Client Focus: AF Creative Media
An Interview with Brian and Dayna Lee.
The duo behind AF Creative Media—partners in marriage, parenthood, theatre production and a successful blog @artsandfood—have been clients of Milstein Law Group for several years. With the careful and clearsighted guidance of MLG, Brian and Dayna Lee have created an exciting new life in the States—including multiple hit Broadway shows, Tony Awards for Moulin Rouge and Angels in America, an impressive social media following, and twin girls.
Here, they tell us how they did it.
How did you get your start in theater production?
My wife and I started our theater company, AF Creative Media, on our honeymoon—because we decided that we were going to jump into our nuptials full swing! We were both not-so-thrilled with our careers at the time, and we really wanted to work together. We both shared a love of producing. We had a few initial investments on Broadway shows. I had already been an assistant director on a few shows and Dana had worked in music syncing at Warner Music. We also had an Instagram back then with about 10,000 followers and it just felt like the right time to become true entrepreneurs.
We jumped right in, and it will be five years this June, two Tony awards and a host of projects later. Truthfully, the only reason we’re able to do it and to live in this country is because of Rakhel. She empowered us and gave us the tools to stay in the U.S. and make a life here.
Where are you from?
We’re both from Toronto. We grew up five minutes from each other, but we didn’t know each other there. We met in college in Boston.
You both went to Berklee College of Music, right?
Yes, we met in our second semester. We looked at each other and thought, hey, you look familiar. We’d actually been in the same room before. We’d had the same vocal coach, but had never met. It’s nauseatingly cute, and it’s true.
Five years later and two Tony Awards under your belt, what are you working on now?
Yes, we won Tony Awards for Moulin Rouge and Angels in America. We’re currently developing a slate of new musicals. Next November, we’re opening a musical about Nelson Mandela in London that we’re producing in partnership with his family. And we’re working on a bunch of other projects, including an adaptation of Nowhere Boy, about the life of John Lennon.
It’s been a pretty wild ride for two kids from the Canadian suburbs.
We also have a social media blog (@artsandfood) that’s a fulltime job in itself. It started as a food blog that we did for fun when we first moved to NYC. Now it chronicles our life as business partners and parents—we have 10-month-old twin girls—parenting, producing, traveling, and living as the most positive Canadians we can possibly be.
How long have you been clients of Milstein Law Group?
We met Rakhel when we were in school in Boston, and she helped us get an F1. So, we had a year of OPT. The notion of it is this: you’ve come to this country and educated yourself here, so we’re going to give you a year to work and try to create a life. I think that’s the notion. But don’t quote me on that. We met with Rakhel and she told us what it would look like, how we could do it, and what we would have to achieve in the year of our OPT to try and make a life here.
How did you find Milstein Law Group?
Rakhel had gotten a green card for a friend of mine from Toronto who was working in LA, writing songs for Disney and Nickelodeon. After graduating, I asked her how she’d done it. Canada is just a country to the north, but it feels like a massive shift to move to the States.
My friend said, You have to meet Rakhel. She’s amazing. So, we met her, and we have since sent dozens of people to her and her team because they are phenomenal, diligent, caring and emotionally available. The notion of immigration—moving to a new place—is incredibly scary. And the rules change every day, so you don’t quite understand what and how. MLG holds your hand. It’s seamless. They are so on your team. They’re incredibly honest.
Starting with our very first conversation, they were honest about what we could try to do, what we could not do, what helps, what doesn’t. Rakhel is the only person I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, that when I send an email, it’s less than 36 hours before I hear back. I don’t know how she does it. And it’s always a real response, diligent and thoughtful. She and her whole team are like that. We had trouble getting passports for our twin girls and they were so on board with us. They have such a wonderful network internationally and they’ve held our hand the whole time we built a life in the United States. We realistically would not be here without them.
It’s an active relationship.
When I was an assistant director, Rakhel helped me build my portfolio; it was like 300 pages. Then, as I made the decision to shift into producing, and Dana made the decision to get her Master’s in media management, and then to become a producer, too, MLG helped us make the shift. They have taught us how to work within the parameters of our visas. The visas are good for three years, and we’ve started the process of applying for green cards. Through everything, MLG has been with us every single step of the way. I can’t say enough about them. Rakhel and her team are unbelievable.
Can you tell me about your Instagram channel?
When we started, we were still living in Boston. We love food and restaurants, and New York has the best restaurants in the world. So, we started this list of places we wanted to visit. And we started posting our food pictures. Soon, we grew to 10,000 followers. Now we’re at 75,000. It’s morphed. We got our first campaign sponsorship, and our IG has become a forward-facing part of our production company. Our industry is in its infancy of understanding how social media can engage with new audiences. We became influencers unintentionally and have grown a brand awareness for ourselves that follows our life—where we eat, what we do, our kids (we have twin girls), our struggle to have kids, our business—this whole journey.