Ricky Saiz Interview
The Pendulum Swing
Ricky Saiz is somewhat of a D.I.Y. ideas man. Born in San Francisco, an affection for travel, music and film led him East to New York City, where he fell into the right creative-circles and has stayed for the past decade. A dead set attitude has taken the self-taught filmmaker down fresh and exciting paths, with Saiz ending up at Supreme Co. as their CO. head designer and concept driver; the mind behind larger brand ideas and collaborations. This eye for design has also seen him direct and art direct commercial spots for Nike and act as a consultant for Kanye West and the DONDA team. Recently, Saiz's film career saw him direct the video for "Roach Cock", the recently released single by friend and musician, Hanni El Khatib. We had a chat to Ricky earlier this month about his recent prolific endeavors and what inspires him to create.
Jack Smylie: Hi Ricky, can you tell us a bit about your background?
Ricky Saiz: I’m from San Francisco originally. I moved to New York with a couple of friends about ten years ago. My father is a piano player who works at a grocery store in the Bay Area and my mother is a grade school teacher.
JS: Was there a certain scene that drew you to NYC in the first place? Or entices you to stay?
RS: I think most anyone involved in the creative industry is naturally drawn to the history of this city, whether you’re an Architect, Ballerina or a Rapper. My father, being a jazz musician, always had a strong connection to the city- his two interests of travel were New York and New Mexico and as a kid I always tagged along. At an early age, these trips consequently led to my obsession with both New York and the South West. After high school all I really cared about was music and making art, so naturally New York seemed like the better fit.
JS: When did you make the decision to commit to filmmaking?
RS: Film and video-making has always been the goal, it just took me a while to return to it. I didn't go to school, so I suppose I use my work experience with art and design as an alternate route to help shape my opinions and ideas as far as the types of films I would like to make. My relationship and approach to design is similar to my approach with film- they are both vehicles to tell a story or represent a point of view.
Working for Supreme has played a big role in encouraging and exploring focused ideas and simple execution. My video for Roach Cock started as a big production and in the end it came down to having a cool handful of strong references. I was working in Tokyo at the time I shot Roach Cock and got the idea for the video there. We filmed it handheld in one shot, only a few takes, very no big deal. The song is dirty and fast, some slick video wouldn't have made sense.
JS: Well, Leonardo da Vinci said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and he was quite right - there's an art to making things really simple. Is this something you bear in mind now when working on a new project?
RS: I just try to think about my idea and what is right for the project. I like the idea, "Doing more with less" or Dieter Rams’ principle- "Less but better". Maybe my next video will be animated or Sci-fi or something? It takes forever for me to settle on one idea, and when I finally do, it’s always a big mess of references for me to clean up. I spend a lot of time trying to slow down and simplify. So yes, simpler can be better.
JS: Who or what influences/inspires you in your work?
RS: I like ideas that subvert the “norm” or the “standard” approach. People who can take something familiar or everyday and flip it on its head as a rebellion against the status quo. Like Punk in response to the Hippies or Frank Stella reacting against the Abstract Expressionists of the 40’s and 50’s. I love seeing the pendulum swing.
In my day to day my friends constantly inspire me and keep me looking at things in new ways.
JS: So would you say you operate with a sense of collective mindset?
RS: No, not at all but I definitely have a close-knit group of people that I spend most of my time with. My good friend and artist, Aaron Bobrow makes entirely different work than I do but when we meet for a drink and talk about work there is always a sense of overlap, even in process. Same with Hanni, I think it's good to get ideas from people who have known you for a long time.
JS: You’ve collaborated on a number of videos with musician Hanni El Khatib – how do you guys know each other? RS: Hanni is one of my oldest and best friends. We grew up together in San Francisco. Knowing each other for almost 20 years, we naturally share and understand a similar set of influences, references, and aesthetics. When he got signed and music videos came about, it felt like the natural choice to have me direct a few of them. He’s in Nashville right now recording his new album with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys. I’m looking forward to taking on a few of those videos.
JS: Have you found that working with the Supreme team has influenced the style of your work in a way that lends itself to skate culture?
RS: Yeah, of course. Supreme always gives people something to talk about like it or not. Like skate culture, it definitely has a DIY Fuck-it attitude that sometimes obscures the fact that it's the result of a lot of hard work.
JS: What else motivates you to get up, get out and get something?
RS: That Outkast song usually does the trick.
Photographer - Dustin Aksland