Burlington Post article written by Melanie Cummings
Rolling along the streets of Burlington on his skateboard, with a video camera in hand would prove a backdrop to Chris Grubisa’s emerging career in the commercial film world.
Now, this unlikely combination of interests puts the co-founder of Chrilleks Productions among the country’s Top 30 entrepreneurs/innovators/leaders under age 30 this year, as chosen recently by Marketing magazine.
“It’s magical to me, an awesome dream” he says of this latest accolade, one of many earned since graduating from Sheridan College’s Media Arts program in 2011. This includes industry honours this year from the Telly Awards, winning for excellence in editing and cinematography among 13,000 entries from five continents.
The 10-year-old who hung out in Maple Skate Park and swore by DC shoes is now producing footage for the brand and is friends with its famed videographer Chris Ray. “He was always one of my biggest influences growing up.”
Grubisa has been pushing his creative boundaries for more than half of his life, which at age 27, represents about 14 years, so far.
“I still feel like a kid working in my parent’s basement,” he said during a phone interview from Toronto Pearson International Airport while awaiting a flight to Los Angeles, where Chrilleks’ opened a second office a few months ago. The founding office in Toronto opened in January 2012.
In that early production room, also known as the basement, are boxes and boxes of Super 8 film that are gradually being converted to digital. They are the lifetime compilations of Grubisa’s first influence in filming, his dad Serge. “He was the pioneer of Selfies, forever setting the camera down to walk into the shot,” Grubisa added.
That early exposure captivated his curiosity and prompted him to borrow his dad’s Sony Handycam so that he could film his friends skateboarding in the Cumberland Avenue neighbourhood. Gliding on a skateboard is the perfect tool for smooth filming, Grubisa discovered.
His high school years at Assumption Catholic Secondary would also prove to be influential in honing his craft, thanks to teachers Wayne Lucey and Craig Roberts’ media classes. “They taught me the grassroots of filming and fed my curiosity even further,” said Grubisa.
Grubisa and his wife of two years, Aleksandra Lason, a fellow Media Arts grad who he met while studying at Sheridan, created their company four years ago after slogging away for two years on television sets doing menial tasks in assisting with camera and lighting work.
As mundane as the work in those early years could be, the pair built networks and grew their business initially filming weddings, baptisms, and properties for realtors. As much as their travel budgets would allow they attended as many corporate and technical trade shows, film festivals and more in Vancouver, Atlanta, New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, chatting up potential clients and creative souls all along the way.
Their perseverance has paid off. Grubisa and Lason now travel the world to create video content for well-known clients including Red Bull, Blue Mountain, IKEA, Home Depot, Norco bicycles and Canadian Tire.
The couple’s mutual respect for each other’s professional contributions to the company is transparent. Lason is vice-president and head of Chrilleks’ production and has a knack for turning chaos into a smooth, fluid system, said Grubisa. Also, it was Lason who nominated Grubisa for Marketing Magazine’s 30 under 30 search. Grubisa is the president and creative director of the company.
The pair thrive on the variety each workday offers but when the fast-paced, deadline-driven and tight budgets becomes overwhelming, Grubisa heads back to his roots. He hops on his skateboard to de-stress. “It’s like meditation for me, as air rushes on my face it brings me back to my worry-free childhood.”
Grubisa admits the couple’s foray into the business world was “full of failure” but his skateboarding background — in which the mantra is try, try again because no one nails a trick on the first attempt — taught him to persevere.
The reward is he gets to do what he loves every day and call it work. And alongside a business partner who is also the love of his life.