Thuan Tran, the founder of ONLUNCHBREAK, is quick to point out that he’s wary of labeling the collective as a production company. What started as a band of friends coming together to create cool shit has slowly evolved into a fledgling creative agency of sorts with a primary goal of empowering each other and their communities first.
“It’s just a community for my friends and creators, and people in our community to look to us for support when it comes to creative production and getting jobs done,” he tells Highsnobiety. Tran believes in paying it forward, especially when it comes to local communities where he shares strong ties.
Keeping in line with that theme, Tran and OLB are working with Girls Only again to open up a second community fridge in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. With creative tools like Canva at his disposal, he’s excited to cook up something special for the next launch. “I see myself using the Canva app to promote events we do. With the community fridge, there are a lot of announcements you have to make, especially when it comes to volunteering and helping,” he explains. “I’m looking forward to being able to add some spice to our announcements.”
We spoke to Tran to learn more about his early days before OLB, how he broke into the creative industry, how Canva makes his work easier, and more. Read our interview below and explore how Canva can take your own projects to the next level.
I’m the founder and director of ONLUNCHBREAK. OLB is developing into a creative agency/family/resource center and educational friend. I was very wary of labeling OLB as a production company, and I definitely don’t see it ever becoming that. It’s just a community for my friends and creators, and people in our community to look to us for support when it comes to creative production and getting jobs done.
I worked at an e-comm site that went bankrupt years ago. Our boss at the time let us keep the office space for the remainder of the lease. It was kind of a dream come true. We were like, “Damn, we just got all of our friends together in a creative studio and we have this space for the next year and all this equipment.” We started branching out and doing our own things. I started doing music videos, my friends were doing photoshoots and styling and getting into casting.
We were all using that office space as a collective, centralized hub for us to do our own projects. It was like a safe space for us. I think brands started to see us doing stuff on social media and constantly being together. In my mind, I was like, “I need to formalize this and make money off of these brands trying to tap into what we’re doing.” That was the beginning of it. We started doing music videos for a long time, which helped solidify our name in the video industry.
Now we’re stepping back a little bit and focusing on creative stuff and more narrative things and community-focused initiatives.
The beautiful thing about ONLUNCHBREAK is that we don’t rep anybody. It’s not an official production company that reps directors and artists. It’s more like an unspoken clubhouse. When a job comes in, I analyze it and see if it’s right for me in the first place. If it’s not, I tap my frequent collaborators and friends who would be more fit to lead the project. I think where we come in is we have some production experience. So we support in that and help young directors and photographers get their feet in the door with our experience, production, support.
We’re friends first and then jobs will come in and I’ll be like, “All right, this will be great for so-and-so and so-and-so, and let’s get him on, and let’s get her on it.” It’s definitely a lot more casual than what people probably perceive. We value our friendship and communities way more than what’s on the calendar and what’s coming in from the clients. We always put that first, and then the jobs come secondary.
My phone, for sure. I’m constantly on Vimeo, Instagram, TikTok. TikTok has been a big source of inspiration for me. I like to look for very nostalgic and relatable moments, and I feel like TikTok is full of that. I look at those things and absorb them and see how I can implement them into our narrative and creative storytelling. I feel my main source of inspiration is my friends showing me cool stuff. I think technology and community and friendships play a big part of it. That’s what constantly keeps me thinking.
When it comes to the actual work process, I always start with the idea and that comes with tons of references. When a project comes in, I’ll spend a whole day just watching music videos from the director’s library, looking at screenshots, and trying to compile a look. That’s when I start writing words. Once I have all of my elements, I’ll put it all together in a director’s treatment. That’s the Bible for the shoot. It’s the go-to structure for how the project should ultimately end up looking.
I’m new to Canva and I wish I discovered it sooner because I was doing everything very manually and I have zero graphic design skills. I felt I always had to rely heavily on the mood board pictures to make up for the fact that the presentation wasn’t the snazziest. So when I started using Canva, I realized that this is going to make it a lot easier for me to just shoot out ideas, because now it’s not so reliant on the mood images.
The app interface makes it easy for someone to jump in and make a very graphic design-savvy presentation without having to even try. There are dozens of templates. It could take two days to finish a brief, just compiling all the elements. But now, with Canva, it skips that whole process of putting it together, because it’s automated in a sense where everything is kind of set. You can customize everything, drag and drop and replace stuff. It helps me get my ideas on paper faster and I think a lot of times, that’s what wins jobs — being fast and agile. You can’t spend days on every presentation.
Girls Only, the community organization I work with, we’re trying to open up a second fridge in Crown Heights. I see myself using the Canva app to promote events we do. With the community fridge, there are a lot of announcements you have to make, especially when it comes to volunteering and helping. I’m looking forward to being able to add some spice to our announcements and not make it just an Instagram story, but not have to look for someone to make a flyer for us every time we want to make an announcement. I could easily use the same two or three templates that we always use.