Television

Interview with producer Sheeraz Hasan

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Dashing, debonair, confident, successful, a dreamer and a believer, that's what this 28 year old can be summed up as. Sheeraz Hasan, CEO, producer and host of Tinseltown TV which airs on B4U in more than 80 countries has been there done that and is itching for more. 

His mission - to bring Bollywood and Hollywood in closer contact with each other. He is the first to have worked towards this goal.

At 28, this entrepreneur has achieved more in life than most do in an entire lifetime. He sleeps only three hours a day, parties, socialises, works, works, works and works. Hasan has privileged access to Hollywood's hottest stars like Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones... et al. The list is endless.

Through an email questionnaire sent by Indiantelevision.com's Hetal Adesara, this firm believer in God spoke about his passion for work and his claim to fame in a short span of 18 odd months.

Excerpts:

 

Tell me something about your background.

I ran a successful 24-hour Hollywood theme restaurant in London for eight years. I always envisioned that I would eventually go to Hollywood. The restaurant attracted celebrities from Hollywood and Bollywood, so I already had some celebrity access in London. The restaurant was featured on Sky, BBC, Channel 4 and major newspapers and magazines in the UK.

I didn't want to leave the restaurant until it was established. Once that was accomplished, I could move on to my next goal which was to become the most powerful producer in Hollywood.

 

What is Tinseltown TV?

Tinseltown is a half hour English speaking Hollywood show aimed at the global Bollywood and international market. Viewers are shown exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage from film premieres, award ceremonies, celebrity parties, charity events and fashion shows. With endorsements from the biggest names in Hollywood, Tinseltown TV has unparalleled access to Hollywood's hottest stars, including Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Leonardo Di Caprio, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones and many more.



In addition to its encompassing coverage of the entertainment industry, Tinseltown TV is the only show in the world to have an exclusive segment featuring in-depth interviews with Hollywood's A-list stars discussing their spirituality. The Spiritual Side of Hollywood offers a rare glimpse of celebrities discussing God and enlightenment. Hosted by Zarina Ramzan, top stars speak candidly about their faith and how they stay grounded.

How did you start as a producer? What went behind setting up Tinseltown TV? 



Arriving in Los Angeles, I decided to surround myself with the movers and shakers in the business. To do this, I moved into an office complex called Lantana in Santa Monica. Here I was in the same office as Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Tucker, Catherine Zeta Jones, Harrison Ford and many more industry executives.

While rubbing shoulders with the biggest players in Hollywood, I realised that to make it here, I would need a niche. While talking to the studio heads and celebrities in my office, I was often asked about Bollywood. Most people knew little about Bollywood and were unaware of its size and success. I then realised that if I could bring the two biggest film industries together, I would achieve something truly unique.

My goal was not only to promote Hollywood to Bollywood but also to glorify God and spirituality to the world as a gift back to God.

Was it difficult to carve a niche for yourself in Hollywood? What kind of problems did you face, if any?

The difficult thing was to convince people of how big and successful Bollywood is. Tinseltown's mission was to bridge the gap between Bollywood and Hollywood. To begin with, people didn't understand what we were doing and it took time to convince people in Hollywood about it.



After going to an average of three to four Hollywood parties and events every night for the last year, I have succeeded in raising awareness of Bollywood and now I'm 'carrying the flag' of India and Bollywood. We are the only company in the world bringing Hollywood to the global Indian community.

What kind of a rapport do you have with the big names in Hollywood who are shown on your show?

I have built up a strong rapport not only with these celebrities, but also with studio heads because I have been able to do something that no one has done before. I am consistently asked by studios and stars about how they can cross over and work in Bollywood projects. Hollywood stars are cautious to endorse products but because of the relationships we have, Tinseltown has endorsements from all the biggest stars in the world. Also, I have stars endorsing me personally as having 'the number one show'.

How easy or difficult is it to get access to Hollywood hot-shots like Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Sharon Stone, Harrison Ford and the likes?

It is virtually impossible to get access to A-List Hollywood stars. The reason that there are very few Hollywood shows is because of the fact that getting access to celebrities is so difficult. By the blessing of God, I have been able to gain and maintain celebrity relationships.



I am socialising and partying every night and when Hollywood sees someone with such passion, talking to stars about spirituality and other meaningful subjects, I am given unrivalled access. It's only because of this that no other network or show has footage like ours.

Tinseltown Live is being aired in countries like the US, UK, Europe, Pakistan, Canada, Mauritius, South Africa and Australia. What is the response you have got from these countries?

They are all proud that for the first time in the history of television, we are bringing Hollywood to the niche markets. Why is Hollywood ignoring Indians, Pakistanis, Middle Easterners, Iranians, South-Asians?Tinseltown caters to these markets. A recent report in the Hollywood Reporter described Tinseltown TVas 'Access Hollywood' for those in Bollywood. (Access Hollywood is the leading Hollywood show in America).

On what basis did you choose B4U to air your show?

Living in London, B4U was a very popular channel as it was free to view. Because of this, I approached B4U for the distribution of my show. After one meeting with B4U and explaining the vision of bringing Hollywood to Bollywood, the deal was closed for Tinseltown to produce a half-hour weekly show to air at prime time in 80 countries.

As a producer, what are the subjects that appeal to you?

My main interest is to spread spirituality across the world and showcase the American lifestyle and culture to different niche markets around the globe. Whether I am interviewing Tom Cruise or Michael Eisner, they are all so giving and kind and that is what I want to show to the world. There are more charity events in Hollywood than anywhere else and these events are featured on our show.

Is there any kind of channel intervention?

The network gave me full creative control and it was my job to make the show number one - which we did. The network was simply a distribution outlet for our show and was not involved in the production. But as a courtesy and gift back to B4U, I branded them very strongly in Hollywood and in the mainstream American press.

As a producer, what difficulties do you encounter?

I have not come across many difficulties. There have been some obstacles, but when you have vision, belief and passion these are all surmountable.

What is your production set up like?

I have a small team to keep our work very focused. We work with the latest technology and software products enabling us to stream our show on the web at www.tinseltown.tv and ensuring an efficient work-flow. We have four film crews out every night in LA, two crews in New York and one crew in London. The entire show is produced and created from our studios in Beverly Hills.

What are your sources of funding?

I've funded my business personally. At the beginning I got support from the restaurant but later I signed a deal with ITN in the UK to resell our footage. We now have advertising revenue from major sponsors including EMF.com, Dada Footwear, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Levis, Puma, Microsoft etc.



Tinseltown also airs and licenses its show to the Iranian community where it is seen in 90 million homes. Our website www.tinseltown.tv also generates advertising revenue.

Which areas are you personally involved with as producer?

I take a very hands-on approach and try to involve myself with all aspects of production - from behind the scenes to hosting the show. I am donning all the mantles right now. 



I continue setting my goals every week. I have been able to achieve more in 18 months than most people achieve in a lifetime. This is only due to my passion, focus, determination and sleeping three hours a night!



Our mission statement is simple: Inspiration and Enlightenment through the art of Television and Cinema. I motivate my team to believe that 'Tinseltown will lead, not follow. We will believe, not doubt. We will create, not destroy, we will set new standards and we will defy the odds.'



One piece of advice that has stayed with me since arriving in the US: Michael Eisner told me, "Sheeraz, if you want to make it in Hollywood, sleep when you're dead." I live by that philosophy every day.

You're going to host Partnership Walk 2003 in LA which is an event to promote greater understanding about the lives of the poor people in developing countries. How did it come about and what is your personal involvement in it?

Right now, I am a role model for all South Asians because of what I've been able to achieve in such a short time. The fact is that I have promoted South Asians so much in Hollywood. I was approached by the Aga Khan foundation to host the Partnership Walk in LA, which will be attended by over 10,000 people. I support many charities as God has given me so much I feel it is my duty to give back to the community.

Which are the projects that you have in the pipeline?

We have various other TV shows in development. We have completed one year of airing on B4U Worldwide and are now in negotiations with other networks to continue and expand the Tinseltown Phenomenon.

Which would you consider to be the high points of your career?

Being the first person to open a Hollywood theme 24-hour restaurant in London is definitely a high point in my life. Apart from that, I was the first person in the world to bridge the gap between the world's two biggest film industries - Hollywood and Bollywood - on a weekly show. 



Having the number one show on B4U Worldwide is also one of the highlights of my career. Then, hosting the 2003 Partnership Walk in LA, winning an award at Partnership Walk for 'Outstanding Achievement by a South-Asian' and receiving an invitation to host the New Year's Eve party of King Fahad due to the popularity of the show in the Middle East are definitely something that I'm proud of.

What are your future plans?

We are in negotiations with other Indian channels and we want to take our show to the biggest network in India. We are also in negotiations for Tinseltown to air in China. Ultimately, Tinseltown will air to every niche market around the world as well as mainstream audiences. We are going to be producing more shows under the Tinseltown banner. 



Our website, which already has four million hits a month, will be developed further and will become a platform to reach billions of people around the world via the web. We are also developing movie scripts for production next year and we plan to have our own studio within the next few years.

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