We had the good fortune of connecting with Dhairya Patel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dhairya, how do you think about risk?
I think of risk as a very essential thing, especially if you consider yourself to be an artist. Having the confidence to handle the consequences is crucial, if you don’t, lie to yourself that you can and when the consequence hits, you will be busy dealing with it anyways!
Not the most favored advice but, I strongly believe in it. Not to say I live it day and night because sure! I have my moments of self-doubts and fears but I try and live by them as much as I can. Especially in an industry where there’s constant innovation and talented artists blowing sh*t up daily!
I grew up in Mumbai, India. And there was always a culture of taking risks around me. It was almost a common mindset, that you cannot just be doing things and expecting big outcomes.
Coming from a middle-class family, I saw my dad take risks more than often. Obviously, as a kid I wouldn’t know that, time to time I would see him tensed or stressed on phone calls but, no matter what- by night comes, he would be the chillest m’fer in the room! Laughing and making all of us laugh.
The more I matured I realized why he was stressed and he’s taught me that nothing can be as bad as you make it to be! So just do what needs to be done and then handle it.
I was also fortunate enough (can’t say for my parents) that I’d keep making friendships with people who most would describe as misfits and troublemakers (shoutout to all you lovely fools!). Not that any of us were bad characters or anything, but more like breaking rules was fun for us, and all of those experiences kind of made me ok with not just taking risks but also failing.
Because failing wasn’t the worst thing to happen but to get caught was haha! We would later just sit, laugh, and make fun of how foolishly- epic it was!
And that taught me and I want to make a point of, is to look around and make sure you’re surrounded by people who are there for you. Not to just console you when you fail (that’s the last thing you need, someone feeling bad for you- with you) but, more like letting you know that taking that step, however stupid it was, you still took it! And that validates you for another shot. And if they take it with you, you are lucky as they come!
That is the main takeaway I have learned from taking risks, failing does not mean stopping.
Hence, risk has played a major role in my life! All of those experiences are what led me to take the risk of getting into a field -no one in my family growing up would consider getting in, and in a country where arts was not seen much as a career path. And then, my parents took the risk of investing in me and letting me come to the US, to make a career where I know no one in.
I remember senior year of college, my friend and I decided to work on one of the senior project together, where you get to come up with an idea, pitch, design, produce and execute it all the way in a span of 4 months while juggling other projects for our senior show where we showcase the best of our projects to folks from the industry the night before we graduate.
And we decided to develop an AR (Augmented Reality) project based on Maya Angelou’s poem- The Caged Bird. It was a huge risk that we were taking because we did not have any classes or had any experts who knew much of AR at the time, that could be a proper resource; We had no idea about any of it- apple AR kit or Unreal engine or anything but, we wanted to do it because it sounded just so exciting! I was responsible for creative direction and animation and my friend was responsible for integrating it in UE. And we made that happen, with support from some of our professors and forums and it was a success! We were very proud of finishing it up and making our college’s first AR project! To that, I’d say when stuck between choices go with whatever excites you because that as fuel might just last longer than any other motivation.
The biggest of all risks would be what came next, not taking the route of working in films and commercials but joining a startup called Brud (now known as Dapper Collectives).
To work with/ on virtual influencers/popstars!
Working in a startup has come with its worldview of risk-taking. As a small company, we took plenty of risks and many were fails but I saw decisions being made- from trying new tech to testing different narrative styles to pivoting the whole direction of the company! Based on the learnings and our company took another set of risks which, ultimately led to brud being acquired by Dapper Labs! One of the biggest crypto kids on the block.
Growing up with -to- now working with misfits, who don’t want to do things traditionally but to redefine storytelling in the age of social media and web3!
To cap it off, something I read which resonated deeply is to think of how we as humans tend to fixate on the price we’d pay if we fail or of things that might go wrong but, don’t take into account the cost of inaction when it comes to risk-taking. The price we end up paying for staying in that comfort or that situation and how it affects our life over time be it a year, two, or 5!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Growing up in India, you are immersed in these rich stories and mythologies early on! I grew up listening to my grandma telling me these hyper-detailed stories of her experiences growing up in this tiny village and stories about all these deities. And as kids, we would sit there and imagine all this up in our tiny little heads.
Whether you are religious or not, you can’t deny the fact these stories are so mind-blowing! And we have a billion of them! I grew up listening to these amazing stories and watching them on TV, about Mahabharatha, Ram and Hanuman and Shiva and a lot of them TBH! We have festivals almost every 3 months on average, and every festival has its own back story of how it came about and why we follow certain traditions the way they are.
India is one of the cultures deeply rooted in religion i.e religious stories and you add that up with the fact that 20 years of my life was spent growing up in the city which is the second oldest film industry and largest producer of films in the world! The importance of storytelling is imprinted in my DNA.
I feel because of that I’ve always been fascinated with how a story is being told and not just the story itself. As a teenager, I remember I would read all types of articles on the development of the films, reading about why the team went with a certain look or how they achieved a certain mood or why a shot feels natural because of some added camera movement etc. Even now I am obesessed with listening to cinematographers and directors, breaking down the inspiration and techniques they used in telling the story.
It’s so much more than just making pretty frames, it has so much psychology and attention to detail involved which I find exciting! The fact that how much of our brain is constantly communicating inside and picking up on the visual queues that can trigger an emotional response, is such a powerful tool.
There is alot to learn and understand, and I try to stay consistent with educating myself and working towards developing my skills to help tell stories in the best way possible.
Professionally, I am part of the team/company behind Lil Miquela and her robot friends Bermuda and Blawko at Dapper Collectives (formerly, Brud) where I am a CG Lead. It’s somewhat of a unique position and pipeline, without divulging too much, I can say – you have to be a generalist.
Primarily, I lead a talented team of artists -generalists responsible for bringing our beautiful characters to life through stills – across all platforms and brand partnerships, etc.
On the daily, it’s almost like art directing, making sure what I and my team execute is consistent across the board, looks its best, and is as close to what our creative leads envisioned it to be.
Secondarily, I work across teams to test anything new, be it visually or a new pipeline. Part of staying curious!
I met our founder, Trevor McFedries right around the time I was graduating back in 2018, and after talking to him and understanding his vision, it got me really enthusiastic and I could see it being a really exciting way of storytelling! Not just that but also mainly he had a goal of spreading empathy and positive messaging through the work we would produce; Which I had never heard of: To spread EMPATHY.
There have been plenty of challenges for sure! Unlike joining a big studio, a startup is totally different as one would imagine! At times there are no established processes that you are just going to adopt; You are helping build out processes and are problem-solving while creating and helping create new content. It’s like building the car while you are in it, going 140 mph.
Working in a small environment you learn how communication becomes such an important tool as you have to rely on each other taking on responsibilities. I SUCKED at it initially. I was too much in my head, concerned I might get fired for saying the wrong things haha. Only if I could go back and tell myself, it’s all in your head! Because when you don’t communicate things, either they could stay broken or could affect in the future when it’s too late.
Getting where I am was super easy! Walk-in a park… if you were walking on legos while carrying the weight of your insecurities and self-doubts, and mid-way, realizing you don’t even know where were you going haha. And it does not get easier, you just get stronger and smarter.
There have been a lot of learnings, but some which might be relatable and for many, I hope can learn from,
1. This one is especially if you are in the as same position as me, ie. coming in as an international student; Work hard, work long, work work work early on, to establish yourself as someone who is serious and passionate, open to learning, and mainly is a team player.
It can get really stressful, since as soon as you graduate you are on a stopwatch. Your whole future somehow comes down to the next couple of months of you finding a job and proving yourself, to get a chance to stay in the country.
Not only that but, once you have established yourself being a genuine contributor, people feel comfortable listening to what you have to say. As long as you are leading the conversation with the big picture in mind, ranking or titles won’t matter – Until then, listen.
2. No matter where you start working- find someone you can call a mentor, someone whom you respect and trust, that you can learn from about bigger shit- the industry or just life! I was fortunate enough to have support from our Chief Design & Innovation Officer, Isaac.
And if you are super lucky like me, you will find more than one person that you can go and talk to!
3. The biggest learning curve was in 2020 when I had just become the team lead and 2 months in, the pandemic hit. Leading a team that was 85% not only remote but also international and building out a new pipeline while me and my team also working towards 4 different deliverables simultaneously, was something that nothing would have prepared me for. Just going through that I’ve matured so much as an artist, as a leader, and as a team-mate!
You learn how important it is to trust and delegate stuff, communicating your shortcomings, which means understanding and knowing the shortcomings you might have… Which is not an easy thing to do.
Also being honest- creating and contributing to an environment of openness and support, where everyone feels ok sharing any issues they might be facing is uber important.
There are learnings every day! Especially having the opportunity to be part of the discussions with our creatives and the rest of our content team, learning what’s not working is sometimes a hard pill to swallow but probably the most important one to get used to!
I am really proud of what we have accomplished and to be having an amazing opportunity to contribute to! From having been part of projects like our music videos to being on set VFX TD for them to managing a team to part of brand partnerships to being part of our NFT Venus series (where we gave away 3000 NFT’s for free!)
From joining a company when we were a tiny group of 10 people across different teams to have a collective audience of 10 million amazing and engaging folks who love these robots! There have been a lot of ups and downs and tonnes of learnings!
I am super excited for us to be driving into the world of community storytelling, web3, DAO’s, and bringing everyone along with us!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am very much of a neighborhood kinda guy; Unless the particular spot requires a reservation, we’d probably be like ‘Let’s get to the XYZ neighborhood and just pick a spot.
But we’d probably start the whole trip with a scenic drive up to Santa Barbara to Sky Dive, yesss!
It’s the only 18K spot I am aware of around then keep that adrenaline pumping by doing some clay shooting. and cap the night off with renting out motorbikes to enjoy ride up to Mulholland dr.
Let’s say any of those 2 days would probably go in checking out the obvious LA spots: Griffith Observatory, the museums (The Underground Museum, Broad, Petersen Automotive, Academy Museum, Lacma, etc). Take them to check out the Bradbury landmark and dive into Grand Central Market for lunch, Hollywood- Hollywood Hike, Venice canals, etc.
Go to Arts District, stop by some breweries and grab Tacos at Loqui (Really love those, if someone has other recs. slide in my DM’s), and later catch a movie at New Beverly Cinema.
Go spend half of the day in Six Flags and after hop through rooftop spots in the city.
Next morning, head towards Malibu for a nice long drive, on our way back stop by Santa Monica, walk around the beach-pier, grab some food and drinks. At least two of the lunches during the week will be ramen for sure! Someplace in Sawtelle and one at Daikokuya!
Catch a comedy show, and the day before last, ktown night out on the books to start it out and then explore some of the cool speakeasies!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It’s a looooong list of people who’ve contributed to who and where I am!
Mom and Dad to all of my family (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins) to all my teachers at my high school- St. Xaviers to FX School to the teachers at Otis College of Art and Design mainly Chris Eckardt, Raul Moreno, Dave Walvoord, Rob Sprujit, Soo Kim, Lisa, Maura.
The amazingly talented group of friends – Alex, Sam, Wolfgang, Anna, Bo, Monsy, Pinky, Freddie, Ankit, Varun and so many more!
To the wonderful people I’ve worked and work with- Alyce, Amanda, Vivian, Lauren, Adrian, Chris, Kim, Jess, Harv the whole leadership @brud Trevor, Nicole, Isaac, Kara, Matt M, and everyone at Brud/DC!
I can’t emphasize enough how much of our fitness contributes to everything we do on the daily, so I have to shout out my gym Rise Athletics. The book- Damn Good Advice by George Lois, and some of the artists who keep inspiring me; Ash Thorp, Tundra, Alberto Mielgo, Rafik Anadol, Thank you X to name a few.
Lastly, my friends back home- Jash, Deep, Rikki, Nitesh, Simran, Darshan, Chand, Advait, Rishabh, Gaba, Jeet, Vikrant;
I’m forgetting a lot more but, know I love you 🙂
Other: Behance: https://www.behance.net/dapatel