Creative Connection

How to succeed as a creative in Los Angeles

My Adobe MAX 2015 journey widened my perspective and way of thinking. You just have to do the things you dream of and take the risks that you are afraid of. Okay, so you have to have skills to begin with, but those are things you can learn – if you really want to. The world is full of possibilities and the tools that allow you to find inspiration and express yourself are at your fingertips.

Guest blogger Monica Javanainen visited Finnish creatives living in Los Angeles to understand what you need to succeed in a metropolitan area with a population larger than that of Sweden and Denmark combined. She returned with five pieces of advice for all creatives considering moving to The City of Angels.


Los Angeles has always fascinated me. I’ve seen it as a mecca for creative talent and a place for people that dream big and make those impossible dreams come true. When I was a kid, my favourite clothing was a red fleece with the text “Santa Monica” – naturally. Lita Ford was the reason I bought an electric guitar and took the path within the music business, which allowed me to be creative in so many ways. I designed posters, stickers, t-shirts and later, websites. Los Angeles inspired me. The people there excited me. No wonder I found myself attending the creativity conference, Adobe MAX, held in L.A..


Since I got the chance to attend MAX again this year, I wanted to take all that I could from my journey. I knew I would meet lots of creative people, be inspired by the speakers and learn from the sessions. However, this time, I also wanted to meet people who work within the creative business and had chosen to live in L.A.. I was eager to hear their stories.

Apparently, there is a rather big community of Nordic creatives working in Los Angeles – in total they say there are 500,000 of them. This gives you an idea of the competition as well. However, many Nordic talents and digital communication agencies in L.A., like for instance North Kingdom from Sweden, have gained the reputation of being the best in the world.

The creative superstars I met all had the same advice for succeeding in the creative business: Have a marketable skill and be the best at it, work hard, don’t underestimate the power of networking, and always be exceptional.

Santi Fox: Photographer, designer and videographer



I met the Finnish designer Santi Fox at his office, which had the most spectacular views over Hollywood hills. After chatting with him for a while I realised it was no surprise he was living his dream and enjoying every moment. His goodhearted attitude mixed with ambition and enthusiasm is guaranteed to take him to further heights, new challenges and opportunities.

Santi moved to Los Angeles when he was only 23 years old. While he was settling in, he started filming for nightclub events and for a DJ duo called NERVO. They took him to events like ULTRA Music Festival in Miami, Coachella and EDC Las Vegas. Before he found his own flat, he stayed with the Finnish music and film producer Jaakko Manninen, who became like a brother and mentor to him.

He currently works as a digital media producer at Creative Recreation, a company which designs footwear inspired by the spirit of street art. Santi has worked on advertising campaigns for the company and one of their coolest projects has been the video campaign for the 2015 spring collection and the upcoming video campaign for 2016.


Despite his career at Creative Recreation, he has also been lucky to work as a photo and videographer for artists like Alicia Keys, Nervo and the Finnish artists Elastinen and JVG.

After meeting Santi, I must say he’s truly one of the most inspiring creatives I’ve ever met and I was lucky to bump into him at Adobe MAX as well!

“If there is something you don’t know how to do, you’ve just got to learn it.” ~ Santi


Jaakko Manninen & Hannu Aukia: Video and music production superstars


In the heart of Hollywood, there is a production studio built in an old house from the 1920s. Not only did Buster Keaton live in the house, but it also has the coolest office space ever created – it radiates such creativity that I almost left a job application.

When I arrived, the guys were busy working on a pitch in the garden after shooting a video with Kylie Minogue and I had the chance to look around the backyard. Guess what I found? A sauna, which is one of the best places to find your creative spark!

Jaakko Manninen moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and currently lives in Hollywood with his wife and son. He is a person you can definitely describe as multi-talented. He has directed, produced and edited an amazing amount of albums, music videos and commercials. He is the man behind Beats and Styles and the band Jutty Ranx, which started in 2012 and now has a multiplatinum single which has been a worldwide success.


Hannu Aukia has lived all around the world, from Michigan to Damascus and Bangkok to Berlin, but moved to Los Angeles in 2014. He has evolved into a true connoisseur of the most breathtaking shoot locations worldwide. He’s an award-winning director and producer and currently works mainly within music video, but also commercials and documentaries.

Both Hannu and Jaakko emphasise the importance of networking and helping others around you, but they also point out that you really need to have an entrepreneurial attitude and be willing to work very hard to make it in the music and film industry.


Alex Noyer: Executive Producer of You Know Films and the man behind the 808 documentary


I was particularly excited when I stepped out of a black Uber on Santa Monica beach. I was going to meet Alex Noyer, the producer of the 808 documentary.

We had a chat about the Adobe MAX keynotes and I realised we had a couple of common friends back in Finland, so the atmosphere was relaxed and I found it amazing to hear about his journey of making the movie.

Before moving to Los Angeles, Alex ran the creative agency You Know and ActiveArk (nowadays Mirum) in London, creating digital marketing content for companies like L’Oreal, Durex and Jägermeister.

It was over lunch with music producer Arthur Baker that Alex came up with the idea of a documentary around the legendary drum machine 808 – and that lunch actually led to the documentary’s creation. A bunch of musical stars like Phil Collins, Pharrell Williams, New Order and The Beastie Boys were all very happy to get involved and contribute to the chronicling of the 808’s origins. Later, Atlantic Records also joined as a partner.


I asked for Alex’s opinion about how to succeed in the creative industry and his advice was simple: You need to define yourself and be specific and unique in what you do, but also take risks and believe in your inner feeling.

Great advice from the “Viking guys”

My Adobe MAX 2015 journey widened my perspective and way of thinking. You just have to do the things you dream of and take the risks that you are afraid of. Okay, so you have to have skills to begin with, but those are things you can learn – if you really want to. The world is full of possibilities and the tools that allow you to find inspiration and express yourself are at your fingertips.

Just dream on! Here are my 5 tips for aspiring creatives planning a future in Los Angeles:

Polish your portfolio!

  • You want to give a good impression, so make sure everything you present is top notch and professionally put together. Okay is not good enough – the competition is harder than you can ever imagine, which means that you need a fabulous showcase and a compelling way to promote it, both online and offline.

Stay clean!

  • Make absolutely sure that there are no skeletons in your closet when it comes to managing the business side of your business. Tax evasion or other foul play might prevent you from securing a work permit.


  • Get to know people, network, and join in. Find relevant online communities already before moving: ask the right questions and get the right advice. Here are two examples: Scandinavian Creatives in Los Angeles and Finnish Network in Los Angeles.

Be generous!

  • Success is all about connections, so don’t hesitate to introduce people to each other if you feel they might be useful for each other. One day it will be you meeting the person who changes your career and your life, and you’ll be grateful for the people who were kind enough to do the matchmaking. Also, think about the good karma you’ll receive!

Work hard!

  • Nobody said it would be easy. It won’t. But if you know you have the talent and the will, you will find a way.
Audiovisual, Creative Business, Inspiration

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  • By Jessica - 10:20 PM on September 25, 2016   Reply

    Awesome read. It was very inspirational. I just moved to LA from the east coast and I’m excited about finding my niche here.

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