Now, more than ever, viewers may be looking for a little bit of hope in the content they consume. Or perhaps they want to watch something that offers a break from the chaos with a good laugh. We’re featuring a filmmaker who has put out these types of projects throughout the trying times of 2020. Strø Galang To goes by @DirectedbyStrø online and is especially known for his projects within the digital space, working behind the camera to create content with social media stars. Keep reading to hear more about the person known as “the influencer of influencers” and how he’s using that role to help reach large audiences with messages of positivity and purpose.
Before we dive into what you’re doing now, I’d love to hear more about what led you to this place in your career. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a filmmaker?
It was a little unorthodox, because I was actually planning to become a teacher. I’d had a lot of great mentors that were teachers and that really shaped who I am as a person. It made me want to do the same thing so that I could also directly influence children’s lives at a very personal level. I also loved filmmaking, which was just a hobby at the time, and I was super into technology. I begged my dad to get me a camera in high school and then started shooting films with friends, which led to commercial work. I grew up in a small town so word spread that I was good, and I started making money off of it. I thought it was really cool that I could create stories and people would pay me for it. This went on through college while I was working toward a degree in teaching. I got to the point where I had two months left to get my diploma, and I dropped out. I was so immersed in the world of filmmaking at that point and just knew it was a better path for me. I had been creating for a lot of hip-hop artists with important messages to tell so I saw the connection that making projects with purpose would still let me teach and help people, just in a different way.
I love that and can definitely see it in your projects. A lot of them could be classified as inspirational, such as your #StruggleStories series. Would you say that’s an intentional choice or something that just naturally comes out in your work?
It’s definitely a combination. Since helping people has always been a genuine passion for me, it was great to just naturally connect with creators putting out content that makes people laugh. I mean, there are a lot of kids who aren’t happy at home, but they can watch these comedy videos, and it may help lighten things for them. And as I got to know these social media influencers, I started encouraging them to create content that can really inspire and motivate the younger generation, as well as make them laugh. We’d spend a lot of personal time together and have some deep talks. I would hear their stories and couldn’t believe they hadn’t shared them before. So that’s what led to #StruggleStories, which started when Adam Waheed and I drove by a bus stop. He told me it was the one he used to get to by 5:30 a.m. every morning so that he could bus for an hour and a half to go be someone’s personal assistant, and then he’d catch the last bus back at midnight to get home. Now Adam’s like this full-blown star, so it’s great to get to tell his story. The series helps humanize social media stars, which is great because viewers can then relate to them as real people, which is different from what you can do within the more traditional medium of film or TV.
I like that perspective. When watching a show or movie, viewers will only get to know the character. But creative videos on social media that show an influencer playing a role can be found right next to content showing their real life. So you’re saying the medium provides a point of connection for viewers?
Yeah, people can relate to the different challenges they’ve faced because everyone goes through struggles. A lot of kids will watch these influencers on social media and think, “I want to be like them — they have the perfect life.” But the medium is perfect to showcase that these social media stars have overcome a lot of things to get to where they are today. Those types of stories tell young viewers that they’re not alone in going through hard times and remind them to work hard, follow their passions, and not give up.
Amongst many inspirational videos that the filmmaker creates is a series labeled with #VoicemailDiaries. Strø shared during the interview that the concept for it came from needing to process the pain he was feeling from a breakup. “I always tell people that if they’re going through a really tough time, they should do something where they can let their emotions into a piece of art, whether it’s a painting or a video like I did,” Strø shared. He recently co-founded a company that will provide on-camera artists with assistance in that area. Strø and his business partner Jesse Dueck started Room 1041 Studios to help creators make content, all the way from brainstorming to shooting to editing the final product. Other new projects for the filmmaker include an upcoming feature film, which will be his first and one he’ll be working on with industry heavy-hitters like producer Cary Granat. “I want to be able to eventually bridge the gap between social media and traditional film,” Strø noted as he wrapped the interview. We’re looking forward to the projects that will come from it and to the hope they’ll inspire.
This interview has been edited and condensed.