One Day in Los Angeles

Maya Santos: Profile Spotlight

Hi Everyone! 

Rory Mitchell here, local producer for "One Day in L.A."  

I'm very excited to post our first Profile Spotlight on an extremely talented documentarian, Maya Santos, creative director of "Form Follows Function." 

Maya will be filming interviews with CicLAVia participants at our booth at the Urban Lights Installation this Sunday at CicLAVia, so come on by and say "Hi!" to her and the rest of your erstwhile "One Day in L.A." crew, grab some postcards to pass out and help spread the word about "One Day in L.A!" 



1. Who are you and what is your profession?

My name is Maya Santos, Creative Director of Form follows Function, a small collaborative studio creating short non-fiction media on place-based stories. I'm also a freelance Director/Editor and Cinematographer.

2. Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
I was born and raised in the South End of Seattle, Washington. Thankful to come from a supportive and generally open-minded family. Though they put up with a lot of "my growing up," I think they really believed in me as an artist and wanted to support that. It also helped that my dad is a drummer, brother was a DJ, and mom just loved music, the Beatles especially.

I drew constantly as a child. My dad taught me how to use a manual 35mm camera pretty early on which I think planted a seed in me. Since the sixth grade I knew I wanted to be an architect from enjoying drawing a house and its spaces. I actually pursued a B.Arch and B.S. in Architectural Studies in 1999 and worked in the field in Seattle and New York for a few years. Having never never found the right studio to engage my passion for design and serving people of marginalized communities, I veered toward a medium that was able to intersect all of this to me, which was media.

3. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
It was in college where I found my love for video and documenting life around me. I had a Hi-8 video camera and had it on constantly. I was also part of an artist collective called "isangmahal" which held residency at the Northwest Asian American Theater.  Having this space allowed me to explore in multi-media installations and my very first steps in creating a documentary. An inspiring filmmaker/video artist lent me his analog 3/4" system, and on it I cut my first documentary on Filipino turntablists in 2000 with isangmahal, which screened at the Northwest Asian American Film Festival in 2001. Years later, I moved to the Bay Area and learned how to edit digitally. I created my first experimental short which screened in a few film festivals in the Philippines and California in 2006. This was a major part of my inspiration to becoming a filmmaker, but it wasn't until I got a job at a documentary studio in L.A. in 2008 where I learned the real ropes that led me to believe I really could do this, especially when it came to making documentaries around architecture and place. It was through this job that my purpose as an artist really gelled for me and inspired FORM follows FUNCTION to take shape in 2011.

4. Who or what do you most admire?
I am inspired a lot by the people and places we encounter during productions at FORM follows FUNCTION. I'm always amazed at where we find ourselves and who we are learning from. I think I am most inspired by just ordinary people contributing and supporting the authenticity and sustainability of their environment for the betterment of the greater good. These are the people and places that inspire me to do what I do.

5. What do you love about Los Angeles?
What I love about Los Angeles is that to me it's like the closest thing to living in another country. I love that I can always be surprised at where I find myself and who I can connect to. Here, it's like when you think you know this place, there always seems to be a something around the corner, whether it be a building, a neighborhood, or a pocket I have never experienced. There's always something new somewhere and it's not obvious. I can truly say I feel like I am culturally fed here on many levels, especially as far as art and music I can still discover. That's a big deal. I also love architecture history and love how L.A. is laced with various eras of time within blocks of one another or even in the same facade, co-existing with various functions shaped by its inhabitants and their changing needs. These relationships between people and place truly fascinate me, and the vast landscape of L.A. seems to be the perfect canvas for these dynamics to play out most eloquently. It's always fulfilling to see what can be captured on camera. More often than not, I am able to see something beautiful and learn something true and with plenty substance. 

6. What do you fear most for Los Angeles?
I've never experienced a full-on earthquake or natural disaster for that matter (knock on wood), and like many others, fear when this happens that our city is ill-prepared to help people who need it most and support the re-building of communities that often fall to the wayside during these times. Luckily, my increasing trust in humanity overrides this fear and my faith in neighborly love and the growing collective consciousness around sustainability will keep us all safe when that comes around.

7. What do you hope for Los Angeles in the next 20 years?
My hope for Los Angeles in the next 20 years is to really hone in on its potential for public mass transportation with more biking lanes, open public green spaces with edible gardens, solar power on every rooftop, and socially responsible architecture that addresses historic restoration, environmental sustainability, and affordable housing. This vast city has so much potential for inter-connectivity on so many levels and it's great to know that these shifts are already happening. Hopefully, it will all come together for this next generation to take it to the next level.

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