Phoenix teen a finalist in White House Student Film Festival

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by Catherine Holland

GMAZ interview by Kaley O'Kelley

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 28 at 9:29 AM

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix teen is heading to the White House for the first-ever White House Student Film Festival.

Shelly Ortiz is a senior at the Metropolitan Arts Institute.

Out of more than 2,500 entries submitted from all over the country, Shelly's short film is one of the 16 "official selections" that will be screened at the White House Friday.

For this first-of-its-kind event, the White House put out a call for short films that show how technology is used in schools and how it can further students' educations and lives.

"It's a real honor [to be a finalist]," Shelly told 3TV's Kaley O'Kelley Tuesday morning. "It's very overwhelming. I'm just really happy to get recognition."

O'Kelley was impressed not just by Shelly's work, but by Shelly herself.

"You are wise beyond your years," O'Kelley told the teen. "It's amazing to me that you are in high school."

Shelly is working on not one, not two, but three films for her senior year. One of them is about her father and his struggles growing up in and out of an orphanage. That piece is the focus of her festival submission.

"By making this film, my father has been able to tell his story and start to let go of some of the pain he has been holding on to since early childhood," Shelly explains in her entry. "Making this film has helped my father, but it has also revealed to me the effect my father has had on my life.

"He has become an inspiration for overcoming adversity in my own life. But more importantly, the documentary process has brought my father, me and our family together."

Without the film-making technology at Shelly's fingertips, that life-changing film -- and everything she learned about her father and herself -- might not have been possible.

Not only has she honed her technical skills, she has grown as an artist, as a filmmaker and as a young woman with a bright future.

"Without the technology given to me, I would have never been able to develop the relationship with my father that I have now," she said.

Many say technology can isolate people, particularly young people, by allowing them to "hide" behind a computer screen and never interact with others in the real world. While Shelly agrees with that to some point, she's believes the key is how technology is wielded. She and her family are proof that it can bring people closer together in a unique way.

"If you use it to your advantage and you use it the right way, technology can really impact your life in a positive way," she told O'Kelley. "It has really changed me and helped me discover who I am and what I'm passionate for."

Her passion? Telling stories, making films and touching lives. She says it's the technology that she has access to that allows her to do all of that.

"I feel that as our generation gets older, we have to take the technology coming in and use it to our advantage," she said. "The way I do that is by telling stories with films that hopefully will impact other people …."

Shelly's video is in the Young Visionaries category. There are thee other categories --  Future Innovators, World of Tomorrow and Building Bridges.

Found in 1997, Metropolitan Arts Institute is a 7-12 school with about 250 students.

"Our purpose is to help students set goals, master techniques and develop skills and self discipline," reads the schools website.

Shelly has taken her school's vision and the tools it offers, including technology, to create a solid foundation for her life as a filmmaker and earn an honor that many covet but only few can claim -- a White House screening of her work.

Watch Shelly's White House Student Film Festival submission
(Go back to where you left off reading)

Technology, Documentary, My Dad, and Me from Shelly Ortiz on Vimeo.

This film explores how technology has given me a chance to broaden my artistic abilities and enhance my relationships.

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