Otto Cedeno

BFA, Kanbar Institute Film & TV

Otto Cedeno

What brought you to Tisch?

The road to Tisch, whether apparent or not, began a long time ago.  Since as far back as I can remember, I've been obsessed with movies.  I remember the first time I watched Terminator at the age of 7 (when I wasn't supposed to) and thought, "wow, what a bad ass story." As a kid, I would re-enact fight scenes from action movies that dominated the late 80's and early 90's. I'd start making up scenes or changing plot points.  Story telling was in my DNA from a young, young age.  In high school, I got my first camera and worked in the TV department at my high school.  From that point, the story telling, and the technical skills started to merge and the rest is history.  I knew I wanted to create and tell stories.

During a trip to NY when I was in high school, I visited NYU and researched their film school.  The city had me at first pizza slice and the school had me at first movie poster I saw hanging in the hallways.  I applied to very few schools, against the better advice of practically everyone.  When I got my acceptance letter to NYU Film, it was one of the biggest no-brainers of my life.  I came to NYU to learn how to turn my childhood past-time into a life long career of making art and creating something out of nothing.  

Tell us what it was like to study at Tisch.

Studying at Tisch was and has always felt like a privilege.  You are encompassed with professors, alumni and students who share a passion for the art of storytelling.  It's intimidating. It's motivating.  It's why you come to Tisch.  In no other university and school are you immersed in the concrete jungle and expected to execute your "work" at such a high level.  Most of my friends at other schools with other focuses were drowning in text books and papers. We were drowning in footage to edit, scripts to write, and making sure you didn't cause a fire using hot lights for the first time.  It's unlike any other trade, craft, or focus.  There is also no greater rush and feeling of accomplishment than showcasing your work in front of your peers and professors.  That was always my favorite part of film school and has shaped so much of who I am today.

Thinking back, what was the biggest lesson you learned?

Bar none, it was this: You have to have elephant skin.  Don't be afraid of feedback, good or bad.  In fact, bad feedback is better than good feedback.  When you get bad feedback, you know immediately you have something to fix.  It's tough sometimes knowing what to do with good feedback other than saying thank you.

What are you doing now?

Believe it or not, I took my creative DNA and used it to think up this business venture called Otto's Tacos.  Also as a child, I was obsessed with Mexican food (specifically tacos), and a few years back, I decided to open up a small and simple taqueria in the East Village that focused on selling LA style street tacos.  It's not quite making movies, but you'd be surprised how many creative touch points go into building a brand, a restaurant, and a menu that people enjoy. 

Is it different than what you expected? And if so, how did you land there?

Absolutely. And that's great question.... I have no idea!  Life just likes to throw you pitches and it's fun to just swing.  Even at the weird pitches.  What's the worst that could happen, right? 

One piece of advice that you’d give to someone considering attending the school?

Don't be afraid to create in other mediums.  Film, TV, Tech, Product development, etc... they are all so intertwined these days.  Just knowing how to develop a product on one medium isn't enough anymore.  Diversify your studies and learn as many technical skills as you can.  That way, you can allow any and all ideas to flow out of you and into something people can touch, see, or even taste.

For the 50th anniversary of the school, we chose the phrase Celebrating the Past / Creating the Future. Any thoughts on your future, the future of the industry, or what we can expect in the next 50 years?

My future will always have one consistent through line:  What will he want to create next??  And I know there will be something, but who knows.  I like not knowing until I know.  But I do hope to be successful enough with "creating" that I can work on ideas from a beach house somewhere in the world.