ALLEN WEST CHATS ‘ESSENTIAL CONTENT’, NETFLIX & THE FUTURE OF THE TV INDUSTRY 0 1292

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.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RACHAEL CAIN CHATS “I AM HOUSE”, CAREER HIGHLIGHTS & FUTURE PLANS 0 42

In part somewhat responsible for bringing house music to both sides of the Atlantic in the 80’s and 90’s, Rachael Cain, AKA, Screamin’ Rachael has spent more than two decades of her life as an integral part of the music industry. Having just released her new single, “I Am House”, she spoke to ThisIsTheLatest to share her career highlights, her advice for music industry newcomers and her thoughts on where she sees the music business going in the future.

TITL: For those unfamiliar with the name, or your moniker, who is Rachael Cain, aka Screamin’ Rachael? 

Rachael Cain: I’m called Screamin’ Rachael because though I’m petite I make a big impact. When I enter a room I don’t even have to say a word but I’m SCREAMIN’!

TITL: Signed to the independent label Trax Records, you played quite a big part in bringing what is now known as House music to the masses in both the US and UK in the 80’s and 90’s. How big of a deal was and is that to you, both personally and professionally? 

RC: I started out signed as an artist to Trax Records, but these days I am President. I was mentored by Sylvia Robinson, the woman behind the legendary Sugar Hill label. When you think about entertainers who run labels these days, they are all men like Master P, Kanye and Jay Z. But back in the day, there was Sylvia…and today, there is me! What I did along with a small group of friends in the 80’s and 90’s only set the stage for the amazing things happening today. I am truly living out my vision for my career and the label. I’m proud to say that though I faced a lot of adversity, we are right where we belong today.

TITL: Looking at the music scene now, did you ever think House would remain as popular, albeit maybe in smaller circles, as it is today?

RC: These days, House music is bigger than it has ever been! Just look around, it’s everywhere. It seems all the huge EDM DJ’s are now calling themselves HOUSE! We were just sampled by Kanye West. In fact, he and Drake had a major beef over our beat that made it into Rolling Stone Magazine! I always knew that House Music was very special, and I always believed that someday the world would appreciate its importance.

TITL: You released your new single “I Am House” yesterday. What’s the story behind it and why did you decide that now was the right time to release such a track?

RC: The project was done with Joe Smooth, and the idea between us simply flowed. Joe came up with the title and a banging track. We decided to tell our story about the house lifestyle that we live. We‘re truly blessed. Beyond that, our mission is to bring people together and that’s what the spirit of House Music is all about. At the same time it’s tongue-in-cheek and fun! That’s why I live for and love House Music!

TITL: Are there plans for a new EP or album in the works? 

RC: Yes. Three years ago, I released a complete body of my work, “The Queen Of House” album. I’ve been putting together some great new work for the last year and a half, which includes collaborations with artists from the home of House in Chicago and some of my favorite artists from around the world. I am aiming for a spring release.

TITL: Any performances lined up you can tell me about? 

RC: There will be pop up shows everywhere for “I am House,” including a Holiday fundraiser at Vaunt in Chicago’s Water Tower Place. We will keep you posted via our website. It’s always been a dream of mine to get into the movie business. So at the moment we are rapping up our fourth film in NYC with director Eric Rivas. I’m acting as well as putting together the soundtrack. You can catch our first three movies, The Vamp Bikers Trilogy, on most digital platforms right now, distributed through Sony Orchard, the largest distributor of independent films. After we wrap up the fourth film, Japanese Borsch, I’ll finish up my album. Then you can catch me performing at Midem, the international music festival this spring in Cannes, France to launch it!

TITL: Having been a part of the industry now for more than two decades, do you think it’s improved, gotten worse or are things the same? 

RC: Change is always good. The minute we stop changing we are dead! The most important ability a human has is the ability to change and grow.

TITL: Could you pick the top three highlights of your career so far? 

RC: There are way too many wonderful highlights, so I’m going to pick the top 3 that come to mind.

1. Performing at The Fauna Primavera Festival in Chile with Marshall Jefferson. And Robert Owens on the Trax Stage.

2. Recording “Our House is Funkdified” in the studio with the George Clinton, producing and directing the vocals. 3.

3. Singing “Give Peace a Chance” in Central Park with Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Bob Geldolf, Jackson Brown, Afrika Bambaataa and a host of others.

It all seems like one great big dream!

TITL: Would you agree that social media is having a vast impact on artists and their careers today and do you think that needing to be so socially connected is a good or a bad thing? How do you personally feel about the likes of Twitter and Facebook? 

RC: Social media is both good and bad, yin and yang. I’m not great at it, I don’t have enough time for it, and frankly I’d personally rather be creating! But it really works well to break in for some people. I’m just glad I had history and credibility before it took over. Today people are judged more by their social media numbers than their talent. However, I really respect the rare breed that can be really talented and successful at social media at the same time.

TITL: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make their way in the music world? What three traits would you say they need to have in order to just get their foot in the door of this cut-throat industry?

RC: Here are the 3 traits I consider most important to get into this industry:

1. Be strong and true to your soul.

2. Decide that nothing can stop you.

3. Believe with all your heart.

If you have any doubts, don’t pick this life.

Never do it for the money because there are lots of easier ways to make that.

If fame is the only thing that drives you, no matter where it gets you, you will be very disappointed in the end.

TITL: Given how much people’s tastes in music change, what kinds of music do you foresee people listening to – and how – and seeing live five, ten years from now, and do you think artists can and will keep up with the constant evolution that occurs in the business? 

RC: Great music will always stand out. No matter what, a great piece of music will never lose its magic. How we will be listening and watching music is something no one can truly foresee, however I hope there’s a chance that we might go back to something more organic and live. However 3D holographic experiences are already part of the gaming aspect so who knows? I just hope we just don’t have things implanted in our bodies…

TITL: Finally then, having already seen numerous changes in the past two decades, where do you see the music industry going in the future and many years down the line, what would you want people to say about you when asked about your music and its place in history? 

RC: The music industry is growing and changing every day, and I’m glad that I’ve never been afraid to grow with it and accept its changes. One day I hope people will be inspired by my life and say Screamin’ Rachael was really an amazing woman! I love listening to her sound and I really respect the fact that she helped to shape a genre that changed the world of music…her story gave me courage to believe in my dreams and myself.

Check out “I Am House” below and to keep up to date with Rachael Cain, visit her website or follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Billy Hess.

BLISSBLISS SHARE THE VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE “BULLETPROOF” 0 54

Blending their varied tastes and musical influences that range from rock and jazz to pop and R&B, BlissBliss have always made music that is truly unique to who they are, both personally and professionally, and showcase this through each and every one of their releases. Following on from previous single “I’m Coming Through”, which was released in September, the duo – Renee and Lang Bliss – have today unveiled the video for their latest track “Bulletproof”, and ThisIsTheLatest are delighted to premiere it to the world.

Asked about the track, taken from their EP 3, which was released last month, the pair said:

“We loved the way that Bulletproof turned out. It originally began with a very different concept but using the same title. But as we saw the theme of relationships developing on the EP, the thought of a couple who constantly fought, wanting love to make them Bulletproof, felt like a really great direction.”

Check out the video for “Bulletproof” below and for more information on BlissBliss, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Header photo credit: Jose Guzman Colon.