ALLEN WEST CHATS ‘ESSENTIAL CONTENT’, NETFLIX & THE FUTURE OF THE TV INDUSTRY 0 2559

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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JP SAXE TALKS “ITWWE”, UPCOMING PERFORMANCE PLANS & ARTISTIC INFLUENCES 0 26

2019 was a big year for JP Saxe, which saw him become somewhat of a staple on the lips – and social media accounts – of numerous celebs and music fans thanks to the release of “If The World Was Ending”, featuring Julia Michaels. Now, he’s kicking off 2020 with the release of his debut EP and has a run of UK shows taking place later this month. ThisIsTheLatest caught up with him to chat favourite artists, song-writing inspiration and his ambitions for the year ahead.

TITL: At what age did you first realise you wanted to make music a career and was there a particular band or artist/song or album that impacted that decision? 

JP Saxe: Around 19, when I moved to LA. At that time, I was listening to a lot of Justin Nozuka.

TITL: Which bands and artists would you say most inspire you when it comes to the music you make?

JP: Gershwin, Yesika Salgado, Julia Michaels. 

TITL: If you had to describe yourself and your music in four words what would you say? 

JP: Over-intellectualized but generally sincere. 

TITL: What would you say your unique selling point as an artist is?

JP: Asymmetrical jaw line. 

TITL: From who or what do you most often find inspiration for your song-writing?

JP: The feelings I don’t quite understand yet. 

TITL: There are many brilliant songs around, spanning the decades, but if you had to choose, which, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?

JP: Itsy bitsy spider. It’s timeless. It will always go up the water spout.

TITL: Your latest single, “If The World Was Ending”, which features Julia Michaels, has proven to be a HUGE hit with several celebs posting and tweeting about the track. Did you ever expect or could you ever have anticipated the reaction it’s received? 

JP: Nope. It’s really fucking cool. 

TITL: How exactly did Julia come to be involved on the track? 

JP: She posted my song “25 In Barcelona” on IG. I messaged her, she said we should write, and we wrote ifwwe the day we met! 

TITL: The track was produced by Finneas, Billie Eilish’s brother who is also making quite a name for himself. What was the creative/productive process like between the two of you?

JP: So easy. He’s brilliant. All his instinct were spot on. 

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

JP: My EP Hold It Together was released on Friday!

TITL: What about tour and performance plans? Any chance fans can see you in a town or city near them soon?

JP: Yup!! Europe with Lennon Stella and then at least another tour this year but likely and probably more.

TITL: As well as praise, artists often face a lot of criticism from critics but do you pay much attention to or care much about what such people think? Do you ever find negative comments hurtful and how do you overcome how they make you feel?

JP: I get compared only to other sexy gingers. I’m happy about it.

TITL: Taking into account all the praise you’ve received from users of social media, how do you feel about the industry’s – and society’s – apparent reliance on it?  Do you believe it’s at all possible for bands and artists to achieve success without being socially interactive these days and do you think there are any downsides to the industry in particular being so technology/connectivity driven?

JP: It’s just a tool. It can be a beautiful connector or a delimitating distractor. The differentiation is entirely in our own hands.

TITL: Finally then, what are your plans for 2020? After the success you’ve achieved so far, what’s the next goal for you to reach for and achieve? 

JP: Keep being myself and stay happy for the right reasons.

JP Saxe’s EP Hold It Together is available now and for more information on JP, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

RACHEL BOBBITT & JUSTICE DER TALK NEW MUSIC, ARTISTIC INFLUENCES & FUTURE PLANS 0 42

While some artists might be afraid to touch on delicate subjects, Rachel Bobbitt and Justice Der most certainly are not, as proven by the subject matter behind their latest single “Beneath Our Feet (Exit Music)” – death. Though the subject is difficult, the video to the track presents death in a friendly, yet eerie presence sort of way that feels almost familiar and perhaps may even encourage those to watch it to speak more openly about the issue itself. Currently working on new material, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with the duo to chat favourite songs, social media and ultimate ambitions.

TITL: Let’s go back to the beginning. When did you each first realise you had an interest in/passion for music and how did you come together?

Justice: I first realized I had a passion for music when I heard Breezin by George Benson in the car.

Rachel: I can’t really pinpoint an exact moment. My mom was playing a lot of folk music around the house when I was growing up, so I think it pretty quickly became an intuitive way for me to communicate my feelings and thoughts. We met at school in Toronto.

TITL: Which artists growing up made you think “I want to follow in their footsteps?”

R: Leonard Cohen.

J: George Benson.

TITL: Is there any particular artist you might say you sound similar to, or do you make a determined effort to just be yourselves and something fresh and new?

J: We are a blend of our influences, and our own sound. We are definitely inspired by many different artists, but also try to bring something new to everything we make.

TITL: What would you say is your unique selling point as a duo? What one thing makes you stand out from your many artistic counterparts?

R: It’s hard to say, we don’t think too much about our selling point.

TITL: Which bands and artists have most influenced you over the course of your career and how do those influences impact the music you make?

J: We have been heavily influenced by Alex G, Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy, Frank Ocean, Miles Davis, etc. These musicians all inspire us to create music we are passionate about and believe in. 

TITL: Is there a story behind your latest music video “Beneath Our Feet (Exit Music)?

R: The video is about being mortal. The ghost in the video represents the grim reaper. We wanted to try to present death in a lighthearted way.

TITL: Death is never an easy subject to broach, in any form, so why did you choose to do so through music? What do you hope people take from the story/meaning behind the song?

R: It has a lot to do with the age we have arrived at. We inevitably are confronted with thoughts of our own mortality more and more as we age. Through the song, we wanted people to try to think about death in a way that isn’t daunting, or overwhelmingly negative. It’s a song about putting a lighthearted spin on one of our biggest commonalities as people.

TITL: The track is taken from your album When This Plane Goes Down. For those who might not have heard it yet, how would you sum it up and could you each pick a favourite track?

R: The album is about growing up. Mine is “Alex.”

J: “Passed out Trees.”

TITL: Who or what most inspires your creativity when it comes to songwriting? Which song might you say is the greatest ever written and why?

J: We’re inspired by our experiences from our childhood and young adulthood.  The greatest song ever written is pretty hard, some of our favourites of all time are “Close To You” by The Carpenters, “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green and “Between the Bars” by Elliott Smith.

TITL: If you could put together your dream show with four bands or artists, living or dead, who would you choose and where would you play?

R: Frank Ocean, Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen. Outside in rural Nova Scotia.

TITL: Do you have any performances/tour dates lined up? Where can music fans next check you out?

J: None as of right now, we’re working on new material to release in the spring.

TITL: To what extent do you use social media? What’s your view on how technologically ‘obsessed’ we as a society seem to be?

J: We don’t take social media too seriously. It’s important to have a sense of humour about it, and not spend too much time on it.

TITL: Finally then, given that so many bands and artists tend to fall by the wayside, what’s the long term goal for the two of you? Where would you like to see yourselves, personally and professionally, 5-10 years down the line?

R: Living humbly, putting out albums.

Check out “Beneath Our Feet (Exit Music) below and you can follow both Rachel Bobbitt and Justice Der on Instagram.