It was like love at first sight.
At 6 feet 2 inches tall, Toby Romero stood out to Emilio Miguel Torres even among the restless crowd whose jumping threatened to fracture the floorboards during “Mo Bamba.” After that blurry night at the Sheck Wes concert, Romero would continue to catch Torres’ eye in his Tisch School of the Arts classes. So when Romero shot him a text with an idea for collaboration, it seemed like fate.
Both West Coast natives, the Tisch first-years arrived at NYU eager to pursue their passion for film. After the craziness of transitioning into college subsided and routine took hold around mid-October, they both began to crave a cinematic outlet but needed an idea — or a person — to act as a catalyst.
“[In] freshman year of film school, it’s very great, but the assignments you’re doing in class are very limited,” Ultrawave co-founder and Creative Director Torres said. “NYU is so focused on the fundamentals of film. For someone who constantly feels this need to create, I was feeling this void of wanting something where I can push myself to make something good.”
From this artistic appetite, Ultrawave was born.
“We were thinking, ‘this needs to be a collective that focuses on trends and brands,’” co-founder and CEO Romero said. “There are circuits of new things — what’s in, what’s not — so it’s about following the wave, and that’s how Ultrawave came about.”
Romero and Torres define Utrawave as a media collective covering music, fashion and street culture that utilizes YouTube as its main platform. However, Ultrawave isn’t your typical clickbait and like-comment-subscribe channel.
“We’re not clout chasers,” Torres said. “It’s not about the money or the fame. I’m from Seattle, and I grew up in Alaska. My knowledge about hip-hop, basketball, everything [mainly] came from YouTube videos. That’s why we want to make fun videos, videos that capture this youth culture, this essence, so people can feel inspired by that.”
The difficulty in labeling and defining Ultrawave also stems from the different creative minds that make up the team behind the collective. Romero and Torres aren’t the only ones riding the wave — they have recruited six Tisch first-years who serve as content creators and specialize in different media.
“All of us are creatively driven,” Romero said. “We’re all in some sort of art form, but not all of us are in film. Not everyone is creating the same thing because we all come from different cultures and backgrounds. That’s what we try and use Ultrawave for — to present these creators in a new light [while] bringing them all together.”
Tisch first-year Sebastian Duran was Ultrawave’s first recruit. He said he enjoys working under the creative direction of the duo.
“They never try to force anything [like videos] out,” Duran said. “It’s actually really nurturing for creativity.”
Duran has a segment on Ultrawave called “Street Rat” that documents New York City anomalies he finds intriguing. Last week, he covered Sucklord, a pop artist who manufactures action figures and toys through his company, Suckadelic.
Like Sucklord, the main subjects of Ultrawave’s videos tend to be smaller local artists, such as designer Dela Wess, who created a clothing line called Guitar Boy Archive, and Chief Drip, who starred in an Ultrawave-produced music video for his new song “Time.” This convergence of fashion, music and niche street art is made possible by the creative freedom Romero and Torres give their content creators, allowing them to pursue subjects that interest them personally. As up-and-comers themselves, Romero and Torres want to give exposure to these growing artists while cultivating their own craft.
What they want out of Ultrawave, however, is much more than documentary-heavy narratives.
Romero and Torres are looking forward to creating video essays and experimental films, and they also hope to eventually expand Ultrawave’s merchandise and produce events like parties and concerts.
Meanwhile, their next project starts close to home at NYU.
“We’ve been working on this series called ‘Dorm Invasion,’” Torres said. “If you look online, especially for NYU dorm tours, no shade but they suck. We wanted to make a dorm tour that was doper, more our style and very authentic.”
Ultrawave has been influenced by the many inspirations of the two co-founders. From the music of Kanye West and Oliver Tree to the films of Spike Lee and Jonah Hill, Romero and Torres intend for Ultrawave to synthesize many trends in youth culture.
While Romero and Torres idolize big shots, they themselves inspire other students within the NYU community.
Tisch first-year Taylor Williams knew Romero and Torres separately before they joined forces and has been a fan of Ultrawave since the beginning.
“The first thing that stood out to me with the 30-second promo was the cinematography because it’s all one shot and really well-composed,” Williams said. “They’re both really skilled individuals, so when they work together as a team, they do some really cool stuff.”
Romero and Torres’ skill got them into Tisch’s selective Film and Television program, but it is their ceaseless drive and love for film that aid them most in creating for Ultrawave. Torres points out that for every artist, there is an audience waiting to appreciate his work.
“I always think if there is something that someone is passionate about, no matter what it is, there’s a reason you’re passionate about it,” Torres said. “I guarantee you that there’s at least one other person on Earth who is also passionate about it. So just make videos or create art that makes you happy, and there will be someone who finds value in what you created.”
But Romero is also aware of how competitive the film industry is, even though it doesn’t scare him.
“There might be a million other people doing the same thing you’re doing, especially in the film industry,” Romero said. “That’s such a hard business — no one ever makes it. But you can’t let that discourage you. If you’re passionate about something, go out, go chase it, go keep working on it. Eventually, if you try hard and work hard enough, something will happen.”
While some may see their outlook as young naivete, it is undeniable that among the sea of artists in the city, Romero and Torres are making their own waves.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Mar. 4, 2019, print edition. Email Anna de la Rosa at [email protected]