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Art & Life with Sam Roberts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Roberts.

Sam, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I remember picking up a camera for the first time when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Me and my childhood friend created many stop animation videos using legos. After that, it wasn’t till I started skating and snowboarding at the age of 14 where I decided to pick up a video camera up again. My friends and I were all trying to get sponsored and the only way to get to that point was to film ourselves and make “sponsor me” tapes to send to companies in hopes that they would invest in us so we could, of course, GET FREE STUFF! From then on, I got on with some companies and life was all about snowboarding and skateboarding, all the while being very inebriated. I pursued that lifestyle till I was about 24. I should have given it up way sooner. I ended up getting into a really bad snowboarding crash, at that point, I had some pretty bad ones but this one was the one that broke the camels back. I was 24 and that’s an old man in the snowboarding world. It just wasn’t fun anymore.  After the accident, I thought to myself, “What do I do now?” Video was the only other thing I was passionate about so that is when I decided to go to film school at the Art Institute of Seattle. I was juggling manual labor warehouse jobs and waiting tables while maintaining a full schedule at school so I could qualify for student aid. It was a lot but I learned a lot. In the end, school got too expensive so I chose to drop out.

Shortly after that, I began to shoot a lot of music videos on the side for local artists in the Seattle scene. I was making very little money with these artists because their budgets were very low when it came to paying the videographer. But during this period my good friend Yudo Kurita showed me a KENZO FW 2014 fashion film by Kahlil Joseph featuring my favorite hip-hop artists, Shabazz Palaces. THIS FILM CHANGED MY LIFE COURSE. After watching it, I was like… “I wanna do that!” I fell in love with non-linear/avant-garde storytelling. Using metaphors, symbology, and visual motifs to make you think. Something that stimulated the brain and makes you form your own opinion about what it might be about. Not so straight forward kind of stuff. After that, I got to work on my first Flaunt Magazine editorial with some very respectable Seattle artists, including my dear friend Yudo and that is where I met Michele Andrews, who is a very accomplished Seattle based stylist. I continued to shoot more fashion film content with her and my friend Chris Williams. I learned so much about art and fashion in this period of my blossoming career. I would not be where I am today without those experiences.

I continued to dink around and try to freelance in what I began to notice as a fading and dying cultural scene in Seattle (cough cough Amazon). Just as I began to lose interest in this scene, I got laid off from my warehouse job and it happened as I was just about to sign a lease for a new place. I left work defeated when I suddenly get a call from Yudo saying our mutual friend Dave had a room opening up in his LA home for a mere $600 a month! I had around $1000 in my bank account and was gonna be on unemployment so I packed my bags and drove down to LA. And just like that, I hit the ground running.

I got hired by this crazy dude Kwame Boateng my first weekend in Los Angeles. He’s homies with Drake, Justin Bieber, Justin Combs, and more well-known artists. Before I knew it, I was at Diddy’s house in Miami for Bad Boys 20th anniversary filming a pilot for a reality series about this crazy lifestyle that Kwame led. I went from picking and packing orders in a warehouse to waking up in a suite at the Mondrian on South Beach Miami. I was riding jet ski’s with Bad Boys in the bay in the day then fine dining and partying with celebs at puffs house by night (actually morning cuz no one ever goes out in Miami till mid-night then the party don’t stop till 9 am).

That was only the beginning of the summer that year after that things sped up exponentially and I wasn’t ready for it. I was shooting around five fashion film editorials for Flaunt magazine with some notable names like Vince Staples and Jordan Clarkson. Then I got hired by this creative agency from Seattle to shoot all of their artist’s music videos. I was traveling back and forth from Los Angeles, to Seattle, and to New York. I was living the fast life with free drugs, free alcohol, free travel. I got lost in the glamour of it and everything started to feel surreal. When you’re that fucked up all the time and in a different city each week, everything starts to become a blurry dream. Don’t get me wrong I was still working hard and making beautiful things, but I was also playing very hard as well. The end of the summer came and so did a reality check. The people who had hired me stiffed me for a lot of money, while also being dumped by the girl I was dating and had some falling outs with fakes who I thought were my friends. At this moment, my mom had been helping me cover rent because I had convinced myself and everyone else I was making more than I actually was. Man, ego is a trip. The fun came to a halt and I went into a very depressive state, thoughts of being dead made things seem easier.

I had gotten caught up in the glitz and glam of LA and forgot who I was. I was about to throw in the towel and move back to my home town in Eastern Washington but a talent agency reached out to let me know that they were in search of an editor for a full-time in-house position at Smashbox Cosmetics with salary pay and full benefits. I went in for the interview and showed them a reel of all the free stuff I shot with Flaunt and was hired on the spot. That job saved me. I started off just editing but quickly was given freedom to direct a variety of videos. After a year, I had directed my first campaign with the company. All the time working there, I was still shooting Fashion Editorials for Flaunt Magazine and got to shoot my first cover video with SZA. And then after a year and a half of working at Smashbox, they began to hire individuals who had minimal knowledge of the field that made it a difficult environment to work in. That’s when I was turned into a soulless editing robot of only creating Instagram story content. Then they unexpectedly laid me off last October and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier that they did. Working there was great for the most part. I learned so much and it definitely was a necessary stepping stone in my career. It was only at the end that it wasn’t the best environment. I now have multiple skincare and cosmetics clients for my freelance work who pay very well. It was a necessary career step to work for that company, but I got swallowed by the corporate monster at the end. I was settling for comfortable paychecks instead of feeling creatively fulfilled.

But life is good in this new transition of life! I’ve definitely weeded a lot of people out my life and I keep my circle very tight. I’m in love with my beautiful girlfriend Vanessa Acosta, my client list is definitely flowing with the skin-care and cosmetics projects and I’ve got some passion/art projects in the works. I have some editorials that are about to drop in collaboration with Petra Collins and Nathan Mitchell as well. At times it was hard but it was all necessary. It took me getting lost and being broken down to my core to actually figure out who I really am and find my creative voice. I am now completely sober. I pray and do transcendental meditation every day. These things, I feel, have helped me get very focused on what I want to accomplish in life and get a strong hold on my creative. I LOVE LIFE!

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I now make a lot of things in multiple mediums. What I am most passionate about is making non-linear/avant-garde art films using visual metaphors and motifs. I used to be all about making fashion films in this format but sometimes it doesn’t make sense for fashion to be the central part. I’m more about just making art now. Sometimes that includes fashion but sometimes it does not.

I’m kind of a product of my environment and how I grew up. I’ve kind of always been an outsider in big groups of people. I guess I am kind of a loner. Therefore, when it comes to shooting stuff its usually pretty light crew. Most of the time it’s just me making a video. No gaphers, no grip, no assistants. It’s just me making stuff work with what I got. I also think a lot of stuff I’ve seen on set is overkill. I was looking at setup with Smashbox one time and was trying to figure out what was actually being used and it was purely just for show. Like, “look at all this important stuff set up, this is a production!” That’s corny to me. I also, grew up shooting skating and snowboarding so that has translated to my style of fashion film making as well. When you go to a spot to get a shot skating, you’re not guaranteed anything. You’ve got security guards, weather, and the unpredictability that skater can actually land the trick. That can hinder whether or not you get a clip. I like to do the same thing in fashion with a model. I like to go into uncomfortable areas and try to get interesting art. For example, I once got out of a car with a model on the 101 N during rush hour and got a clip of her posing in traffic. I like capturing soft beauty in the midst of raw adrenaline and excitement. So, I guess you can see where that influence comes from. Also, everything I’ve shot with Flaunt is very last minute. I’ve shot around eight editorials with them and it’s always the same story. They always hit me up the day before or day of and are like “hey this celeb or artist is in town can you come shoot immediately.” So pre-pro has never really been an option for me. I have always had to make a story out of what is in front of me at that very moment.

It’s kind of relative to what I’m going through at the moment, so things can be very dark or very light. I’m kind of emo and sensitive, so my stuff can reflect that. Haha. Most of the time there is always an underlying story/message even though it seems to be very abstract. But sometimes it’s just about trying to evoke a feeling. In this era of opinion-less and statistic based societal standards, my goal is to stimulate peoples minds and have them form their own opinion on what the film might be about. Maybe for them, it’s not about anything and just looks nice, I dunno. I just want people to think or feel something! The main goal is to inspire people just like I was inspired by Dawn In Luxor.

How do you think about success, as an artist, and what do quality do you feel is most helpful?
I think you are successful if you are happy with what you make. I think obsession and inspiration are two important qualities to have. I forgot who said this but a person who is obsessed with something will always be better than a person who is naturally gifted. If you’re gifted with something, you kind of become lazy because you know it will always be there. However, if you are obsessed with your art, you are constantly doing it. If you’re not doing it, you’re constantly thinking about it. If you do something enough, you become prolific. Inspiration is also important because that’s the creative juice your run on. I always try to stay inspired. If I’m not, I will go do something. Go on a hike, go to a museum, a movie, find a good song. There are multiple ways. I can’t leave out inner peace though! Through the past year, I have found inner peace. I mean it’s not a constant thing. It’s definitely a battle but when you have peace, your mind is clear, your creativity will flourish. I think there is this false stigma that you can only be a great artist if you are some crazy drug addict or a depressed individual who is pessimistic and hates the world. Lol, A lot of them are but there’s also a lot of happy ones too. Also, make long and short terms goals. If you do all the small stuff, the bigger picture falls into place. I don’t measure success from wealth, a job title, or who you know. I think you are successful if you are happy with yourself and what you make.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
People can see all of my work on my website, of course, www.samueljroberts.net. Also, feel free to give me a follow on IG @samuelj.roberts. You’ll be able to know when and where my fashion editorial stuff drops. I also usually post a condensed version of stuff on IG. Magazines I have had stuff published on are 032c, Interview Mag, Coeval Mag, Seattle Met, Anyone Girl, Flaunt Mag.

I am looking at funding my 1st art exhibition this year. So any support for that would be greatly appreciated. I will have a go fund me up soon but for now, my Venmo is @Sam-Roberts-25.

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Image Credit:
Sam Roberts

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