You know you’ve made it big when your name evokes your brand: The Wade Brothers.
Homegrown in KC, brothers Lindsey and Lyndon Wade are the founders of RW2 Productions, a full-service content production company that has done work for Oakley, USA Today and Wendy’s.
Previously known as Rushwade2, the 16-year-old company started as a photography and retouching studio. It rebranded last year to more accurately reflect its multifaceted capabilities. The company now works primarily with ad agencies on campaigns, though some clients have also contracted with it directly.
It’s also a family affair: The R in RW2 is Judy Rush, their mother, who specializes in post-production work. The brothers insist their reverence for her isn’t just blood-related.
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“She’s amazing at what she does, and she’s self-taught,” Lindsey says.
Just like her sons.
Lyndon, 36, and Lindsey, 38, grew up in Parkville. The family later moved, and the brothers went to high school at Shawnee Mission South.
After dabbling briefly in college, both brothers left to learn their craft through trial by fire, setting up shop with Mom in 2000. Because they were so young, they had to hire someone to rent a car for them for clients.
“I am incredibly blessed to work with my two sons,” Judy Rush says. “We not only work and create together, we make it fun and do great work. I couldn’t be more proud of who they are and what we have created together.”
Age wasn’t going to be a barrier to success, but their choice to stay close to home in KC almost was. “People were like, ‘What the fuck are you doing there?’ They were laughing at us,” Lyndon recalls.
He explains that the business grew as he and his brother were asked to direct live action along with their still photography campaigns. Then they were signed as directors by a large production company in Los Angeles.
“Growing our directing career along with our photography campaign over the last 10 years allowed us to need production support back in our KC studio,” Lyndon says. “As we got too busy to do every job, we decided to start representing other directors and photographers and rebranded our studio.”
Agents naturally wanted them on a coast, but the brothers dug in and built a world-class studio and network in the Midwest.
“We can be in L.A. before people wake up,” Lindsey says. “People are realizing you can be anywhere you want. It’s opening up second-tier cities: Austin, Nashville, New Orleans and Kansas City.”
RW2’s studio in downtown KC serves as a central base. Lyndon commutes from Brookside, where he lives with his wife and 5-month-old baby, while Lindsey flies in from Costa Rica, where he relocated with his wife and child nine months ago.
“All I need is me, my computer and Wi-Fi, so I’m going to be there,” Lindsey says. Plus, he adds, “people think it’s awesome that I surf.”
In the simplest terms, the brothers take pictures and make stories; in reality, that can mean traveling 24 hours to the ends of the Earth, shooting for 24 hours, then traveling back home. They’re gone half the year, showing up anyplace from Alaska to Panama to Istanbul.
One of the brothers shoots stills while the other directs live action, and their skills are interchangeable.
Their styles aren’t synonymous but close enough. “Naturally, we have our own strengths,” Lyndon says. “But we’re seamless. ‘The Wade Brothers’ style is our styles combined.”
That style can be quirky — Hotel.com’s Captain Obvious — to almost spiritual, see Oakley’s “One Obsession.”
On jobs, the brothers try to sneak in some play time, from skiing in Aspen to bungee jumping in New Zealand. But “it’s definitely NOT a vacation,” Lindsey assures. “But there’s no way you’re not getting me to enjoy myself.”
The brothers’ whole business seems founded on enjoyment. They hire friends and people who inspire them. There are now 11 full-time employees.
“I love giving artists money so they don’t have to get a real job,” Lyndon says. Only adaptable, genuine individuals with something to contribute need apply: “If you’re a dick, you don’t work here,” he adds.
“It really is a team effort in every sense,” says Leslie Kinsman, artist representative at RW2. She is about six months into the job. “We wear a lot of hats and work with local and national artists, creating a very collaborative work environment. The artists are in and out the door constantly, coming in and using the space at their convenience. So it’s truly a growing and rich creative community at the studio.”
In their budding empire, the brothers consider themselves a sounding board. “This is a safe place to discuss art and craft and give constructive criticism,” Lindsey says. “The two of us challenge each other to make better ideas.”
They’ve also done plenty of training to bring local talent — especially those who have been untapped or underserved by other employers — up to an international level.
“People here are amazing, but there’s no structure to grow or improve,” Lindsey says. “We show them what’s expected, and they achieve it.”
Both men also make work/life balance a top priority. “Quality of life is the new currency,” Lyndon says.
Whatever form the company takes in the next decade will be determined slowly, while the brothers enjoy the imaginative process involved in each project. On their website, they simply label themselves directors with the company — no glorious titles. They want to work hard, but have no plans — yet — to grow so fast that they can’t still have fun.
“It has to be sustainable. If that means we get big, great. But we’re not just doing shit work to grow. People have skewed ideas about what it means to be profitable,” Lindsey says. “Shit, this is the dream.”