Claps and Cheers: DIY Artista Gabriela López de Dennis

by Ramona Pilar

Claps and Cheers is a column dedicated to honoring pioneers and visionary storytellers who have forged their own path in their creative careers.

This month we focus on Gabriela López de Dennis, a writer, producer, artist, and Los Angeles native. A graduate of Otis College of Art and Design, López de Dennis has orchestrated a life that balances her creative career, artistic pursuits, family, and faith.

2016-Gabriela-headshot

Photo by: Keila López

López de Dennis has recently adapted her 2008 stage play Hoop Girls into a web series through Lone Stars Entertainment, a production studio of which she is Co-Founder, CEO, and Co-Creative Director. Below is an interview I conducted with her regarding Hoop Girls and other projects in which she is currently involved. 

How did the idea for Hoop Girls come to you?

Years ago, for some reason, I was thinking about hoop earrings and how some of us women have this unspoken thing with hoops. It was beyond the accessory, beyond the fashion. It was hard to grasp this appreciation for these simple hoops and how they make us feel, but we just…knew. I thought…they’re hoop girls. I sat with those words, “hoop girls.” I have to write something for the hoop girls. This love for these timeless hoop earrings and how they make us feel when we wear them, is how Hoop Girls became my love letter to women and their powerful hoop earrings. A sort of way of saying that I understand you and your larger-than-life hoops.

What made you decide to adapt your work from a stage play to a web series?

From the very beginning, when the play first went up[in 2008], people were excited about it and would tell me that they could see this as a movie, and I did too. Although I intended for it to be a play, an extension of my poetry, I always did want to capture the imagery on film and create something that would portray women in a powerful way. I had a couple of meetings with producers who wanted to make it either as a film or a TV series, but nothing ever came out of those meetings.

A couple years ago, my partner at Lone Stars Entertainment, Jeremiah Ocañas, suggested I revisit the project and that we move it forward ourselves, as it was always a favorite of his. Last year when we were in the middle of producing our other digital series #HighlandPark and had a window of time in our production schedule, we went for it.

HoopGirls_Jeremiah, Raul, Gaby

(L-R, Jeremiah Ocañas, Raul Leal, Gabriela López de Dennis) Photo by Jamie Kimbrough

At this point in our careers, with Hollywood being a profession of years of rejections, we basically have to just green light ourselves, which is what we did. I am also grateful to our long time friend and supporter of our work, Jesus Gonzales, who came on board as well to help Jeremiah and I get this episode made, as well as our awesome DP Raul Leal who was so gracious with his talents on that camera. I’m also grateful to the talented actresses Brenda Covarrubias, Jeanette Godoy, Regina Gomez & Marissa Herrera for their powerful performance and eagerness on such a tight filming schedule.

I decided, in the end, that a short form episodic digital series format would fit well as an adaptation,because the original play comprised short interludes and vignettes that told the anecdotes of different women and their hoops. I also wanted to go back to the roots of how I began sharing my writing, which was through poetry and performing spoken word, which is why the storytelling in the episodes, or chapters as I am calling them, is in spoken word form.

What goals do you have for this web series?

Currently we will be releasing the episodes on our YouTube Channel @LoneStarsEntertainment with the goal to reach wider, worldwide audiences of course. It would be great to partner with an organization or a content distributor that could help us take it to the next level. The main goal though, is to release the content to the audiences it was created for, so I’m happy that we’ve already achieved that.

You wrote and produced this project both as a stage play and now, the web series; why is this important to you? What are some benefits? What are some challenges?

My goal with Hoop Girls has always been to inspire in particular young girls by seeing these strong female characters portrayed. And I want more girls that need to see this, to see it. I know that it’s not for everyone, that some don’t understand it, and I know that for some this simple accessory is meaningless in the big picture. And I know that not everyone cares for poetry or spoken word. But for others, this simple accessory has a personal story for them, and it’s important to them. And words are important to them, as they are to me. So that is always a challenge, when you are creating something that is so niche, that probably nobody but yourself will ever take a chance on it. The response I get from the women, and men too, who this project speaks to, is the reason I keep going with it.

Regina Hoop Girls

Photo still from Hoop Girls by Raul Leal

Do you have any other/future projects you’re working on?

Coming up in April we are shooting season 2 of our other digital series #HighlandPark, and one of the episodes I wrote and will direct, followed by another episode of Hoop Girls. I am also in post-production with another company on our feature film Edith & Harvey, which was written and produced by myself and a writing partner, Sorel Kairé. And I am writing a screenplay for a short film that I aim to shoot in the near future.

The Claps and Cheers section was created to celebrate women’s achievements in writing. The main reason I selected you is because we’ve known each other for many years and I’ve seen you accomplish achievements in poetry (you published a book and a CD), a self-employed graphic designer, as a fierce-ass playwright, a theatre producer, a screenplay writer, a film producer, and now a web series creator. And you’re married with two children. GURL, you bad. And a visionary. To what do you attribute your pioneering spirit?

Wow, thank you Ramona. Those are very kind and generous words. Art and creating, entertainment, entrepreneurship, and writing has always been a part of me, since I was a child, because I grew up in an artist family. I guess it’s all I’ve ever known and wanted, it gives me life. I’ve been given certain skills by my creator, and I’m just honoring that calling and hoping that I’m fulfilling my purpose. I love process, I love the journey of creating, and I think we evolve as artists and try new forms of expressing ourselves. My husband and I also did want to start a family at some point in our life. Parenthood has been so rewarding in a whole new way. It’s a different chapter in my life. And it hasn’t stopped me from creating. Recently I overheard my 6 year old daughter reciting the opening lines of Hoop Girls, Chapter 1 and I was surprised and moved by it. It felt like my life has come full circle.

***

Gabriela López de Dennis was born and raised in Los Angeles to an artistic and musical family. She is a writer and producer, and as visual artist has specialized in the arts, entertainment and music industry for over 19 years.

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