LBB UPRISING: Gabriel Novis on Pursuing His Own Truth
Los York’s director on the Brazilian surf culture that has influenced his career and the journey to becoming a Young Guns 2022 finalist, writes LBB’s Ben Conway
Growing up in the north-east of Brazil, Los York’s director Gabriel Novis was surrounded by creative influences from the very start. His father – a surf photographer – and the unconventional programming aired on MTV led him to develop an early obsession with surfing and skateboarding, as well as an appreciation for his environment. Retrospectively, he expresses immense gratitude for the “beautiful nature” and the “most pure and genuine people” that were ever-present throughout his upbringing.
After becoming disillusioned with his advertising and marketing studies at university – much preferring the film work that he was already getting – Gabriel decided to dedicate his time to his craft and earning money, to one day fulfil his dream of moving to LA. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began to film his surfer friends, which led to him directing a Brazilian TV show about touring surfers. From there, he got a job as a DoP for one of his favourite directors, Sebastien Zanella, the creator of Desillusion Magazine, presenting him with the opportunity to travel and work with brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Mango and more.
“I learned a lot about how things work on set and how to pursue your own truth,” says Gabriel. “Zanella is an incredible artist and all my time spent with him left me very inspired and sparked a renewed sole focus on directing.” In these early days, he learned one of his most poignant lessons – that everyone on set is – and should be treated as – equal. He adds, “Nobody wants to work with difficult people and we should definitely give more opportunities to newcomers and people that are truly motivated and passionate about what they do.”
Even during this developmental period and still today, the director treats every project “as if it is the most important film” of his life. Although as a blossoming filmmaker, he has experienced understandable bouts of anxiety – most notably on an early shoot with a “huge celebrity” in New York. “I was so nervous, I literally had to run to the bathroom at Starbucks during the shoot. In Brazil, we call it ‘caganeira’.
The piece, however, that he feels was a catalyst in his career is a spot he directed for sunglasses brand Oakley, featuring gold Olympic medal-winning and fellow Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira. “I felt extremely lucky to land a project that is so close to who I am as a person. I understand Italo’s story very well because I come from a place that is quite similar to his hometown and not too far away. Our cultures are pretty much the same.”
He continues, “The fact that we were filming in the north-east of Brazil pushed our creativity to the next level. The ease of the environment down there helped us turn most of our ideas into reality… it was an extremely fun project and I am forever grateful for the film and everything that it has done for me. We are the most creative and successful when we have the freedom to be creative and when brands and agencies trust us to do what we know best.”
The director has also recently worked on his first major American project – a film titled ‘Tear the Paper Ceiling’ for AdCouncil. Assisted by Los York from the pitch to the post-production phase, Gabriel says that he felt the trust and support behind his vision from not just the production team, but the agency Ogilvy New York and the client – who were all “at the top of their game.”
He says, “The best commercials to work on are the ones where you can relate to the message of the film and that’s why this one is so special to me. It’s crazy to think that I had the opportunity to work on a campaign that can literally change people’s lives and I am insanely grateful for being a part of it.”
Now living in Venice, Los Angeles – achieving a life-long dream – he enjoys the freedom that his work provides him to create his own unique worlds and “hopefully inspire others to live a life where they can choose to be exactly who they want to be.” As well as using his craft to affect his audience emotionally and create work that isn’t swept up in the “hype” that the LA creative scene often thrives on, he also expresses a desire to champion important social and environmental causes in his work. For example, being a foreign director in the States puts issues like diversity and inclusion at the front of his mind when thinking about the industry – an area he admits has “a long way to go”, despite recent observable changes.
Working hard to make his mark in the US, Gabriel has already received recognition as an up-and-coming artist, being selected as a One Club ‘Young Guns’ finalist this year. After several years of self-doubt, he finally submitted his work to be judged and hopes to be successful in 2022’s competition. “It doesn’t even feel real,” he says. “It’s my last shot since I will be too old next year to give it another try. I never really felt that I was ready to submit my portfolio back then and I finally did it… It’s now or never.”
To maintain his upwards trajectory, Gabriel is constantly seeking out new inspirations and reflecting on the diversity of the projects that he works on. He says, “One day you are in the desert directing a beer commercial, the next day you are filming a project with sharks down in Mexico and then the next thing you know you are on set with some of your favourite artists from childhood. It’s just crazy!” All of this variety, however, necessitates a degree of compromise. He explains that directors often can’t put 100% of their creative vision into every project – something which can cause a degree of frustration in his work, although, like all directors, he has learned to acquiesce to this occupational demand.