4 the Arts: Joe Sabia

Joe Sabia is a Milford native who is doing great work in arts and technology. He talked about his days at Foran High all the way to his current work with YouTube.


How did you first get involved in combining the arts and technology to create innovative work?

The first onset of getting involved in video was at Foran High, where me and my friends had a Bridgeport Public Access TV Show called "Tuesday Night Riot", creating ridiculous and awesome sketch comedy. 

Then I went off to Boston College with aspirations of law school or politics. But sometime around sophomore year I picked up my dad's old camcorder he had given me, learned how to edit, and created a web show spoof of a FOX television show. It received a good amount of national press, enough to get me a job at HBO. So long, law school.

Since then, everyday has been an experiment in creating video projects that express different perspectives, a blending of ideas, or merging of culture. I'm a firm believer what's in culture is meant to be shared, so long as the new material created is a commentary that compels people to see something differently. Artistically, this is the most amazing time for anyone to be a creator and to take part in infinite conversations for infinite audiences. 

What is your latest project? 

I moved to NYC about 18 months ago, and during this short time I've had the pleasure of meeting talented NYC musicians, mostly graduates from conservatories like Juilliard.

YouTube NextLab approached me to form a channel as part of a partner program, and knew there was an opportunity to work with these musicians to create compelling music videos. So together, we formed a music collective known as Collective Cadenza or "cdza". 

Since then, every other week we release a new crazy conceptual music video that involves some aspect of media or culture, while showcasing the abilities of 20 something musicians. It's been a real trip so far. 

What advice do you wish you'd received when you first got started? 

It's funny. The hot thing today is "fail as much as you can". The idea of failing means that one should never regret not getting the right advice in an earlier time. And it's true. Since college, every shortcoming along the way - failure, or mistake - has been a lesson I couldn't learn in a classroom. I once paid for the services of a fraudulent programmer. Made bad business partner decisions. And the mistake of all mistakes, I even took a job for a year at MySpace.

But I tell kids out of college two things:

1) If you love what you do, you'll become obsessed. If you become obsessed, you'll get good at it. If you get good at it, you have no choice but to make it your career.

2) You can't hunt for #1. It needs to find you. When it does, you'll know so be patient.

That's the only advice that's really needed I think. The rest people should just figure out on their own.

For many young people growing up in Milford, the idea of leaving the State, let alone Milford, can seem daunting. What advice do you have for those who want to see the world as you have?

I had the happiest childhood I could ask for being raised in Milford. Oyster Festivals, baseball games, even working at Paul's Hamburgers as my first job. But more importantly, all kids should realize it affords the privilege to dream big.

But a dream is only as good as the will to chase it. Like so many other Milfordites, it was time to move on. I leapt into a bigger pond in college, a lake in LA, and an ocean here in NYC. Every decision to move towards bigger waters has always been: "For me to do what I want to do, and to be around people like me who are doing it also, I need to start swimming upstream". 

And why not? It's a big world that deserves to be explored. The view of Charles Island from Silver Sands beach glimmering on a gorgeous summer day is beautiful, but horizons change in life. Milford will always be considered home, but energy pulsates elsewhere. The real question is, just how much do you want to be around new energy? 

I saw on your bio that you've given TED Talks. What have they been on?

I gave a TED talk in 2011 on the topic of storytelling, celebrating how far we've come over time in our ingenuity using technology to tell stories. Since then, I mainly speak on creativity and hope to get people excited about the many, many, many, many amazing, brilliant creators that are now able to show themselves to the world with open networks like YouTube.

You live in New York City now, but have you heard of any up and coming Milford artists or innovators that people should keep an eye out for?

It's been a while since I've been out of the ol' Milford scene so not sure what younger or older folks are doing. But in my age slot, Matt Pollock, who's been a friend of mine forever, is killing it as a director for College Humor. Jorge Gonzalez, Paul Gulyas, and Pat Beck - who have been friends with me forever also - are out in LA in production and screenwriting. And my neighbor growing up, local superstar Christy Romano, is always involved in something exciting with film or TV.

In the words of Sweeney Todd, "These are my friends. See how they glisten". So true.


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