Tuff Contender’s DJay Brawner Directs Brand Docs for Vans Custom Culture Artists via Creative Drinking Agency

Tuff Contender's DJay Brawner expands his directorial collaboration with Vans in their latest Custom Culture films. Releasing four films since the new year, Custom Culture is a Vans’ arts initiative created to inspire and empower high school students to embrace their creativity through art and design while bringing attention to diminishing arts education budgets.

The passing of Vans Co-Founder, Paul Van Doren, last May inspired this year’s newest theme, “Van D(IY)oren Legacy”. To pay homage to the entrepreneur and innovator that Paul Van Doren was, Vans is asking students to showcase their DIY take on the four pillars that make up Vans as a brand. These four pillars, action sports, art, music, and street culture, which have been integral parts of Vans identity since its inception in 1966.

Launched to date are "Creative Tips” featuring artists David HeoJay HowellSydney G. James, and Tony Whlgn. From sketch to full-scale production, the videos weave together stages of ideation to material preparation with warm interviews of these artists across the US who reveal the accessibility of visual arts in its many forms.

"As producers, it's our agency's role to curate a group of artists that a younger generation can look up to and see themselves as,” notes Kimmy McAtee Bell, Creative Drinking Agency Head of Production/Partner. “Watching the artists on film as part of this series – it's their passion more than anything that Tuff was able to really bring to the surface. These documentaries showcase their love for creating in a way that can resonate with anyone out there who wants to make something they love.”

“I worked with many of the Van’s ambassadors in previous campaigns and they never cease to amaze me how they apply and explore new mediums,” comments Brawner. “They’re not one-dimensional artists and collectively cover a broad spectrum of disciplines – this speaks volumes to the artist community Van’s cultivates.”

In 2021, Brawner directed Van’s "Open Doors" mini-doc series last summer which was launched for Record Store Day. The docs profile minority-owned small-business owners in different cities, who discuss their passion for supporting local artists and serving their respective communities.

A through line of Brawner’s work with Van’s is illuminating the soul of citizens deeply committed to their communities and cultural enrichment. Striking the balance of stylized cinematography and the intimacy of a documentary, Brawner’s approach captures heartfelt portraits of each subject. While “Open Doors” was dedicated to business owners impacting communities through music, “Custom Culture” showcases the myriad of visual artists using their talents to bring artistic influence to youth culture and public works.

“We wanted to hit Gen Z more directly with this campaign, so we evolved our process on these films to ensure we captured concise and inspired moments for TikTok and Instagram, too,” adds Brawner. “We truly partnered with Vans and Creative Drinking Agency on this campaign, pooling all our ideas together how to make all these explorations authentic to the artists’ actual creation process.” 




Client: Vans
Project: Custom Culture 2022
Brand Producers: Brianna Ceaser & Marissa Smith
Brand Creative Director: Bruno Lugilo 

Agency: Creative Drinking Agency 
Producers: Laura Simpson & Kimmy McAtee Bell
Creative Director: Nathan Bell 
2022 Logo: Tony Whlgn


Production Co: Tuff Contender
Director / Producer: DJay Brawner
EPS: Max Rose & DJay Brawner
DP: Matt Hoodhood
Editor: Nem Perez
Color: Derek Hansen @ Afx Creative
Sound: Jack Sobo

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