Category Archives: UK

ASHLEY-GIANNA HALLETT: CREATIVELY USING TECHNOLOGY IN THE FASHION WORLD

The way in which we conduct business, just as with our social lives’, has changed dramatically in the past decade. In fact, less than a decade. Cyber Monday is a term that everyone understands. While there are many examples of how technology can be cumbersome, the consumer experience is one which has become much less difficult. Online marketing and shopping was in its early stages in 2009 when Ashley-Gianna Hallett was working at Burberry in London during their entrée into the online world. As a lead force in Burberry’s approach to their website and virtual shopping, Hallett was an important part of enabling fans of this iconic British luxury fashion house with access to ready to wear items while still retaining the signature style for which it has become known. Much of the world approached online shopping with trepidation in these early days but Ashley dove in headfirst with a confidence that resonated with the company and the variety of professionals she worked with, resulting in the successful online shopping presence Burberry has to this day. As during her time with Elite Model Management London (as Talent Manager and Women’s Model Booker), Hallett has always proven that her forward thinking and love of fashion are a union which serves to make each half better.

It’s always a good idea to treat others well because you never know what the future will bring. Ashley has become a force in the London fashion world these days but just a decade ago she was still studying at university. She was just a girl from a big family in South East London who loved the Arts and Fashion. At twenty-one, while finishing up her studies, she began working as a temp Assistant in the showroom of Burberry HQ. She was quickly recognized and would soon join Burberry as a member of the Digital Commerce team. This was a fairly new venture at the time, one which differs greatly from means of the past. Comparing print media and ecommerce, Ashley relates, “E-commerce and print media are different. Print tends to be advertising/advertorial whereas e-commerce is the selling of individual products with detail shots to follow- the customer can directly purchase a product. E-commerce can fit into website advertising via a landing page. A landing page on a website is also like a small scale campaign that focuses on a feel, a look, a story, a collaboration of models wearing several looks from that particular collection. It all depends on the context of the image that is used and where it sits on the website. On most occasions, imagery used for print media will also be used for the site but would can also have a ‘clickable’ feature to purchase individual pieces. These shots would have the same feel although there would be a focal point on each product which is important for the customer. One of the problematic but exciting factors of this avenue is that the aim would be to shoot the collection reflecting the styling of the initial shoot (i.e. Runway show/Advertising campaign). The challenges we faced were reflecting the initial styling whilst also being able to show the customer the product for exactly what it is. An issue that is apparent with all commerce styling from my knowledge and experience of working with several other online brands.”

In creating an online Look book for Burberry, Ashley needed to understand the needs and perspectives of all involved parties from the company through to the production teams and eventually the consumers. This required laying out all aspects and logistics on a granular basis.

The needs and desires of all these groups required a massive amount of preparation, communication, and anticipation. Hallett would meet with the Marketing and Production Design teams to identify the entire collection, breaking down the product lists into Ready-To-Wear and accessories. The collections being shot would be coordinated with the desired models and their schedules. Ashley worked on successful projects/collections such as Prorsum Look Book (2012), ‘Burberry Nude (2011), ‘April Showers(2011), ‘Winter Storm (2010) during her time at Burberry. Coordinating and planning shoots with the studio teams (photographers, stylists, retouchers) while ensuring that the availability of the product, model, and creative teams were all in sync, necessitated that Hallett and her 6-member team were always on top of things and held the Burberry image as paramount. The online shopping presence which Ashley was so instrumental in facilitating during her time at Burberry is the standard of the industry in fashion these days, even though it came into being less than a decade ago. Hallett recalls, “So much has changed in such a short amount of time. When I began at Burberry within the Digital team, some of our processes for shooting were manual. It was a way of being meticulous with the many products housed in the showroom. It was an exciting time as we could develop our own ways of working influenced by the structure and needs of the business. I had a template which was working fine although, as time moved forward and the Digital aspect of the business was rapidly growing, it was only natural for us to refresh our ways of working. I think it was surprising to everyone in the industry how fast things moved. Working closely with styling teams to determine how to shoot from a creative vs e-commerce perspective, model choices for collections, styling guidelines, ensuring we had a faster turnaround of delivering the finished imagery to the website teams…all variables for the normal presentation of products had to evolve quickly. We were growing with the needs of the department and business. Speaking to all teams to ensure we were all aligned with how to produce a slick and seamless structure of shooting key products meant that communication was key and going with a gut decision was most often a necessity.” One of the results that Ashley was proudest of was her oversight of quality control during the re-shoot process. This is often one of the areas which can lead the process to a standstill. Over a two-year period, Ashley was able to minimize the re-shoots by forty percent. Currently considering the further evolution of her career in the Fashion industry, Ashley reveals, “To have a key role in the strategy and brainstorming of creative concepts, to develop an idea and turn a thought and vision into something real and substantial alongside a client, to have creative input into all aspects of a project from the strategy, idea, location, talent, stylist, photographer, budget, retouchers, contractors, set designs…that is a deeper involvement and a lofty goal but I’ve always believed in myself and believed that I could work with other talented and hard working professionals who are committed to greatness as well. Pursuing a career that is creative and in which I am surrounded by creatives, that’s the way I want to look back and see my life.”

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Anton Engel is living the dream with The Dreamboys

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Anton Engel photo by Daniel Jaems

When Anton Engel was a young boy, he would watch music videos, dreaming that one day he would somehow be a part of them. He was like most children, watching TV, wanting to be on the screen one day too. But it was this initial spark that led to his interest in dance, and now Engel is a celebrated dancer all over the world.

Initially starting as a competitive break dancer at just 13, Engel began studying and mastering all types of dance, wanting to be able to do whatever he felt was best for the performance. This led to performing with chart-topping pop group Fifth Harmony at Heaven in London earlier this year, as well as his appearance in the opening for the BBC Music Awards with almost five million people watching on television. He danced on the famous Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular for two consecutive years, and once performed for none other than the royal family as part of the Royal Variety. Most recently, however, he lived his childhood dream quite literally, dancing with The Dreamboys in their tour of the United Kingdom.

“It was great to have the opportunity to dance and travel at the same time,” said Engel. “The Dreamboys have extremely good dancers who are a part of it and I wanted to prove to myself that I was at the same level.”

And prove himself he did. The Dreamboys are one of the world’s biggest glamor shows, and the most successful and celebrated in UK history. Engel not only excelled at his role, but stepped into the shoes of other’s when they were absent, which is called swinging people, ensuring the audience had the same experience at each tour location.

“This wasn’t easy since sometimes we only had an hour before the show would start. I would usually find a quiet room and go through every number to make sure there wasn’t anything I was missing. I always found a way to make it work,” said Engel.

This determination and professionalism was not missed by his counterparts. Not only did Engel work alongside a few celebrities from reality shows like Scotty T and Gaz Beadle from Geordie Shore, and Rogan O’Connor and Joss Mooney from Ex on the Beach, he worked closely with had well-known dancer and choreographer Jordan Darrell. Darrell describes working with Engel as an absolute delight.

“We have had so many ups and downs and Anton has always been ready to help. His professionalism and dedication to his work is outstanding,” said Darrell. “Anton dealt with rehearsals very well and the pressure of learning the choreography one-on-one with me in a studio, and there was a short time frame of which he had to learn a lot of choreography and spacing. Not once did he falter or waver his responsibilities, and he remained calm and professional throughout, soaking up the pressure with a smile.”

“Throughout the run of the show Anton has never backed down from a challenge such as a quick re-block or even a track change, which he then covered,” Darrell continued. “Anton has never deviated from the content or feel of a number, which I set as choreographer, and the audience response has always been one of the strongest towards him. He is talented, a hard worker and a pleasure to work with. In my experience this combination is one that can be added to any team, in any work environment, and will always be an asset.”

The audience attention that Engel received did not go to his head, but was actually a humbling experience for the young dancer. Touring for months on end three to four times a week, he saw the letters, messages, presents, t-shirts, and flowers he constantly received from the audience as support.

“It was so much fun to get the opportunity to dance for such big audiences. The feeling on stage is incredible. After the show, we gave out autographs, which was a really fun experience. It makes me happy knowing that when people watch me dance they leave with a smile on their face,” said Engel.

Despite the challenges that can come from touring, like never being able to have the comfort of your own bed, and having to adapt to a different stage with each show, the travelling was a highlight of the experience for Engel, and being on a tour bus is a unique way of doing it.

“It was amazing to see so many different parts of the UK. I had never been outside of London before I joined The Dreamboys, and now I have been in every major city and a lot of lovely small places that I never heard about,” said Engel. “I met so many different people and it’s such a pleasure to see that I have so many fans not only in London but all over the country.”

The Dreamboys experience is one that Engel will never forget, and helped him prepare for his upcoming show in Las Vegas, with Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live.

“Being on tour with The Dreamboys taught me a lot and helped me improve in every dance style. By switching dance styles from number to number it really let me use my full capacity, and I really enjoyed it,” concluded Engel.

THE STAR BEHIND THE ROCKSTAR

The throngs of adoring fans at concerts are almost always unaware of the professional workings of their favorite artist; the organizational and musical preparations necessary to create the inspiring events that they desire. Movies often show a romanticized and unrealistic scenario in which the artist calls some friends to play with them when, magically and immediately, everything falls into place. The musicians who live this amazing life will tell you it is magical for them but far from immediate. Any great performance takes talent, but it also requires preparation, professionalism, social skills, and a strong work ethic. The greats have earned this moniker through dedication as well as artistry. While many people have heard the title Musical Director, the specific duties required of an MD are vague at best in most individual’s understanding. Kieran Kiely is the respected musician who served as MD for Sinead O’ Connor from 2007 to 2012. As MD, he performed many roles to enable Sinead to focus on the expression of her music without being weighed down by the numerous other variables which might encumber an artist of her renown. At a certain level of fame, an artist’s career becomes similar to any other large and global pursuit. This means that artists such as Ms. O’ Connor and her peers require a musician whom they can trust to safeguard the integrity of the music and its presentation. A Musical Director is perhaps the most trusted advisor for any artist, meaning that the responsibility placed on them is reserved for the most valued and respected musicians.

In the mid 90’s, Kieran was playing in the Irish Celtic Punk group Shane MacGowan and The Popes. Kieran recalls, “One night while hanging at the Popes usual haunt, Filthy McNasty’s Pub in Angel, London, Shane asked me to go to a club with him, without knowing where we were going or whom we were meeting. When we got to the Club(The Atlantic Bar, SoHo) there was Sinead with Shane’s girlfriend, Victoria. I ended up chatting with Sinead. The next time I saw her was a year or two later when I was asked to play on a record. Somebody from the production recommended me for the session. It turned out to be a duet with Sinead and Terry Hall from The Specials, with Dave Stewart producing. This was the first time I met Dave. It took place at The Eurhythmics Church recording Studio in Crouch End, London. I played Low Whistles (Irish Flutes). Sinead loved the sound of those at that time. I continued to meet Sinead from time to time at gigs and festivals and she then asked me to play on her record Faith and Courage, and subsequently some of her following records.” Conflicting schedules prohibited a closer and more permanent working situation between O’ Connor and Kiely until 2007 when she asked him to assume the role of Musical Director for her. Largely known as a pop/rock artist, O’ Connor was intent on making use of Kieran’s mastery of Celtic instruments and their approach to her music. While he would add authenticity to the music that supported Sinead’s intrinsic Celtic vocal stying, Kiely would also be required to assume various roles as MD.

One of the most vital roles of an MD is to find the proper band members for an artist. It is not as simple as finding great players, although that is a requirement. Band members must be well versed in the style of music they will be performing but not void of other influences as they may be called upon to “stretch” or “flex” their approach. With touring artists, there is an understanding of the lifestyle which can mean long periods of time away from familiar people and surroundings. Touring musicians are the nomads of the music world. This requires someone whose personality meshes well with the sentiments of the artist they work with. It is similar in many ways to dating. There has to be a certain spark to the interaction. In his role as MD for O’ Connor, Kiely assembled a group of elite musicians respected throughout the world; an outstanding achievement for any MD. The band consisted of: British Session Drummer Ash Soan, Guitarist Dave Randall (recognized for his atmospheric sound), Yolanda Charles (renowned Bassist, praised as one of the best in the world), and legendary guitarist Robbie McIntosh. Sinead’s music is quite eclectic and emotional, requiring musicians who play at the highest level as well as those who listened intently to match the dynamic level and energy. Because these band members were so sought out, Kieran took an especially benevolent, yet professional approach. He states, “I like to try and create an environment where everyone feels very comfortable so they can be creative. In regards to parts, I was pretty specific. I knew Sinead’s material really well and created new arrangements of her songs that were sensitive to Sinead’s performance style. To achieve this, I had parts worked out for the players in advance. We also had a new album to promote and so had to be true to those songs. I wouldn’t say it was difficult though; when you have that caliber of musician to work with, it’s a pure joy.”

Rehearsals are always a good barometer for the mixing of skill and personalities but the real evidence surfaces when the artist and band tour. The incredible ecstasy of performing in front of thousands…even hundreds of thousands can be offset by the disconnect from familiar faces and places. Many musicians are defeated by the road. While Kieran is a veteran of the road and the studio, each new group introduces a number of variables. Early communication proved positive as he tells, “After I had taken on the role of MD and we did our first few shows, she sent me an exuberant text message, saying “who knew we were both so F**king amazing. She was very happy, which of course meant that I was happy.” Kiely continues stating, “You don’t just phone it in with Sinead, you have to be present, in the moment, and extremely sensitive to dynamics and tempo. She gives you everything you need in her voice; you just have to listen. On the intimate songs, I learnt to be comfortable with my playing being super exposed, where every expression and articulation could be heard. That sort of experience in front of 10’s of thousands of people over a period of time really hones your performance skills. Putting together a band that understood this in the same way that I did was a major achievement for me.”

While performing the role of MD was essential to Sinead’s live performances, Kieran was also a valued recording musician for O’ Connor. Selling in excess of millions of copies, Kieran recorded five albums with Sinead: Faith & Courage, Sean Nos Nua, Collaborations, She Who Dwells, and How About I Be Me. These recording are proof to Kieran’s masterful musical talent as well as O’ Connor desire for him to be a part of creating her sound. This desire was shared by others as Kiely relates, “She [Sinead] called me late one night to come play on a track. When I got there, she introduced me to Wyclef Jean, who was producing the song and said, ‘This is Kieran, he is the soul of my album. (Faith and Courage album).’
I later worked on Wyclef’s own record, Masquerade, at his NYC studio, and with his sister and brother.”

Kieran now resides in Los Angeles where he has taken to composing and orchestrating for film. His work creating the music for Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman proves that he is still using the sounds for which he is recognized to contribute to the success of artists. He still fondly recalls his time with Sinead O’ Connor and notes one obvious memory, “Nothing Compares to you was a highlight. It’s such a famous song. The audience are always waiting to hear it, so it’s a great moment for them. It wasn’t unusual to see people crying in the audience. ‘3 Babies also’. Sinead can conjure up such emotion when performing. What’s important to Sinead is that she connects with the song.” Kieran Kiely also connects to the song…and the art, in a very leading way.

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Director Ben Bhatia builds a strong stomach and strong story for Channel 5’s Benidorm ER

Some may hear about Ben Bhatia’s most recent experience in Spain and assume he was a doctor. He wasn’t out soaking up the sun. He spent most of his time in the hospital, seeing the injured and ill. But he wasn’t there as a medical professional. He was there to tell their stories.

Bhatia was the director/producer on Channel 5’s hospital documentary series Benidorm ER. The show is based at the busy hospital Clinica Benidorm in Spain and shows real-life British vacationers that have been admitted to the emergency room due to an illness or an accident. Each episode follows patients from the hospital admission right through to being released. To add some additional color, Bhatia also filmed some follow-up stories that would show what the vacationers would do next to enjoy their last days in the sun.

Benidorm ER was an interesting show to work on. Being based in the Spanish holiday resort of Benidorm in one of its busiest emergency rooms, I got to see the other side of a holiday that most holidaymakers would prefer not to see,” said Bhatia. “It was a real honor.”

Bhatia was recommended to work on the show after working with another producer/director Georgina Kiedrowski, who worked with him on the BBC Three documentary series, Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents. She thought that he would be an asset to the team after working on other similar projects.

“We needed a director with experience of working with sensitive and emotional contributors as well as somebody who could hit the ground running due to the tight turnaround of the show,” said Kiedrowski, the senior producer/director for Blakeway North Productions. “Ben really exceeded Blakeway North’s expectations and it was soon apparent that he was a real asset to the production. As a director, Ben is very hard working and is extremely creative. His storytelling and directing skills are impressive and his ability to think on his feet are skills that are hard to find in this industry. The fact that he is multi-skilled in being able to shoot, produce, direct and still stay companionate is a real talent.”

Apart from working with the hospital staff and patients, Bhatia mostly worked with a small crew of six people. This worked very well to cause minimum disruption and allowed normal practice to continue at the hospital. This made it easier to maintain access to the hospital. It is a big thing for a hospital to allow access to film crews, so keeping everybody happy, including staff and patients is paramount.

“This show was challenging as it was literally a case of seeking permission from the patient as soon as they walked through the door. A story which isn’t followed from the moment it starts isn’t as interesting. To watch a patient’s character develop over the period of their hospital stay is intriguing,” explained Bhatia.

Benidorm is a very popular holiday destination for the British, despite the cultural clash between the Spaniards and the Brits. Bhatia says he loved seeing how British people adapt to the Spanish culture.

“The warm personalities of the staff in this real working hospital was a delight to watch as they reassured the distressed, and sometimes in agony, holidaymakers,” described Bhatia. “To follow a story of someone first entering the hospital, watching their recovery to seeing them leaving with a smile on their face was a real pleasure.”

There was one thing Bhatia learned from the project, however, that he wasn’t expecting.

“How to have a strong stomach,” he said. “I had to film some major operations in the emergency operating room. This was something entirely new for me and after doing it, I realised I am not as squeamish as I thought!”

BEING NAKED CAN TEACH YOU MORE ABOUT YOUR SELF VALUE THAN JUST YOUR PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS

One of the most popular and highly rated dating shows on TV in the UK right now is Naked Attraction. Just as the name states, contestants are viewed and selected in a state of complete undress. Most of us worry about being judged with our clothes off in a dimly lit room in front of our significant other, the thought of doing so in front of other people we don’t know AND on camera is unthinkable. This show would not even be thinkable without the involvement of one of UK reality TV’s most successful Associate Producers known as the master of casting, Grivas Kopti. The UK is extremely diverse and it is precisely this reason that the production chose Kopti. Grivas has been recognized for his work in the areas of LGBT representation, gender equality, multiculturalism, and celebrity culture. As a millennial who grew up with social media and the internet, Grivas and many of his generation are not encumbered by the prejudices and social constraints of previous generations. Say what you will about those of Kopti’s age but, global social interaction has made them aware of the joy and struggles that all people share, resulting in a graceful acceptance of the differences that challenge us all, hopefully creating a sense of unity. The outgoing nature Grivas possesses, as well as his stringent work ethic has made him a sought after commodity in Reality TV. The list of successful shows that have made use of Kopti’s talents are too numerous to name them all but include; Celebs Go Dating, Unbelievable, Words of Churchill, Mandela: The Prison Years, and Stripped and Stranded.

Naked Attraction is one of the most popular programs on TV of 2016 thus far with its recent ratings spiking upwards of 2 million viewers per episode. Reality TV relies on the viewer’s investment in the cast with shows of this type. Naked Attraction relies on Grivas to find the compelling people and their stories to provide the interest that keeps viewers coming back. The title alone will cause a certain portion of the population to tune in but it won’t keep them there or bring them back. Kopti’s role is part detective and part therapist. Kopti is adamant that Naked Attraction is only interested in casting individuals who are themselves motivated to be on the show. There are times when participants change their minds or their family and friends convince them that it isn’t such a good idea for them to be involved; Grivas supports this idea, often encouraging them to go away and consider whether it is truly the right choice for them. This Associate Producer doesn’t envision the show as salacious but rather as a way to achieve greater self-discovery and catharsis. Kopti describes, “I saw the contributors go on a journey, which was inspiring. They learned so much about themselves. Many learned to truly appreciate their body and what made it unique. Being complimented on your shapely thighs that you always thought were fat is so lovely and precious. As you can imagine, a lot of people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities were revealed, which I think is a beautiful thing.  You can’t really let down your guard and be capable of truly loving yourself and others if you don’t make yourself vulnerable. No stone was left unturned. We discussed it all – preferences, past sexual escapades and fetishes. People were extremely honest.”

As the leading associate casting producer, Grivas was in charge of managing the contributors. This can be a tall order when you are tasked with making someone feel comfortable being both naked and on camera. Grivas has always been able to communicate well with individuals unknown to him. Being able to discern who would handle the experience well without becoming overwhelmed or intimidated was key to Kopti’s role in Naked Attraction. He describes the characteristics he was looking for, stating, “Likeability is they first thing I look for. You want the audience to warm to them and subsequently root for them. Two attributes that serve contributors well during filming as well as after are confidence and charisma. Someone who can be strong enough to appear on television with their clothes off and handle anything they might read about themselves on social media afterwards. People aren’t always so kind online. Just as important is intelligence. The whole show works well and is engaging because our contributors can maintain a conversation with our presenter, articulating their thoughts and reasoning behind their selection process as they are selecting who they’re choosing to go on a date with. Ultimately, each main contributor will lead half of the show which is a broadcast 30 minutes. They need to have a strong character and conviction.” With a viewership of 1.4 million on its premiere episode (up 82% on the slot average) and consecutive increases, the show has been an instant success for Studio Lambert. The show’s Executive Producer Mike Cotton (Emmy nominee for Undercover Boss) confirms, “I am positive that our enormous success is due to our collaboration with Mr. Kopti, as it is his leading role that brought us much of the success that we have. His unique talent to be able to cast contributors and contestants for the program showcased his truly unparalleled ability as an associate casting producer.”

While some viewers or even critics may point to a voyeuristic factor that brings a viewing audience to Naked Attraction, Kopti has much more high minded goals for contributors and the TV public. Grivas declares, “We are bombarded with messages daily by mainstream media on how we should look and what and who we should find beautiful. In a subtle way, we wanted to call BS on that and tell the truth, inspiring our considerably big influential audience of the 16-35 age bracket. Not one size or color fits all and beauty can be many things. Couples in interracial relationships still report facing prejudice, which is shocking and something we wanted to address. Why is this still happening? Is some of this generation expressing intolerance taught by their elders? A lot of questions were raised but ultimately, the magic in this show is that we can talk about it honestly and respectfully. I’m very proud that we were able to represent those labeled as disabled. I think we communicated quite effectively that being classed disabled doesn’t render you any less sexy or capable of a fulfilling, loving relationship. We had a good few disabled contributors, visibility is key. Above all, they were fantastic characters with a lot to offer – regardless of their circumstances. One of the underappreciated strengths of my generation is that it is very hard to shock us. Naked Attraction isn’t just about the naked part. Every individual has a story to tell; things they have overcome and personal triumphs they want to celebrate, that’s the real message of our show.”

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Actor Darren Higham, A Force to Be Reckoned with On Screen!

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Darren Higham (left) and David Schaal (right) in “Desperados” shot by Erick Ritchardson

 

Motivated by the opportunity for endless learning and personal development, English born actor Darren Higham both captivates and impresses audiences around the world with the unique combination of his natural talent paired with his formal education in performing arts from the renowned Manchester Metropolitan University. With a body of work ranging from TV to film, Higham has graced screens playing a wide variety of characters, proving that his creativity and devotion to the craft is as refined as it is flexible.

Far from type cast, Higham has played a wise, elder droid robot in the sci-fi horror film “Somnus,” the guitar playing guy-next-door in the romantic comedy “Modern Life is Rubbish,” and a brave first-responding firefighter at the scene of a Liverpool Street Station bombing. “I love for each role I do to be different from the last,” says Higham, “it keeps me on my toes, and means I’m constantly having to adapt. This ensures I never get complacent.”

Never backing away from a challenge, Higham recalls his experience in “Somnus” as unique and memorable. The film is about a cargo ship on its final mission flying the monotonous Earth-to-Mars route, when a mechanical failure changes the course and sends the crew to Somnus, a remote asteroid colony. Higham, having never shot a sci-fi film before, is thankful for the experience. Because of how the film was shot, Higham had minimal interaction with the other actors while filming. “It was a novelty for me,” he explains, “but acting is a profession where you never stop learning. It’s a continual process, and I love that about it. It is often hard, but never boring.”

In “Modern Life is Rubbish,” Higham’s character Solomon provides emotional support for his best friend during a bad breakup. “It’s a really touching story,” Higham explains, “it is definitely one everyone can relate with.” Believability is key in a strong actor, and Higham’s performance in this film is just that. Because of his strong and perfect portrayal, the viewer is drawn in with both a light and heavy heart all at once. “Solomon plays guitar in a band which, at one point, looked like it was destined for fame, but has ended up just playing pub gigs,” Higham says. “The band serves as sort of a warning to the main character, if he stays on the same path that he’s on. While it’s funny, it’s also a bit sad,” Higham explains.

Bringing a unique element of light to tinseltown, Higham’s values bear much weight when it comes to the process of selecting which projects to work on. He admits, “whilst it’s a privilege to work with well-known people, I’m not really concerned as to whether the director, producer, or actors are big names. As long as the story grabs me, that is the hook for me.”  The story behind the film “Dirty War” hooked Higham immediately. In the film, he plays the critical role of the firefighter responding to a bomb that just exploded in a train station. “A large part of the impact was seen through my character’s eyes,” Higham recollects, “so the audience really felt what it was like for him.” While it was a difficult story to tell, it is an important one. “In London, we’d experienced IRA bombings before, but this was being filmed in a post September 11th era, so I felt a sense of responsibility to get it right, and to portray as best as I could the sheer horror of such a situation,” Higham reveals.

Not limited to just film, Higham has appeared on many TV shows as well. When asked, Higham says that the one that stands out the most for him is probably the “Armando Iannucci Show.”

The comedy sketch show, written and directed by Armando Iannucci, leaves audiences laughing with its brilliant one-liners, hilarious situations, and impressive and flawless improv sketches.

On the other side of humor is drama, and Higham knows that field, too. He worked on a TV program called “Clocking Off,” where he played a policeman and, in effect, warns audiences against the very real dangers of drinking and driving. He also played a policeman in the hugely popular show “Dalziel and Pascoe,” where he worked alongside esteemed actor Warren Clarke of “Clockwork Orange.” In the program, Higham’s character is hired to act as security for a judge whose life has been threatened, but the judge talks him into taking a night off, and is subsequently found murdered. “This was an interesting role,” Higham mentions, “as whilst I was playing a policeman, I was also under suspicion of having played a role in the judge’s death. It was a bit of a dual character.”

As if being a successful, hard-working and overly talented actor isn’t undertaking enough, Higham has also written, directed, and starred in the wildly successful “western wannabe” film “Desperados,” which has burst through the film circuit, sweeping praise and attention as it went. Shortlisted for both the Salford Film Festival in the UK and The End of The Pier International Film Festival in England, “Desperados” engages audiences with its positively original plot, astute direction and moving acting, proving that Darren Higham is not only a force to be reckoned with, but also a necessary and invaluable talent to the industry.

British Actor and Producer Fraser Precious is Making His Mark in Hollywood

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British actor and producer Fraser Precious.

Determination.

Strength.

Commitment.

These are three words that, when lived by, will lead to success. For British actor and producer Fraser Precious, they have done just that.

Originally from Cambridge, England, Fraser recently produced and starred in the short film To Feel Human. The film premiered at the Nice International Film Festival where it was nominated for several awards. Afterwards, To Feel Human made its way to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival where it received overwhelming feedback. It has since been accepted into 3 other major film festivals around the world.

“With our film To Feel Human it all happened so fast and just goes to show what you can achieve when you put your mind to something and believe in your capabilities,” said Fraser. “We constantly pushed boundaries, whether it be with budget, locations, acting or just what was physically possible to achieve in such a short space of time. I don’t believe in waiting around for something to happen. Just get out there and do it.”

To Feel Human is about an unemotional angel who wishes to experience human emotions for the first time, unaware of the consequences that lay ahead. Fraser worked with his film partner Junpei Suzuki, where together they created, wrote, produced, shot the film and edited it in the space of 2 weeks in Los Angeles.

“I wanted to create a story that inspired people to be better humans and appreciate the privileges we have on this planet, which some take for granted. The whole idea of realizing what it means to be human, the emotions we experience and our relationships with others,” explained Fraser. “We wanted the story to be told and viewed in a more physical and less dialogue driven way. We couldn’t be happier with the result”.

Easton Alexeyev, who acted alongside Fraser in the film, describes working with him as a wonderful experience.

“What stands out about Fraser’s acting is his ability to hold the space. What I mean is, he takes his time and even fills the silence with emotion and intention. His acting is never rushed; it is precise and calculated without feeling contrived. Acting alongside him, I felt as though the pauses between what he was saying were just as important as the times he was speaking. It was beautiful and inspiring to see,” said Easton. “He has this very calm quality about him that makes you instantly comfortable. It’s this quality that, as an actress, I truly appreciated because it gave me the freedom to take chances, to be bold. If I had the opportunity to work with Fraser again, I’d absolutely take it, and I think that in and of itself speaks to how I felt about the entire experience.”

Fraser feels incredibly blessed to have made the move to Los Angeles, where he says he has dreamed of working for many years.

“Growing up in the small town of Newmarket back in England feels like a world away from Hollywood but it’s thanks to my humble beginnings that I’m now able to flourish in this wonderful city. After working and living in 4 countries, I have found that nothing comes close to the incredible opportunities that are available in Los Angeles,” he said.

Fraser emerged as a musician in his teens, but transitioned to acting when he realized it was his true passion.

“Growing up as a musician I was always excited and inspired by every opportunity I had to perform, a desire that continuously pumps through my veins,” said Fraser. “It was when I moved to Sydney, Australia at 18 to begin my music degree that I came across and developed a passion for acting. I started off with small featured roles in Australian TV shows and just fell in love with the craft of acting from day one. I then began taking acting classes and training and knew straight away that I had to get to Los Angeles, to the heart of the entertainment industry, where I could really succeed as an actor.

It is now 10 years since Fraser first emerged as an actor with small roles on the Australian television program Home and Away, and does not regret transitioning from the music industry for a moment.

“I love the thrill and rush of performing a scene with other actors and really getting into a character and preparing for a challenging role. If I am performing on stage, I absolutely love feeling the captivation and connection with the audience. I find so much excitement and energy from being able to create and manipulate the characters I play using all of the mental and physical skills I have available. Utilizing every ounce of my brain and body in a role gives me immense satisfaction where I really feel I am using everything I have developed as a human being,” he said. “I always get the most satisfaction from testing and challenging myself with every role and part I am given and as a perfectionist I find that reaching the absolute peak of my powers with acting is the only challenge I should really feel and an absolute must.”

Fraser will soon be starring in the television series Jet Loungin, which he also developed and created with his partner Josh Levine. The show follows two long lost cousins navigating Hollywood with the most futuristic entertainment vehicle ever made, the Jet Lounge X. The Jet Lounge X is the revolutionary invention of TXG Studios owner and founder Devin Foxx. Currently signed on to the project are Patrick Gallagher, known for his roles in Night at the Museum, Glee, and True Blood, as well as Torrei Hart, known for Parental Discretion, American Bad Boy, and Atlanta Exes.

Following the filming of Jet Loungin, Fraser plans on tackling his own feature film titled A Precious Life based on his previous life as a professional trumpet player, which he refers to as his “masterpiece”. The film will also cover the scope of mental health issues faced by many people today and also the homeless community which together will make for an inspiring story. It is with no doubt that with the ambition, versatility, and motivation that Fraser holds, his acting and producing career will continue to flourish.