Why does representation in film matter?

February 3, 2022

In this episode of Here to Help, Indeed CEO Chris Hyams speaks to Gabriela Ortega, an award-winning writer, director, and actress born and raised in the Dominican Republic.

Gabriela was selected as one of the 2021 Rising Voices fellows, a program created in partnership with Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions and Indeed. The companies produced Gabriela’s short film HUELLA which will screen at the 2022 Sundance film festival and turn into a feature film.

Ortega, who is a graduate of the University of Southern California, a 2021-2022 Sundance Institute “Art of Practice” fellow and is currently based in Los Angeles.

- Hello everyone I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed and welcome to the next episode of "Here to Help". At Indeed, our mission is to help people get jobs and this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us up at night. And what powers that mission is people and "Here to Help" is a look at how people's experience, strength and hope inspires them to want to help others. At Indeed, we believe that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. So last year we launched a new program called Rising Voices, and the idea was simple. Instead of spending a million dollars on a TV commercial, what if instead we invested $1 million in 10 underrepresented filmmakers to produce their own short films about the meaning of work. And today I'm very excited to introduce you all to one of those Rising Voices. Gabriela Ortega is an award winning writer, director, and actor born in the Dominican Republic. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California. A 2021, 2022 Sundance Institute Art of Practice Fellow and currently is based in Los Angeles. And her film "Huella" was produced as part of Rising Voices. "Huella" tells the story of a disenchanted flamenco dancer resigned to a desk job whose life is up ended after the death of her grandmother unleashes a generational curse. It's an incredibly powerful and beautiful film and testament to Gabriela's boundless talent. I'm delighted to say that "Huella" is currently being screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and Gabriela is developing it into a feature film. And I'm also delighted to say that Indeed has selected three filmmakers from season one of Rising Voices to act as filmmakers in residence as part of our new development lab, where Gabriela will receive $100,000 dollars to develop new stories in conjunction with Indeed, Lena Waithe's Hillman Grad Productions and our partner 271 Films. Gabriela, thank you so much for joining me today and congratulations on Sundance.

- Hello, good morning. Thank you so much for having me Chris, and thank you for that lovely introduction .

- And I'm sorry it was long, but there's just so much really to pack in there and we have some time and so we're going to dive into all that, but before we do, for the folks that haven't had a chance to see "Huella" we're going to run a very short trailer, just to give you a taste of what's to come.

- I love that, it's such an amazing film. I'm so excited for people to get a chance to see it, but let's start where we always start these discussions by asking, how are you doing today, right now?

- I'm good, I had a really great weekend connecting with actually a friend from the Dominican Republic that came to visit me. And it was really nice to have a bit of home in LA while all of this is happening. So I feel recharged and excited to take on the week. How are you?

- Well, I'm doing great. I'm so excited for this conversation. I'm so excited for the success that you and so many of the other participants in Rising Voices has had. I'm excited about season two of Rising Voices. So we're going to talk about a bunch of this. And in particular, I definitely want to spend some time talking about "Huella" but let's start by just talking about this experience of being at Sundance. It's the dream pretty much I think of every filmmaker to get a film into Sundance. And then of course this is the middle of a pandemic. And so that festival experiences may be different than it might've been imagined. You're not in Park City, you were at home doing Zoom and other things, but talk about that experience and what Sundance has meant to you.

- Well the funny thing it's my first Sundance ever. And I think after everything that's already been going on with the film, which has been obviously through Indeed, I feel like it almost was like a gift to be able to go to Sundance and a testament of all the hard work of everyone involved in the film. That even after it had premiered already it still got into the festival. Those relationships with the Sundance Institute I feel like I've developed over time. They've been like amazing supporters of my work as well in different practices. So it does feel like a bit of a graduation of this whole year that I feel like this whole year I was at grad school 'cause I didn't go to film school and then having Rising Voices be sort of like this thesis of like life and then to be able to graduate into Sundance has been amazing. And the beauty about virtual is that people from all over the world can watch the film. And I think that's something that even with the Rising Voices program, you always intended to have as many eyes on the film as possible. So anything in any capacity really is great that my friends back home can watch it too. And again I'll make the most out of any experience and if this is the virtual Sundance, then I'm going to rock it. So I am very, very grateful and excited to be there and to just soak up all this film.

- So let's back up a little bit. You were born in the Dominican Republic, you moved to the US when you were 17. Can you talk a little bit about growing up in the DR and what inspired you to come to the US.

- Totally, so I grew up in San Domingo. Both my parents work and always sort of instill in me how to like work hard for what you want, but they have nothing to do with the arts at all, actually nobody in my family. My dad's a dentist and my mom's a lawyer, but I grew up, I like to call it, like I grew up in a matriarchy just 'cause my grandma had four daughters and my mom had two. And so they were all sort of very strong opinionated women. So I feel like very blessed that I grew up thinking that you can do anything if you work hard. I never thought about like gender to be a limitation or like the color of my skin or any other thing of that. I felt very, very empowered to chase and work hard for what I wanted. But in school from a very early age, I think I just gravitated towards creativity and the arts. I drew when I was really young and I did theater and all this stuff, I grew up in the theater pretty much. And through that, I think I realized that I wanted to be an actor, I love performing. I actually love doing musical theater, but turns out I can't dance . Even though my film has a lot of dance in it, I have rhythm, but not like. But quickly so I understood that to do that and to really fulfill that potential when I was in high school I realized oh, there's a way to do this, but I have to go to the US and you can study this thing called acting. And I worked really, really hard to get a scholarship and to get financial aid, to be able to afford to move here and to do it. And when I applied to college blindly, they don't tell you this, but when you're doing performing arts, you have to audition for all these programs. So kids audition for like 10 to 12 schools, hoping one of them would pick them. And I got rejected by a lot of places, but USC said yes to me. I had never been to California, but they gave me money and said yes. And I was like hey, I guess I'm moving to the other half of the world. And so that's what actually brought me here. But then in school, then I started developing other interests outside of acting. And that's when writing came in and then eventually led me to direct.

- Can you talk a little about that transition? So starting out as a performer what was it that drew you to wanting to be behind the camera and maybe has it changed the way that you approach being a filmmaker, having been on the other side as an actor, and does that bring something different to your perspective?

- 100%, I actually think it's such a blessing that I didn't go to film school. Fun fact, I had to do work study in college, and I worked at the cinema library. So I was surrounded by all the film kids all the time. And they would like rent all these like Alfred Hitchcock books or want to see all of the like Paul Thomas Anderson movies and the original DVDs and whatever. So that was funny, I worked there for two years and it was great. When I moved here, I had this idea of myself of I could do anything and I can fit, I'll fit in this industry. But you quickly realize when you're here, that there's so much more to just the art component of it. There's the whole business component. There's the politics of it all. And I found that in 2013, when I moved to this country, the conversation around sort of the depictions of Latinx characters in media was starting to change, but it wasn't where it's starting to go right now. And I found myself auditioning and even in school doing some plays and stuff that though again, I was so excited about because I'd never sort of had that exposure or that capacity, or even that attention put on myself in this program. I still didn't feel like I was exploring my authentic self through the work and so much more. When I graduated, I found that so much of what people wanted was that authenticity. Like, who are you? Who are you, who are you? And I just felt really lost that first year of school 'cause I felt like I had to change. Like I was even told by someone that I had to change my accent cause it was like thicker when I moved and really stuff that made me shrink a little bit. But when I was a sophomore in college, they had this guest director who, I'll tie it back to way "Huella" in a second, but this woman, her name is Denise Blasor and she's a Puerto Rican actor, director, just amazing person. And she was directing this play called "Anna in the Tropics". And it was the first play about Latino characters I think that won the Pulitzer Prize-. And I auditioned for that play, I got the lead and I worked so hard and it was the first time in my life that I was being embraced by who I was. And all those stuff that I had to sort of learn that first year of college, she as a director was like, "No, no, no I want you to lean into your accent. I want you to be who you are." And so that really changed my life. And it's the power of mentorship too, the power of just having someone in your corner and the power of representation. She was Caribbean, so she really pushed me to be myself. And then through that I was like, I can't settle for less. So I started writing for myself. And when I was 19 which was wild, I put it on a one woman show called . And I got a professor, his name is Phil Allen. He's my voiceover mentor and just like a wonderful human. He really rallied behind me to produce this thing, got me with a stage manager and I put it up at the Hollywood Fringe. And the show was about 1960s, Dominican Republic, and a bit of my family history with that, post dictatorship and it was like this romance thing. It was so much fun. I lied about my age to be able to get into the festival 'cause I wasn't old enough. And I produced it myself, I did all the graphics, everything and it was posting on social media and miraculously, it sold out. People showed up, I don't know. And we got nominated for best solo show. It was this whole thing. And again, it was about going in and I would rehearse, they would let me in in school in the summer to rehearse in the rehearsal rooms at USC and we weren't supposed to, but they were letting me, it was crazy. And then that was like okay, now I can't really settle for less 'cause this is the most amazing experience I've ever had. And so that led me to continue to go into film because I wanted more people to be able to see the things that I was doing. 'Cause in theater, it's so magical. I'll always go back to the theater, but film, it can really reach anyone. 'Cause you can just send someone the link or you can post it somewhere online. So I made a short in the DR with some friends, like I rallied all my favors that you could imagine. And it was three of us. I wrote and produced and I was in it as well. And then my two other friends, one directed, one produced. And when that was done, that was about sort of talking about machismo and sort of like how to create a society that's a little more inclusive and kind of talking about microaggressions. So it was really cool 'cause we talked about a topic that wasn't really talked about as much in Dominican Republic and we created screenings for people to come and have conversations and we had an art installation. It was like a really cool social experiment in a way. We really started like a really great conversation back home and that was 2017. And then by the end of that journey I was like, I felt really proud of what we made, but I also felt like huh, I had some very specific ideas while I was writing that I wish I would have done. And then I realized oh, that's the director's job. So maybe I want to direct. And again, it's been a very intuitive journey of just going for it. 'Cause to me, even if I don't know how to do something, I'll either volunteer where someone's doing it and learn. I'll absorb I'll look on, I'm just very much like that. If I want to do something, I find a way to make it work. And so I came back to the US and I had a mutual friend that he was doing a lot of commercial work and he's a director of photography and had a very good camera. And his name is Kenzo, one of my creative partners and friends of life. He wanted to just try and doing stuff that was a little more experimental. And so I was like hey, let's do some crazy stuff. Don't pay me, I just want to try and I just want to create stuff. And so through that, we started building a relationship and we did a longer project that is still in post 'cause it's so hard to finish movies. But then after that, we started just working together on like poetry films, or like little experimental shorts and a music video. And that sort of gave me the opportunity to grow as a director. But I still wanted to have something that was very honest. And so by the end of that whole journey, right before the pandemic, actually the beginning of 2020, I was back home with my dad in Dominican Republic. And I realized I hadn't made anything that felt like it was Dominican or really mine. And then we would go on road trips together. Me and my dad have a very close bond and we would do this thing called over landing, which is when you take a four by four and you just drive through the beach, like a crazy person truly, and you end up in these beautiful sites, but it takes like a while, like the road less traveled by quite literally. So me and my dad would do all these trips and go camping and stuff. And I just started documenting it with my phone and by the end of that trip that I was there for the Christmas holidays of 2019, 2020, I had all this footage of me and my dad going to all these amazing places. And when the pandemic hit actually, that's when I was like, hey we've been wanting to do something very personal for a while, why don't I make something out of this? And I grabbed a friend, again it's all like friends that come in to the fold and can't do this alone. And we edited like the March basically when we were like full on lockdown. And by the end of that, I had this small film called "Papi" that I made with my phone that I was super proud of. And I spent $300 total in that film 'cause I got a friend to also do the sound for it. And then it got into like eight film festivals that year in 2020. And November of that year I got a call from HBO that they wanted to acquire it and license it and now it's going to premiere this summer in July for Father's Day. And so long journey, long story short I think what sort of led me to end up then having all this portfolio and applying to Rising Voices and sort of having now been to Sundance and have this journey of directing, I think it's quite literally trusting the process and meeting people along the way that I could learn from and being open to life changing and life surprises. And that sometimes you start somewhere but you don't have to end up there. And as an actor I think it has shaped my eye as a director because I want to be a director that actors want to work with, that I would want to work with. And that I would want to support while also being super inspired by other practices that aren't necessarily filmmaking. Because I didn't grow up being a cinephile, I get inspired by music or painting or poetry. And so it's been really beautiful to sort of be embraced by that and find my own tribe of people that would go and trust that I could usher this project on. And so I feel very lucky for sure, and very aware of the privilege that it is to be an artist, but I think it's just been a lot of hard work and being kind to people and collaborating with people. And so yeah, as you've heard it's long, but I think it's a good story.

- It's an amazing story in particular, because I think that and I don't know how true this is, but I seem to know people who have such a clear idea of this is where I want to get to in my future. And these are the steps, and this is what I can do, and this is my 10 year plan and then there's everyone else. And your story is, and my career has also just been, there are things that I'm interested in and I'm interested in so many things. There was no way 30 years ago to imagine where you might end up, but when you tell that story, it's a very logical story. How one thing led to the other, and it was all about outlets for creativity and how you could get your vision into some format that people can actually experience it. So it's a beautiful story. Well I'd love to then talk about Rising Voices. So you had done all of this work that really got you ready for this opportunity. And for folks that maybe don't know too much about it can you talk a little bit about how did you first hear about Rising Voices and what was the process like for you of finding out about this thing and deciding what you wanted to do with it?

- So in that process of becoming a director, I made it a point to apply to everything. Like you name it, I put alerts on my phone and certain places on Instagram that I felt like posted about opportunities for women, BIPOC directors, directors at large, anything, anything I would apply to it. And it started in 2020 and I got like more than 100 rejections, I kid you not, throughout like the two years I was doing this. But I think the kind of coming back to it and trying again and revising these materials and these projects and these scripts, kind of made me a better artist and a better writer. And by the time that Rising Voices popped up, I think I saw it on one of the trades and Lena's face was in it. And I know that when Lena's face is somewhere it's because something cool is going to happen. I've been a big fan of Lena Waithe. And so I read about it and to be honest with you, I was like $100,000 for every, like what? It was kind of tricky, 'cause I was like nah it's always like $5,000. There's a lot of preparation that has come to this and I also want to say while all this is happening I'm also having a day job and doing all these... You're like juggling 10,000 things and going to bed late and cramming something in. Specifically for "Huella" I wrote it in the pandemic right way before Rising Voices. I had the idea, the first image that came to my mind was I think a dream or something I don't remember. But it was this image of a chain of women supporting, sort of like a picture of women looking like a serpent, 'cause they were all sort of holding each other. And it felt like generations of women holding each other. And it felt like mythical to me. And I was like well, what is this image that I have in my head and what can I do with it. And so I started kind of brainstorming and I wrote a treatment of this woman working at an office and wanting to quit her job but being pulled back by these ancestors sort of giving her strength. And that was like the first seed of "Huella". And then I was very inspired by those images. So I created this look book with images and inspiration ideas. And then I wrote a first version of the script. It just like poured out of me. And it was again, the summer of 2020. We weren't shooting still. I was like, I'm going to shelve this. This is going to live in my, I don't know, Google Drive for now. And I sent it to my producers that I work with and they were like, I love it, blah, blah, blah, so ambitious . So I just shelved the project. And then I focused actually on this feature film that I had been wanting to make. And I started applying for grants for that. So my heart and head weren't in "Huella" at all for most of 2020. And then Rising, when I started seeing... 'Cause the window was, you all were sneaky, the window was like three weeks long. And I see this and I was like oh, I don't know, what am I going to apply with? Like, I don't know. And then I had an alert the day that it was due and I was like, "Oh my god, I have to send something." And at first I was like, "I don't have anything." And then I remember oh, I have that short "Huella" that I hadn't even touched and it was a little bit too long. So I just did a little Frankenstein work and then I had all these things that I had done in 2020 because I worked with my friend Kenzo. So I sent my portfolio, I sent the piece about my dad and then the questions were very straight forward. And I think again, I had worked for like a year and a half on these like artists statements. And what do I believe in and what does this mean to me that by the time I was answering this questions, they were just like, I was clear of what I wanted to say. And I think that really helped. And then I sent it literally like two hours before the deadline closed. And I think it was like two weeks later or something I got an email that I got an interview back and I still couldn't believe , I think there's a video of me crying somewhere, and then I got in. It's crazy how, when you're sort of focused on yourself and creating and coming from a place of creativity and not just like comparing yourself to others, you kind of do so much work that it prepares you to the opportunity that you didn't think you were ready for. It's all timing. Looking back at it, I feel like I was ready by the time Rising Voices came along because I had been going through so much failure right before. I was getting rejected by all these things. But I kept going. And I think that that's what's special about these opportunities.

- The big idea behind Rising Voice is that we had come up with this idea of taking this money and giving it to a bunch of people to basically come up with their own vision. And it was Lena and Rishi from Hillman Grad who... Our original idea was we were going to give $25,000 to 40 filmmakers. And they said well you got the denominator right. But what you want is a big enough budget that somebody can do something that is actually going to be a demonstration of what their capabilities are. Lena and Rishi's idea was that this is a calling card, and this is showing with proper funding, what you can really do. And so the budget was a 100,000 plus there was the COVID budget at that time. So I think we had an additional $25,000 just for all the protocols, 'cause people were still figuring out how to do this and do it safely. This was before vaccinations and all of this other stuff. So can you talk about having done all these things for free or for $300, what was it like, what was different about being able to assemble the resources and the crew to make this thing the way that you really envisioned it?

- I think what was different was in terms of financials, just being able to pay people and to know that I could really, really use the full potential of the script, the full potential of the talents, of the people I wanted to work with. To have access to that and see it through, I think that was amazing. You could be really seasoned, unless you're like an Oscar winner, it's really hard to get anything made. And I think to be able to have the structure and the responsibility of like we have this money we can't cut corners, not that I was already, but you really have to do everything by the book while also being able to be given an opportunity to really shine and succeed, I think that was incredible. And at first I think I was a little insecure about it. Obviously there's fear, there's responsibility. There's anxiety of being like, am I ready for this? Can I do this? And I think it challenged me to really walk the walk, it was like that defining moment for me, almost like a coming of age of like, you've been calling yourself like oh I'm starting to direct. And I've been like saying it very like whispered in like groups and stuff and so I was like, if I'm going to call myself a director then I got to step up and I got to do this. And for that, I hired the people that I know were going to help me do this. And that's also surrendering your ego a little bit and thinking where do I end and other people begin? Who can I get on this project that I know will connect with me, will connect to the text and will want to make this the best thing ever. And I think it was that, it was having that money to be like, I want to be picky and I want to find the right collaborators and I don't want to settle for less. So yeah it was beautiful. It was beautiful to do that and to trust my gut and to go for it. And it paid off not just for me, but for everyone. I've never been surrounded by people that are... Like one shared opportunity has I think changed the life of 10 people and even more people. If you think about it like that, my producers that are they're getting calls now, they're getting meetings. My DP, people know who she is. It's like you gave us the opportunity to give opportunity to other people too. And I think that chain reaction is really, really cool.

- We could talk a whole lot about that experience. I'd love to just take a minute and talk about the movie itself. Because it is so unexpected and extraordinary and beautiful. And the great thing for us was that we had this idea that if we just ask 10 people to do whatever that prompt meant to them, something about the meaning of work. We certainly weren't expecting "Huella". And so much of what came was so beautiful, but it's a singular take on that. We were talking before we started recording here that you just came through a weekend of Zooms, where everyone asked you exactly the same question, what was the inspiration? So I'm not going to ask you the same question or to ask you to give the same answer that you've been giving. I guess how would you describe "Huella" to people that don't know anything about it?

- Ooh, that's a good one. I'll say two things. The first one, I think it's an emotional, sensorial journey through grief and the many layers of it, but I don't think it's about grief as you would expect it to be. It's not just about pain. It's about what comes after. It's about what comes before. It's about being in that moment too. It's about saying goodbye, it's about moving on. So I think there's a lot of layers there. But it is definitely a journey so just my advice to anyone that wants to watch it would be let it take you. Just don't put too much in it, just let it take you and see what happens. Hopefully you feel something, that's what I would want. The other thing, and I'll tie it back to the meaning of work, because though I didn't necessarily, what's funny enough 'cause I didn't write it for Indeed Rising Voices, I had it written, but I think it fits so much to this meaning of work that we talked about. And I think what's funny is that as the film has sort of traveled with me and my life has changed and I've changed. I have found that it talks about work in terms of passion versus labor and how those can intersect, or those can be completely separate and how those can be defined by your generation or your socio economic background, and so many other things. And I'm very interested in that in our relationship to work and how to some work is survival. To most of my family, to my grandparents, to my mom and my dad it was just getting by and having to do it because we have to. And then you come into passion and career and what I'm doing now and I think I would say a lot of my generation, that's sort of an inheritance. That that's generational wealth to be able to dream and to be able to have a passion and that your work becomes passion and not just survival. And so I'm very aware of that now. And I think I was aware of it when I was filming, but as it's gone by, it sort of has fueled me to really look at that intersection and where I stand and be able to create opportunities where maybe work can also be passion for other people.

- I love that idea of generational wealth, having more than one interpretation or definition. That's really beautiful excuse me. Well, there's so much to talk about and time's running short. Can you just talk a little bit about what's happened to you since the premiere? So you had this short period of time, you submitted this thing, you got the call back, and then you had to hit the ground and get these things produced and done in a matter of weeks. And then we had this amazing experience on a beautiful, perfect day in New York City in June on a huge screen with a bunch of people, premiering all of these films together. And there's something about, especially for me and for I think a lot of people at that point in the pandemic we hadn't been outside and that things had just started to open up again and to see these things on a huge screen with people, and then all the stuff that's happened since. So can you talk a little bit about just what's happened to you since having completed this work?

- Well yes, the premiere at Tribeca was incredible. And then the short and you talked about this, it was about having a calling card and really being like, this is what I can do with a budget and people have reacted. I mean since then, obviously Sundance is a very big deal, but other than that, I've gotten, well I can't say what it is yet, I'm directing something very cool for a big company that we will all recognize in due time. But that was through sending my short and applying to a specific program. And it's going to be very cool. Since then as well I've decided I'm going to turn "Huella" into a feature film. And we got a grant from Warner Media that we also applied to and everything we applied to with the short and also like documentation for what I want the future to look like. But it really is the short that is grabbing people. It makes a difference when you have something to show that shows that you can work with a big crew and that really is again, setting you up for success. And so that's happened and I got into a Sundance fellowship that I was doing sort of interdisciplinary work and I'm doing the Indeed residency. And so it's been lovely. And also been meeting a bunch of really great people that are interested in potentially working together. And it's just been a way to come into the industry and a presentation of who I am that I feel really, really, really proud of 'cause that's another thing. I think what's important for also anyone applying and just in general is that I felt like I really made the film I wanted to make. And I'm really grateful that we have that industry sort of studio exec experience with you all because you were giving us feedback and you were again wanting us to just make these films the best we could, but also really, really focused on having us put out our vision. And I think that was very, very valuable 'cause people can see that, people can see your heart, people can see you in things, and that's when they connect. So I feel like people can see me in this film and that's what I'm most proud of.

- And I have this amazing opportunity to work together in the residency program and it's incredible how much stuff you have going on. So we feel actually at this point really fortunate to get the opportunity to have your time as well. And one of the things I think we... That idea that I introduced at the beginning and that you've heard me say before of talent is universal, opportunity is not, that we're really excited about this opportunity to work with you. And then Stacy and Johnson, who are the other members of the residency program and we'll have them on this podcast as well at some point. While we haven't sat down and figured out exactly what it looks like, can you sort of talk a little about what you're hoping I guess, to get out of that experience. To collaborate with us and our marketing team and these other creatives and then obviously with Lena and Rishi and our great friends Cons and Dome at 271 Films to try to produce more work about this idea of the meaning of work.

- Well, I'm really, really excited about how work it's changing, the relationship of work that we have with work is changing. So I'm interested in coming into it. I'm interested in what are the jobs of the future. I'm interested in not feeling too young or too old. 'Cause I think as someone who changed their career path, and who's sort of the daughter of people that are like, very hard workers and like my grandma who's passed, but she was an orthodontist and she barely retired you know what I mean? She loved what she did. And yeah, I think I'm excited about unexpectedly showing the workforce and the people in it and their stories and our relationship to it and how that's changing because we're changing. Because a pandemic happened, because we maybe can work smarter and not harder. And how does that look like for everyone? I'm very passionate about protecting people in the workforce as someone who's part of a union too, that's important to me. So yeah, I don't know, I don't know. I'm excited about all the possibilities. But the idea of work and as you said, just taking that and showing a different perspective of that, I think it's exciting to me. And just also working alongside Stacy and Johnson is very exciting as well. 'Cause I think they're incredible filmmakers and people, so should be really fun.

- Well we're excited too. Always end these conversations with the same question and I think we've sort of heard so much already from you on this topic, but I'm going to ask it anyway which is throughout the pandemic with all of the challenges and everything that the world has faced, what in that period, in that time, has left you feeling optimistic for the future?

- I feel like a lot of people in my life are more honest about who they are after the pandemic. I feel like that proximity to death and time, and the idea of like we only have one life has made a lot of people around me very aware of who they are. And seeing other people walking in their power and being authentic really inspires me. So I hope we can all be honest with ourselves and I hope we can all have the opportunity to be more of us and not so much of the noise of the outside world. So that gives me hope.

- Well that's a beautiful way to wrap up Gabriela. Thank you so much for joining me today for this. Thank you so much for being a part of Rising Voices and being part of our development lab. And thank you for this amazing art that you're bringing into the world.

- Thank you so much, Chris. Thank you for having me. Thank you for Rising Voices. And I hope this is the first of many talks that we have.