Urban Media Lab Covers Utah's Lesser-Seen Side | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Urban Media Lab Covers Utah's Lesser-Seen Side

Taking it to the Streets: Film group features community culture.


An honest fact about Utah media is that the more “urban” aspects of the entertainment scene get very little coverage. Even those who make the effort have a hard time staying on top of everything, which leaves a lot of dedicated performers getting little recognition. But earlier this spring, a small production company named Urban Media Lab decided to change that by primarily focusing all its attention on those very people—and did it in style by filming it all for a Web series.

A California native by way of Tennessee, founder Anthony Ambriz started filming at home as a family activity, making movies with his parents and siblings and eventually dabbling with the medium in high school. Upon hitting college, he originally studied advertising and communications, but left the field to pursue film at BYU. He started going to parties and events, filming entire evenings for others to watch.

“Around that time I met a group of DJs known as EDP, and I started filming their events, and got the idea to start doing interviews,” says Ambriz about his first experiences. “I also was heavily involved in the Bboy scene, and I noticed I was the only person covering these events. So I decided to come up with projects to highlight them.”

Already equipped with a Canon XL2, Ambriz purchased more equipment, studied trends, bought domain names and established what would become Urban Media Lab. Bringing Mike West (who now works for Discovery Channel), Julio Gomez, Ben Emmett and Kyle Treu on board, the rotating group made its way around the Wasatch Front filming concerts, skate competitions, Bboy performances, parties and more—all while snagging their subjects for full-fledged interviews about who they were and what they were doing, to be loaded later onto YouTube for the masses to watch.

As Ambriz recalls, “the first few episodes were easy. The people I interviewed were mostly my friends, all of [whom] are very talented and deserve the exposure. I want people who are real about what they do and love it, people who continue working on their talents, even if they don’t get paid. They have to be people the community respects and who respect the community.”

When plans shifted to introduce an “official” season of episodes, the lab’s priorities changed. They began using prior experiences to turn filming an episode into a science. Ambriz checks out everyone he plans to interview to make sure they’re “legit” before moving forward. Interviews include the basic who-what-when-where-why, origin stories, long-term plans and shout-outs, followed by filming a couple of performances or demos for footage. Eventually, it’s all edited with fresh transitional graphics built for every episode, and the occasional blooper thrown in to show viewers that those interviewed are people, too. This past season, he’s interviewed Muscle Hawk, Higher Ground Learning, The Crate Dwellers, Uprok Records and Danny Holmoe of Distrikt Five, just to name a few.

The show has garnered its share of fans—and critics—in its short existence. The urban community has definitely taken it to heart and not only helped it gain exposure and popularity but also has become an influence as to what to cover down the road. Others complain about its length or content, venting that it’s too long for YouTube or that Utah and hip-hop “don’t mix.”

Ambriz takes it all in stride with his own view on the audience as a whole: “A lot of the public doesn’t know about it. … Mostly people who are involved in urban culture know about it, but once people start to watch it they get hooked. The bad usually comes from people who don’t understand the concept. Overall, I feel it’s been positive.”

The popularity and demand have pushed UML to start a second season, kicking off with Lindsey Stirling of America’s Got Talent showing off her mad violin skills by playing a classical piece she composed mixed with a Black Eyed Peas track. Other segments planned for this season include Mig 187 from Bboy group Kucklehead Zoo, clothing from Positive SLC and Ensoul, EDP, BMX riders and parkour/freerunners. Meanwhile, on the side, Ambriz will continue with his studies at BYU’s School of Technology to become a multimedia teacher, eventually graduating with a teaching license and multimedia endorsement along with minors in communications, film and visual arts.

“You can find urban culture everywhere and anywhere in the world—yes, even in Happy Valley or Mormondom,” Ambriz says. “I want people to be inspired by the people that live in their community who are passionate about what they do to uplift urban culture. It’s a rich culture that is often exploited for money, but what producers don’t realize is that it’s a culture that will never die and will evolve on its own.”