Tuff Contender co-founders DJay Brawner and Max Rose announce today the production company has rebranded under the singular, Tuff. The impetus for the rebrand was a growing need for the company to evolve their creative process with agencies and brands to better deliver on content demands. Tuff has dedicated the last year to developing new internal processes, integrated workflows with post-production company Sweet Post and hyper-focusing on building a creative roster that develops work beyond a single spot.
“A cornerstone of our business model has been simple, be a partner to agencies and brands – and make them shine,” comments Max Rose. “It’s extremely important to always be willing to adapt. We feel the best way to truly be partners with our clients is to get into the trenches with them to make the best campaigns possible. Being stuck doing it the same old way doesn’t always create the best results for today's brands.”
“Social media content is no longer an afterthought,” elaborates Brawner. “Before, a hero broadcast spot would get whittled down for social and digital campaigns – this is a process we’re working to squelch and put social forward while still making compelling long-form content. We’ve already enjoyed some incredible creative partnerships with brands that we will continue to build on with new partners. We've fully restructured Tuff to break down the walls between agency and production to create more of that type of work – to be an extension of our agency partners or work directly with brands.”
Tuff, having piloted this model with several clients over the last year, now launches as an agile creative studio that produces and develops both advertising and entertainment content. Bringing ideas to life with a diverse leadership team, Tuff is highly specialized in conceiving and generating content for the Gen Z to Gen X audiences. Tuff now hosts a body of creative services including Concepting, Creative Direction, Art Direction, Development, Media Buying, Talent Acquisition, and Influencer Casting.
Tuff roster creative Nem Perez led the recent Disney Harmonious campaign as Lead Director, developing the concept and scripts for nine spots. Perez assembled a team of six directors, including several Tuff directors, to capture stories across the range of international cultures featured throughout the EPCOT theme park. From Morocco to Mexico, the social campaign illuminates guests experiencing the wonder of the park and some of Disney’s most iconic films, The Lion King, Mulan, and Coco.
Over the last two years, Tuff has worked with Rae Wellness, a new female-founded company on a values-led mission to nourish the body and mind from the inside out, to help the rookie brand build a cohesive identity and impactful content strategies. Tasked to grow Rae’s position in the health and wellness industry, Tuff has executed motion and still work for several campaigns including #SHINEFROMINSIDE.
Tuff’s ongoing relationship with Vans has been integral to this shift in more collaborative partnerships. Since 2020, Tuff has produced several of the shoe-icon's ‘Custom Culture’ series campaigns which paved the way for Van’s "Open Doors" mini-doc series for Record Store Day concepted and by Tuff and directed by Brawner. The docs profile minority-owned small-business owners in different cities, who discuss their passion for supporting local artists and serving their respective communities.
In 2019, Brawner and Rose produced episodic comedy series The Horse’s Mouth featuring Mike Postalakis, Juno Temple (Ted Lasso) and Eloise Mumford (Fifty Shades of Grey) about a show within a show about a fledgling food critic who is writing a book about the Los Angeles food scene, and why he's at it he is filming his own food show. In 2018, the duo produced Lawtown, a feature documentary about a town at the epicenter of the New England opioid crisis struggling to find balance with a corrupt government and the cartels. Brawner served as Executive Producer on live-action horror series Sunny Family Cult released by Crypt TV.
As part of Tuff’s adaptive growth strategy, leadership has keenly focused on building a talent roster that understands both craft and engagement in the advertising and entertainment landscape by signing multifaceted directors like Brent Campanelli and Paul B. Cummings. In addition to his directing work, Cummings serves as creative executive on the upcoming animated series Summer Memories, an A&N Production created by Adam Yaniv. The latest addition, Jon Schwartz, is a dynamic artist helping to expand Tuff’s talent beyond the traditional directing roster.
“Jon has that Gen Z approach to content creation that’s so valuable,” notes Executive Producer Max Rose. “Early on, we were very impressed by his tenacity to build partnerships with production companies who could bring his vision to life. He comes with a clear direction and sense of self, something you have to see in young directors before bringing them on board.”
Now LA-based, Schwartz hails from Connecticut where he made his first films at ten years old with table-top fingerboards and shooting skate videos. His aptitude behind the camera earned him jobs here there as a teenager filming small business ads. After high school, Schwartz moved to Chicago where he grew a music video portfolio and began working more with commercial brands. Honing a sense of genuine energy, his work is characterized by docu-style, immersive moments.
On joining the Tuff roster, Schwartz comments, “Tuff’s work aligned with where I want to be in the commercial space. DJay and Max want to grow together, and I am excited to be a part of this new vision.”
Brawner and Rose founded the genesis production company in 2018. Through the years they have collaborated with global brands and artists Adidas, Converse, Nike, Google, AT&T, Dodge, Coors Light, Guess, Charlie XCX, Foo Fighters, ASAP Rocky, and Usher. Marking a new era, Tuff has launched a new website at tuff.la.