ERICK SASSO ON THE ART OF LETTING ONE'S CREATIVE PATH UNFOLD ORGANICALLY
What drives a creative society forward can be found in giving people the opportunity to try out their talents, fully explore their ideas and learn from their experiences. For multifaceted creative Erick Sasso, being able to give himself ample room to fail turned out to be an integral part of where his path led him today. While he has since expanded his talents across mediums and has made his passion for visual storytelling his professional career, Sasso credits his successes with having a support system early on, which gave him the necessary encouragement to try out different things, ranging from writing his own scripts and video treatments to picking up a camera for the first time.
"There's also just a vibe to the fact that they look like something that Iron Man would wear."
Throughout his decorated career, the Long Island, New York native has worked tirelessly to build a portfolio that is as diverse as it is vibrant, with a focus across industries and mediums alike. While being an artist and filmmaker is the core driver behind what he does, he's masterfully learned how to become virtuosic when it comes to applying his creativity to help execute the vision of different brands, productions and recording artists.
Sasso's passions have led him to work with a variety of esteemed media networks such as VICE, Complex, ESPN, VH1, Tidal, REVOLT TV, and Uninterrupted, creating content that smoothly adapts to the voice of each different entity. Similarly, he has worked in advertising with a slew of renowned brands, spanning the likes of Nike to Red Bull to Rockstar Games and everything in between. Whether he is working as a live music photographer, consulting on a variety of productions or developing his own film projects, Sasso's strengths lie in being able to produce quality work across different disciplines, all without losing sight of what makes his creative approach distinctive and unique.
Currently based in New York, Sasso can be found taking on different projects that speak directly to why he got involved in the business of visual storytelling in the first place. Being able to mentor others and pass on what he's learned is one way he remains connected to the artform itself, especially as today's digital landscape continues to evolve rapidly. Despite his successes as a critically acclaimed writer, director, producer, editor and photographer, Sasso hasn't lost sight of his roots and is always happy to take a coffee meeting with those finding their own footing in a similar path. His gratitude for being able to have his passions and his career intertwined is often present in his work itself, helping inspire others to put the work in and make their own goals come to fruition.
In between recently shooting the album cover for rapper Deniro Farrar's latest project, “Sole Food”, and writing and developing a few of his own series, Sasso chopped it up with the DropLabs team about finding his creative drive early on, what his best advice is for those first starting out and how meditation has become an integral part of his routine.
What do you do for a living?
I'm a filmmaker and a storyteller, but I function mostly as a creative media executive and a consultant, which means a range of things [Laughs]. I mostly focus on creative, development, and production. I could be helping to write and develop a project, or creating advertisements for brands like Red Bull or Nike. Maybe also directing, producing and/or editing. I'm also a photographer...so mostly anything involving storytelling and visuals.
I have my company, Sasso Media, that brings me in and out of different buildings all the time. I've worked for a lot of different places over the years, whether in-house or by contract, or on retainer or consulting. Sometimes I'll be traveling to direct a project for a day or a week, sometimes I'll be set up somewhere for months at a time producing and editing a series. Occasionally I’ll be invited/hired to shoot photos at a festival or concert like Made In America or Rolling Loud. It really all depends on what I'm doing, which is often a few things at once.
What are some of things that helped you get started?
I feel very fortunate in that I figured out a general path for myself pretty early, as I know a lot of people struggle with that - filmmaking and storytelling. It started from creating dioramas for my toy soldiers and writing a lot of different things like short stories, songs, and poetry, things like that. Whether it was video games or films, all of it was very visual or story-telling based. I was interested in a lot of stuff as a kid, especially film, but it really started to all find a path when I went on a trip to visit my brother Adam in San Francisco, who's a really talented writer. He helped me--I think he doesn't even realize this--but he really helped me to start to find my voice and perspective. I would say I was around 13 at the time.
That trip was really formative for me, and I ended up signing up for a creative writing class in high school and found myself taking film classes and doing every extra-curricular having to do with that kind of stuff. While I was in school I met a kid named Brian Wendelken, who would become my absolute best friend in the world and creative partner to this day. Even though we took the work seriously, we were kind of like the class clowns. So that trip to SF, in combination with writing with Brian, helped push me into trying out screenplay format for the first time and experimenting with putting both writing and visuals into play. I'm really grateful for the fact that my school had creative writing classes and film classes and a film club, which I ended up becoming the president of alongside Brian. There's a lot of really early stuff that we made that is laughable [when revisiting it today]. I still have all the miniDV tapes, which was the format back then. Just imagine what you and your best friend in high school would make, and that's pretty much it. [Laughs.]
Do you have a project in mind that you're particularly proud of?
When I was 19, I started working with Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan on some various day-in-the-life type of stuff. Brian, who I mentioned earlier, and I, went on to direct his lead single from his next project that he dropped. We did a music video for his track, "House of Flying Daggers," that featured some of my favorite emcees from Wu-Tang. The video went on to be named #1 on Time Magazine's "best video of the year" list and it was really cool to have that experience early on because it led to so much. In fact, I got a job working at Red Bull shortly thereafter and the interview was basically, "Oh, so you did a video for Wu-Tang?" and I was like, "Yeah, I did," and he was like, "Cool, can you start today?" [Laughs.] There's a lot of standout things from over the years but I would say generally the things I'm the most proud of didn't have a lot to do with money; they were just me following my passion. That's kind of been a through line for my whole career.
What do you do to get into your creative zone?
I have a morning routine that is essential for me these days. I'll wake up at about six every day, which is not how I used to live at all, by the way [Laughs]. I would say my best creative hours are at night but it's important for my day to be in a good place so that's why I stick to a morning routine. It's a mixture of journaling, breathing exercises, meditating, working out, eating and so on which I try to get done before I drive my daughter to school. I just need that as a base-level for my day to get going. Afterwards, I'll take my daughter to school and will have the day to get to work. It really depends on the project but that could mean going to set and all I need from there is a little bit of caffeine or maybe I'm working at home for the day. If I'm working from my desk at home, I need things to be clean around me. I noticed that I function a lot better if my desk is clean and when there's not too much noise around me. Adding meditation to my routine was pretty key for me because I now have a better grapple on the "inside of my head" noise and I can really focus on creative endeavors.
Noting how meditation is a big part of your day-to-day, have you tried using DropLabs Technology™ to meditate yet? If so, what was that experience like for you?
It's interesting, I know a lot of people use apps like Calm but I just can't really get down with using my phone while I meditate. I like to orient myself with the sun and have it on my face as best as possible, or utilize a light source to mimic it. However, I will use my phone to listen to music, especially if my daughter is running around, or I'll use a noise app called Noisli. I'll put that on and zone out. I can really take myself anywhere with something like that. So for me, when I put on the DropLabs shoes to meditate, it was a totally different experience. It was pretty cool to amplify what was already going really well for me.
How would you describe the DropLabs experience to someone who hasn't experienced them before?
Regarding the experience of the sneakers, I can enjoy the physicality of sound without being at a concert or driving my car full of subwoofers like I did while I was in high school. This is the first time since then that I've felt that joy from music, besides being at a live concert. DropLabs as a company gives a glimpse into what wearable tech is going to look and function like when creativity is used to focus on the consumer experience. Additionally, the sneakers themselves make very clear the fact that wearable tech is here to stay and we're just scratching the surface for what's in store for that. It's going to be as ubiquitous as cell phones are very soon.
I'd also say, to give somebody a better idea, if you've ever rollerbladed before, it's very similar to the feeling you have afterwards when you take them off, of missing being in the rollerblade. It's the same feeling I have when I take off these shoes. There's also just a vibe to the fact that they look like something that Iron Man would wear. My daughter calls them my Super Sneakers [Laughs]. I just wish I had them when I was walking around Japan with my wife.
What are some words of wisdom you'd like to pass along to someone first starting out in your field?
Off the top of my head, thinking about a few things that I try to live by and some things I've learned over the years, I would say, when you're starting off, say yes to almost everything. Really get your feet wet and learn and fail. I know that sounds cliché but it's really important. It's also important to maintain integrity while you're doing that, that balance is key to success. You'll get to a point, which I think I'm at now, where you can say no to a lot more than you say yes to. Making sure you don't overwhelm yourself is really important because that way you can make sure you have the bandwidth to focus on doing a good job.
A quote that has helped me recently is from this French novelist, Guastov Claubert. He said, "Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work." I think that describes me pretty well. I think creatives in general have a lot going on in their head and a lot going on in their life, so it's important to get a grapple on those things first and then be creative. That way you can pause the noise and then you can focus.
I would also say that networking is an absolute cornerstone to any good career path, especially in media. If you do right by people, it doesn't matter if the project fails or whatever happens to the company as far as politics go. If you do right by people, work hard and do a good job, I believe it comes back to help you.
As innovators by design, the team behind DropLabs Technology is dedicated to supporting and elevating members of the creative community. Together, we aim to serve as a platform highlighting different creators as they work towards achieving visionary excellence and inspiring others along their path. To nominate a creative leader you’d like to see highlighted on our website, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.