Aracely Ortiz, a.k.a. Chelly, is a good person to talk to if one wants to learn about L.A.â€™s body art scene, (check our stories covering this Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 ) low-riders, hardcore gangsta rap and more. As someone who has been pieced by graffiti artist Mig 1, represented South Side Car Club and featured in music videos with Snoop Dog, Two $hort and others, Chelly is an appropriate spokesperson for L.A.â€™s underground and mainstream hip-hop scene.
Svelte with chocolate brown skin, Chelly is attractive enough to be in front of the camera, dancing alongside rap stars. But itâ€™s her work behind the camera which is more interesting.
Chelly is co-founder/director/writer/producer for independent media L.A. production group, LIVEONCAMERA LOC MEDIA. Her recent work on Hood of the Dead showcases some of Los Angelesâ€™s new media potential. Featuring protagonist Billy Broham, reporter of â€œHOOD NEWSâ€, alive on the scene, Hood of the Dead is a kitschy satire that portrays a cross-pollination of zombie movies and the 1992 channel-wide, days-long riots coverage that has settled into the subconscious of todayâ€™s Angeleno filmmakers. With â€œgovernment agentsâ€ having
â€œ[â€¦] supplied bio-agent contaminated crack to South Central Los Angelesâ€, things seem pretty bleak as cannibal crackheads spread a worldwide pandemic. Regardless, Billy keeps his cool as mayhem unfolds. With deadpan humor, kooky sound effects, lots of cheap blood and good parody, H.O.D. is an example of grassroots film making that is growing right under Hollywoodâ€™s hill-top nose.
Chelly, alongside sister Rosa Ortiz, have also documented El Dia de Los Muertos celebrations at La Placita Olvera (Olvera Street), the 1st annual World African Martial Arts Conference in Detroit, a hemp festival and hardcore gangstaâ€”clarification: not poseurs, but real gangsters from actual gangsâ€“rappers. With another work in pre-production, Double Duty, LOC MEDIA is keeping busy. With a mixed Latino and African American production team and coverage, LOC MEDIA is also having two supposedly divided groups collaborating during a time when there is a mainstream media spectacle of racial hatred and violence between black and brown. As such, Chelly and LOC MEDIA are dispelling stereotypes through team work while creating some local L.A.-based films.
The following is an interview with Chelly herself:
SW: What types of roles have you performed during pre and post-production with LOC Media?
Chelly: I have done everything for Loc Media. My sister and I are the founders of this company. Hollywood refers to us as predators. As producers, directors and editors, we do everything from writing scripts, producing, directing and editing our own independent projects.
SW: What are some Hollywood names readers might recognize that have worked with and for LOC Media?
Chelly: We have worked with Too $hort, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, QD3, Wesley Snipes, Will Smith, Lisa Raye, Ray Lewis, Danny Trejo, Dead Prez, Julio G, Young Roscoe, Eastwood, Reyes Brothers, Bishop Don Magic Juan, and many [other] independent artists.
SW: As a worker for independent media in Los Angeles, do you sometimes feel alienated or inferior to the nearby Hollywood system?
Chelly: No, I donâ€™t feel alienated or inferior to the Hollywood system. I produce content that an audience just like me likes to see. I think as an independent media group, we might not have Hollywood budgets but the good thing about being independent is that we donâ€™t have people telling us what we can or canâ€™t do. Itâ€™s better when you have full control of your project. If anything, when I go onto real Hollywood Sets, the only thing I trip out on is that itâ€™s 98% white people on the set. Where are all my people at?
SW: You have worked alongside Magic Don Juan, Snoop Dogg, Too $hort and other rappers. How have these performers, whose lyrics often portray pimping and the demeaning of women, received you and how do you feel about their messages and lyrics?
Chelly: As female directors and camera operators, rappers are always stunned to see my sister and I leading the productions. LOC media is not the norm of what rappers usually expect. They are used to seeing men directing and behind the camera. So, when we show up, itâ€™s weird for them at first, but when they see us in action, they love working with us. They admire our work ethic and knowledge along with the positive energy we bring. They always complement hard working women, even more so because the
women they are around seem to be all about what they rap about. As far as how I feel about their messages and lyrics; Iâ€™ve been listening to gangsta rap since the 5th grade and]itâ€™s been a huge part of my life. Rappers are just telling stories of how it is. Yeah itâ€™s demeaning to women, but at the same time, there really are woman who act like how these rappers are portraying them to be. I donâ€™t think women should act like that, but they do, so I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a bad thing when rappers rap about it.
SW: You recently lived in the Bay Area for some time. What brought you back to Los Angeles?
Chelly: Como dice el homie Tu Pac: â€œTo live and die in LA is the place to beâ€. I came back to LA to learn more about multi media. I canâ€™t afford school so I got hands on training at independent studios and Inglewood Adult School. After two years of learning the basics, my sister and I started to work
for independent directors and independent studios [that include] A FREEWORLD Productions, and Journey Entertainmentâ€”two independent companies that were started by people who have worked in Hollywood who also felt that they needed to produce shows. So far itâ€™s been hard work, long hours and hella grinding, but we are working with a great team of people.
SW: Two of the documentary works which you have worked on are coverage of El Dia de Los Muertos in downtown LA at la placita olvera and the 1st Annual World African Martial Arts Conference in Detroit. As someone who also continuously works with blacks and Latinos on other projects and as a Mexican-American woman yourself, do you feel that recently portrayed tensions between Latinos and Blacks are valid and, if so, do you see your work as creating some type of vision for solidarity?
Chelly: I donâ€™t think most of what the mainstream media says is valid. Donâ€™t believe the hype. I never experienced or thought about racism until I left LA and met people that were not from California. There are so many different types of people whom I grew up with and race was never an issue for me. Really, I think itâ€™s only an issue if youâ€™re a part of the jail system or if you live in Middle America. All of the events we have covered recently which have been in neighborhoods that are considered to have tension between Latinos and Blacks such as East LA, Canoga Park, South Central, Los Angeles etc. have been about the music, art, and culture and race has never been an issue. There is no violence everyone, gets along. A professor that taught us media is African American and the class was full of diversity. We had no problems. I also taught in the city of Inglewood where the majority of students were Latinos and Blacks and when it comes to media, everyone loves it. One will be surprised on how a group of people work when it comes to
making a media project. Hereâ€™s a small story: we read in the paper about this Mexican-American gang not getting along with Blacks and that there was a green light out on Blacks. When we read it, we were stunned, because one of the independent rap groups we document just happened to be from that Mexican gang. We called him up immediately and asked him if there would be a problem if black people would show up on our set. We were worried and we didnâ€™t want any violence on our sets. He pretty much laughed at us and told us we watch too much news. Itâ€™s not my goal to create some type of vision for solidarity between races, but if other people see how it really is, that there is no racism and the media is all hype, that itâ€™s not intentional. It just is what it is.
SW: What new projects can readers expect from you?
Chelly: I am working on a documentary entitled â€œHIP HOP FOR HEMPâ€ www.JackHerer.com. We documented Hemp Fest 2007 and learned that HEMP CAN SAVE THE WORLD!!!! Besides that, we also hope to begin shooting â€œHOOD OF THE DEADâ€ this summer. HOOD OF THE DEAD is a movie my sister and I, along with A FREEWORLD PRODUCTIONS, decided to write. Prior, about two years ago, we worked on a movie [exploring] gangsta rap called The Glockumentary. We were
hired as the crew and shot the movie in 12 days. And last week we worked on another movie that took 12 days to shoot. Then, we said, â€œwhy not us?â€ We wrote a script, made a trailer and itâ€™s only been up for a month, yet more than 7,0000 people have seen it on YouTube. Itâ€™s a zombie movie, but it takes place in the hood and if you smoke the crack, you will become a zombie. Itâ€™s realistic, because if you do smoke crack, you probably will become a zombie like person.
SW: You mentioned on your MySpace profile that you â€œlove the Valleyâ€. Why?
Chelly: I was born and raised in the West Valley, Canoga Park. You have to be proud of where youâ€™re from. I love the Valley, all my family and friends live here and even though it was said to be #1 worst city in all of Los Angeles for gang crime, donâ€™t believe the hype, Canoga Park is not a bad place.