Features

2013-Sept.-issue-1-Hollywood-moguls-4

ALEX KURTZMAN AND ROBERTO ORCI Interview for ELLE MEN CHINA

Writer and Producer: Ashley Heaton

Photographer: Molly Cranna

Excerpt: Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are truly a dynamic duo. Friends since their teenage years and collaborators for almost as long, it’s apparent that much of their success in Hollywood derives from their teamwork and unmistakable chemistry. In front of our cameras and behind the scenes of their own film and television projects, the interplay between their personalities is akin to lightning in a bottle. The pair’s chemistry with their viewers too is undeniable, which might owe something to the fact that they too are pop culture aficionados. Kurtzman and Orci’s knack for capturing pop culture’s zeitgeist, coupled with their rare team dynamic, has made them go-to writers and producers within the action and science-fiction genres. As the prolific force behind such colossal hits as Michael Bay’s Transformers and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, their filmography is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. Next up? The long-awaited film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s 1984 young adult novel Ender’s Game, and the second film in the Amazing Spider-Man series.

AH: You’ve written and produced both of the Star Trek reboot films. Were you worried about keeping the franchise’s notoriously protective fans happy?

AK: We were both massive fans, and I think that we ourselves felt extremely protective of Star Trek. When they first came to us with it, we hesitated and said no for about a year, because it meant so much to us when we were kids and frankly, we didn’t want to mess it up because we thought we would never forgive ourselves. After thinking about it for a year, though, we realized that if someone else did it in a way that we were unhappy with, we would also never forgive ourselves. So we thought we might as well take the leap.

AH: In Star Trek Into Darkness, we see some familiar plotlines re-imagined, including that of Khan. Why did you choose to revisit that story? Are there any other storylines from the TV series you’d like to explore but haven’t had a chance to yet?

AK: We’re interested in exploring all of them in different ways. The key for us is finding a reason to do it. We debated whether to do Khan. We wanted the story to be about Kirk and Spock coming together as friends, and the villain had to pose a challenge that made that happen. Obviously there was a huge expectation that came with doing Khan, but ultimately we decided that Khan was the best character to help us tell that story. But we didn’t want to remake The Wrath of Khan.

AH: Many of your projects have been collaborations with J.J. Abrams. What do you think makes you a good team?

AK: We first started working with him on (the television series) Alias, and we were able to expand our understanding of writing so much by what J.J. was pushing everybody toward. J.J. loves very emotional storytelling and very complicated plotting that keeps you guessing. He really helped us figure out how to do both of those things. He’s been one of our great mentors.

AH: Another of your upcoming films is the Ender’s Game adaptation. What drew you to this project?

RO: I read that book as a child. The same uncle who got me into Star Trek actually got me to read that book. I just thought it was fascinating that you could have young protagonists in a very adult-themed book, dealing with real issues like war, peace and leaving your family. It didn’t talk down to anybody, and both children and adults liked it. At the time I read it, it seemed unfilmable, but today we finally live in an age where the technology is available to do it. All the pieces came together and it was something we just couldn’t pass up.

(To read more or inquire about syndication, contact me)

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DORRIT MOUSSAIEFF, FIRST LADY OF ICELAND Interview for HARPER’S BAZAAR CHINA

Writer: Ashley Heaton

Photographer: Marino Thorlacius

Excerpt: Dorrit Moussaieff is the picture of elegance and grace. Unmistakably charming and stylish as she welcomes our photo crew and glam team into her residence with a warmth and familiarity one would instantly gravitate to, it’s evident that the First Lady of Iceland and wife to the President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is first and foremost a woman of the people – thoughtful, benevolent and remarkably down-to-earth.

It is surprising, then, that Moussaieff never imagined she would step into this pivotal role. In fact, before marrying President Grímsson, she had never been to Iceland – its striking landscapes and formidable citizens yet unknown to her. Moussaieff was born in Jerusalem and raised in London, and began her career in her family’s historic fine jewelry business, creating rare gemstone pieces for luminaries including Oprah Winfrey. She later found work as a contributing editor for the British publication Tatler, and would become internationally known for her strong character and outspoken personality.

Since becoming First Lady in 2000, her ambitious outlook and effervescent spirit have not changed, and in her role as First Lady, Moussaieff is fully aware that her actions can create positive change for the country she has grown to love deeply. She sees herself as a cultural ambassador rather than a political representative, working tirelessly to promote Icelandic art, business and culture in the international arena. She does, however, hold strong views about politics, and is surprisingly vocal in her disapproval of the subject. When Icelandic demonstrators protested the country’s debt crisis outside a 2011 Parliamentary meeting, she was quick to show her support, going so far as to jump over a barrier and join them. While Moussaieff certainly has the power to influence policymakers, she has instead chosen to make an impact by championing charitable causes, such as children’s health initiatives. Moussaieff’s inherent desire to help others in any way possible extends even to our photoshoot. She makes every effort to help the day run smoothly, even insisting on helping to carry the cumbersome studio lights through a heavy coat of snow.

Moussaieff seems to be in a constant state of wide-eyed awe at Iceland’s distinct culture and picturesque beauty. Despite being a self-described “outsider,” she has clearly developed a profound admiration for the unique European state. Moussaieff’s bubbly personality, sharp intellect, and genuine care for her country have undoubtedly endeared her to the people of Iceland in the same way.

AH: What has been your most challenging experience since becoming First Lady? How did you get through that experience?

DM:  My most difficult experience since coming to Iceland was that I did not speak the language fluently. And when I first came to Iceland with my husband, the people really resented me. They had been very fond of my husband’s first wife, who was a wonderful woman. I was of a different species – not only was I not from Iceland, but I came from a different religion, and I knew nothing about Iceland or its traditions. I think I got through it by being myself! I learned to not try to in any way change people’s minds; they just needed time to get to know me.

AH: What is your point-of-view on women’s impact in the political world? What is your role as the wife of a head of state?

DM: I really dislike politics of every sort, so politics is not really an area I have any expertise in – nor do I want to! I think the decisions that need to be made by heads of state are those that are good for the population, regardless of popular political opinion. My role as First Lady is to do everything I can to help the people of Iceland -I’d like each and every Icelandic child to have the best opportunities they can.

AH: It is sometimes said that behind every successful man is a great woman. How do you support your husband?

DM:  In all honesty, I don’t support my husband! (laughs) We have many conflicting views, but I think I complete him. We’re opposites, and I fill the bits that he has missing, and vice versa. I have often helped him view things from different angles, and by doing that, I’ve changed his opinions.

AH: How is Iceland different from other parts of the world? What makes it special?

DM: Iceland has no pollution, most of the food here is organic, and the water is some of the purest in the world. And it’s not nearly as cold as people think it is – it’s much less cold than New York! My dream is to make the rest of the world see the jewel that Iceland is.

(To read more or inquire about syndication, contact me)

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MATT MIESNIEKS, CEO of DEKKO Interview for ELLE MEN CHINA

Writer and Producer: Ashley Heaton

Photographer: Christophe Wu

Excerpt: The concept of augmented reality has been explored to spectacular effect in science fiction movies like The Matrix and Tron, but it’s a somewhat new idea here in the real world. The notion of integrating virtual simulations with our own reality certainly sparks the imagination, and the potential for innovation in this field seems endless.

Matt Miesnieks is leading the charge to make this technology available to the masses. The Sydney-born tech veteran uprooted his family to Northern California to launch Dekko, a startup that designs augmented reality software for personal use. Historically, the technology was prohibitively pricey and used primarily for military purposes, but Dekko’s applications allow individuals to experience augmented reality on their very own mobile devices and wearables. Miesnieks’ wife, Silke, is a partner in Dekko, and the company is by all accounts a family operation – in fact, the couple lives just a few blocks from the Dekko offices with their two young sons. It’s clear that there is no place they would rather be than Silicon Valley, the home of so many technological innovators before them.

AH: Tell us a little about what augmented reality is. How exactly does Dekko work?

MM: Essentially, augmented reality is blending elements of the computerized world with elements of the real world. Dekko provides the software to work with augmented reality, scanning real-life objects and incorporating them into the digital world. Our applications can be used with many different types of wearable and portable devices, like smartphones, tablets, and now Google Glass.

AH: Google Glass is one of the most talked-about inventions right now in technology. How is Dekko working with Google Glass? In what ways do you think wearables will change the way people use the internet and technology?

MM: We were initially skeptical about working with Google Glass, because the device doesn’t have very much memory space. But despite that, it’s proved to be a great platform for augmented reality, and we’ve found that the amount of memory hasn’t mattered as much as we had thought it would. It’s very easy to use – even my four-year-old son managed to learn to use it in about five minutes! It’s just a great product and we’re so excited to be working with them.

AH: In what ways do you hope your applications will change the way people live?

MM: I hope we can change the way people communicate on a personal level. We are moving closer to being able to more completely link to the body to technology through wearables, and letting people integrate it even further into their lives.

AH: Northern California, or “Silicon Valley,” has long been considered the home of the technology industry. How has working in this area helped spur your creativity or build your business? How is working in technology there different from working in the same field elsewhere in the world?

MM: Being here makes a huge difference in the way I’m able to work. The collaborative aspect is very powerful – everyone knows everyone, which really helps in many ways – meeting people to work with, acquiring funding and exchanging ideas. It’s amazing that there are so many great ideas in one place, which is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t lived here. I’ve worked in Asia, and technology is a huge industry there too – perhaps second only to Silicon Valley. But the collaborative spirit here really stands alone.

(To read more or inquire about syndication, contact me)

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DANIELLA  YACOBOVSKY AND AMY JAIN, FOUNDERS OF BAUBLEBAR Interview for MARIE CLAIRE CHINA

Writer and Producer: Ashley Heaton

Photographer: Ali Mitton at Seen Artists

Former classmates Daniella Yacobovsky and Amy Jain were inspired to start their E-business BaubleBar while engaging in one of their favorite pastimes – shopping at the famed department store Saks Fifth Avenue. They had no trouble finding the perfect frocks, handbags and shoes, but found they struggled to find the right jewelry to complete their ensembles. The pair noticed that most costume jewelry available in stores was either low in quality or exorbitantly expensive, and wished they could find a go-to shop for beautiful, affordable pieces that bridged that divide. They soon realized others felt the same way, and were thus inspired to bring such a product to the masses by launching BaubleBar.

At price points from about $15 (USD) to $200, BaubleBar’s jewels provide women a luxurious look without breaking the bank. By sourcing their pieces directly from designers, Yacobovsky and Jain offer a product assortment that is cost-effective and constantly updated, without the usual retail markup. Despite what their glamorous look and knack for accessorizing might suggest, BaubleBar’s founders did not come from the fashion world, and their academic background – they met while attending Harvard Business School – has enabled them to turn a uniquely analytical and business-minded eye to their fashion industry pursuits. Their smart and measured approach to retail has made the brand a huge success in just a few short years, and with plenty of new projects – including a bridal collection – in the works, Yacobovsky and Jain say the best is yet to come.

AH: BaubleBar is considered a business success story. Is the market feedback you’ve received better than you expected? What kind of women are your customers?

DY and AJ: I don’t think we ever expected the reaction we’ve received and it’s always incredibly humbling to meet someone who loves what we do. But that is exactly why we do it. We chose to build BaubleBar because we were frustrated consumers and we wanted to build something better than what we saw in the marketplace. It’s unbelievably exciting to hear that there are other women out there who feel similarly, and for whom our concept has resonated. The BaubleBar shopper is experimental with fashion, and likes to have fun with her jewelry. She mixes high and low and is as likely to opt for dainty metallic stud earrings, as she is a bold and colorful graphic statement necklace. We sell a fun product that should make you feel good – we’re all about guilt-free experimentation.

AH: You were close friends before you became business partners. Do you find it challenging to run a business alongside a friend? When you have different opinions, how do you deal with it?

DY and AJ: While we are best friends, we did meet in a work context, so we know how to work with one another, including how to disagree and share differing opinions at work without any hard feelings. Ultimately we have incredibly complementary skill sets, and that not only makes our partnership more seamless, but also creates an environment where we truly value and seek out the other’s opinion because we see value in those differing opinions. We are still incredibly close and feel incredibly lucky that we get to work alongside one another each day – it genuinely makes work more fun!

AH: What are your plans for BaubleBar in the coming year and the years to come?

DY and AJ: We started BaubleBar with a singular mission – to build the ultimate retail destination for fashion jewelry – and our business goals remain tied to making that a reality. This year we have begun to expand into verticals that allow us to reach a new shopper, or solve a need in the fashion jewelry market that remains unsolved. For example, we launched a dedicated weddings portal targeted toward the way brides shop for fashion jewelry. We also launched a number of international markets, including Canada, Australia, the UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong! We look forward to continuing to expand to additional markets soon.

(To read more or inquire about syndication, contact me)

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