Robert dos Santos knows a thing or two about creating a joyfully abundant life, on and off screen. We spoke to the lawyer-turned-international-award-winning-director about his process and relationship with creativity.
When did you know you wanted a career as a creative?
Robert: From an incredibly early age, probably around 7 or so, I knew I wanted to write and make stories. The funny thing is, I probably only allowed myself to be a creative about a few months ago, even though I have been in the creative industry for many years now.
Being pushed into becoming a lawyer by my parents and the world made being a creative seem like an impossibility and something to be looked down on. So even though I had always known I wanted to be a creative, it took me a journey through law and life to understand that I had no choice but to do this.
If somebody asked you what you do for a living, what would you say?
How do you stay creatively energised?
Robert: That is so incredibly important as I have only learned about this recently. As a lawyer, you would be chastised if you left the office before 19:00 so you would feel guilty if you hadn’t gotten your billable hours in. It was a difficult move into the creative space because I was ingrained with this need to be productive all the time.
The most important advice I ever inadvertently received was that “a creative can have an extremely fruitful and productive day and have absolutely nothing to show for it”. I would often feel bad because I had sat at a desk and stared at a blank screen for hours. I would go home feeling terrible because I had “done nothing” all day. I wasn’t taught about the “creative process” at law school so I had to bump my head enough times ‘till I realised there must be a better way of doing this.
Now I know that a large part of my work is in making sure my cup is overflowing. I think about my creativity like loading up a bow. You do the things you need to do to foster a creative energy, which is like pulling back the bow, and then you kind of agitate yourself into a space where you create, which is like releasing the bow.
To stay creatively energised, I do things that make me happy.
What would you say to another creative who is perhaps feeling creatively drained or needs inspiration?
How has collaboration impacted your creative process?
Robert: Film is a collaborative medium. You cannot get anything done without a team. So the creative process is collaboration. While the ideas start with me, they become the team’s when I give them to them. It is up to all of us, through discussion and collaboration, to make something together. I am the happiest when I am part of a ragtag team of creatives out to change the world and lead us on some adventure. And in the end the work is no longer mine, but ours, and I love that.
What are you most proud of?
Robert: That I am happy.
What's next for you?
Robert: I have just received an offer from a streaming platform to develop and co-produce my first feature length film. I am currently directing a commercial for the world’s first virtual reality dating app (how wild) based in Los Angeles so as soon as that is done I will make the leap into features.