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Sebastian Thiel: The only way is up

BIG BUSINESS: Sebastian Thiel

“BE READY for opportunities when they come,” was one of Sebastian Thiel’s top tips for success during an interview with Young Voices five years ago.

And based on his CV since, that’s exactly what he’s done.

Some of the ‘social’ entrepreneur’s personal highlights range from being made a Virgin Pioneer by the company’s founder Richard Branson in 2012 and visiting the business mogul’s home to more recently winning a Screen Nation Digital-iS Media Award for his first short film Illegal Activity.

“The last few years have been crazy,” says Thiel, who was first brought to our attention with a celebrity-endorsed range of T-shirts, under his company Its Upshot.

“There have been a lot of transitions in both my personal and business life. It’s definitely all been about growth.”

Popularly known under the pseudonym Sir-Bastian, the 23-year-old created Its Upshot in his late teens to tackle the deteriorating state of youth culture in the UK by using popular channels of fashion and entertainment to reach out and communicate with his young peers.

The company has since gone on to provide award-winning entertainment production, expertly mixing Thiel’s directing, writing and production skills with his innovative ideas, earning the young media mogul a place on The Evening Standard’s list of most influential people under 25 in 2012.

“This was such an epic achievement,” he says on making the list. “Probably one of the things I am most proud of is when people you don't expect to recognise the work you do. It’s a nice feeling. I’m honoured to be on the list, I was definitely not expecting to have this under my belt at this stage.”

Last year, the entrepreneur released a spoof of cult classic Friday, which follows the storyline of the popular 1995 film with a ‘London, African twist.’

Within a few days of posting, the trailer, which Thiel confirmed would “not be made into a feature film,” gained over 50,000 views and got the seal of approval from the original film’s writer, DJ Pooh.

He reflects: “That was amazing! The film was initially just a trailer project I wanted to do because I thought it was a funny idea. It was crazy to hear from DJ pooh, in regards to the film as he is the original writer. His opinion definitely mattered to me as I love the film!”

But it was short film Illegal Activity that won the media mogul his first bit of silverware for his display cabinet, after it was named ‘Favourite Film’ at the inaugural Screen Nation Digital-iS Media Awards, set up to ‘highlight a new born media maker that can simply wake up write, cast and fund a project online.’

“As anyone would be, I was over the moon! Illegal Activity was my first ever short film so it really means a lot to me personally. The film was a great platform for myself and everyone involved. It opened many doors and it is the project that made me realise I really want to be a director. I don't do what I do for awards, but when I get them, they show me that I’m doing something right in regards to the viewers and the industry.”

With the rise of film and TV series on digital platforms, does he think the UK is doing enough to recognise the talent of those producing it?

“I don't think the UK is doing enough in some areas, but it’s because the online scene is relatively new,” Thiel says.

“Maybe they don't know how to deal with it and translate it to the mainstream. However, people are making waves and forcing people to take note. The bigger we become the more power we all have with our content.”

Like many of his fellow British peers who have migrated to the States to make full use of the bigger platform, is a move across the pond on the cards?

“That's a tricky one,” he says. “I would love to be in America, especially somewhere hot. If the right opportunity presented itself I guess I could see it in my future. I haven’t got it as a plan, but it is in my thoughts.”

It’s apt to mention here that the young businessman was recently in America to complete 10 days of filming for Virgin Media, which he describes as an “amazing experience”.

He notes: “On the way back, I had my first first-class experience, which was so dope.”

For the entrepreneur, who gave up a promising career in basketball to pursue business endeavours, he says he is finally content with the strides he is making in the world of media.

“I just want to do game changing stuff, content that leaves a mark. I make films that I want to see,” he says.

He recently joined forces with Elevation Networks, an award-winning youth employment charity that seeks to develop the leadership potential of young people to increase their employability, who wanted a way to promote start-up loans to a young audience in a unique way.

Adots Apprentice, a spoof of the BBC 1 series starring UK business mogul Sir Alan Sugar at the helm, is a three-part series featuring UK comedian A Dot, which he released exclusively online.

Thiel said: “I came up with the concept and made it. I loved the project so much I chose to take it a step further and create more episodes. I knew people would want to see more, so instead of a three-part series, we have over 10 videos being released.”

He adds: “I currently have a feature film in development and a bunch of other stuff so hopefully you will catch a Sebastian Thiel film in a cinema near you soon.”

For more information, visit: or follow @SebastianThiel on Twitter

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