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Meet Angelica López

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angelica López.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I think to understand how I got to where I am today you’d have to begin with my parents immigrating to this country. My opportunities began the second they stepped on U.S. soil and left behind their roots, their comfort, and their families. In every step of my career, I remind myself of these sacrifices, and it has fueled my passion to continue my family’s legacy. I’ve always envisioned myself telling stories, in some way shape or form. I initially had an interest in law at a young age of 11 and had the dream of becoming an immigration rights lawyer. I knew I wanted to hear the stories of those struggling for justice and shape their futures, but in truth, I thought to myself, “Can I really do this? What if I fail?” So out of fear of failing, I attempted to drop everything.

I had one English teacher who I had opened up to and expressed that I just didn’t want to do the whole “college thing.” She flat out refused. She refused to let me walk away from my education. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. So with a new direction, I set my eye on attending UC Santa Cruz and begin my career as a filmmaker majoring in Film & Digital Media. I originally attended with the intention of majoring in Journalism and building out a major at the university. However, my counselor at the time had encouraged me to take a critical theory course in film, and I thought that would be exciting.

I had been a part of a pseudo-television network at my high school, and I knew I had an amazing time writing out sketches, acting as a news anchor with my co-host “Roberto Tornado” and editing on Sony Vegas. Oh god, Sony Vegas. It was an intimidating program, but it’s what we had available as a step up to iMovie and allowed us to rig a teleprompter for our live segments, but damn, I’ll never forget that program. Film studies at UCSC were the very beginning of my introduction to being an artist. I always had in the back of my mind that I should find something practical, a career that would be financially safe. I knew my parents were struggling. Bad. The year before we struggled in making rent every month. Sometimes we couldn’t afford food.

Other times we were lucky to receive donations from our church. It was a difficult time. It was a time I knew was due in part to my parent’s visa expiration and the slow, arduous process of applying for citizenship. My father eventually lost his job due to his license expiring. He had no way of renewing… and it became a downhill battle from there. At first, I thought it was a risk. Again, what if I failed? What if I waste everyone’s time? What if I waste my opportunity? When I came home from college, I planted the seed of my dream of becoming a filmmaker. I was ready to hear the discouragement from my parents. The “Cómo, de qué?” But it was the opposite. My parents supported me, they knew that if it made me happy, I should pursue it.

And so I did, wholeheartedly, I was in love with the climate of UCSC, and I flourished as an artist. There I was encouraged to find my voice, to think critically of the films we would watch in our crit theory courses and question gender, sexuality and race. It was radical to what I knew and grew up with back in Fontana, CA. I knew right away that everything I was learning was revolutionary. I soon buried myself in my writing, exploring different techniques of storytelling within documentary, narrative and even sound design. I experimented with my feelings and put them on-screen. I felt validated in my artistry by the feedback and conversations I carried with my peers, as well as my professors.

The anxieties I felt going into this career track began to dissipate. I knew something within me had been tapped into, and it couldn’t be stopped. The summer before my final year at UCSC, I went through a traumatic time with a partner that took its toll on both of us. It was the extremes of the highest highs and the lowest lows. I started my senior year with the expectation to write, shoot and direct my senior thesis, “Sit and Lie (2013).” Simultaneously, I knew I had to get out of Santa Cruz immediately after graduating.

As much as I loved Santa Cruz, there were too many memories and open wounds that couldn’t heal. I began researching graduate schools, partly to continue my education as a filmmaker and the other to remove myself as far away as possible from Santa Cruz. I dedicated myself to my applications, writing my personal statements and producing my thesis. All the while I worked multiple jobs, I went to classes and focused on my art. This time in my life was incredibly trying. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I managed to balance everything. I think I knew at the time how important this was for me, and I will always be grateful for that woman who knew.

I continued moving into post-production for my senior thesis, and eventually, in 2013, I began to hear from schools for interviews. It was the most nerve-wracking time. Driving down to Los Angeles to meet with UCLA and AFI. I blew the UCLA interview. I was literally shaking. I look back and laugh at how badly it went, but I’m glad I went through it. My favorite interview, and eventually the school I accepted to attend, was with USC. I remember it vividly. I had just left class and was on a metro bus back home. I was sitting near the front, but it became crowded on the bus as students loaded on and off. It was so loud, but I heard my phone ring, and by chance, I decided to answer my phone. I could barely make out what the person on the other end was saying, but I caught USC.

I shot up from my seat and made my way to the entrance of the bus and hopped off at the nearest stop on a hillside. It was isolated, it was early in the afternoon, and it was perfect. I remember during the interview I expressed how I felt about film; the profound effect it has on people and the responsibility we have as filmmakers to bring honest and raw emotions to the silver screen. We discussed my personal statement and the story submission along with it. I knew the stories I wanted to tell reflected the experiences of my mother, my father, of people who oftentimes don’t get the chance to talk about their struggle and their triumphs.

Above all, I remember the comfort of how casual and natural it all felt. As if the world were telling me everything will be alright. Eventually, this 2-hour phone call would change the direction of my career and my life.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely not. I’ve been thrown obstacles my way since I was a young girl. But honestly, it’s what makes me chingona. I’ve witnessed too much tragedy, but despite it all, I’ve set bound on moving forward. This stems in part in seeing my mother and father work to survive in this country. I know my parents have done everything in their power to make me feel safe and like I had every opportunity in this world. Granted, there were a lot of dark times.

There were moments, late at night, that I wished things were different. I always knew as a young girl that my family didn’t come from money, that we were different than most families. It was unspoken in the beginning, but tensions were high. When things became more obvious, I soon realized I had to figure out how to help. I took it upon myself to become as little as a burden as possible. Entering college, I knew I couldn’t risk losing my chance at an education because of money. Not only for me but for my family. This has been a threadline throughout my career. It’s what keeps me grounded and humbled.

That this is bigger than me. In college, I actively worked to financially support myself, whether that was working two or three jobs at a time. This mentality still applies to this day. I won’t lie, there were times where I thought, “maybe I had made a wrong turn on this journey.” Maybe I missed my chance to really do something for my family. I knew the goal was, and still is, to hopefully one day support my sisters and my family, both here and in México.

As a first generation student, I persevered to make the impossible, possible. For simply hoping things would change. To have things let up, for just a minute. I carry the history of so many and the last thing I want is to fail. So as hard as life can be when it comes to immigration, the hardships of being a WOC, the hardships of being poor and the hardships of self-doubt. Despite the adversity in this world, I reflect often on the triumphs, the privileges, the wins and this motivates me to keep pushing. To do better and be better.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’m currently employed full-time at Company 3 as an online editor in the television department, but in addition to that, I freelance as an offline, creative editor. During my career at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, I was drawn to the world of post-production.

Specifically, editing. It was phenomenal. I love writing, but I can admit that there are some damn good writers out there, and I’m just not one of them. But when it comes to editing, that’s my space. It’s transformative.

I love the way I can sew storylines together, make up the threads that weave and tell the stories of folks that need to be told. I have worked on films like, Spark (2016), a Venezuelan film that tells the story of a young man who is coping with the kidnapping of his father in a corrupt government system.

This is a prevalent truth of Venezuela, and many others in Latin America, that continues to this day. We made it a collective effort to tell this story and tear down walls through the universal pain of loss, of love and of courage. The story is heartfelt and was composed of predominantly Latinx artists in front and behind the camera.

In the same breath, I have also edited a documentary with the phenomenal director, Jahmal Holland, that tells the story of, Spanish FLY, a Chicano hip-hop group whose friendship is tested through the journey of artistry, mental health and success.

I have been incredibly fortunate to come across and build relationships with fellow artists who voice the same concerns as I do. So together we’re actively writing, shooting, editing, pitching, moving, flowing through this industry and advocating for more representation for those who are highly under-represented. Giants (2018), an Emmy winning series, is exactly this.

My very good friend, Xavier Burgin, who I have worked on multiple projects with came to me in 2017 and said, “I’ve been offered to direct an episode for this series, and they’re letting me choose my editor. Are you interested?” I got a hold of the script, read the story and fell in love. This was right up my alley, but somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a voice say, “But you’ve never edited anything this long.”

I took that as a challenge. And before we knew it, we were editing two episodes, an hour in length, for a network structured show that would be airing on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel, “Issa Rae Presents.” Giants represents the tenacity of Black, Afro-Latinx, Latinx artists. When we released the episodes weekly, I was enthralled by the success of the 2nd season and the positive reception from so many people.

Through this show, I got to meet many talented, inspiring artists like James Bland and Vanessa Baden Kelly to name a few. To build future collaborations like, Unapologetically Black (2018), with Takara Joseph who is our phenomenal creator, showrunner, director and everything in between on this new series. This series stars a Black, female lead named Anyka who is navigating the corporate world and learning to live her life unapologetically.

If that weren’t enough to make it amazing. Every single key department head was lead by a woman of color. Unapologetically Black is currently in the festival circuit and debuted at the 2019 Pan African Film Festival. And Giants has just received 19 nominations for the 2019 Independent Series Awards.

Xavier and my episode, “Light’s Out,” received a nomination for Best Editing & Best Director. Looking back and reflecting on the trajectory of my career I am humbled by the friends I have gained through the need to create. I find pride in the collective of individuals who put in 60+ hour work weeks. They like myself, do it to pay for our loans, our bills and to survive in this city. We invest in ourselves, body and soul, to our artistry. We feel tired but excited by the need to write, to edit, to direct, to create.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
My resilience. I can’t pinpoint when this came into existence in the fabric of my identity, but I know it was due in part by the women in my life. I see how strong my mother is as she navigates this world as an immigrant, a mother, a wife, but more importantly, as a woman. At 12 years old, I witnessed my older sister sacrifice so much for our family. She is ultimately the one in my life who reminds me of what we López women are capable of.

And in recent years, my younger sister has grown into such a remarkable person. I genuinely swell with pride as she grows into a beautiful soul. I would not be the woman I am today if it weren’t for these women and their strength. I have come across so many folks in this industry who try their best to take the joy or the success you try to create for yourself. Try as they might, they can’t steal the light that glows within. I make it a practice to take any rejection, any mistake, or any failure as a learning lesson.

I reflect, I rebalance myself and then I move on. I don’t have time to wallow or to feel like I have been defeated. There is too much work to do, and so I turn to myself and ask, “How do I move forward?” This is easier said than done, but the important part to remember is that it can be done. It’s a mantra Latinx have whispered to themselves, have yelled out in passion and demonstrated as rebellion: Si Se Puede.

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 323-217-8155
  • Email: post.angelicalopez@gmail.com

Image Credit:
James Bland; Wesley Rodriguez; Juan Martinez Vera; Jahmal Holland; Xavier Burgin

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