ALLEN WEST CHATS ‘ESSENTIAL CONTENT’, NETFLIX & THE FUTURE OF THE TV INDUSTRY 0 2491

After 15 years in the hospitality industry, Allen West is now his way well on the way to making his mark in the entertainment world having set up his own production company called Essential Content. With two shows already scheduled to air in 2019, he spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about the impact of streaming and illegal downloading on the television industry, the shows he wish he’d come up with the ideas for and his advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps.

TITL: You first established yourself as a force to be reckoned with in the hospitality industry, having run high profile restaurants in both NYC and Atlanta. Bearing that success in mind, what instigated your move into television and the entertainment industry, and how are you finding the two industries to be different/similar?

Allen West: Looking back on my time in the hospitality industry, I’ve come to the realization that I was never a restauranteur – I was a restaurant producer. The same daily grind and formula I used in the hospitality industry is the same process I currently use in the entertainment industry. Conceptualize or partner with a unique concept, build a great team to execute that concept, and then work as hard as humanly possible. I remember speaking to my staff before shifts at the last supper-club I owned in New York, saying over and over “the curtains rise at 6pm, remember your lines, give a great performance, and leave them wanting more.” So I don’t view the two industries as different/similar, I view my time in the hospitality industry as the dress rehearsal to my career in the entertainment industry.

TITL: You recently launched your own production company – Essential Content. At its heart, what is the company’s main aim and what do you think makes your company stand out from those of your rivals?

AW: The main aim for Essential Content is to create socially impactful shows that educate, unify, and shine light on segments of society that are suffering, organizations who are helping those segments and philanthropically-minded people who are committed and dedicated to creating positive change domestically and globally. As far as rivals are concerned, I’d rather have the mindset of ‘let’s all roll up our sleeves and help as many people as humanly possible though the socially impactful content we’re all creating in this space’.

TITL: You have two shows debuting next year including “Addiction Unplugged.” What can you tell me about the premise of the show and its episodes, and what was/is it about this show that made you want to get involved? How relevant do you think a show like this is in today’s society?

AW: Addiction Unplugged is a weekly 1⁄2-hour docudrama that goes inside the world of addiction to unearth, create solutions, and humanize the worst drug epidemic in US history.  Our show visits different cities around the country, exposes each city’s history with drugs, chronicles how the city is dealing with the epidemic and brings to light some inspirational stories of people in recovery – “the human side of addiction.” The episodes feature first-hand accounts from the perspectives of the addicts in recovery, their loved ones whose lives have been ripped apart, and the mentors and treatment centers that are fighting for each soul.

On a personal note, I was a border baby – a person left in a hospital at birth – the first 13 months of my life and I lived in the foster care system for the next 6 years. I grew up in the South Bronx when it was ravaged with drugs, had the lowest per capita income in the country, and was in the midst of an arson epidemic caused by the total economic collapse of the neighborhood. When Stuart Goffman, the creator of Addiction Unplugged, came to me to partner with him and become the creative force behind the show along with my production partner Brandon Dumlao, my upbringing and DNA did not allow me to say no.

Addiction Unplugged has the significance to become the most relevant show on the 2019 television grid. Our team is focused on digging deep and delivering a first-rate product that matches the relevancy of the worst drug epidemic in the history of this country.

TITL: What do you hope viewers take away from “Addiction Unplugged” as a whole? 

AW: I hope that the country does a complete 180 and goes from shaming the addicted to mobilizing a national movement that supports helping addicts get into treatment and also helping addicts region by region get re-acclimated into society once they are in early recovery.

TITL: Is there anything you can tell me about the second show, “The Nehemiah Project”, or is that all still hush-hush? 

AW: The Nehemiah Project is a series that examines the foster care system in America. This show was created to spotlight the challenges and triumphs of thousands of foster care youth aging out of the system, as well as raise the public’s awareness of the struggles they face. The opioid epidemic and the foster care system have become incestuous over the last few years as the children of young addicted mothers are flooding the system. Essential Content will begin filming Nehemiah when we finish filming of the Addiction Unplugged series at the end of October. Additionally, the Emmy Award winning voice over actor Keith David, who’s film credits include Platoon, Crash, Requiem for a Dream and There’s Something About Mary is on board to narrate and host the series. Nehemiah will air Q2 of 2019.

TITL: Do you have plans and projects in mind for further content your company can make and share with a global audience? 

AW: I will be shooting 2 global music based shows that have secured US and global distribution next year. Both shows will be aligned with the meaningful content my company’s developing under its banner – so think ‘Party with a Purpose’ for the global Millennial and Gen Z audience.

TITL: Which show, that is either currently airing or has aired, do you wish you’d thought of the premise for, and why?

AW: Undercover Boss and Shark Tank – there’s nothing better than changing someone’s life.

TITL: Given that the younger generations of society, and those who are particularly internet savvy, stream a lot of their favorite shows either legally or illegally, how strongly do you feel about the power of television and its ability to still reach an audience? Do you ever worry that all the work you’ve put into this company could all be for nothing, if the internet continues to impact viewer figures and such? 

AW: That’s a great question and one that I took into consideration as I approached the decision to become a content creator. My personal opinion is television will not exist the way it currently exists 10 years from now. News and sports will always be around but scripted and unscripted content will most likely only exist on OTT channels as the gen z and millennial demo continues to age. Netflix, the most disruptive media provider in the history of entertainment, has 130 million total world-wide subscribers, is in 190 countries and recorded close to 12 billion dollars in revenue last year. What that says is people want to control their content and they don’t want to sit through commercials. The only way to thrive through this modern television and digital landscape is to produce in a hybrid form for both the internet and brick and motor cable TV. 2, 3, and 5 minute content creation for the sought after millennial demo is just as essential to the success of any start-up production company as the 30 minute deliverable to the premium cable network is. We have distribution deals set up for our digital content alongside our traditional distribution deals.

TITL: Before launching Essential Content, you worked behind the camera on the Emmy nominated series “Murder In Black & White” and the Daytime Emmy Award winning “Give”, among others. Accolades and nominations aside, what did your time working on those shows teach you in terms of the skills and lessons you now put into practice as a company owner?

AW: When you work inside any business that is successful you have a chance to view the macro environment as a micro player, so when your time comes to oversee the macro environment you replicate it by surrounding yourself with the best and adhere to the same principles you had the privilege of being a part of.

TITL: What advice would you give to anyone out there looking to start their own company in the entertainment industry? What three skills or attributes would you say they most need?

AW: They say the average American reads 2 books a year and the average CEO reads 4 to 6 books a month. With that, my #1 attribute when starting your own business is “Always be Learning.” The three skill sets/attributes that have pushed me along have been discipline, hard work, and no Plan B.

Discipline – My daily routine and how I communicate with myself and the people I do business with never changes. I’ve written everything I’ve done every day in a personal digital diary for the last 8 years. That type of accountability pushes me to fill up the page every-day and has organically instilled a consistent routine that has advanced me to where I am today.

Hard Work – Bust a gut every-day. This can’t be taught, the drive to succeed is simply based on how much you want something and how much you’re willing to suffer to get it.

No Plan B – If I had something to fall back on I would never had made it to this point. My inner sanity would have told me to stop and I would have taken that unfulfilling job when I needed my bills paid. Not having a plan B gave me the creative ability to figure it out and keep moving forward.

TITL: Finally then, with Essential Content now up and running, what’s next for you? Do you have any other business plans you’d like to see come into fruition or is EC your main objective now? What’s the ultimate goal for the company?

AW: One day Walt Disney woke up and drew a mouse, and I’m sure when he drew Mickey he knew he didn’t want to do anything else for the rest of his life. I understand how he felt as theirs nothing I ever plan on doing other than create socially impactful content. My ultimate goal is for the Essential Content name to be synonymous with the most significant and uplifting content created on this planet.

To keep up to date with Allen West and his projects, including Addiction Unplugged and The Nehemiah Project, visit his website.

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PLASTIC MARTYR TALKS “LOVE IN THE DARK”, SOCIAL MEDIA & FUTURE PLANS 0 87

Plastic Martyr is very much a role model and spokesperson for anyone who has ever felt different, or deemed an outcast by others. At the age of 10 and already identifying herself as trans, she knew she wanted to be a musician from the age of 10 and began honing her talents. Upon moving to LA in her mid-twenties, where she met with several producers, she began to feel at home with those around her, and after finishing her transition, in her own words she “..knew who I was. I put everything in the past aside and had a fresh start.”

That fresh start has seen her become the first transgender artist to sign to Capitol Records, and her debut single “Love In The Dark” offers the first taste of the inspirational, powerful messages she wants to share with the world. As 2019 draws to a close, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Plastic to talk artistic inspirations, advice for those looking to support and stand up for the LGBTQ communities and her highlights of the year.

TITL: First and foremost, I have to ask, how’d you come up with the name Plastic Martyr? Is there anything in particular it stands for or represents?

Plastic Martyr: People assume that because I go by the stage name “Plastic Martyr” that it means fake. Plastic is something that has the ability to change and be molded. A martyr is someone who would die for their beliefs. I felt that name was the epitome of me. It was my MySpace name when I was 14 because I didn’t want to have my real name or information be public knowledge, for safety reasons. I started to get recognized places as “Plastic Martyr” and decided to trademark it and make it my stage name.

TITL: Has music always been your ambition or was it just something you had a passion for and decided to pursue, to see where the journey would take you?

PM: I always wanted to be in the music industry, in fact I recently came across my middle school yearbook and in there each student said what they wanted to be when they grow up, my answer was “shock rocker”. I just never unfortunately pursued it until later in life. I got swept up in the fashion and TV industry instead. Now I’m at a place where I can really focus on music. 

TITL: Which artists might you say have most influenced and inspired you?

PM: I don’t really get inspired by other artists. In fact I always try really hard to make sure everything I do isn’t too similar to someone else. I hate imitations and when new artists try to be the “so and so of their generation”. I aim for individuality. However growing up Marilyn Manson was one of my biggest role models and the one of the few artist I really was able to identify with. Fiona Apple was another one of my hero’s growing up. I met her outside of one of her first shows when I was 7, she kissed my cheek and signed my shirt, the next day I took up piano. 

TITL: You’re the first transgender artist to release a record under Capitol Records – just how big of a deal to you is that, and what do you hope it might or should mean for other transgender artists out there looking to share their talents with the world?

PM: It’s a huge deal for me. I feel extremely blessed for that opportunity, I really want to make Capitol proud and show them I can do this and that they made the right decision to work with me. I also feel like it was amazing for Capitol to do this and for them to start to change the narrative of transgender artists in the industry. For so long and still to this day we are seen as jokes, or not taken seriously. Finally with people like Kim Petras and myself being in more mainstream media we are showing the world that talent and art have no gender boundaries. 

TITL: Tell me about your latest single “Love In The Dark.” What’s the story behind it and can you remember your thoughts and feelings from the time you wrote it?

PM: “Love In The Dark” is an anthem for anyone who’s been kept a secret by a lover. I have a history of dating the wrong kind of guy and it was an accumulation of my past relationships that inspired this song. I wanted to make sure the song was relatable to everyone while still painting a picture of my story as well. I felt very liberated writing it actually, for me song writing is my therapy.

TITL: Can you talk me through the creative process behind the video?

PM: Because the song is about being treated like a dirty little secret, I wanted to convey that emotion in the video. I wanted the video to be visually beautiful, and like an entertaining fashion editorial. I luckily had an amazing team and a very talented director, Carlos Asse, behind me making our visions come to life.

TITL: Now that this song is out there, have you started looking towards your next release, perhaps working on an EP or album? 

PM: I’m currently working on my 2nd single right now with my boyfriend who is playing guitar on the track and my team from “Love In The Dark”, Andrew Balogh and Gregory Fletcher. This song is very different from “Love In The Dark”, but I’m really excited to release it. I’d love to do an EP or an album hopefully that opportunity presents itself soon. I have a ton of really cool ideas for an album too. 

TITL: Given how social media has often proved divisive as to what people think of it and the freedom it gives others to express their opinions and/or target others, how do you personally find it? Is it a help or a hindrance these days do you think? 

PM: Ugh, social media….The bitter sweet devil. Now-a-days anyone and their grandmother with a social media account wants to be a celebrity. I think there is so much competition now and real talent and real authenticity is often over shadowed by clones with a massive following. It’s become a popularity contest instead of being focused on talent. I hope there’s a shift in the industry where creativity surpasses someone’s IG following. 

TITL: The LGBTQ community has seen a growing amount of support from people in recent years, both celebrities and every day individuals. How do you think society in general is faring in regards to their views about members of such a community and people such as yourself?

PM: I feel like while yes, the LGBTQ community is being talked about more and more we are still not being seen as equals. Politically we are still being targeted, socially we are still being mocked and rejected. We aren’t evolving as a society fast enough. I love seeing the support from allies for the transgender community, it’s amazing knowing we have a growing army of support behind us. However there is still so much hate we face every day and people outside of the community don’t really understand how scary and horrible the majority of the world is to us.

TITL: What would you like to see happen in future? Do you think it’s possible for transgender individuals and others to one day be fully recognized by everyone for being at heart just like everybody else?

PM: I’m going to be 100% honest…I don’t think in my lifetime I will see that happen. I wish more than anything transgender people can be humanized and seen as equals, but based off what I see in my day to day life I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. There is so much ignorance and hate and misinformation circulating. People would rather hate and judge in the name of their god than actually see what’s right in front of them and accept real humans for who they are.

TITL: As someone who is taking a stand and speaking out for and on behalf of transgender people and those who might be deemed “different” or “outcasts”, what advice would you give to those wanting to do their bit to help and advocate for such individuals? 

PM: Show your support in any way you can – let people who are different know you support them and when you see or hear someone being disrespectful stand up to them, educate them, and shut down the ignorance.

TITL: Finally then, as 2019 draws to a close, what have been your top three highlights and what are your goals and objectives for 2020? 

PM: My top 3 highlights are definitely recording with Capitol Records, making history as the first transgender artist trending on the front page of iTunes alongside Madonna, and being lucky enough to be able to start working on my 2nd single. As for 2020 I hope I can keep growing as an artist and entertain an even larger audience.

Check out “Love In The Dark” below and for more information on Plastic Martyr, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

SHENNA GETS IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH NEW SINGLE “FOR THE HOLIDAYS” 0 74

In the past few months, Shenna has been an opening act for Melanie Martinez, released her EP Blue Memories and delighted thousands of fans on her tour of Japan. To say she’s been busy would perhaps be somewhat of an understatement, but the year isn’t over yet and she’s rounding it off by sharing the acoustic video for her seasonally appropriate single “For The Holidays.”

Asked about the inspiration behind her new track, Shenna says:

“For The Holidays” is about going home for the winter season and reconnecting with that special someone you see that one time of the year. The holidays to me means family and reflecting on traditions and memories from my childhood. I have a pretty big extended family and I know that during the holidays, especially Christmas that I get to see most of them and it really makes me happy since we all grew up together as kids!”

Check out the video for “For The Holidays” below and for more information on Shenna, visit her Website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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