Courtesy of IMDb

From studying film and media studies at her local community college to now co-editing a documentary that’s made it to streaming services, fourth-year film and media studies major Sol Lopez has found herself immersed into the world of a real-life working documentary, all because of a radio station. 

I was able to talk to Lopez about the “Driven” documentary, her place here at UC Santa Barbara, what led her to this incredible opportunity and how other students interested may be able to get involved. Right from the bat, her advice: take up as many opportunities as you can. She had no idea that working at a radio station could lead her to where she is now, undoubtedly with many more doors open for her. 

“Prior to going to UCSB, I was working at a local radio station from my hometown as a video editor, and my boss at that radio station was a filmmaker … he said he was looking for an assistant editor for his upcoming documentary. He was happy to have me on board” Lopez said. 

Although this is her first working documentary, Lopez has countless experience taking film and media study courses here at UCSB and discussed how taking them while simultaneously working on “Driven” really helped her in her editing process. She told me how most courses here are theory-based storytelling and structure, not exactly production based. She was even able to study the ethics of documentary filmmaking in New Zealand, through UC Education Abroad Program. Now, with her UCSB, UCEAP and “Driven” experience combined, she has a little of everything. 

On top of learning a little of everything documentary logistics wise, Lopez also got a little of everything real-life wise. She was able to see a little bit of the set, be on location for a day and see how everything was shot, along with doing all the behind-the-scenes work. 

“From my point of view, I just get to see all the footage after it was shot and just kind of organize it and put it together. So [being on set] was a really cool perspective.”

I asked Lopez about her role as an editor and what exactly she was able to do with “Driven”. Working closely with the director, who has the final say in most cases, Lopez was able to brainstorm ideas and express her creative input — what she thinks would look cool in the editing process. After much collaboration and idea bouncing, the final shot would be created. 

“I just think of it as a big puzzle, to be honest. You just kind of take all the pieces of footage, all of the music and all of the images and interviews and all that and just put it together to create a linear story. And I think that’s really fun and really rewarding.”

But as fun and rewarding as it was, Lopez was also overwhelmed at some points, just like every other student. Starting your first year at UCSB is a big job on its own, so combined with “Driven”, Lopez needed to quickly learn how to manage her time and juggle class deadlines as well as documentary deadlines. She was able to have a co-editor in the process, another student from Chapman University who worked at the same radio station, so she was never completely alone in her work. When it all came down to the end, Lopez told me the small feelings of being overwhelmed were drowned out by the self-satisfaction and accomplishment of working on the documentary. She feels very lucky. 

And now what “Driven” is really about. It follows the story of Tony Pearson, 66-year old American bodybuilding champion, and his life story that brought him to where he is now. Directed by Andrew Menjivar, “Driven” not only documents Pearson’s life as a bodybuilder, but also his adolescent years — his abusive childhood, move to Los Angeles with $75 to his name, and being noticed by Arnold Schwartzenegger — all that led him to come out of retirement at 63 to compete in Las Vegas one last time. And Lopez got to experience every behind-the-scenes editing moment of this incredible story. 

What started in her head as a small video project is landing on streaming platforms (Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu) on Oct. 6.

This appeared in the October 5th Daily Nexus printed edition.