Behind the Lens

The Work is stirring up a storm with their cinematic eyes set on Detroit.


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It was a lightning quick jump-start any entrepreneur would kill for.

Within weeks of joining forces, five friends brought together by the local music scene decided to found Detroit post-production house The Work. Their first couple of clients came quickly — videos for sophisticated streetwear boutique Revive and destination brunch hotspot Commonwealth, both of Birmingham. The Work’s Christopher Gruse was pleased.

“We had never done any of this stuff before,” he says. “It was exciting.”

If their first two clients were a surprise, the call from Jeep two months in was a shock. The automaker had seen what The Work had produced and flew the crew to Europe for a 14-day, 11-country shoot that set the tone for what was to come.

“It’s not a trajectory most companies take,” Gruse says with a laugh. “We knew right then that we had a company filled with endless possibilities.”

Gruse, Ed Knight, Jerome Wald, and brothers Jesse and Shane Ford set up shop in the Elevator Building just east of downtown Detroit. From the get-go, they were fielding calls commonly reserved for a much more tenured company. They embraced each new job as it came, troubleshooting along the way and moving further and further away from being dubbed “lucky amateurs.”

The initial learning curve would seem daunting to many. And their way of working remains unorthodox — so much so that they make it clear to each prospective new client.

“We’ve worked with agencies from Los Angeles who’ve asked, ‘Where’s your line producer? Where’s your script supervisor?’ We’ve simply never had any of those,” says Gruse, 30.

“We each fit into our own roles; titles we’ve never really bothered to define,” he adds. “In three years of working together, we’ve never had an issue. It’s a true collective of friends, first and foremost.”

Everyone acts as producer or business manager or cameraman or editor or lowly gaffer — sometimes all in the same day. No need for petty arguments or an arresting desire for hierarchy.

In a swift three years, their client list has grown to include local businesses like the Sugar House and Shades Optical, agencies as prestigious as Ogilvy & Mather, and music festivals like Bonnaroo and Movement, as well as international companies like Converse and Adidas. About 60 percent of clients are automotive-based, says Gruse. Earlier this year, The Work worked with General Motors to re-launch the iconic Corvette brand.

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