets, the same technology can be used against them. However, when legitimate online distribution platforms thrive, they provide a valuable vehicle for young, indie creatives – like Verónica – in their quest to tell stories and shape a profile in the industry.
Now a self-made, award-winning young filmmaker, Verónica explains, “I have decided to start writing my own story.”