Unless you’ve been under a rock for years, you would’ve noticed the way we watch TV has rapidly changed. Online and digital viewing has become a space for this ever-busy generation to catch up on and record their favourite shows; it has become a filmmaker’s domain. Yes, there’s room for everyone, but only a few really hold their own and stand out from the crowd and SEBASTIAN THIEL is one of them.
The filmmaker and founder of Upshot Entertainment talks to OUT THE BOX about making the jump from a promising basketball career to a now booming career in film, and how he is producing cutting edge film as well as giving back to young people.
“I said goodbye to my family and friends, and set off to go America on a basketball scholarship,’ Sebastian says. ‘At the last minute, we were told that there had been a problem with the tickets. Then the next day, we got a call saying that there had been a problem with the sponsors. My parents couldn’t afford to cover the costs, and we weren’t able to get the money through fundraising on time. I dropped out of college and couldn’t be bothered with anything.’
Instead of throwing in the towel, Sebastian explored other avenues that took his interest such as graphic design and designing and selling t-shirts. Sebastian also loved to film everyday life simply as a way of documenting memories. But combined with promotion for his t-shirt line, Sebastian saw just how powerful film can be.
“The advert was called ‘How not to chat up a girl’ with comedian A Dot, but everyone was talking about the sketch. I saw the impact it had so I moved towards that,” he says.
Sebastian got focused, streamlined his ideas and discontinued the clothing line. It’s Upshot became Upshot Entertainment and making quality film became the goal. Sebastian quickly honed his filming and editing skills by teaching himself via YouTube tutorials as well as work experience with Jump Off TV. With the company grew the profile, and the reach they had among different audiences. British talent such as Chipmunk Bashy, Wretch and Aml Ameen became associated the brand.
Today, Upshot Entertainment is a solid team of three and a network of freelancers.
“Our values and why we do what we do, keeps us going. Our why is we ‘create to elevate’,” Sebastian explains. By that, I mean we want to elevate the minds of young people through our edgy content. We want to make them happier and encourage them to think. We have a very strong purpose and it’s not to get a million views or money. Money is just the result of hard work but it’s not what drives us.”
Though Sebastian has worked with many big names from the UK’s urban scene, he doesn’t credit them as being his biggest achievements. Instead it’s his passion projects that he holds in high esteem.
“Our first short film, Illegal Activity was a highlight for me because it was the first time I properly directed something and worked with a full team. We premiered it at BAFTA and Warner Bros. It was a good experience.”
The film which focuses on a street dealer an his crew and the effect their activity has on their estate, was aired on London Live and in 2013, won a Screen Nation Award for Favourite Short Film.
Every accolade Sebastian has received is just a product of his hard work and passion. In 2012, he made The London Evening Standard's 1000 Most Influential Londoners’ list as part of the top 25 under 25, Sebastian is also an Idea Award winner, a Tedx speaker and One Young world ambassador. He’s even rubbed shoulders with Sir Richard Branson, through being a Virgin Media pioneer.
Now, Sebastian uses his experiences and Upshot Entertainment as a tool to inspire the same creativity in others through workshops via different organisations that cater to youth.
“We want to use Upshot TV as a platform for other young people to be trained and have a platform to put out content and reach viewers,” he says.
Sebastian has spent years building Upshot to be a brand that provides quality entertainment while giving back to the younger generation. As an independent filmmaker, he is set on carrying the mantle further while breaking down barriers and carving out the path for those behind.
“It’s about using what I’ve done for myself to help other people. While I make the transition into TV and film I’ll be helping those that are apart of Upshot make the same transition.”
We’re now in a time where self-branding is a major key to a booming business and exposure for your brand, but surprisingly, it’s not typically a route all CEO’s are comfortable with. Is it necessary?
“I’m pro self-branding because if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Sebastian says. A lot of the work I do and a lot of the contacts I have are through social media and people knowing who I am. It makes it easier for people to buy into your brand when they know who’s behind it.”
Sebastian believes that Upshot Entertainment didn’t just change his life, but was apart of his growth and purpose.
“Things change and move and we just have to adapt,” he says. “Upshot has been a part of my growth. It didn’t come and completely change my life; it was just a part of my process.”
A process is something Sebastian believes young people should go through; he leaves some advice to young people wanting to make something of their passions.
“It’s good to take the time to find yourself. Where you put your effort, you will get results. So work hard on something and don’t stop. Don’t watch anyone else’s journey. Social media can make it look like someone else is doing better than you, but you don’t know what it took for them to get where they are. Stay in your lane and keep on improving as an individual.”
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