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Why Camaraderie, not Ego, Fuel WAX’s Creative Success

Company Profiles 577 Add to collection

LBB speaks to WAX’s founder, Toni Lipari, about compassionate leadership, working on huge clients as a boutique agency, and curating young talent

Why Camaraderie, not Ego, Fuel WAX’s Creative Success

Big egos abound in the creative industry and yet without collaboration the majority of the projects would never see the light of day. WAX, the boutique and award-winning US-based post production house - founded and run by Toni Lipari -  finds ego to be the antithesis of good work. Instead, WAX centres collaboration at the heart of everything it does, seeing the success of one its creatives to be the success of the whole company

“At WAX, we talk about ‘we’ and the idea that our success is the product of collective talents, no one person is going to define the company,” explains Toni.

Toni got her start in the industry on the agency side, having worked with many post-production companies. When thinking of setting up a ‘shop of one’s own’, she knew she wanted the company to be a “creative entity in and of itself”, adding that at WAX “everything that goes into us, the work, the roster, and the space feels a little bit different by design.” The company’s philosophy, under Toni’s careful leadership, strives to have a “refreshingly relaxed” culture, crystallised in the images WAX uses on its website - a beach in Costa Rica where Toni first came up with the company’s name. “I was in the middle of waxing my surfboard and my friend suggested ‘wax’; after saying it out loud a few times, I knew it was the right name.”

WAX started in 2014 with just three editors. Eight years later, alongside a strong editorial offering, WAX also does VFX and colour. “Eight years later WAX has flourished offering VFX and colour 2D/ 3D VFX and CGI alongside its strong editorial offering.

To date the team has worked with some of the industry’s biggest names including Peloton, American Express, Topo Chico, the L’oreal Group, and Bacardi Brands. WAX also has its foot firmly in the music video world, having recently completed an edit for the new Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ video ‘These are the Ways’.

Picking a favourite project is close to impossible for Toni, especially as she’s always more focused on the overall experience for clients and the team, from which great work necessarily stems. “The best projects for me are the ones where the relationships, be it client or colleague relationships, have strengthened. Whether it's a creative concept or an overnight edit as the driving force, when you come out the other side with a closer and stronger connection, that's what makes a project most memorable for me.”

A lot of the relationships, like in the case of Peloton, are long-standing ones with brands coming back to WAX time and time again. The reasons behind this are three-fold. The first is Toni’s experience as a producer, which helps her foster lasting relationships that benefit both sides. “It really allows me to empathise with what the agency is going through at all stages of the job. I know how agencies operate and I can reassure them when they need and hear their concerns too,” says Toni. Having a shared language at a time when budgets and schedules are tighter than ever is certainly an industry advantage.

The second is the work itself, which the team puts their all into every single time. “My entire team is completely focused on the job and what clients find is that we’re on front lines with them, from the start to the very end.” The third is Toni herself, who oversees every element of what the team is doing, giving every cut her expert eye before it goes to clients.” Toni makes herself available to help wherever help is needed, leaning into everything from “talking to clients, to overseeing budgets or the creative itself – I love being hands on and being in the mix wherever I’m needed most.”

The range of clients WAX works with is likewise impressive though by no means an accident. The way Toni builds her roster is by carefully selecting talent that doesn’t step on each other’s toes. “All of the editors at WAX have complementary skills but no two are exactly alike. That’s how we’re able to cover the gamut of beauty, comedy, sports, action, and everything in between,” explains Toni. Fostering an environment of collaboration and camaraderie, with no ego, is all part of the plan. “When the projects come in, I try to assign them in a way that will be great for the work and also great for the editor’s reel. With every project I’m thinking about how to best support the individual editor and how to build their career long-term.”

Toni is also very invested in nurturing her team - 'curating talent' - saying often that it’s one of the best parts of being a company founder and owner. WAX is one of the only companies in the industry to be woman- and LGBTQ+-owned and Toni uses this position to lead with empathy. The development of her team, individual editors’ careers and their well-being are the metrics for the company’s success. “The way I think about it is, I’m not successful if you’re not successful. Afterall, this company is built by us all. I’m very attached to my people. The work is super important to us all, but I want it to be known that this is a company with heart and soul too,” says Toni. “I love seeing my team progress and get bigger and bigger jobs, watch them interact with clients and build relationships that see those clients coming back, full of praise for what we do.”

WAX also strongly believes in the idea of ‘paying it forward’, donating a part of what they earn from each project to help those in need. A different cause is carefully chosen each quarter, from children’s charities to animal and environmental causes. It’s an in-built mechanism for the company. Why? “Because it’s the right thing to do.” Toni and her team firmly believe that their success is only worth it if it’s shared; paying it forward is the natural way of expressing this, with WAX choosing to champion worthy causes for the better good of everyone.

Looking at WAX’s journey so far it’s clear that, under Toni’s direction, the company is producing incredible work and maintaining a culture that works for everyone. Though small, the results the team delivers for their clients are positively mighty. “Build a culture, not a company,” affirms Toni, reiterating that “it’s important for everyone at WAX to have shared values. Success will come from that foundation.”

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WAX, Wed, 11 May 2022 11:04:13 GMT