We had the good fortune of connecting with Saúl López and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Saúl, why did you pursue a creative career?
If you would’ve told me while I was growing up that I would get paid to travel the world and make videos and take photos for internationally known brands I probably would’ve just laughed at you. I grew up in the arts; specifically in music, playing the violin for 10 years, the viola for 5 years and was in marching for 2 years as well. However, pursuing a career in the arts was never even a thought for me.
I attended Pepperdine University where I double-majored in Economics & Hispanic Studies and then went on to be a high school teacher for 2 years in Altadena, CA. Growing up in a hispanic household and raised by a single mother, her plan for me was to have a secure 9-5 office job. I, on the other hand, had other plans. I wanted to be interacting with new and exciting individuals doing good in the world. While I was teaching I was watching a lot of Youtube, specifically Casey Neistat and Rory Kramer. I loved their ability to story tell and the amazing journey they were taking in life.
I remember watching the music video for “The Nights” by Avicii. It was directed, shot and edited by Rory Kramer and just showed his life as a videographer, traveling the world and working with different music artists and I thought, “I want to do that with my life.” I went on Amazon, bought a $600 Canon Rebel EOS SL1 and the rest is history. I learned everything watching Youtube tutorials and fell in love with the art form instantly. I was shooting something every day and making videos with friends for fun. I started posting that on Instagram and it eventually snowballed into a full-fledged career. I bought that camera in 2016 and 5 years later I’ve had the opportunity to create for companies like Apple Music, Casamigos Tequila, CFDA, ESPN, Jordan Brand, Moncler, Netflix, Nordstrom, Pacsun, Under Armour and many more. In 2020 I was also fortunate enough to win an MTV VMA & EMA in the “Video For Good” category as a drone cinematographer on H.E.R.’S music video for the song “I Can’t Breathe.”
The biggest driving factor for me in pursuing a career in the creative space was solely fueled by my desire to work with creative people who saw the world differently and used an artform to express themselves; whether through fashion, music, filmmaking, photography or anything else. Art is a reflection of the time period we live in and I just wanted to be able to contribute to the narrative in a positive way and document underrepresented stories.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My approach for capturing videos or photos has always been that of a documentarian. Whether I’m working with brands, artists or athletes I feel like I am just there to document the moment in an artistic way. I’m always thinking of the viewer at home and how I can best represent what I’m seeing in front of me to really make their viewing experience as immersive as possible.
We live in a world where the entry barrier to filmmaking is now so low. Everyone has a 4k camera included with their phone that they carry everywhere; which I personally think is great. It allows a whole new group of people to express their creativity. But I think in order to have longevity in the creative space is consistency, relationships and quality work. For me personally when I decided I wanted to do this as a career I committed and didn’t turn back. There was no Plan B, C, or D. However there were many times I seriously considered quitting. I remember being in New York City in February of 2019 shooting Fashion Week and on the cab ride home called my best friend and told him I was considering giving up because it was becoming too taxing and was only making enough money to survive and nothing booked in the calendar. But 1 week later I got a call from a massive alcohol brand who put me on retainer to create their content.
The biggest challenge in this field is really having the patience to grind it out. I would say it takes around 2 years to make good, consistent money to live off. Keeping your expenses as minimal as possible is so important. I’ve also had to make sacrifices of missing friend and family gatherings or birthday parties because of traveling for work or shooting in another city or country. Luckily I’m surrounded by amazing humans who are extremely supportive and understanding.
Anyone can do what I do. Anyone can buy a camera and dedicate 6 months of their life and shoot similarly or even better than me; but in order to make it you need to be able to make that sacrifice and put that time in. I think what has helped me as a professional is my ability to connect with people and be consistent. I would say it’s really 80% relationship building and 20% your actual work. Anyone that hires me knows I’m easy to work with, follow direction well and am flexible to accommodate a client’s needs. I like to think I’ve built myself and business with these pillars and, thus far, has worked for me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am biased since I went to Pepperdine and spent so much time in Malibu. If I had a friend coming in for a week I would suggest staying in Santa Monica. Doing a day in Malibu where you go to Lily’s Cafe for Breakfast burritos, go on a hike at the top of Corral Canyon and watch the sunset off of Point Dume. I’m a huge sports fan so would definitely go to a Laker game and go to a Rams game at the new SoFi Stadium (I’ve been Rams season ticket holder the last 2 seasons).
After that we’re spending a few days in Downtown LA. Stay at the Soho warehouse and visit the Broad, MOCA, Little Tokyo, Olvera Street.
Ending our stay in Pasadena where we need to eat at Mediterranean Cafe on Shoppers Ln and Lucky Boy (for breakfast burritos; YES there’s a theme here). Go on a hike up Echo Mountain to Inspiration point. Visit the Norton Simon Museum, the Gamble House and watch the Sunset from Colorado Street Bridge.
***In a non-COVID World
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Michelle K. Hanabusa, Creative Director and Founder at We Are Uprisers & Co-Founder of non-profit Hate Is A Virus. She was the first person to hire me for a paid shoot in January of 2017. She introduced me to the creative scene in Los Angeles and I consider her know my big sister. I still create videos for her to this day and I’ve seen her grow her brand to be in Pacsun stores nationwide and online as well as collaborations with Complex (including Complexland and Complexcon later this year).