San Antonio.- “My art reflects who I am in that moment”, said Daniela Riojas owner of ZaaZaa Productions. “I want it to be the best it can be and for everyone involved to be the best they can in their own element. A project is like a mirror.”
In September, BORDERLINEA, an art and music organization focused on showcasing local talent in the community partnered with La Prensa to further this mission. For the Fall showcase, five artists were selected to put their work to a vote. From this contest, the winner, as determined by their peers and members of the community, was Daniela Riojas.
Daniela is a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Texas San Antonio and is on her way to mastering a gamut of skills throughout the art domain. In addition to being a praised photographer, her curriculum vitae became more inspiring in 2011 when she founded The Arts United San Antonio.
This organization is a grassroots organization in San Antonio that functions in support of the current social, cultural, political, and economic revolution happening in the United States. The Arts United brings together local musicians, visual artists, poets, philosophers, and scholars as a community of conscious and progressive citizens who are empowered by and willing to share their unique perspective about the human experience.
Perhaps without knowing it, Daniela’s elevated involvement in the community and her role as a leader in the arts community prepared her for the newest adventure-music video production.
Last year was the beginning of this new adventure in art. Just like many great ideas, it came to fruition during an extraordinary night where many artists found themselves mingling and inspired. Alex Scheel of the band Pop Pistol was musing about the new album they were about to embark on. His ideas about using animal spirits to thematically frame each song had Daniela and Emanuel Bermudez of Willpowered Studios musing right along with him and created the almost impulsive notion for Emanuel to suggest aloud, “We should makea music video for one of the songs.” Through this exchange, the three individuals learned Alex already had a song in mind - “No New Years Know.” This was it. There was no stopping the creative process now.
The recipe for music video success was underway.
Step 1: Fill the slot of the obnoxiously talented artist, motivator and leader. As you may have guessed, Daniela was more than a suitable person for the job.
Step 2: Assemble an army of individuals diverse in their skill sets, yet united in their desire to produce unique work to make San Antonio proud (including the likes of Stephen Castro of Miranda Studios, Will Bermudez who contributed specialized CGI-esque skills, Jacob Sonk who animated Pop Pistol’s unique animal characters by recreating them with digital skeletons, and local cinematography extraordinaire, David Rodriguez)
Step 3: Secure the video talent. (Enter Alex Scheel)
I confess, this is an oversimplification of the process, as Daniela and each individual involved in the year-long project went through much more than three cookie-cutter steps to reach the visually stimulating product. However, for now, let’s go to the floor for some concepting.
Pulling from her rolodex of experience, Daniela held frequent meetings during the initial concepting of the video. It was here that the group discussed the human and animal worlds as separate entities that would eventually be fused together. This was the driver for the video.
The first would consist of all live action filming, using Alex Scheel as the sole human character as he traverses through a variety of landscapes. The second was all animal animating. After two months of storyboards and visions of the two world intertwined in a mystical arena, the animator, Jacob Sonk was off and running bringing this digital world to life. The rest of the team began filming under Daniela’s direction and steady vision.
In the video, you will see the results of a visually beautiful video that can only come from a director with a deep sense of photography, music and story. You may hardly recognize the filming locations in the video. Yet, they are arguably some of the most popular spots in the area: Enchanted Rock, Olmos Park and Pedernales Falls.
“In everything this team did, the motivation was greater than ourselves and greater than the video in isolation. We wanted to make San Antonio proud,” said Riojas. “We wanted to do something special and brilliant using all local talent.”
The video initiates with Alex running followed by a sudden flash of an eclipse. A naïve soul in the beginning is paired with his animal counterpart at the time-the deer. The physical trigger for fusing the human and animal world was the pomegranate. A mythological symbol for fertility and a feminine and fragile nature. At the conclusion of this metamorphosis as a deer, Alex continues to stumble through the mystical scenery toward the eclipse symbolizing his true strength.
“The absolute hardest part of this project was continuing to believe in the vision from start to finish,” said Riojas. “The second hardest was not compromising the quality. There are always options for shortcuts, but the integrity of the project always won even if it kept me up almost every night for months upon months.”
During this time intensive process of music video production, it was Daniela’s leadership that kept the group together and heading toward the finished product. Throughout the year, Daniela was able to apply her broad skill set to nearly every element of this project from filming and editing to compositing the animation and live action footage.
“The magic of this video is that it strikes a balance between the two worlds while still holding onto realism most people can relate to,” said Catherine Dickson, audience services associate at Texas Public Radio. “Everyone is trying to arrive somewhere where you are a better, stronger person.”
For Daniela, music video production was a new adventure. In a sense, she may have gone through a similar mature transformation as displayed through the video.
However, in the end when asked if music videos were her preferred artistic outlet, she replied, “I want to do something lighter and find myself again through video and music.” Music videos are a huge outlet to have tons of freedom and the ability to be surrounded by artistic souls. It is another way to create something that would prove to San Antonio that we can push the limits of collaboration and not be afraid of hard work,” said Riojas.
Daniela is a gifted photographer, actress, writer, art therapist, singer and now video producer.
At the youthful age of 23, she has many bright years ahead of her and many opportunities to bless the San Antonio with an artistic future.
To view more of Daniela’s work, visit www.danielariojas.com.