ALLEN WEST CHATS ‘ESSENTIAL CONTENT’, NETFLIX & THE FUTURE OF THE TV INDUSTRY 0 2424

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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FAB THE DUO TALK “I WANT A MAN”, SOCIAL MEDIA & FUTURE PLANS 0 34

Fab The Duo aren’t your average band. The pair, Greg and Brendan, first met on Tinder, became a couple and then, realising they had similar musical ambitions, united to share those ambitions and passions with the world. They recently released their version of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and have dropped the video for their latest single “I Want A Man”, which features two stars of Broadway. With a growing following of fans, or “Fabbits” behind them and having enjoyed an incredibly good year so far, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Fab The Duo to talk upcoming performances, favourite artists and plans for 2020.

TITL: What would you say most makes the two of you work as a duo?

Fab The Duo: We honestly have no idea, but it’s probably because we’re so opposite from each other. Our personalities could not be more different but we both bring something unique to the table. Above all else, we love and trust each other completely. 

TITL: What would you each say the other brings to the music you make?

FTD: We’re pretty much Yin and Yang. In performance, Greg brings the big rock baritone while Brendan brings the smooth pop tenor. In terms of the songwriting process, Brendan writes a lot of the songs and then Greg arranges them to make the music alive.

TITL: Has music always been the career goal for you both or were there other paths you considered at some point?

FTD: Yes, but we’ve both considered a career as actors as well.

TITL: Which four bands or artists – two each – might you say most influenced and inspired by? What do each of those artists bring in terms of their impact on the music you make?

FTD: For Greg, it’s Harry Styles and Pink. For Brendan, it’s Green Day and Elton John. All of these artists are glam, genre-bending, and never afraid to speak their minds. 

TITL: You’ve just released a cover of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.” What is it about the song that made you choose it out of the thousands available to you? 

FTD: Lizzo is our favorite artist right now. She is always unapologetically herself – she is a big black woman who is not afraid to be big and black. Her message is inspiring and her songs are all bops. She is “100 percent that bitch”. We’ve had requests to cover “Truth Hurts” for a while, and it feels good to make that song our own while still respecting Lizzo. Plus, her fans are called “Lizzbians” while our fans are called “Fabbits” so we’d definitely get along. 

TITL: You’ve also got a new single out called “I Want A Man.” Is there a particular story behind it?

FTD: Growing up gay can be lonely and isolating. There were very few examples of happy gay couples in the media and in our lives, to the point that it seemed like having a real relationship was impossible. We know there are a lot of LGBT people who are feeling this way, and we wanted to write a song letting them know that we’ve been there. 

TITL: The video features two stars of Broadway, Ez Menas, who will also soon be seen on the big screen in West Side Story, and his girlfriend Gaby Gamache. How did you come to meet and work with the pair and can you talk me through the concept for the video and its creative process?

FTD: Greg met Ez Menas at a 54 Below show. We wanted to show a happy queer couple dancing together and Ez and Gaby couldn’t have been more perfect. As they are both better dancers than either of us could ever dream of being, we let them create their own choreography for the most part. The result was authentic, genuine, and beautiful. 

TITL: There are so many great and classic songs out there, spanning several decades, but if you had to choose which, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written, which track would it be? 

FTD: “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s a masterpiece, and to this day no other song compares to its epicness. It is quite possibly the best song ever written. 

TITL: Are there plans for an EP or album in the near future?

FTD: Absolutely! We’re already working on our next single and you can expect an EP from us this spring. 

TITL: Do you have any performance or tour plans in the works? Where in the world would you most like to play? 

FTD: We have a big New Year’s Eve show coming up at The Bitter End. Our dream would be to do a Pride tour this summer, performing at all the important Pride events across the world. 

TITL: Although critics often have considerable say/impact on the success of an artist through their comments and reviews, do you pay much attention to what they say, or are you someone more concerned with the thoughts and opinions of their fans instead; the people who listen to and support you because they want to and not because they have to or are paid to do so? 

FTD: Due to the fact that we’re openly gay and not afraid to express ourselves in unique ways, we know that not everyone is going to like us. We’re a lot, and you’re probably either going to love us or hate us. However, we are always blown away by the love and support of our fans and supporters, our “Fabbits”. 

TITL: What’s the nicest/best thing someone could say/write about you and your music? 

FTD: That we’re changing history. We heard LGBT activist and influencer Ari Fitz give a talk at a YouTube Pride event the other day, and they said that queer history is being made every day. There is no one out there like us, so we’re in uncharted territory. To be recognized as helping shape queer history would be the most amazing thing in the world. 

TITL: Given that you met on Tinder and how reliant so many of us are on technology and in particular social media, are you big Twitter/Facebook users? Do you believe it’s at all possible for bands and artists to achieve success without being socially interactive these days? 

FTD: To be successful as a band in 2019 you have to be constantly on social media. Our favorite platform is Instagram but we’ve been working on staying engaged on Facebook and Twitter. What is cool about social media is how one can gain fans from all over the world. Some of our fans who follow us on socials live in countries where it’s still illegal to be gay, so being able to connect online can really make a difference. 

TITL: Finally then, with the end of the year fast approaching, what might you say have been your top three moments of the year, and how do you plan to ‘top’ them come 2020? 

FTD: 2019 has been a year of incredible highs and lows. This year we both had the opportunity to play shows in our hometowns, and to come back home after having grown so much was a wonderful feeling. Our single release show at The Cutting Room, with a full 9-piece band, was also pretty damn incredible. Oh and performing at Austin Pride? Pretty damn cool. In terms of “topping” 2019, we’re expanding our team, recording the rest of the EP, and planning some big tours. 2020 is going to top 2019 so hard! 

Check out the video for “I Want A Man” below and for more information on Fab The Duo, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

ITV ANNOUNCES SUPER-SIZED LIVE MORNING SCHEDULE FOR 2020 0 45

Mornings on ITV will be fully live from the start of 2020 under a new schedule announced today.

From 6 January, Good Morning Britain will be extended by half an hour to run from 6am until 9am, Lorraine will move to 9am, followed at 10am by This Morning, also extended by 30 minutes, before Loose Women at 12.30pm, ending at 1.30pm.

Emma Gormley, Managing Director ITV Daytime, which produces all of the shows, said: “The ITV daytime teams consists of the very best on screen and off screen talent in the business, enabling us to set the agenda from early morning until the afternoon, as we pass the baton from show to show.  We can’t wait to bring our audiences an even greater abundance of personalities, surprises, warmth and humour and a bigger and better schedule for 2020.”

Kevin Lygo, ITV Director of Television, said: “Live television is at the core of what ITV does and what we bring to viewers.  Our new schedule presents the opportunity to engage with our audience throughout the first part of each day, with some of the most well-known shows on television, in a way that no other channel does.”