Brit on the Boulevard – Part I
By Darren Darnborough
British expat Darren Darnborough shares his adventures in Los Angeles.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2015? And are you still on track with them?
I tend not to make specific resolutions as I think they are often either too easy to achieve, or too easy to break and forget – I prefer to try for general upgrades and improvements. I really love the Japanese concept of ‘kaizen’ which suggests continuing betterment in what you do. So I kicked off the new year planning to be healthier in both my fitness and food, read more, learn more, be refined and be open to all different types of personal development. Living in Los Angeles, that meant doing a juice cleanse, joining a gym, eating copious amounts of kale and quinoa, hiking Runyon canyon or running Lake Hollywood every day while listening to my favorite podcasters wax lyrical about their best productivity and good-life techniques. The first portion of this year was devoted to the final phases of development in my new company, WeRehearse.com, and releasing my film Stefano Formaggio, so I had to be on my game.
All work and no play makes Darren a dull boy, however, so I infused both with the annual filmmaker pilgrimage to Sundance film festival, which is a reasonable excuse for a work vacation. We drove the distance from LA, to Park City Utah with our good friend British actor Jimmy Akingbola who’s been making some serious waves stateside. After stopping off for some Peggy Sue’s breakfast halfway to Vegas, and some excellent BBQ at Sonny Boys in Cedar City, we rolled in to the snow, just in time to attend Sundance royalty Mimi Kim’s birthday in her stunning home. This intimate private affair kicked off 5 days of their much lauded Chefdance dinner, where invited guests of the film festival mingle with celebrities and chow down multiple courses of a top chef’s menu, which changes each night, followed by music by some great upcoming artists – one of the hottest tickets on the calendar since it’s just so damn exclusive. The next few days were jam-packed as we made our way around press interviews and photo shoots; the Eddie Bauer lounge who decked us in some great cold-weather ski; and the Chase Sapphire lounge where by day we pitched films to Harvey Weinstein, and by night we pitched up on the dance floor busting out some moves that should probably be left at home with our new found film friends. We nursed the hangover at Closets For Causes & Beauty For Freedom’s brunch, where we were kindly gifted something better than Santa managed – a private Jet subscription allowing us to fly empty legs for free, from Jetsmarter, and supported and celebrated the fundraiser for Adrian Grenier’s documentary passion project The Lonely Whale, seeking a whale who has no friends due to the different frequency he sends out. We wrapped our last day on the gorgeous Park City ski slopes, with some great powder and no lines – the town may be busy, but the slopes were idyllic. You’ll forgive us for not catching any movies – there was way too much other fun to be had, besides back in LA, screenings are abundant, plus we had to hotfoot it back for a slew of auditions ourselves!
Returning to LA always invigorates me and ignites the ambition, and so I attended motivational coach Tai Lopez’s Hollywood seminar at the Roosevelt hotel to get a slap on the ass and some fire in the belly. I’d been listening to Tai’s podcasts for a while after being introduced by my friend James Swanwick (who also does a great podcast) and his words are insightful, not to mention he is incredibly well read. The packed out room was a mix of established businesspeople and budding entrepreneurs, all looking to learn a little something from Tai and his cohorts, which included Oren Klaff and Joel Salatin. I personally love these seminars, as no matter what, you can come away with at least one little nugget of improvement, and there were many to be had from Tai.
In my efforts to focus more, stress less, and be more productive, I also began using the “brain-sensing” headband Muse. I’ve often heard successful people tout the benefits of meditation, but I’ve dismissed it through a mix of skepticism, and poor explanation. I had tried, but unsure whether what I was doing was right or not, or whether my self-proclaimed zen-master friends were just pompously asserting their higher-tranquility, I gave up. Muse is great. It makes sense. You wear the headband, whilst doing guided meditation through an app, and it can tell if you are calm or distracted, by delivering peaceful birds and water or a torrential storm, helping you to train your brain to a place of focus, just like you work other muscles in the gym, tracking your progress as you go.
All psyched up for February, focus was still interspersed with fun, especially since it forms the heart of award season in LA, with all the creative industries being celebrated. One of the great things about modern working is the mobile life – we can continue to do what we do anywhere, which is why after a great dinner at Houston Bros’ new spot Butchers & Barbers, we booked a last-minute private jet… as you do 😉 … to San Francisco. It was app-tastic.
The JetSmarter app allows members to book the empty legs for free, so if a private jet has flown one-way and has to get back, you can claim that empty flight for you and your friends. I booked the plane through the app; text my friends through an app; booked my car to the airport through Uber; ordered my lunch to arrive on the runway through GrubHub; posted my picture-brags to Facebook from the air in our Hawker 800; and booked our night’s stay on HotelTonight. An epic pizza, luxurious stay in the Clift hotel (last-minute bargain), breakfast and Irish coffees at the famous Buena Vista café, playing vintage arcade games at Fisherman’s wharf, catching up with friends and a bizarre tiki-themed charity event that made the Silicon Valley TV show seem like a factual documentary, and we were off back down the 5 freeway in a one-way rental car booked from the Kayak app, back to Hollywood.
The next night, I had the pleasure of a dinner guest who was truly inspiring and great fun to boot. Hanifa, one of the patients being treated by charity Face Forward, whom I sit on the board for, was in town from Uganda to receive multiple surgeries after an acid attack to the face by her husband. This obviously left Hanifa with physical and emotional scarring, but a simply astounding amount of resilience, love and positivity that literally brings tears of joy to your eyes. Hanifa is such a beautiful person to be around and now devotes her time to helping others, whilst proving to us all that we have a lot to be thankful for.
We finished up February indulging in some great pre-Oscar events. We watched contender Birdman in the elegantly restored Ace Hotel theater, introduced by Michael Keaton himself, with the drum score played live on stage by the composer – a phenomenal way to enjoy one of the most inventive movies of the year. Brit director Bobby Razak impressed us with his documentary debut Mask, following the impressive though sadly short career of Tapout MMA clothing founder Michael Lewis. Somehow, we squeezed in an intense 6am group workout at the Hollywood Bowl with the November Project, before bumping into Elton John and Harvey Keitel at the Gagosian Gallery’s pre-Oscar bash; Eastender Patsy Palmer at Art Of Elysium’s penthouse soirée at Mr C’s; and Uptown magazine’s party honoring director Lee Daniels. That weekend, our pancakes and Mimosa’s were enjoyed alongside Nicole Kidman and team Special Olympics at the exclusive Gold Meets Golden brunch, before wrapping up with the Oscars viewing party at Pearls on Sunset, where we took over the patio with our Brit film industry friends including recent transplants The Postlethwaite Twins (from Peaky Blinders) who are infecting Hollywood with their boundless #twinning energy. Eddie Redmayne did our countrymen proud.
Straight on to the next festival, I just about had time to squeeze in attending Dreambuilders annual charity event, my first golf lesson from Director Richard Keith (apparently I’m pretty good for a newbie) and some great new Headshots from OG pictures, before I was on a plane to Texas for the SXSW festival. Austin gets overrun by this annual convergence of creative industries in a 2 week cocktail of Film, Music and Tech. Over opening weekend I enjoyed seeing Linklater, Rodriguez, & Del Toro take the stage at the Texas Film Awards, before running into my 20Ft Below castmate Danny Trejo and meeting director Sara Bordo ahead of her win for the Lizzie Velazquez documentary. My hangout du jour was kindly provided by one of my favorite magazines at the Fast Company Grill, where I ate great food by day, partied by night, meeting tech entrepreneurs and panelists excited to hear about my new entertainment website WeRehearse.com which was moments away from launch. I bounced from the documentary premiere of Russell Brand’s story, to parties by Facebook, SGN, Rothenberg Ventures and Hulu, before Texan hay fever (or maybe too many ribs) put an early end on my antics.
I wound up the month checking out Brit chef Brendan Collins’ new restaurant Birch on Cahuenga in Hollywood. where he gets very inventive with the recipes following his hit Waterloo & City, before attending a special screening of live-action fairytale Cinderella at the Director’s Guild, which seemed to star half of the cast of Downton Abbey and was a whimsical fun, modern take on the tradition, whilst keeping the true essence intact. The clock striking midnight scene definitely deserves a special mention for visual effects.
Keeping on the fairytale theme, I rounded up the month releasing my own modern fairytale, Stefano Formaggio out to the masses. Following a successful film festival circuit, picking up awards and screenings in Catalina, Carmel and Acccolade fests, we decided to share my directorial debut, about a charming Italian cheese maker and a beautiful florist, so you can now watch this “deliciously sinister” film on YouTube, Facebook or Vimeo, and so far the reviews have been thankfully very positive. No rest for the wicked, we packed our bags ready for an April trip to experience a bucket list item – the Cherry Blossom festival in Japan, which I will be telling you all about in the next edition of Brit On The Blvd!
ABOUT DARREN: British expat Darren Darborough was born in London and currently lives in Los Angeles. He is a creative professional and self-confessed Neophile who loves variety and despises routine. He has extensive experience as an actor, appearing in award-winning feature films, commercials and TV shows, including British hit EastEnders and U.S. cult show True Blood. He is also a writer/producer and made his directorial debut in 2013 with the film Stefano Formaggio.
As an entrepreneur, Darren has founded and co-founded various businesses, including event concepts at Earls Court, Sundance, Cannes and in Hollywood; fashion label Corsellis; the expat group Brits in LA, SponsorBridge and www.StuckForStaff.com – the U.S. and U.S.’s largest promotional staff resource. He was named in the 2010 Who’s Who of Britain’s Business Elite – Young Business Leaders and regularly speaks on business and marketing panels.
Darren previously served on the Advisory Board of the Bel Air Film Festival; as the U.S. Ambassador of The Global Party and currently the Gala Committee of Sir Richard Branson’s Rock The Kasbah; the BritWeek Committee and the Advisory Board of Face Forward.
Darren is also a journalist for several magazines with over 100 bylines to his name. A natural connector, he regularly assists charities including Virgin Unite, the Eve Branson Foundation, Adopt-A-Letter, Hollywood Arts, CharityLives and Face Forward among others.
Visit www.DarrenD.co.uk for more information on Darren and his life in Los Angeles.
Special thanks to JetSmarter who kindly support Darren.