AMY JAMES-KELLY CHATS ‘LAST SUMMER’ & FUTURE PROJECTS 60

Amy James-Kelly is not only talented but hugely ambitious. Having first come to notable public attention starring in Coronation Street and Jericho, she’s now added the titles of writer, producer and director to her resume thanks to her impressive independent film Last Summer, described as a project “with a history” and one which “addresses current themes and issues.” TITL caught up with Amy to find out more about the production process of the film, the importance of crowd-funding in its creation and what other projects she has in the pipeline.

TITL: Most people will likely know you best for playing Maddie Heath in Coronation Street from 2013-2015, but what exactly made you want to branch out into film-making, producing and directing?

Amy James-Kelly: A lot of my friends have done similar things and because I missed out on the whole going to university experience where a lot of people will do film studies, make their own stuff, that kind of thing and take all that they’ve learned over those years and put them into practice later in life, I didn’t get to do those things.

But I’d heard the story of Last Summer as it was a play my mum had been involved in. This all stemmed from a conversation had with me while she was washing up and she was reminiscing about this play that she did. As she was telling me, I had a mental image of what would later go on to become the last shot of the film. It just kinda happened and I thought ‘I have to do this now.’ It was always something I thought about doing, eventually – having a go at writing, directing and generally film-making – but it wasn’t until that moment that I said to myself that I was definitely going to do it.

TITL: You had a bit of trouble trying to get the backing and the funding for the film. Do you think, given all those problems, now that the film’s done, that you were able to make it at the right time? Do you think Last Summer would have had the same relevance and impact two years ago as it does today?

AJK: I am so glad we did it this time around. The quality’s better – all aspects of the film are better. The script was edited a lot and I feel like by the time Last Summer finally began production, I’d grown as a producer and was more comfortable with that role than I might have been had we tried making this film when we first began looking for backers and funding. I was learning things throughout the whole process, and I’d learnt a lot of lessons from when we first began working on the film before the problems started to arise, which proved immensely beneficial in the long-run. I think it was a blessing in disguise that the film didn’t work out first time round because it has ended up being ten times better.

TITL: How easy or hard was it to bring everyone in terms of the cast and crew back together after the funding and everything fell through first time around?

AJK: I think we managed to get about 50% of the original team back – some were unavailable and a few others simply decided it would be better if we parted ways. I’m really lucky that, myself included, on the team, there are 5 of us that all go to acting school together and we all have a similar interest in producing our own work, acting, writing and everything like that. It’s just really great to see that individuals from acting school, can do and are doing something outside of class to help them grow not only as actors but as people. We all just thought ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ We got together and we were all throwing around different ideas – it’s been really great having that unit of people who are in the same boat as me, so to speak, and who understand what it is I’m passionate about and why.

In terms of finding the other crew members, that wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. There are loads of Facebook groups around these days where, once approved by the page admins, you can simply put a post up explaining who it is you’re looking for and a little about the project you’re working on, and receive responses from people all over the country, including industry professionals with all their own gear, who are willing to jump on board with you. I think social media is going to launch the next generation of film-makers.

TITL: What would you say your team all brought to the creation of the film?

AJK: The film would have been completely different if one member of the team hadn’t been a part of it. I’m so lucky to have worked with them all. We had people who are very much industry professionals and some people who are just starting out, all working together towards the same goal and I think that really comes across in the film as well. The professionals brought their experience and the newer individuals brought their enthusiasm – when that came together, it was amazing to watch and be involved in. It was fantastic to see someone who has like 100 film credits pass on their advice to someone who was standing on their first ever set, or show them how to do something a certain way.

TITL: Last Summer was largely crowd-funded – did you expect the reaction and support that it got?

AJK: After what happened first time around, there was always a worry that the same thing would happen again. I kept telling myself that it was going to work and it does stun me, at least once a day, to think that there are people out there who not only put their own money into this project but also sent me messages telling me they were excited to see it, or who had been following my progress. There were people I hadn’t spoken to for years getting in touch to pass on their well-wishes and support and that touched me, it really did. To think that an idea I had as a result of a conversation with my mum was all-but brought to life mostly by people I don’t even know is mind-blowing.

TITL: How big would you say the impact of social media has been in general in terms of how it helped get the film made and its promotion?

AJK: Social media is and has been an invaluable tool to myself and the Last Summer team, as made evident by the crowd-funding campaign launched to help get it made. People have obviously always made films and started their own production companies etc. long before social media existed, and full credit to them because I don’t know how I’d have done it, but I relied on social media a lot; I relied on people sharing news about the film, posting the crowd-funding link and things like that. I had people who donated to the film living in the States, in Sweden – if social media didn’t exist, there’s no way I’d have had the ability to reach them.

TITL: You wrote on your crowd-funding site that a lot of the money donated by individuals around the world would be going to Reuben’s Retreat. Why that charity/organisation in particular?

AJK: I’m an ambassador for the charity and I’m always trying to champion them whenever I can. They’re a group of people very close to my heart. I always try and do something with and for them every year, be it the Manchester 10K or sorting out their stationary cupboard laughs One if the filming locations, Howard Park, is right beside the retreat, and it wasn’t until I was at the retreat one day just helping out, that I went into the park with Nicola, Reuben’s mum, and I just said “Oh my God, this is perfect.” Everything I’d pictured in my head was suddenly visualised right in front of me, and I knew that, if we were going to work so closely to the Retreat, then we had to give them something back. They helped us out so much – they sorted out our catering on the first two days and I felt bad about seeing them help us as much as they did, but the Retreat team just said to me: “We know you’ll always give something back.”

TITL: You held a screening in Manchester – how did that go?

AJK: It was amazing. It was so great to finally show people the finished product – I’d seen it about four million times in various stages of post-production – and that was the first time the majority of people had seen what myself and the team had put our time, energy and passion into creating. I was nervous…I was so scared, and when I stood up to thank everyone, my mind just went completely blank. I had to type something up later and send it to everyone – I have no idea what I ended up saying.

TITL: So what are the plans for the film now? Are you looking to get it out to a few independent or even major film festivals?

AJK: Film festivals are the main aim, yeah, and I’m also wanting to get it onto DVD for people.

TITL: What sort of message do you want people to take from Last Summer, both in terms of the production and the film itself?

AJK: The film itself is hard to say without giving anything away. There is a message with it, but it would give the story away. As for the production, certainly in regards to people who want to do something like this, I think the main message is that they simply need to tell themselves they CAN do it; that it can and WILL happen. Simply convince yourself that nothing can stop you and that the project you’ve been dreaming about will become a reality. It’s as simple as that. Self-confidence, and confidence in others, in the team you’re wanting to and going to work with, is key.

Absolutely anybody can be a part of this industry – actors, producers, directors, writers – they might all come from different walks of life, but when they’re all set on making something a reality, and bringing an idea to life, none of that does or will ever matter. Plus, the feeling you get when you finally achieve your dream and bring your idea to life is amazing.

TITL: Now that Last Summer is out there and your baby has flown the nest, so to speak, what’s next for you?

AJK: Off the back of Last Summer, people who worked with me on that, or who have just caught wind of the film, have got in touch asking if we can collaborate, and that to me is really, really exciting as I never expected it to happen. I honestly thought that this would just be a little thing that I did, and obviously, I always wanted the kind of reception that it’s had, but I never expected that people would love it as much as they have and to get the reaction and response that it did at the screening in Manchester.

I’ve also had messages from people in my acting classes getting in touch saying ‘It’s so cool to see someone from class doing something…let’s do something together.’ As for what’s next, I’m in the early research stages of a short film I’m currently doing with a friend of mine and I’m producing a short film that one of the guys on the team is doing.

TITL: What do you say to people out there who think actors and actresses should stick to those specific roles, rather than branching out into producing and directing as you have?

AJK: I think that’s really blinkered. This industry is so accessible and everyone works so closely together. It’s so easy to have an interest in another aspect of being on set, and just networking or picking up the skills and knowledge you need to give those aspects a go. If you have an idea and you want to turn it into something, need it be a play, a film…whatever – there is nothing to stop you. I think directors can try acting, actors can try directing…anyone can try anything and no-one should be able to or want to stop them from doing that.

TITL: Now that you’ve found your producing/directing feet with Last Summer, can you see yourself going back to TV in the near future?

AJK: I’m currently working on Harlan Coben’s Safe with Red Productions for Netflix. I think acting is always going to be my first love – I eat, sleep and breathe it and I get a really big geeky kick out of it, but I’m definitely going to continue making projects like this – I’d start one again tomorrow.

To keep up to date with Amy James-Kelly, follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Lee Johnson Photography.

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DEAF HAVANA TALK THEIR UK TOUR & RE-WORKING ‘ALL THESE COUNTLESS NIGHTS’ 43

Having recently released a reworked edition of their latest album, All These Countless Nights, and after spending time in Australia as support for Placebo, UK alt-rock band Deaf Havana have returned home and are about to embark on an extensive UK tour. Before heading out on the road, front-man James Veck-Gilodi spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about career longevity, fan favourite tracks and the bands’ future plans.

TITL: Having formed in 2005, what do you think it is about yourselves as a band that’s enabled you to remain a fixture of this ever-changing industry when several of your counterparts have fallen by the way-side?

James Veck-Gilodi: Persistence probably – we don’t give up. Being in a band isn’t easy unless you’re incredibly lucky, and without wanting to sound harsh, I think a lot of bands aren’t cut out for this business and what it can and does demand of them. A lot of them can’t cope with living in a van, touring round for like two years; it can be really difficult, and I think that’s why some of them give up – because it’s not how they thought it was going to be. I guess we just have a lot of persistence, and we came from like the shittiest little town ever (Kings Lynn) and for us, anything was better than staying there, so we just always wanted to get out of it.

TITL: You’re recently released a reworked edition of your album All These Countless Nights. Why did you decide to release such a collection and how did you get producer Adam Noble and The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra involved?

JVG: Adam Noble recorded the original version of the record so I was already friends with him. Our label were like “We should re-release the record” and I was like “I don’t want to just re-release it…” because, really, what was the point? So we decided to re-record it. I just get bored easily – it was really because I just wanted to have fun because I get bored super easily and I wanted to experiment with different instruments. As for the Prague Orchestra, a guy at our record label – the other half of their music is like, music for soundtracks and stuff, so they know all these classical musicians – put us in touch. Adam Noble and I wrote the score and they just recorded it – it was pretty awesome.

TITL: You’re also heading out on a huge UK later this month. How excited are you to be getting back out on home country roads again, especially having been in Oz recently supporting Placebo?

JVG: Incredibly excited. We’re incredibly excited to be doing our own shows in the UK. Australia is and was really cool, but it’s hard when you’re on tour with another band who you don’t necessarily…the people that went to those shows were there purely for Placebo; they didn’t care about us. It was a cool experience, but I’m so happy to be playing to our own fans again. I literally can’t wait.

TITL: How did you come to decide on Black Foxxes and Decade as tour support?

JVG: They’re just really good bands. Black Foxxs I’ve been a fan of for ages and we asked them to do a previous tour but they were busy so they couldn’t do it, so I think we just kept asking them until they said yes. And Decade…we were in Sweden at the start of the year and we had a day off. There was a show on which I went to and Decade were one of the bands playing. I basically asked them there and then if they wanted to come on tour with us later in the year because I just thought they were pretty fucking good.

TITL: Is there any particular venue on this tour you’re most excited to play or do you just enjoy the thrill of stepping out on stage every night no matter where you are?

JVG: I’m excited to play all of them to be honest. There are a lot of places on this tour we haven’t played in ages, but I can’t say I’m excited to play any one more than any other. I just love, love playing music in front of people that actually like our songs and know the words.

TITL: For anyone who hasn’t seen you live before, what can they expect from a Deaf Havana show?

JVG: Just fun, I guess. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We don’t speak in weird voices on stage or anything like that – you know how some bands have a stage persona? That’s not us. We’re very real I guess. Our shows are a good laugh; it’s just five guys who like playing music to fans who like such music and want to have as much of a good time as we do.

TITL: Which of your songs do you find are fan-favourites on tour? Do and can they vary show to show and do you find audiences differ country to country?

JVG: You can kind of guess by looking at lame stuff like Spotify plays, but there’s a track on our latest album, the last track, “Pensacola”, which seems to be popular – the last time we played it, it got like the BIGGEST sing-along; and we haven’t released that as a single. There are a couple of weird album tracks that fans like, but I think the biggest one is “Anemophobia” off our first record.

My favourite shows are always here in the UK. I’ve lived in London for years and years, so the shows in London are always the best, think. But it’s nice to be able to travel, and the audiences do vary of course. We’ve been concentrating on England quite a lot and we have an okay following here, but everywhere else is a bit different. It was amazing to go and play in Australia because it’s literally the other side of the world, but I do love coming back and playing here, especially in London – it’s like coming home.

TITL: I ask almost every band or artist I speak to this question, so I’m intrigued to hear what you say. I’d like you to create your dream-show line-up, featuring five bands or artists who can be living or dead. Who would they be and where would you play?

JVG: There’s a festival in Norway called Slottsfjell. It’s on the top of a hill, on the top of a mountain, overlooking a massive lake and there’s a castle behind you. That’d be the setting. As for the line-up, that’d be…oh God….Nirvana headlining….this is going to be completely random and none of these bands are going to go to together. Nirvana headlining, The Smiths second, Bjork third….I have no idea…Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith. The most depressing line-up ever.

TITL: You mentioned Spotify earlier. Do you think you’d have the following and the support that you do without the power and influence of streaming and social media?

JVG: I’m not sure to be honest; it goes two ways. I’ve always been a fan of streaming and stuff – although we get less money it does allow more people to listen to our music. But if we went back to the 90’s, or the 80’s, we would probably be doing a lot better as streaming etc. didn’t exist back then. People would physically actually have to buy records and we’d be rich – not that that’s what matters. Nowadays, I think it’s pretty essential because it’s pretty much the only way people really listen to and discover music. It’s essential I think.

More personally, I only use Twitter occasionally. I use Instagram to promote stuff and make myself laugh; I’m not really a fan of social media if I’m totally honest, but I understand that if you’re a band or a business, you need it now.

TITL: With the end of the year fast approaching, looking back, have there been any stand-out moments for you and what does 2018 have in store?

JVG: There’s one particular period of time that was stand-out. We did a headline tour in Europe that was about a month long, in March, I think and we shared it with this band called Dinosaur Pile Up who are now like our best friends. I don’t know, for some reason that tour was just like…you know the tour that EVERYONE goes on about, where they say to anyone and everyone “Oh my God, that was incredible!”? I’ve never had that before but that tour was just…I’ll never forget it and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to top it; we’ll never be able to have a friendship as good as that with another band. So yeah, that European tour we did with Dinosaur Pile Up was the best thing about this year.

Next year, we will release another album I think. I just need to get writing and demoing so for me, 2018 will consist of a lot of studio time.

TITL: One final question, then. Given your career longevity, what advice would you give to bands and artists just starting out and perhaps struggling to make their mark in this ever-competitive industry?

JVG: It’s hard because when we started out, things were completely different; we had a different set of goals and things we wanted and needed to achieve, in comparison to what today’s bands and artists need to strive for. I think the main piece of advice I would give is to just do it because you love it. Don’t do it because you want to be famous; do it because you love playing music. In the end, if you do it for any other reason, you’re going to hate yourself and you’re going to resent it. Don’t lose sight of why you started in the first place.

Deaf Havana kick off their UK tour on November 9th. Tickets can be purchased here. For more information on the band, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. All These Countless Nights (Reworked) is available now.

KIM CAMERON TALKS “BURNING”, SOCIAL MEDIA & TOUR PLANS 54

There are, it could be said, very few artists who have had the career longevity that Kim Cameron has. Having started out performing as part of a band in the 90’s before going solo, she’s since gone on to perform to thousands upon thousands around the world. As she continues to experiment with musical styles and with a greatest hits collection due out in January, Kim Cameron’s career continues to go from strength to strength. Here, she chats to ThisIsTheLatest about her new single “Burning,”, her favourite shows and her advice for new and upcoming artists.

TITL: For those perhaps unfamiliar with yourself and your music, please sum both up in a few words?

Kim Cameron: I am a singer/songwriter who is mad about creating new sounds and music. I have a deep house love that is mixed with pop vocals for more of an electro-pop feel.

TITL: Did you always know you wanted to make music or did you have any other career ambitions before embarking on this journey you’re on now?

KC: I did not always want to make music, or I guess I should say, I did not know I could make music until one day, I was inspired to write a song that changed my entire life, career. I have been involved in music since the 2nd grade, when I learned how to play the clarinet.

TITL: You’ve been a staple of the industry now for many years, having first started out in a cover band in the 90’s before releasing your first solo record in 2008. How do you think the industry has evolved/changed during that time and do you believe things have changed for the better?

KC: Loaded question! In 2008, people were more receptive to new music projects, originals. Then, 3 years later, American Idol took over the scene. The economy tanked and the world thought if they sang in front of Simon Cowell, they would be a star and make a million dollars. The cover band scene took over, and I think original projects have been struggling to regain control ever since. I have only recently seen the thirst for new music amongst the crowds.

On the electronic distribution side, indies have the advantage for selling anything, everywhere, but that has created so much noise that it is difficult for people to ‘discover’ you or your new sounds. I am not sure things have changed for the better or worse since 2008. The market has created a lot of actors in the industry – which is shame for new indies who do not know better. But, it has also created a community of indies who figured out they needed to work together in order to get their music heard.

TITL: What impact did American Airlines picking up four songs from your debut album have on your career trajectory from then on?

KC: I believe it made me creditable. As a fresh new original artist, I needed something to show the world my music was worthy. American Airlines has the name and brand to make it count.

TITL: Tell me a little about your latest release, “Burning.”

KC: I wanted to do something different. I know my normal dance fans will say, “huh?” But, I was inspired one day, and when inspiration hits, you really have to go with your gut. If I were an R ’n’ B artist, this would be a slam dunk, so I know I am taking a big risk releasing this single, but it just felt like I needed to test the waters. When I was recording, I kept hearing horns, so when Ted Zimmerman came along with his magical touch, I knew why I kept hearing the horns. This song was made for his fingers.

TITL: How would you say “Burning” differs from the many other singles you’ve released?

KC: Besides being completely out of my dance market all together…..probably it does not differ a lot…only kidding! It is true, I am a hopeless romantic who writes about love and relationships, and this song is no exception to that rule, but, I like that this one has a unique sexual feeling that I have not done in a song since “3 Seconds” which was more cheeky than sexy. It came naturally to add that extra emotion into the vocal.

TITL: How did you get Ted Zimmerman involved on the track?

KC: I have known Ted for about 3 years. He is one of those legends down here in Miami, performing with all the big acts. I always wanted to involve him on one of my tracks, but just didn’t have the right track for him….until now.

TITL: You’ve also got a greatest hits album due out in January. What made you decide that now’s the right time to create and release one?

KC: I wish I could tell you that my crystal ball lead me to that decision, but for the music side of my business, I go on gut instinct. I always wanted to try something new with a greatest hits, re-releasing singles with a new direction, and adding a few new originals along the way. I also wanted to feature some musicians on the album that I have worked with over the course of almost 10 years.

TITL: How easy/hard was it to choose which tracks to include?

KC: That was pretty easy for the most part. I just looked at my sales/YouTube views. Those were the winners.

TITL: Having won several awards including Silver Medal Best Dance Song for “Moon on The Water” and Best Emerging Female Award at the 2017 Indie Music Channel Awards, do accolades like that hold much importance to you or are you more concerned by what your fans think?

KC: It is always always, always nice to be recognized by your peers. That never ever gets old. But, honestly, my fans will always hold the most weight if I had to pick.

TITL: How do you feel about social media and do you think this industry, and society in general, is perhaps too reliant on it? How have the likes of Twitter/Facebook etc. impacted your career?

KC: I have a love/hate relationship with all social media. I love to mass distribute information because fans love to see what I am doing. But, I hate the gaming of the media. How does one judge whether a song is good or not by the number of likes? I mean, a song is subjective. What one person loves maybe a song another hates. And, that is the whole point about different music – there is something for everyone. Facebook will never dictate by their ‘likes’ if I love a song or not. I suspect most people believe that as well.

TITL: You’ve toured the US, UK and the Caribbean, but of all the shows you’ve played could you pick your three favourites?

KC: 1. Baz Bar in St. Barths, 2. New Year’s Eve in the DR and 3. Dubrovnik Music Wave Festival

TITL: What are your upcoming tour plans?

KC: I just got back from Germany, Amsterdam and Croatia. I am doing a few shows in Miami then I’m off to Switzerland, and then in January, China. So, looks like a bit of world travel for me. I would not want it any other way!

TITL: If you had to pick one stand-out moment from your career so far, which would it be?

KC: Singing the National Anthem for the Giants NFL game in front of 78,000 people – thank goodness it was well before all this kneeling controversy!

TITL: Finally then, what advice would you give to anyone starting out in this industry?

KC: Never say never…don’t give up.  It’s hard. It’s never easy.  But, if you love it, you must do it.

Check out the video for “Burning” below and for more information on Kim Cameron, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.