Ben Gregor Talks Yes DRS
Ben Gregor has set up a charity 'piggybacking' ad shoots to allow disadvantaged kids to express their creativity.
Inspiration comes in many forms and director Ben Gregor [above, centre] has hit on a way to use advertising shoots to help inspire children around the world who need encouragement and stimulation the most.
His DRS initiative, which he created last year, aims to painlessly ‘piggyback’ paid-for shoots and use favours, as well as peoples charitable nature, to organise and film music videos with kids from across the globe who would otherwise never have the chance to express their creativity in such as way.
Now collaborating with charities such as the UK’s Kids Company, and with the recent release of the most recent DRS project, London's Burning [below], Gregor explains the concept of DRS and how you can get involved.
Tell us a bit about DRS, what it is and the motivations behind creating it?
DRS is a when directors use favours to shoot music videos with marganalised kids from urban youth centres. It’s completely global and it’s growing really fast. I’ve shot rap videos in townships in South Africa, in the snowy industrial wasteland of Toronto’s East End [below] and on the streets of Brixton. Now other directors are jumping on and we’ve got shoots coming up in New York, Detroit, Chicago and Oakland.
How does the process work?
The director lets us know when he/ she can knock out a little shoot - generally off the back of an ad - and we help them connect with a youth centre that does music. They’re teeming with talent and it’s talent that comes from very unsettled and tricky backgrounds - kids who sometimes lack the confidence to do this otherwise. But they’re super-smart. The whole process is fuelled by favours and is pretty much free.
We’re starting to hear from very famous directors and musicians and that connection is going to be amazing in terms of profile but it won’t change the heart of it - showing committment to disconnected young people and helping them prove to themselves and the world that their voice is worth hearing. Beautiful visuals and good editing really help give a song weight and significance. And that’s what we all do for a living, right? So it’s a way of sharing our own talents - of giving our talents away to those who need and deserve it the most.
Where did the name come from and what’s it’s significance?
DRS gets renamed wherever we are. First up it was Dead Rappers Society and then the Democratic Republic of Swag. It changes every time and it’s symbolic of how the kids we work with own it and kind of run the process with our guidance and expertise.
What were the main challenges in founding something like DRS?
It’s new and people take a while to click with it sometimes. Then they suddenly want to do the video immediately. We’re all used to the production process but even with the advent of digital, the way to do it properly is still quite mysterious and slow seeming.
But that’s all part of the learning. I’ve been late for a few agency drinks after the shoots and come in covered in grazes and with some crazy stories. But that’s all part of the fun I think. Also, in commercials, I mostly shoot comedy and some people are surprised I’m knocking around doing this kind of urban work, but they get used to it eventually. Rap can be really funny, the word play is amazing and it seems pretty close to comedy - to me anyway.
How did you become involved with charities such as Kids Company?
We just contact them with the body of work and find the right liaison there. Every time it gets easier and with our new project - getting kids across the United States to do songs about fatherhood - centres have started to come to us asking to be involved.
How do you decide which communities to visit and which people get to make a video?
It’s very organic, but the kind of places where DRS operates tend to be places where some English is spoken and where there is a big urban population. At the moment the USA is a big focus but there is also some real interest from Sao Paulo and Athens which could be cool.
Language can be part of the charm; our South African video has one verse in Xhosa (a tribal language), one verse in Afrikaans slang (spoken by some mixed race communities out there) and one verse in English. They are never usually heard in the same song but now they are, and it sounds amazing.
Have you been surprised by the talent on show from the kids who write and perform the songs?
It’s way better than you can imagine. The talent is huge and the kids are so smart. The kids just need working with but youth centres are so stretched due to austerity economics in so many cities across the world. But there is a real hunger for knowledge and learning. Music videos are a real currency for young people. Often it can mean masses to them.
Why is DRS important?
In this business we all have the gift of talent. Directing, producing, music, whatever; and to respect whoever or whatever gave it to us we have to do more than just make a profit out of it. We have to share it. I’m all about making a living and doing great commercials, but I am also about this mini-revolution that is DRS. So if you’re reading this and feeling in the least bit inspired, or know someone who might be, please get in touch.
For more information on how to get involved with DRS, go to yesdrs.com or contact Gregor via Twitter on @bengregor.
- Director Ben Gregor
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