Two years ago, Andrew Tran was 24 and unsure whether he should go to medical school or continue a promising career in media production.
Then he won an Emmy Award.
It was goodbye Dr. Tran and hello to the revolutionary world of social media advertising.
Tran grew up in Honolulu and attended Moanalua High School. He was a standout in the school’s MeneMAC Film program, where he learned the skills and made the connections that prepared him for later success.
Andrew Tran founded Redefined Media in 2014 with three partners.
Courtesy of Andrew Tran
But Tran didn’t dedicate himself to media after graduating in 2011. Instead, he enrolled at the University of Hawaii Manoa, studying business his first year. As a sophomore, he decided to pursue medicine, changing his major to biology.
“My Grandma had a big influence on me,” he says. “When she went to the doctors, I translated for her. I saw how I could help people in the medical field. That was my passion.”
While preparing for medical school, Tran was moonlighting behind a camera, shooting wedding photos and videos.
In 2014, he founded Redefined Media with partners Evan Asato, Josh Almario and Tyler Guieb.
Almario later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a directing career, and Guieb enlisted in the Air Force, leaving Tran and Asato to run the company.
They specialized in social media content and became known for their event recap videos and quick turnaround times.
‘I Don’t Watch TV’
As social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram were becoming ever more popular, Redefined Media released a series of videos about the Hawaiian Islands, and they went viral. Their #oahu video has had 1.7 million views on Facebook.
Hawaiian Airlines tapped the group to shoot a similar concept, promoting the airline’s partner companies. This was the first of a series of gigs with local customers such as First Hawaiian Bank, Pow! Wow! (an annual mural-based festival), and Zippys.
Tran attributes the success of Redefined Media to demographic shifts.
Tran shooting video on location for Redefined Media.
Courtesy of Andrew Tran
“A whole generation is growing up using social media. Lots of older companies never had a social media presence, so we help tell their stories,” he says. “Our content reaches a demographic that television, radio and print don’t. It’s funny. I’ve produced TV commercials, but I never see them because I don’t watch TV.”
Traditional advertising doesn’t capture the attention of young people addicted to their phones. And aesthetically, millennials and Generation Zers aren’t as drawn to the slick, clean commercials of years past.
Thus, there’s a premium placed on social media and influencer marketing, the latter using endorsements of social media superstars.
Tran’s marketing appeals to a generation raised on social media, focusing on candid shots and storytelling.
“Our work is more lifestyle than commercial,” he says. “We capture moments that aren’t staged or scripted and craft them into a product that doesn’t feel like a commercial, but still tells a story.”
‘Challenge Of A Career’
Frank Clark had a problem. He wanted to introduce local foodies to a new culinary concept: the food alley. His Waikiki Yokocho was the first of its kind in Hawaii, so he asked Lanai Tabura for help.
After a career as a radio DJ and comedian, Tabura has turned his attention to food, hosting cooking shows and pop-up dinners with local chefs. He also entered and won the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.”
Tabura reached out to Tran, thinking they could do more than a 30- or 60-second commercial. Instead, they created a 22-minute documentary, “Ramen Yokocho.”
From left, Andrew Tran, Lanai Tabura and Maurice Berbano on location in Osaka, Japan, during production for “Osaka Yokocho.”
Courtesy of Andrew Tran
At the time, Tran hadn’t done much work for TV. He describes the project as “the challenge of a career.”
Tran and Tabura worked closely with Maurice Berbano, an editor and creative lead on the Redefined team.
“We followed the process from the noodle company to the restaurant,” says Tran. “Often, people only see the final product. I love looking behind the scenes and telling that side of the story.”
The show embeds advertising for Waikiki Yokocho, but also includes a history of ramen, a lesson on ramen making, and interviews with chefs. Throughout, Tabura narrates over shots of cooking and eating. The food looks delicious.
The team was surprised in May 2018 when it was nominated for an Emmy Award, which it won a month later. That was the moment when Tran decided that he “should really focus on this path.”
Millennials Taking Over
As millennials age and become a more important market segment, Tran believes that Redefined’s style of content will become more valuable to companies, so he and his partner, Evan Asato, are expanding their business.
“We tell stories. It sounds cliche, but that’s what we love to do,” Tran says.
Meanwhile, he’s looking to mentor and provide opportunities for young creatives who share his passion and drive.
“I tell them not to give up on their dreams,” he says. “There’s always a way.”
Tran’s way seems to be moving from one success to another. This year, three Redefined films are up for Emmy Awards: “Osaka Yokocho,” “Tokyo Yokocho” and the first installment of a new series, “We Go Eat.”
The first episode, “We Go Eat: Poke,” has already received more than 250,000 views on Facebook. Don’t watch it when you’re hungry.
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Sterling was raised in Nuuanu. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and later earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. Sterling now works as a debate coach and lecturer at Hawaii Pacific University. By candlelight, he is finishing his Ph.D. in education at the University of Hawaii Manoa. The author's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Civil Beat.