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Spotlight Interview: Costume Designer, Laura Cristina Ortiz

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We are going to jump right into the interview because it’s full of incredible information for costume designers and for anyone interested in other aspects of filmmaking!


Let’s start at the beginning, where did the artistic costuming bug bite you?

I was born and raised in Queens, NY. I grew up in an incredibly creative household. Halloween was the biggest holiday we celebrated. My mom was really into storytelling. I got started into dressing up really early as a child. Even though I loved dressing up, I didn’t really get interested in costuming until Star Wars Episode I and Sleepy Hollow. When I saw those movies I realized that the costumes were characters in and among themselves and I got really interested in it.

How did you get started in the world of costume design?

I started in costumes through the world of cosplay and began sewing and making my own costumes when I was 13 and I was involved in that community for 6 years, which I loved, but I got tired of recreating someone else’s work. Even through all this practical work, I didn’t think it could possibly be a career. I figured the people who designed costumes professionally must have won the lottery or something.

“It’s a Party” Feature Film (screenshot features Kirby-Howell Baptiste and Hayley Marie Norman) Costume Design by Laura Ortiz – Cinematography by Carissa Dorson – Director: Weldon Wong – Written by: Weldon Wong & Lamar Woods

We truly are lucky being able to do a job that is so creative and something we love so much!

Yeah, I had a really hard time in school trying to figure out what to study because I figured costume design wasn’t practical. I finally settled on creative writing, which I still really love, but I figured I could be a copywriter or something. But my boyfriend at the time (now husband) told me that I should really go for it, because he was also interested in filmmaking at the time.

That is great he was so supportive.

Yeah, I started at community college and that is where I got introduced to theater and realized that maybe I could get into this. My aunt recommended that I go to fashion school, and I ended up going to her Alma Mater The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

While I was going to school, I started working on student films and interning on Broadway and independently teaching myself because it was a fashion degree, not costume design.

“Define Dancing/WALL-E” – Original ‘trashion’ creation inspired by the Pixar film WALL-E, entirely made out of recycled materials (cardboard, paper, burlap,iphone cables, paper maché amongst other materials) for the Her Universe Fashion Show 2016 at San Diego Comic Con. – Modeled by: Adele Supreme – Photo by: Idan Menin

What is the biggest difference between fashion design and costuming?

The intention. Costume design is very narratively driven. It is about the storytelling and the characters. With fashion, you can have those underlying themes, but it is still about the market and the business.

Let’s fast forward to now. Do you have a specific style of costume that you prefer?

I think that’s a hard question because obviously things that are high concept give you a lot more room to play with, but I also think that it really depends on the script for me.  If the story is very character driven then it is exciting for me. I think that subtle costuming is actually a lot more difficult than a high concept film, because there are more people who feel like they know how it should be done.  It sort of devalues the job of a costume designer and I have to stand behind my work in a stronger fashion.

“Darkness in Tenement 45” (DT45) Feature Film (screenshot features Marla Martinez, Nicolas Aleksandr Bolton, Melissa Macedo) – Costume Design by Laura Oritz –  Cinematography by Carissa Dorson – Director & Writer: Nicole Groton – * All dept heads were women and majority of crew were women in general

Dream job right now?

New West Side Story movie would be incredible. I am Puerto Rican and my Mom grew up in a community that was predominantly Puerto Rican and Jewish American. She recently found some film from that time, and so I have been watching old projections from my family and to be part of a project that was paying tribute to NY during that time would be incredible.

What is one tool you couldn’t live without?

Having a sense of humor and lightness because sometimes you are working 14 hours a day and have an incredibly difficult situation at work. Costume design is a historically female dominated career and so with that, you can be underestimated because of sexism and ageism. One way to cut through that and remind myself that it will all be okay is to have a sense of humor with everything, because in this job you really have to love what you’re doing.

“Are We Not Cats” – Feature Film (screenshot features Chelsea LJ Lopez & Michael Patrick Nicholson) – Costume Design by Laura Ortiz – Cinematography by Matt Clegg – Director & Writer: Xander Robin

Piece of advice you can give to women who want to go into costume design?

Make sure you know your craft. Even if you don’t go to school, there are lots of free resources out there so make sure you take advantage of that. And finally, be firm but flexible. Know your value and stand your ground when it is really important to do so.  Know that no one should ever talk down to you or treat you like a child. Also know that sometimes you may not get what you want creatively, but you have to keep in mind that there is a bigger picture and a bigger creative battle you might want to win in the future.

Thanks for the glimpse into this world!


Laura Cristina Ortiz – FULL BIO:

Growing up in New York City, Laura was surrounded by the performing arts- from attending performances of the Big Apple Circus to the American Ballet Theatre, the Metropolitan Opera and to Broadway. Her continued exposure to various cultures continued through extensive travel, both in and out of the country. As part of a large Puerto Rican family, Laura was imbued with a strong sense of community and festivity, attributing her initial interest in costuming to her family’s dedicated celebration of Halloween. At an early age, she fell in love with the art of storytelling through fabric, color and texture.

Laura’s education has been widely eclectic, ranging from her degree earned at the Fashion Institute of Technology to interning for Tony Award winning Costume Designer Martin Pakledinaz to dressing classic, beloved characters at the Disneyland resort. This extensive training prepared her for both the creative necessities of design as well as the physical implementation of the art- proficient in sewing, draping, pattern making and various construction skills. Her diverse work experience lends a unique perspective in regards to sourcing creative solutions; challenges become opportunities to her.

Her keen eyes for juxtaposing color and pattern has led to design opportunities with well known brands and companies such as Disney, Warner Bros, ABC Digital, Dreamworks TV, SMOSH, CollegeHumor, Awesomeness TV, Ruffles, Olympus and many more. She costume designed the critically acclaimed indie film “Are We Not Cats,” directed by Xander Robin, which made its premiere at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival. Laura has also become invested in wearable art- constructing a dress made entirely out of recycled material for the Her Universe Fashion Show (2016) at San Diego Comic Con. She has been interviewed by Disney Style and the New York Times about her work. Most recently, she Costume Designed “Synchronic” a sci-fi thrilled directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan.

Now primarily based in Los Angeles, Laura is enjoying designing films,television and new media. Her versatility and naturally collaborative personality allows her to adapt her skills to fit each production with her eager and energetic demeanor.

Laura on Instagram: @lacrisort

 

 

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an actress and producer whose love of performing, storytelling, and new experiences has led to filming projects around the world. Originally from LA, she studied Theater and English Lit at UC Berkeley before moving to Australia to pursue her master’s degree in Film Production. She started acting in the Australian film industry before returning to LA and diving head first into acting and discovered a love of producing. Currently, she has two films in post-production that she has starred in, and has received several awards for her acting and producing work. Additionally, she has partnered with another incredible female producer to create Deep Sea Pictures, a full-service production company that has several projects in various stages of development. She believes in working hard, playing hard, exploring the world, and supporting others to tell stories that expand our understanding of the world and the people, places, and things that reside within it!