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The "Why" Behind Our Reel

We entered 2018 filled with the same hopes and dreams, but obstacles early on in the year made us question our “Why” - why do we do what we do? Somewhere in between meeting countless deadlines and constant revisions, we caught ourselves losing track of what we stood for. It then became a priority for us to bring that back.

At our core, we believe in ‘discovering a shared journey’. Be it on set working with our tireless talents and crew, to the clients or agencies that believe in the same things we do, it’s all about the journey. We always tell ourselves ‘content is king’, and it should always be placed first before the product or service that we are pushing. Content has to be human.

“Do good work!”

Do good work. Work that resonates. The things we feel strongly about, are usually what we devote our time and attention to. Every single creative agency or production house you go to, they tell you the same thing. They are storytellers, and they love telling an emotive story that makes you feel. We’re no different. As humans, we all crave stories. Perhaps that’s why half of us watch Netflix every night. With the increased exposure to media, audiences today have grown to become so much more sophisticated. A piece that is merely informational will never be sufficient in today’s context. People want to be entertained and engaged by something that is meaningful because it provides an escape from the monotony of life. Give them a video that proclaims the bread of life or give them distraction.

That belief has led us to where we are today, re-figuring out our “Why”. Going through the various projects we’ve done over the years, the ones that kept us going are usually the projects with a lot of heart. A project that meant more to us on a personal level because of the people who allowed us into their lives to collectively make a difference for the brand or organization. Sometimes it doesn’t always translate onto screen, but when we dig a little deeper, we start to find the intangible human moments in between. In fact, some of the clips in the showreel aren’t even the final “good takes” that we were told to use. For us, such moments hold more truth than what we can direct or create, and we know it to be gold.

By sheer fluke, we told ourselves to create a “show real”, picking out the moments that meant something in our journey. We kept some of the reels from way back in 2013, to remind ourselves this is where we started, a throwback of sorts. We also found ourselves working with quite a number of young talents, and thought it’d be a good anchor to show life and growth in the works that we do; growing, and full of potential.

So, that’s what we mean when we said it’s less of a showcase of our services but more about why we do it.

In the spirit of human connections, This is Grain.

Snippets of 2018

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Our Headspace, Process and The Need to Create

There is a spot in East Coast Park that I frequent to clear my head some evenings. There, waves fling themselves upon the shore with wild abandon, the wind whispers sweet nothings to the trees which in turn rustle their leaves in delight. The creeping darkness masks uncertainties. In some way it’s my portal to listening to myself amidst the surrounding noise. It helps me set my headspace right. It’s my little space.

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The brief for Headgear was straightforward enough – sell the hair product as stylish and affordable. We had free reign to come up with something. After the somersaults and chest bumps, we sat down to think. This is always the scariest part. Creative blocks are a real thing. It is frightening to stare at a blank piece of canvas. How do we overcome this? We create.

The only way to survive doing unembarrassing stuff on command is to create an armour of craft around you.
— Christoph Niemann

I like to think of each project as an extension of myself and as an opportunity to explore the way I see the world.

I wanted to create a dreamlike, sterile environment for the Headgear project to reflect how we perceive ourselves each day and the choices we make to let the world perceive us. Elevators can be awkward spaces – the awkward smile or downward glance when we are forced to share our personal space within an enclosed environment with people we have yet drawn close to. Time stretches. We want to get out of it. Yet elevators can be pleasant spots too. When we allow that brief moment of interaction with people we otherwise won’t get to know quite enough.

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In Reminisce, I explored the three stages of a memory – encoding/storage/retrieval and used them as metaphors in the little box of treasures that the kid was rummaging through. The usage of different mediums to tell the story also allowed us to explore memories in an efficient and different way.  

In our spare time, we look for stories. We look for inspiration and we build upon them. Our personal work is our armour of craft. We care for it and understand it's chinks. We polish and refine it. 

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We approach each project with fierce intensity. Not wanting to be placed in a mould, we figure how to change direction (or approach) when things are good.

There is always an urgency for us to keep creating. CANVAS was birthed from this need. It is our survival instinct.

Not every project sees the light of day. There are several personal endeavours that we are still working on. Some stretching as far back as three years ago. We tell ourselves it's okay, and it's the process. 

Written by Derek

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CNVS: Luke Whearty - Operation Dagger

It's not every day you meet someone like Luke Whearty. I first met him during a filming gig for an interactive video and one of the featured places was his bar, Operation Dagger. Tucked away in a basement along Ann Siang Hill, we were floored when we first saw the interior; a mass of light bulbs unabashedly inspired by photographer Jeff Wall and hobo signs inspired by Basquiat. Together these created a magnetizing environment - one that inspires creativity and craft, a place to be after a long day's work. Operation Dagger lived up to it's name even at first glance. It made you sit up and take notice.

Operation Dagger is co-owned by Luke and Aki Nishikura. During our first meet up with Luke for a pre-interview, I expressed an interest in documenting his story in a short visual narrative, and he was game for it. In fact, he went on to share what inspired him during his journey; different artists, chefs, surfers, filmmakers. I was intrigued by his passion. His mind was constantly on the move, one helluva guy who doesn't stop thinking, processing, and conceptualizing. Constantly plagued by sleepless nights, he often gets up to write his ideas down. Aki gives him a different perspective, and together with their crew, they experiment and try out new menus. That's the kind of intensity and passion that transpires within Operation Dagger.

Many of Luke's creations are often inspired by things as abstract as songs, films, a visit to an art gallery or even happy accidents while experimenting. He explained the concept of urban foraging, and how some of the ingredients in his drinks come from a tree just behind the alleys of Ann Siang Hill (who would have thought!). What resonated was how he re-defines what a bar or a drink ought to be. Some of the drinks were developed within a few weeks, while others take up to 2-3 years. That's commitment. It's the process that Luke is after - the fine-tuning of a recipe, the constantly changing menus. When you know the bartender doesn't put drinks on the menu when the flavour profiles aren't perfect, you know you are in good hands. 

That question of, “What is a cocktail?” A cocktail has to be a spirit, of vermouth, bitters and sugar. Why does it have to be that? I think once you sort of lose those preconceived ideas of what a cocktail is, then you are opening yourself up to so many opportunities to be creative you know?
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Luke's immaculate attention to detail is what separates him from others. He comes alive when he talks about his creations or about something that he is experimenting. "Why is a wine, a wine? What if I reconstructed the concept of a wine?" Being influenced by El Bulli's Ferran Adrià and a close friend, Chef Ryan Clift of Tippling Club, he takes on each new foray by deconstructing flavour profiles into different elements and ingredients and later finding out how to gel all of it together to create something totally new.

With so many accolades and global recognition, he still remains humble about his endeavours, telling me that he still feels he is just scratching the surface. Personally, what spoke to me after hearing his story, is this reckless abandon nature to go out there and try new things and letting it grow organically without conforming to any preconceived ideas or practices. And he brings it home, by recognizing that you don't always get to where you are, without a mountain of people encouraging and supporting you in this journey.

From a little town called Coffs Harbour, washing dishes, to becoming owner of Operation Dagger, one of the World's 50 Best Bars 2016

Thanks for sharing your story Luke, it's kept us going. 

Written by Bang Lin
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Canvas is a collaborative project initiated by Grain as part of their collective personal work. Our passion for storytelling has led us to produce a library of short films and still photography that documents the human condition. A commitment to have a deeper understanding of how different people express themselves, we believe that every person’s story is novel and worth being documented. Every one has a canvas in which they express themselves, to keep their passions alive.

This is our canvas, what’s yours?

Director: Bang Lin
Producer: Marine Lin
Filmed by: Grain
Editor: Cheryl Koh, Bang Lin
Photography: Nevin Lim

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