“There’s been a few people who have reached out and asked: what makes you tick, how do you constantly keep motivated and constantly do? How I get through it is by putting myself in a place where I want to be. Rain, shine, traffic, whatever it is.” - Chris Grubisa, President, Executive Creative Director & Co-Founder of Chrilleks.
One of the beauties of working in this creative industry is that it can be done anywhere in the world. And it has - from the growing cinema industries in cities like Dallas and Nashville to small-scale commercial films being created in Phoenix. No matter where you go, there’s a career to be had in making awesome videos.
But for many filmmakers, moving to Los Angeles has always been a kind of aspiration. It’s a chance to work with the best professionals in the industry, with the biggest network of fellow filmmakers to develop and grow alongside. It’s the American Dream with sunny skies, palm trees and the coolest gear in the world.
Chris Grubisa and teammate & wife Aleksandra Lason decided to make the jump 2 years ago when they expanded their production house from Toronto to Los Angeles. Since moving, they’ve seen much more opportunities for work than ever before. Here’s their story:
“We started our production house Chrilleks Productions 8 years ago shortly after graduating film school. We graduated at the same time. During school we were working in the field, which led us to having multiple job offers directly after graduation. One of the offers was to work at separate rental houses in Toronto. I was at PS Production Services, Aleks at Sim Complete (formerly Sim Video)."
"Working at these rental houses was a great move for us, we were supplying gear to production crews working on the biggest films, commercials, and projects in Toronto, arguably in Canada. Just to give a bit of background, Toronto’s one of the top cities outside of Hollywood for film. “Hollywood North” - it became popular due to exchange rates and tax credits that films could receive. Quite a few massive feature films were shot in the city, meaning we were in the perfect spot for dealing directly with their crews, at times even befriending cast & crew members.”
“Through networking with people at the rental houses and simultaneously freelancing on nights and weekends, Aleks and I picked up a lot along the way: tricks, tips, set etiquette, knowing who and where in the city the shoots were happening. All directly from the best.”
“With the skills we gained, we climbed pretty quickly by mentoring senior positions on set: Executives, Directors, Producers. Aleks and I started to lose the challenge with set work. It became a job: wake up early, do the job, walk away. Aleks and I were both searching for more. After four to six months of working full time and freelance, we slowly started Chrilleks on the back end. We began to transition into where the challenge was: the business.“
"We started our company, Chrilleks, in 2011."
“We specialize in creating digital content for brands that span worldwide. From the beginning, we knew that social media was a direction where video was headed, the majority of our work is created for our clients social networks: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn. Their feeds are stacked with our work, gaining likes, shares, exposure which turn into sales. The content specifically aimed for the content to be viewed on mobile, which is where people’s eyes are today..”
Making the Move
“We work hard to make our company a success, and in many ways we’ve been fortunate to have our hard work validated. By constantly churning out videos that clients loved, we were getting calls to shoot for companies all over the world - the word was spreading. We knew that to take our brand further, we needed to head south of the border to Los Angeles. It’s the epicenter of everything brand, entertainment, trends and style - all the best talents, creatives, camera crews, technology, the mindset. In 2016 we decided to expand Chrilleks to Los Angeles, where we have Chrilleks’ 2nd Office, equipped with a studio. We also have our branch in Toronto as well, so we constantly fly back and forth.”
“The decision to move to LA actually started in 2014/2015 when Aleks and I first visited a few networking events. We knew several people who were located in LA via social media, we met up with them, other fellow creatives and companies. Instagram was untapped. No one really used the DM option and DMs weren’t really a thing yet. This made it extremely easy to get directly in touch of who we wanted to meet. We lined up the entire week from morning to night, utilizing every moment. It wasn’t a vacation, this was all self funded, and time and money were on the line. We mapped it out and hit all the pockets in Los Angeles, right down to Orange County.
“One of our main connections was filmmaker, Chris Ray, who I consider my biggest influence for expanding here. Ray, was one of the first people we met with, and as we were chatting, he threw out something unexpected: an invite to his commercial shoot he had happening the next day. Every day was locked in with meetings, but at the same time we didn’t want to miss this opportunity. So we pushed back all the meetings we had lined up, and the next day we were on set, meeting more LA connections. My “One Connection” video on my personal project, “Be Right Back Creating Something” (https://berightbackcreatingsomething.com) explains the full story.
“We worked with some amazing people on that shoot and it gave us a glimpse into what shooting in LA was like. That project led to others, and soon we knew that this was the right move for us. Two years later with stacks of projects in between Toronto and Los Angeles offices, Chrilleks had been thriving. I’m glad we bought that plane ticket to visit LA those years ago. Our lives have completely changed.”
“Life today moves fast, and especially in this industry, you’re at the forefront of style, technology, trends... there’s no answer to the ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ question. Things happen so quickly and if you see an opportunity, jump on it.”
First Impressions of the Bolt XT
“My cinematography is very fast-paced and high energy I’m very flexible when it comes to portfolio. I split my camera combos into two packages: One allows me to be more relaxed, that includes the Sony a7SII, GoPro Hero 7 and the GoPro Fusion. A lot of my social videos are made with these cameras. It’s amazing how far you can really stretch their capabilities and produce beautiful visuals. My more serious creation process package includes: RED Epic, Dragon and Gemini sensors with Fujinon’s Cabrio and MK Lens series as well as Canon’s L Series lenses.”
“Sachtler tripods play a major part in my camera kits. Tripods go through the most amount of punishment. They’re in the trenches, water, dirt, constantly thrown around, bruised and battered, over and over again. Sachtler has never failed me. Core SWX batteries is right with me as well. Every battery is flight-friendly and have a super useful USB port. Both, Aleks and I are always working on planes, trains, automobiles, in constant motion. Having those batteries keeping us juiced they work right there with us. Core’s batteries can be used on camera and act as backup chargers for our devices. We’re running our clients social feeds, so we always need to be on. Phones charged, cameras powered. They’re super versatile especially for Chrilleks’ needs.”
“I recently picked up the Bolt 500 XT from Teradek which has also been super useful in all my productions so far. We always rented some form of Bolt or another in past shoots, it became a no brainer to purchase for every camera in our arsenal. The wireless set up is essential to what we do, we’re on all kinds of sets, interior and exterior. We flip our content quite quick, we want our clients to be able to see the visuals on site, thumbs up and on to the edit bays.”
Only Using the Best
“We were on a shoot recently for U.K’s fastest growing brand, Gymshark. They approached us to capturing their latest line, The Amplify Series. This was shot in Downtown LA directly in the heart of the Fashion District studio. Operating the Ronin II paired with our RED Dragon, along with a Rode mic for audio and Bolt feeding the wireless feed. The video went to our 17” SmallHD monitor on the other side of the studio for clients and director to view. They saw exactly what I saw, and made the process seamless.”
“The footprint on the Bolt is super compact, which is exactly how I like it. It’s lightweight and attached to the Ronin unnoticed. When on my feet with high energy, especially working with gimbals, I don’t want anything tying me down or holding me back. That’s my zone. If I’m limited in my movement I won’t get the best shots for my clients. The Bolt is extremely reliable, and that’s one less concern of mine when I step on set. I’m there to make beautiful images, tell a story, not to trouble shoot.”
“We’re working with the best brands, talents, creators in the world, in order to stay par at that level you need to bring your A game. In gear, in visuals in energy.”
“Chrilleks is everything digital content, micro content, snackable content, hero video content. our world is in consistent motion. Our clients can see the visuals as they happen, trust the editing process, thus making the creation process that much more fluid.”
Check out more of Chris’ work at IG @chrisgrubisa.