Abir Hashem on Creatively Directing His Way into the Industry
I GUESS, FOR ARTISTS, I'M BASICALLY IN CHARGE OF GIVING THEM AN ENVIRONMENT TO SEE THE VISION.
This is Abir Hashem, or abir.mov on Instagram, and he is a creative. Yes, the word “creative” is a buzz-word these days, but a title that is very true to the core of the work he does every day and the world he wants to continue to pursue. I had the chance to speak with this emerging talent from Canada, and we had a really fun conversation that was almost a full hour, discussing life, creativity, passion, and goals. I’m excited to share what I learned from this young artist and hope that you’ll also be inspired by his energy.
The 21-year-old creative artist that lives in a small city called Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada was initially brought into the music industry at the bold age of 18-years-old. From one crazy opportunity, he was able to continue turning into visual magic, offering artists his trendy, innovative, and taste-making skills in areas such as videography, photography, editing, animating, and stage & graphic designing. With his toolkit prepared he has been able to work with various artists of different backgrounds and sounds such as Anthony Russo, G-Eazy, Marshmello, inverness, Jack Harlow, jackson lee morgan, Carly Rose, Dounia, Leven Kali and more. He says “with my age & experience I still have a lot to learn and curate my taste but I’m confident enough that this is just the beginning.”
[Throughout this article you’ll find videos and posts of his past work]
Passion is a funny word. It’s something we latch onto and it’s not necessarily a “thing” or a noun, but it’s a verb in the sense that it’s the emotion, the strength, and the motivation to do things everyday because of how much happiness they bring you—in essence, they’re the things that make you tick. How did Abir know that pursuing this creative path was it for him?
“I remember, I just wanted to be more personable with people, or connect with them in some way. At the same time, I was watching Casey Neistat make daily vlogs in New York City; it's super inspiring to watch. His work ethic was unreal, and the content he is producing was sick.” Abir begins telling me about the start of his creative journey that sprung from watching other dynamic individuals in their elements. He tells me how he’d go around his city filming with his camera and a tripod and capturing time lapses of moments, people, scenes, stringing them together with an instrumental or an indie musician’s song. He received a lot of love for his small projects, but of course, with social media also comes some haters, but with those haters he took them as invitations and challenges to better his craft.
“I started falling in love with it more and watched tutorials on YouTube, and I just saw all the influencers just getting paid to travel, making friends with musicians, artists, directors.” He was really attracted to that world, and said he stumbled upon Anthony Russo’s music, which he said instantly wow’ed him; however he noticed that he didn’t have any visuals for his music. You could hear the excitement in his voice as he began to tell me how he got his first real industry experience and how it came full circle. It all started with his perseverance to film a G-Eazy show in 2017 for the Beautiful and Damned: North American Tour. He DM’ed everyone he could think of on G-Eazy’s team, until finally someone replied back… it was Drake’s tour manager and he said he could go on tour with them to film the opener. Unfortunately, because Abir was in high school at the time, he couldn’t tour, but he did get the chance to shoot the show during his Toronto stop and the team’s videographer became a mentor to him. Can you guess who was the opener for G-Eazy? Anthony Russo. That was the epic start to an exciting journey for Abir.
“Anthony was 22. And I was 18—we're like four years part. But it's just really crazy to like, think how things have changed. Like, we're family now. I mean, we've been taking trips together for a while now. We went to Australia, Korea, Portugal…”
Abir and I get into the difficulty of balancing personal relationships and business, The Weeknd’s performance at the Superbowl, and our own take on being a creative in the industry. He also shares funny stories of how he met Alex from The Chainsmokers and Michael B. Jordan at a party and other fun experiences he has had with Anthony.
I appreciate the youthfulness in his voice—one that hasn’t been jaded by the industry or by the pandemic. I love hearing the stories he has had and the plans he has made for himself. There’s definitely a level of maturity to that and awareness that gives him that creative spark in his work. You can see it in the level of detail he puts into the videos he works on. From the colors, to the themes, to the shots and angles, each scene is carefully orchestrated and designed to fit so that you feel the exact emotional impact you are meant to feel when you hear that particular piece of the song. That’s the power in visual storytelling, and that’s the force that Abir offers to the artists he works with.
“Um, so, basically, my strongest asset is having an eye with editing, anything in house, working from a computer is the greatest thing. In our profession, I guess the creative world, I am just blessed enough for people to email me or mail me their hard drives, and I just edit. There was a point in my creative life where I was plateauing a little bit. I was using the same tricks, the same cuts, the same flashes, and I kind of had to go back to square one and relearn some new stuff.” Abir is explaining to me how the pandemic, though unfortunate, really allowed him to sit down and learn new skills, new devices, new visions.
“Honestly, it was such a blessing. I feel like most creatives needed it [time]. Just from like being a creative. Moving on from project to project makes it so you never get attached to anything really, and you feel really hollow after completing something, and then you're expected to work on something else and just be devoid of that. I think this year it was really good for people to replenish that [creative energy] and I guess kind of break their own cycles.” It’s like pressing the refresh button, and re-centering with yourself, understanding why you loved doing this work in the first place, and reminding you that it means more than an occupation that brings in income. Sometimes we have to return to that very adolescent nature of loving something to inspire us again.
Speaking of inspire, we got into a discussion about his inspirations and what it means to him, especially with all of the work he has done so far with artists. He says, “I think that's what inspiration is from, just taking examples from other people's work and molding them into your own. Not in like a plagiaristic way, right? But just doing enough where it speaks to you and your art form and the person's music.”
As a creative, you have to always be thinking of the next project, always have to be planning, and dreaming, and hustling. It can be physically and emotionally draining but it can also be exhilarating and soul-feeding. “I actually was thinking about this the other day, ‘cuz I always stay up at night or I can't go to bed unless … like I need to know, when things are happening… I think goals are very great to follow through with but I think most people have the expectation of getting to that goal in the future, and I feel like the future would never, will never come because you're always putting it off. Whereas like you should treat it more like I'm going to get it, I'm going to get this done tomorrow or like this week or like this next month, you know? Which sounds like a future thing, but I mean down the line, I would hope to be a creative director in the sense of bringing in different moving pieces, whether it be editors, graphic designers, other people who I've worked with. I guess just experiencing that and like going through it understanding ‘Hey, like, I want you to edit this, this week” or ‘let's talk theory, which cuts should be here, and which should be there’ or ‘hey, maybe we should increase the aperture on this.’ Shaping someone's someone's music, like creating an album or cover, I would love to be in a position where I could bring in other people to help carry that workload, but also be at the center of like navigating it…be sought out by every artist in the in the music industry… I also want to get to LA and move permanently.”
Even creatives get bored. If you’re doing something day in and day out, especially when there’s a lot of repetition and a lot of moving through the motions. There has to be still a thing that makes you drawn to the work each and every time, that makes you remember why you got into this in the first place. “I don't really treat business as like, something that is boring. Kind of like I make it as fun as possible. I mean, just doing work makes me happy, gives me a sense of purpose—just being able to communicate that to different people. When I see people reach out and be like, “Yo, this is so sick, wow”, it warms my heart a little bit, like, this is really cool. I was one of those people who would DM people personally, and I still do when I see work that inspires me. I've been doing this for three years now, I should know by now if I like it or not.”
Here is our interview:
Neelu Mohaghegh [NM]: What inspired you to start your creative journey and how did you get started in the industry?
Abir Hashem [AH]: “Well in my senior year of high school (2017) I was watching a lot of Casey Neistat’s daily vlogs, and I would just boast it to my friends and put them on it. Eventually my close friends challenged me to make videos for fun by borrowing the school’s library point-and-shoot camera. At the time I would bike around Saskatoon, shoot time lapses of clouds, on-coming traffic, people walking by, or film myself walking down a set of stairs and make a cool choppy edit to the snares and drums from Casey’s free copyrighted music he uses in his videos. I started posting a 100+ episodes in this style, then came across Justin Escelona’s web series called “Daily Docs” which was him intertwining his college life with the music industry. He had a series of artists feature their music and personalities in each episode and one of them stood out to me which was Anthony Russo. I listened to his music on SoundCloud, and I was like “this dude is the shit.” Then after a few videos here and there, I noticed Anthony was put on as an opener for G-Eazy’s “Beautiful & Damned: North American Tour.” I just knew I had to get on this tour somehow. So, I messaged anybody on G-Eazy’s team whether that would be his bodyguard, his sound engineers etc. No one reached back but this guy Jamil who was Drake’s Tour Manager and is the other half of G-Eazy's management messaged me and said that I made cool videos and that they were looking for a videographer to jump on tour with Anthony. My mind was blown. I of course said yes but they quickly found out I was in high school still. After deliberating back-and-forth, I flew out to Toronto and filmed two nights at the Shrine with my iPhone 8 + DJI Gimbal. The team were wondering who this tall, skinny, brown kid was with this funny looking contraption. I would not blame them looking back at everything. But I made two edits at the end of the night and they were blown away. After that event I stayed connected with their team, and we just kept working together from there on. It was a crazy opportunity and one that I am glad I took a chance on!”
[NM]: What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
[AH]: “My favorite project I have worked on was this song called “Wayside” by jackson lee morgan. This was my second time doing a cover art and creating a Lyric Visualizer. It is because it is something I have never created before in terms of editing, coloring, and texture on a video. It was fun to let loose and dive deep behind the music.”
[NM]: Who are some of your inspirations?
[AH]: “My inspirations range from content creators to music video directors such as Casey Neistat, Jesse, Austin Ermes, Justin Escelona, Dave Meyers, Drew Kisch, Conor Brashier, Matty Kopeck, etc.”
[NM]: How have you continued to be creative during the pandemic?
[AH]: “I have just been consuming a lot of films & other people’s work lately, trying to re-engineer on how they created their bodies of work, and add it to my own projects with twists. Also taking care my physical and mental health with working out and going for walks help my mind sharpen better with discipline.”
[NM]: What song is your forever song? (The one that you could live forever with and it would never get old)
[AH]: “I honestly do not have a favorite song now because I am always listening to artist demos constantly, and there is always something that comes out every day that makes me question my music selection. But my top artist of 2018, 2019, and 2020 was…Anthony Russo haha. His catalogue is extraordinarily rich with R&B, funk, and alternative pop, and I cannot wait for him to add more to it.”
[NM]: How have you balanced work/your passion and school life?
[AH]: “It is something I am still figuring out but the best thing I have come across is time management, and meeting priorities. The wonderful thing about school is you can see ahead of time of when everything is due while with work it is very spontaneous. I try to get all my schoolwork done first, and then start finishing projects left to right. Also, an important thing I have tried to do is set time aside most days of the week for eating healthy, going to the gym & heading out for walks, and getting my sleep in. It is a fantastic way for me to destress, and help my body perform at the best of its ability. I also learned it from other people’s/my own mistakes, and I want to make sure my health is my #1 priority and that it is non-negotiable for me.”
[NM]: What is your detour?
[AH]: “I guess my “detour” would be working out, taking walks, playing FIFA 2021, or going to the park with my friend’s dogs: Louie & Bowie. My life is filled with music already, I need something that is absent from that to stay sane, and not get bored with it.”
[NM]: What would your vision board look like?
[AH]: “My vision board would be the ability to keep creating in new artforms, pioneer and be the head of something special whether that would be introducing a new art style in video or whatever media it entails (e.g., music videos, visualizers, cover art, 3D animation, travel videos, vlogs etc.). Also having my work create endless opportunities that result in having the ability to access any artist I want to work with in the future such as The Weeknd, Black Atlass, Rory Kramer, Casey Neistat, Dave Meyers, Conor Brashier etc. I want to also make sure that my health is in a suitable place, I am not stressing as much, financially free, be confident in myself to share my life with someone else, have a house, help my parents live their best lives with the sacrifices they have made, grow old with my children, not live with regrets, and bettering myself.”
[NM]: What upcoming projects do you have in the works that you can share?
[AH]: “An upcoming project that I am excited about coming out is Anthony Russo’s first LP album titled ‘BLUE.’ I have edited all the music videos and visualizers associated with the 8-track body of work, and it is something I have had to push myself creatively to bring something new to the table that I have not done, or anyone has done before possibly. Also, this project is special to me as it is my friend’s first body of work that truly reflects on his 4 years in music and is also a departure from those experiences.”
[NM]: What advice do you have for aspiring creators like yourself?
[AH]: “My advice for creatives like me would be to know when to say “no” and keep going when others would stop. As creatives we tend to get as much work as possible to get money, and creating work is taxing. We should not accept work that we are not excited on or does not help us reach our personal goals. I am only speaking from the position where I have too many things on my plate that I am personally excited to create but do not have the time to help other people’s visions come true. It pains me because, I of course want to, but I do not want to spread myself so thin that I burn out and hurt my overall health. It is important to listen to your body & intuition as they are one of the key building blocks of navigating through this space. Also keep going! This industry rewards people who are consistent, hardworking and are willing to put the time to reap the benefits. Short-term wins are important, and help you get closer to the long-term wins. Suffer now so that your future version of yourself will not have to.”
[NM]: One word or phrase to describe yourself?
[AH]: “It is weird to describe myself because I am always describing other people, but I am optimistic, is always getting back up no matter how hard it gets and figuring out things as I move. I guess in one word or more (regardless of order) would be: brave, fearless, tough, trustworthy, daring, full of faith, understanding, daredevil, well mannered, and positive!”