Capturing Life Through The Lens of Faizal Westcott

Faizal Westcott is a multi genre artist, photographer, and YouTuber.

Faizal Westcott multi-genre artist

Faizal Westcott is an Indonesian-American multi-genre artist, photographer, and YouTuber based in New York City. With a passion for street photography, he documents everyday city experiences and brings his growing YouTube audience along for each adventure.

Hear more from Faizal on what keeps him creating, when to ignore your inner perfectionist, and how his music selection process inspires his work.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Faizal Westcott: Like a lot of other filmmakers, I got into filmmaking through photography. It’s my first passion and I still view myself as a photographer first and foremost. But it was photography that built the foundation for my passion for storytelling, and I think that just naturally evolved into a love for filmmaking as well. 

However, I would say my way of learning filmmaking has been a pretty untraditional one. I really only started to learn filmmaking after I started a YouTube channel about photography (ironically). It was almost out of necessity that I had to learn video, and I think I realized that if I improved my filmmaking I could possibly stick out more in a sea of videos that were being published. I learned many aspects of filmmaking essentially on the fly, as I made a video a week and published it online, none of it was really good but it was something, and I was learning the entire time despite it all. 

Over the years I’ve learned (and still am) so much about filmmaking and what makes a compelling video to watch. I think there’s a bit of stigma around YouTube as a platform, that “good” filmmaking can’t exist on here, and that only less polished, fast-paced, low attention span viewing, and forced personalities can be successful, but it’s far from the case. A lot of people say that I’m a “breath of fresh air” on the platform because I’m not that overly energetic personality. When I heard that for the first time, a light bulb sort of went off in my head. I was like, “So you’re telling me all I have to do is just be myself?” 

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

I would certainly say that the community of people who come to watch my videos is what motivates me the most. I’m incredibly grateful to have the support that I do and I feel like I owe it to my viewers to create videos that people can find some value in. Hearing people tell me that my videos have helped them get back into photography or made them get their first camera is some of the most motivating, and fulfilling things about what I do. Having a love for photography and filmmaking is a gift, and if I can somehow, in some small way, help guide people to this art form, I feel like I’m doing something of value and purpose. That keeps me going.

What makes a story visually appealing? 

What is “visually appealing” is subjective, but in my videos, I’ve really come to adopt the “handheld look” to a lot of my filmmaking. I shoot mostly on the street and to effectively translate the feeling of being there in the chaos, handheld footage is what works best in my opinion.

Most of my photography can be considered “street photography” and when I do video in the same way, I try to bring elements of what I know from taking photos on the street to video. Unlike my street photography, though, I can’t just be in and out of a moment in the blink of an eye, I need to stay there longer and be more patient to actually get the video shot. Letting scenes I’m filming on the street just naturally unfold is one of the really fun things about doing video on the street. Most of what I do is not technically directed or orchestrated, it’s just documentation of what I’m observing, so I learned rather quickly that letting moments and scenes I’m filming just breathe and play out on their own was key to getting great shots. 

What role does music play in your storytelling?

Music plays a tremendous role in storytelling. A lot of my videos wouldn’t evoke the same feelings and emotions if they didn’t have the right kind of music to complement them. I often feel like music can be the most powerful thing when making a video because it essentially directs the viewer to what they should possibly feel as they watch. 

There have been videos I’ve made where music was the first element I looked for. I’d find a song on Musicbed and edit the footage I got from the street that day to it. In a way, the flow of the song, and its tempo set the structure for how I would edit the video. 

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story? 

In photography, photographs that make the viewer ask questions make for compelling stories, in my opinion. I think the same can be said for video. Questions get the viewer more involved because they want to figure out what is going on, or what is about to happen. When you have that, you get people to personally invest in the work and to continue watching. When I make street films, I find people to be the most interesting and compelling part of the video because of the questions that they create. We might relate to the mundane and daily things they do on the street, but they are strangers to you and me. There is so much unknown there.

How important is music in your work?

Music plays a big role in the videos I make. I often get a lot of comments from people about the music selections in my videos. On YouTube, especially around photography videos, I don’t think there’s a lot of emphasis from creators on these aspects of filmmaking. It’s not just about nice-looking footage and broll. Music, in my opinion, is just as important to all of it. It can have so much weight to the feeling of a video and that’s why I never try to overlook it in anything I create. 

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators who are just starting their careers?

One of the hardest things I had to overcome as a creator on YouTube was simply just starting. I actually wanted to make my own channel for a couple of years before I did, and I always felt like my perfectionist side held me back from starting sooner. I wanted my first video to be good to break into what felt like an already oversaturated platform of content. How was I going to stand out with all of these other big-name creators? I felt I needed to make my first video to be amazing to do that. I was wrong, and I’m glad my first video wasn’t amazing at all. That mindset held me back for a long time, until I just did it. 

I feel like a lot of people have a fantasy of having their own successful YouTube channel, but what holds them back is actually just taking the leap and doing it. I can confidently tell you that there is room for you at the table if you want it. The reality is that everyone’s perspective and art is unique in some way and that in itself is worth sharing. 

How do you find the balance between pushing boundaries creatively and delivering what your client wants or audience wants to see?

One of the biggest challenges of being a creator on YouTube is finding your way around the algorithm side of it. A lot of people who have YouTube channels would agree that there’s almost a game to be played in terms of pleasing the algorithm to maximize your views and engagement. That is a slippery slope for any artist to get involved with in my opinion and I speak from personal experience. Staying true to your own creative wants as an artist but delivering for the platform and your viewers, is a constant tug of war, something I’m still trying to navigate myself.

I see a lot of creators start channels but don’t continue because they didn’t see the “results” they hoped for. YouTube is such a tricky platform because it really pushes the value of views on its creators unlike any other platform I’ve been on, but it’s a mental game to not let it affect you. 

What I’ve learned is that you almost need to “trick” the algorithm. It sounds funny, but what I mean by that is making videos that, on the outside (thumbnails/video titles), might seem to please search engines, but on the inside (when you actually watch the video) is something that I wanted to create for myself. 

For example, a short film I want to make about a day of photography would have a camera model’s name in the title of the video and the thumbnail. Small things like this can actually have a tremendous impact on how many people click to view a video. You could look at this side of YouTube as the self-marketing side, which like every other artist I know, we all struggle to do. 

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

Apart from navigating algorithms, something I’ve had to learn the hard way is that my motivation and inspiration to create come in waves. There are many periods when I don’t feel like creating anything at all, and while it’s tough, I try to just remind myself that it’s a natural part of the process and to embrace the time of not creating anything. I think all of us can feel like we need to be constantly creating and sharing all the time, especially online and as someone in my line of work as a YouTube creator. Doing that is an easy path to burnout, but sometimes just doing the obvious thing of not creating when I do feel unmotivated is most beneficial for me. 

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

If I were to choose my favorite kinds of videos to make they would have to be my street films. These are the videos I make where I’m just documenting the street in motion. I have a few that I’ve made from different cities I’ve traveled to. And I love rewatching them because I get to relive my experience traveling to these places. I’ll see these moments and they spark memories in my mind like I’m looking back into a travel journal. Out of all the videos I make on YouTube these are by far the most meaningful to me and therefore are my favorite.

Faizal Westcott adjusts GoPro on chest

How do you search for music on Musicbed? What are some tips that you’d give other filmmakers to search on Musicbed?

I usually have a sense of what sound I want for a video, so I will always use the filter options Musicbed has to offer. Most of the songs in my videos are instrumentals, so I will choose that filter first. I’ll then pick my genre, and select the mood. Mood is probably my favorite filter category because, as I mentioned before, music is so important to what it can make us feel. 

One feature I love about Musicbed is I can see a glance of a song just by the waveform pattern. It’s something you should never overlook when searching for music because it gives you a quick synopsis of a song before you even listen to it. If you’ve already pre-selected your genre, and mood, using those waveforms can make your workflow a lot more efficient and speed up the time it takes you to find that perfect song. 

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

I use Musicbed simply because of the quality of music they have to offer. It’s second to none. I’ve used many different music licensing platforms in the past for my YouTube channel, but I always end up coming back to Musicbed for my song selections because the selection of great music is endless. I’ve been introduced to some incredible artists just from my time going through Musicbed’s collection and I continue to use the music, old and new, from these artists. With the search features and project organization Musicbed has to offer I’m able to easily find the right song to match the feelings I want my video to have. It’s saved me so much time in the process and that’s invaluable to me. 

Listen to the instrumentals that inspire Faizal in this curated playlist and experience firsthand how Musicbed can help you create your most inspired work. Start your free 14-day trial today.