ALLEN WEST CHATS ‘ESSENTIAL CONTENT’, NETFLIX & THE FUTURE OF THE TV INDUSTRY 0 1754

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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HUGH JACKMAN TO PERFORM AT THE 2019 BRIT AWARDS 0 21

We are so excited to announce that multi award-winning actor and performer Hugh Jackman is set to open the show with a performance from the global musical sensation The Greatest Showman.

This show-stopping BRITs performance will be under the creative direction of Michael Gracey, the film’s director.

Hugh Jackman has carved a successful career both on stage in front of live crowds. From his award-winning turn on Broadway as the 1970s singer/songwriter Peter Allen, to Wolverine in the blockbuster X-Men franchise, he has proven to be one of the most versatile actors of our time. Jackman garnered his first Academy Award® nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, and his standout performance as protagonist Jean Valjean also earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical, as well as SAG Award® nominations for both Best Ensemble and Best Male Actor in a leading role, and a BAFTA Award nomination. Most recently, he was nominated for his role as P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman. His ‘The Man, The Music, The Show’ World Tour will kick off this May, which includes five nights at The O2 Arena, London.

The Greatest Showman has taken the world by storm since its theatrical release at the end of 2017, hitting the top spot in the UK by early 2018 and becoming the most purchased home entertainment release after Avengers Infinity War and Star Wars The Last Jedi.

The film’s soundtrack, composed by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, was the UK’s best selling album of last year, topping the charts in several countries including the US, Australia, UK and Japan and reaching No. 1 on iTunes in over 70 countries. The 5x Platinum certified soundtrack has to date sold over 5.4 million records worldwide, with 1.77 million sold in the UK, and is the second album in 30 years to spend 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the UK, equalling the record set by Adele for her album ‘21’, and was the longest running soundtrack at No. 1 in 50 years. ‘This is Me’, taken from the soundtrack, won a Golden Globe for ‘Best Original Song’ and was nominated for an Academy Award; the soundtrack was also up for two GRAMMY awards, and last night was announced as winner of Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.

BRITs Chairman and Chairman & CEO of Sony Music UK and Ireland Jason lley said:
“We are delighted to welcome the Golden Globe and Tony Award winning superstar Hugh Jackman to the BRITs stage this month with a performance that is set to be nothing short of spectacular. The Greatest Showman soundtrack dominated the charts in 2018 breaking records all over the world as well as here in the UK. It’s only fitting that the UK’s biggest celebration of musical successes should be kicked off with a performance from the biggest selling album in the UK of the last year.”

The Greatest Showman is the latest performance to be revealed for The BRITs, following the announcements of P!nk, Calvin Harris with Dua Lipa, Sam Smith and Rag’n’Bone Man, Jess Glynne with H.E.R., The 1975, George Ezra, Little Mix with Ms Banks and Jorja Smith for the UK’s biggest night in music.

The BRIT Awards 2019 with Mastercard take place Wednesday 20th February at The O2 Arena, London, broadcast exclusively on ITV and hosted by Jack Whitehall. Clara Amfo and Alice Levine will be back to host this year’s Red Carpet show on ITV2 on the night of the awards for the third year running.

BLUE OYSTER CULT TALK THEIR UPCOMING UK TOUR & 50 YEAR CAREER 0 19

With a career that spans 50 years behind them already, Blue Oyster Cult have firmly established themselves as one of the music industry’s most illustrious bands, respected by music fans and critics on both sides of the Atlantic. As the band prepare to make a long overdue return to the UK, guitarist and song-writer Buck Dharma teased what fans can expect from their upcoming shows and reflected on the bands’ career and success so far.

Q: Are you looking forward to coming back to the UK? What do you most enjoy and how does playing here compare to back home in the States?

Buck Dharma: Yes I am. I have enjoyed the UK since first coming in 1975. I like the difference in culture and customs compared to the US, and revisiting friends and fans I’ve gotten to know over the years.

Q: What are some of your favourite memories of playing in the UK? Any previous shows that have always stuck with you?

BD: I’m looking forward to playing what used to be called Hammersmith Odeon in London again. We had great shows there in the heyday of Blue Oyster Cult and look forward to returning. Otherwise I like to get out into the countryside and visit the other cities and towns in the country.

Q: If at all, how have you adapted and developed your live production and your approach to playing your music live over the decades?

BD: We are currently touring with less special effects and props, focusing primarily on the music and the musical performance. It’s essentially what it’s all about, and I enjoy concentrating on that aspect of our musical catalogue.

Q: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is such a great track that has really stood the test of time. How does it feel to have a song that is so universally recognised and loved, even in 2019? Has the song’s success continued to surpass your initial expectations for the track?

BD: It’s great that “Reaper” has held up so well over time. It’s endurance continues to surprise and gratify me, and yes, I had no idea when we recorded it that it would have had the impact it has.

Q: A lot has changed within the Rock community since you first started, but are there any current rock artists that have impressed you over the last few years? Any albums you’re particularly enjoying at the moment?

BD: I like The Rival Sons and the new youngsters Greta Van Fleet. I also discovered last year a 2015 album by Chris Cornell called “Higher Truth.”

Q: Your last studio album, Curse of the Hidden Mirrors was released 18 years ago – any current plans to make another record?

BD: As matter of fact, yes. BOC is recording another LP this year, 2019, the first in many years. Should be out by fall.

Q: You have worked and toured with the likes of Patti Smith, Randy Jackson and Alice Cooper over the course of your career – any highlights or people you still have on the wish list?

BD: All our collaborations and touring have been rewarding. I’m open to collaborating with anybody, perhaps some of the younger artists, although I don’t actively pursue such cooperation.

Q: You have been doing this for over 50 years now which is incredible. Having reached such a large milestone in your career, what inspires you to keep going and keeps you motivated?

BD: I enjoy playing and singing as much today as I ever did. I don’t have to work, but I do it because it’s rewarding personally. I could live if I couldn’t do it anymore, but I truly enjoy it, and will do it for another couple years at least.

Q: If you could turn back time, is there anything you would change or do differently?

BD: I have no regrets. It might be nice to have known more about the business side of the Music industry, but I’m not complaining about the way it’s gone. I’m lucky to have worked at a job I like all my life.

Q: Finally, knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give your former self when first starting out, and what advice would you give to anyone wanting to be in a band now?

BD: Only that I should prepare for a long career. I never anticipated I’d be still doing what I did in my 20’s fifty years later. I don’t know what to advise young people today. I’m not really involved in the current state of music business, it’s changing rapidly, of course, like everything else in life.

Tickets for Blue Oyster Cult’s UK tour, which kicks off on February 21st, are on sale now. For more information on the band, visit their website or give their page a like on Facebook.