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Jon Lister, CEO and creative director of CreatorsLab, shares his love for filmmaking

Popping up seemingly from nowhere, CreatorsLab is a visual-aural storytelling of familiar faces in the local F&B industry.

We first saw teasers of CreatorsLab on chef-owner of newly minted Michelin-starred Restaurant Labyrinth, LG Han’s, Instagram page. Comprising interviews with the chef, his close circle of family and friends, each free-to-view approximately 25-minute film is an honest exploration of the person behind the restaurant. 

Even though they’ve chosen rather high profile Singaporean chefs such as Bjorn Shen of Artichoke and omakase pizza joint Small’s who have been interviewed countless times in mainstream media, we were surprised to learn of new nuggets of information from each feature. 

We speak to CEO and creative director, Jon Lister, to find out more about the project.

What did you do before founding CreatorsLab? 

I started making films with my dad’s VHS camcorder when I was five. None of it was any good, of course, but I loved every minute. When I moved to Asia with a backpack 10 years ago, I found a job as a junior producer in Hong Kong for a travel media company, which was incredibly hard work but really valuable. A couple of years ago, I decided it was time to go my own way, so I started a company, and here we are.

 

How did this idea come about? 

For many years at my previous company, I created videos about restaurants. I got to speak to chefs all over Asia, and I was both shocked and inspired by their stories of struggle, passion and perseverance.  

In Asia, creativity as a professional endeavour is often not seen as a valued career choice.  Successful chefs have faced these challenges, often from their parents and society, and they’ve said, “I’m so passionate about this that I’m going to do it anyway”.  That takes some serious guts.  I want to be involved with people like that.  

I met my now co-founder, Arijit Sengupta, and although he is from a very different background, we both shared this inspiration. We wanted to tell these stories. That is how CreatorsLab was born.

 

How long does production take and who is involved?

An episode of The Creators takes around two months to produce. We are a small team. My director of photography, Aaron Tan, is one of those people who can take an idea and bring it to life in a way that I would never think of. I direct, produce and edit. And although he plays down his creative role, Arijit is instrumental, and much of the show’s unique aspects are rooted in his ideas. 

 

So far you’ve done two episodes on both Singaporean chefs. Are you planning to cover chefs from other countries in the region? If yes, which region have you got your eye on next?

Our third and fourth episodes will be about two awesome Singaporean chefs too. Singapore is our home, and we wanted to launch the show with the stories of people close to our hearts. But we are also hoping that we can shoot further afield in the future (if travel restrictions allow). We will definitely be focussing on Asia and have some fantastic chefs lined up regionally, but you’ll have to keep an eye on our socials to find out who’s stories we will be telling in future episodes.

What is the inspiration for the art direction in CreatorsLab films? 

So many inspirations! My co-founder, Arijit, loves Tarantino. That’s actually where the chapter concept came from. I absolutely love this series on Netflix called Worn Stories, both in terms of its aesthetic and storytelling. I think we’d be lying if we said that Chef’s Table wasn’t inspiration in some way. But as I often tell the chefs we feature, we are not here to promote them, sugarcoat their story, or make them look good. We simply want to tell their story with as much honesty as we possibly can. I think that’s what is unique about what we are doing.

 

Aside from telling the stories of chefs and creating a work of art, what else do you hope CreatorsLab will achieve? 

We’re working on another series called The Creators Shorts which will tell the stories of younger chefs who have faced prejudice, discrimination or serious hardship throughout their journeys. We’re really excited about this series which will be quite different from The Creators in terms of the profiles and the style. 

Longer-term, we want CreatorsLab to become a platform where creatives in Asia can get recognition on the global stage. And we want to tell these stories to the world in a beautiful, cinematic way.  Beyond that, I would absolutely love, in some small way, to inspire the next generation to recognise creativity as a worthy career choice.

But right now, we just want to tell great stories of passionate people doing things differently.  And we’re very excited to tell them.