Field Notes: Alumni Produced Film, Van Life

Tyler Brown-Ortiz ‘21 hits the road in his short film Van Life, whipping together the short film during his last three months in California. Brown-Ortiz wrote Van Life with the intent to act in the film himself. Now working in New Zealand as an actor and film-maker, Brown-Ortiz recalls his last days on the golden coast. 

“The crux of the story is two people grappling with a loss and grappling with grief while they’re on this little journey together.” He continued  “The short centers around them getting stuck in the desert, the van getting stuck in the sand, which happened to me more than a few times in real life.”

After graduating from Wheaton, Brown-Ortiz toured U.S National Parks in his van, then settled in California to work on film sets.  With only three months left in Los Angeles to fundraise, write, produce, and edit his passion project, Brown-Ortiz dug his feet into his commitment. 

“I decided to make the short, you know, give myself something to write, give myself something to produce an act in, and then get all of my friends that I’d work together.”

Brown-Ortiz utilized his Wheaton connections to complete the film, with his friend Masa Mita ‘22 working as assistant director. 

“There’s something about having a deadline that really kicks people into gear, It’s just when we have enough time to dawdle and think about other things, that it just it takes forever, you know, but I didn’t have that time. And, I was willing to make this my full-time job. And, I did.” He continued, “I wrote it [Van Life] so that I could give myself a role that I wanted to act in”

Van Life is currently awaiting results from the film festival circuit. You can follow the film’s journey on their Instagram @vanlife_film

– Written by Madison Morin ’24