Tier Zero was founded in 2017 by a group of friends from Toronto. Charlie Lindsay, Due Pinlac, and Jamal Burger have each navigated Toronto’s creative industry as freelance photographers and videographers, taking private jobs and working on projects with big brands, but eventually… felt like this: It means prioritizing your ideas and doing things together your way. So they set up a creative agency to justify themselves.
Since then, Tier Zero has created photo campaigns and video projects with clients ranging from nonprofits to the Fortune 500, including Nike, OVO, Cannon, Spotify, the NBA and most recently the Toronto Raptors. Tierzero is his group of creatives behind the new Raptors Media Day photoshoot, snapping stylish, meme-worthy images of every member of his 2022-23 Toronto Raptors. They drew inspiration from everything from Space Jam and Dragon Ball Z to Step Brothers.
Complex Canada spoke with the three Tier Zero members behind the project: photographers Anthony Nusca and Charlie Lindsay and creative consultant Due Pinlac. Conversations have been edited for length and clarity.
First, tell us about your relationship with the Raptors. When did you first start working with them and how did this project come to fruition?
Charlie Lindsay: When I started out as a photographer, I started an internship on a show called “The Hangout,” hosted by Akil Augustine on NBA TV Canada. As the years went by and I started chipping away at things, opportunities began to open up bit by bit for myself as a photographer. After that, the Raptors saw what we were doing at Tier Zero and gradually opened the door for collaboration.
We had an informal Media Day for maybe four years and some people filmed it. But just last year, they opened the floodgates for Tier Zero and managed to properly pitch something for Media Day. It was a “back to school” shoot after the Raptors were forced home during the pandemic. All three of us worked on it. And based on last year’s success, they asked us to do it again, which is how we got here.
Let’s get into this year’s photo shoot and the theme behind it. In the promo video you dropped, I heard Masai Ujiri talking about jokes about the Raptors being a “no position” team and “only drafting 6-foot-6 guys.” I wanted to highlight those features. Please tell me more about it.
Anthony Nuska: When you think about the Raptors and different teams in the NBA, they all have very unique identities that their fan base associates with. The Warriors have always been known for their 3-point shooting, but the Grizzlies have been known for being a very stubborn and energetic team in recent years, and a key identity for the Raptors is their many long six-pointers. It’s this very athletic team that relies on a foot 9 guy. Wingspan he is 7ft and from a player mockup or build perspective they all look the same.
Knowing that, and being Raptors fans, we want to give you some ideas to help capture the team’s identity by highlighting some of these features. .
In terms of background and aesthetics, we’re all big basketball fans and kids in the ’90s, so “Space Jam” holds a huge place in our hearts.When I developed the idea of this positionless basketball and these unusually long players, monster nostalgia space jam Kind of creeped into the theme. Created by Liam Wilkings, this entire background of his 10 x 10 ft box was created to mimic the stormy sunset-like background when the monster transforms into a giant version in “Space Jam” it was done.
What techniques did you use to make this theme work? No, they all look the same big in these photos. How did you create that look?
Linsday: Go back to perspective. I found that there’s a lot to look down on and look up on just looking at what we’re trying to convey and what’s bigger than life personas and experiences. , I knew there would be a lot of interaction with the lens. So it was just a matter of playing around with perspective.
But how can Chris Boucher and Pascal Siakam look like monsters and Fred look so small? So we had to maintain the same energy for everyone. And to show how big they are.
Nuska: Yes. Additionally, VanVleet says he’s not 6’9, but by typical standards, he’s still a freak athlete, so the freak athlete persona applies to all of them. So how do you maintain the same energy as him and portray him as someone bigger in so many ways than his life?He may be six feet taller than he is, but he’s still one millionth is.
Others have previously worked with Pascal Siakam, the Raptors’ social media team, and Ujiri’s nonprofit, Giants of Africa. How do these existing relationships affect a shoot like this?
Pinlac: I think it’s the X factor that has built a kind of rapport with some of the players in past shoots. It’s clear that VanVleet will be participating in the filming of doing any of these things. *Pose hand on chin gesture*. It is guaranteed. So how do we highlight it? Alright, let’s put his shoulders in the foreground and make him look giant from his torso. If you look at Flynn and VanVleet’s shots, if there’s something they lack in height, we put them into action.
If you have an existing relationship, you are more likely to relax and be more open to experimentation due to the different energies.
Lindsay: Certainly. They saw some of the references I put on the mood board and came up with their own ideas as well. That’s how Siakam does the Kamehameha pose from “Dragon Ball Z.” I didn’t even tell him to do so. He was like, “Yeah, I’d love to do this.” It feels really bad when they understand what you’re going to do and embrace it. . And it’s a two-way street that you can’t get the results we’re getting unless you embrace the creative story you’re trying to tell and have players play a big part in just wanting to do it and having fun doing it. It’s a road.
How do you create a comfortable space where players feel able to express themselves, aside from existing relationships? Athletes told me they felt comfortable doing poses they might not see elsewhere. How do you create that environment?
Nusca: It always comes down to an approach within Tier Zero. Obviously you have to know what you want to do, know what you’re doing and be prepared. Otherwise the player will check out. Additionally, we are working with a very limited amount of time, so we don’t have time to make decisions on the day from a creative or technical standpoint. But once I have these mood boards ready, I have this idea for presenting them. You get them right into the dialogue so they have a stake in it, take ownership of it, and it becomes a very collaborative space.
Even if you set things up and come up with an idea, I’m not teaching you how to pose. We have it laid out like this: what do you mess up Do you want to go in this direction or do you want to go in this direction? We incorporated a variety of poses within the mood board and creative. There were 10-15 different mood board pages, each with 5 images. We’re not trying to overwhelm the player, but we want to give them a very wide range of directions they can take. Players can then see it, interpret it themselves, and proceed in any way they feel. I feel like they are the most like them and they can be the most themselves. So it’s kind of guiding them to trust themselves within that space instead of forcing us to think about how they should be portrayed.
You should know the story of OG Anunoby and Ujiri posing together in a “Step Brothers” pose.it’s already Meme on Twitter. How did you come up with that photo?
Nusca: Yeah, it’s quite the joke. There was no plan, no script, no card. I believe Anunoby was already at our station and moved on when Ujiri came to check on us. He’s got a really great relationship with Lindsay and Berger because of the work they’ve done with Giants of Africa. rice field.
So we took some pictures of Ujiri and he’s a very competitive guy so Ujiri spotted Anunoby walking by the concourse and of course he immediately started talking shit I was. I know my photos are better than yours! Just talking about all these crazy things. And Anunoby said, ‘Are you serious, bro? It’s about 10 am. It was born in a very pleasant and organic way.
It’s the best story I’ve ever heard. Before I let you all go, do you have any final thoughts on this project and working with the Raptors as a Raptors fan? What are you going to get out of this experience?
Lindsay: We definitely look at these projects as time stamps over the years and hopefully we can continue to do something new and unique and fun and different with each variation of Media Day. increase. We have a wide variety of creative projects. Yeah, we’re really happy with this, but we’re already looking towards next year to see what we can do for it.
Nusca: It’s great to be in a room like this and have the opportunity to do our work. After all, we are fans first and foremost. And a few years ago, I was just a fan, checking out what Media Day was and was hyped to see who was on the team, how they were being featured, and so on. It’s really special to be a part of it now and see people’s positive reactions to the shoot in the comments, on Twitter, etc. I think it holds a pretty close place in our hearts.
Pinlac: At the end of the day, at least for me, the fire emoji, the heart emoji, I think that’s great. People of color, sometimes we feel like we shouldn’t be in this space, but we are! We are truly talented individuals and have talents to share. But on a stage like that, we have a responsibility to keep that door open for the next generation, letting people know how we did it and believing we can do it too. It may sound cheesy, but our highlight within Tier Zero, founded by three people of color from Toronto, was just having a media day with the Raptors. For those kids going to high school or college who don’t know what they want to do, it might be a reference to sway you into doing what you really believe in.