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Depending on where they’re from, people’s accents may be different, and their fashion senses may vary, but there’s one thing that unifies twenty-something hustlers all over the world: that aspirational hunger for more. The trend-setting suits at HBO smartly embraced this fact by producing Entourage and How to Make It in America, two undeniably hip, of-the-moment, and youth-driven series that, although their locales were stateside, tapped directly into the universal theme of turning creativity and ambition into notoriety and success.
And now, those hustle-spirited shows have their own English counterpart. Co-written by longtime friends/collaborators, and rookie filmmakers, Adriano Vilanova and Georgie Curran, the in-development web series Pull Up is gearing up to prove that the hunger for more is a worldwide feeling.
Set in and around West London, Pull Up follows Jesse Chambers (played by Luke Storey, a.k.a. DJ IQ), a 25-year-old DJ/producer who received turntable accolades as a teenager but whose personal drive has since been curbed by financial woes and broken dreams; a chance meeting with an old friend, though, reignites his passion and makes those goals of becoming an international superstar DJ tangible again—but only if the temptations and drama surrounding Jesse in West London, including run-ins with equally on-the-rise singer-songwriters and models, don’t once again derail his efforts.
We want to give an insight into what it’s like to be a struggling artist, following the life of a DJ who’s trying to make his way in the world
Both hailing from the Ladboke Grove area of West London, Vilanova and Curran are rooting Pull Up in authenticity. “We wanted to make something that celebrates our neighborhood and shows the audience the West London we grew up in,” says Vilanova. “We want to give an insight into what it’s like to be a struggling artist, following the life of a DJ who’s trying to make his way in the world. We’re giving our characters real-life problems to contend with. We set the show in the worlds we know, from being teenagers hanging out on the streets to artists developing their work and DJs rocking either venues or the occasional West London house party.”
While writing and conceptualizing Pull Up’s realistic world, the filmmakers were guided by their own connections to their main character’s career-of-choice. Before they joined forces as burgeoning filmmakers, Vilanova hung around DJs and tastemakers in London’s grime and hip-hop music communities while Curran produced hip-hop beats and toured with his DJ-ing older brother. Initially, Pull Up was conceived as a TV show, but after recalibrating their idea, Vilanova—who’s also the series’ director—and Curran tweaked the project into a six-episode web series. “Our initial idea was just to shoot 15 minutes of the pilot, but we then thought this was a good skeleton for the rest of the series and developed it from there,” says Curran. “We see web series as the future. The majority of people watch things online now and we want to be at the forefront of the web series revolution.”
We tried professional actors, but most of the time the kids we cast in estates and friends who read lines just worked and really helped with our cinéma vérité style
And with Luke “DJ IQ” Storey as the series’ face, Pull Up is also at the forefront of the 2015 music industry’s hottest genre. One quick spin through your radio’s FM dial cements just how ubiquitous and insanely profitable it is to be a DJ today, namely in the electronic dance music, or EDM, lane. Right alongside the Taylor Swift’s and Ariana Grande’s of the game on the Billboard charts and Forbes lists of the industry’s biggest moneymakers are world-renown DJs like Calvin Harris, Alesso, and Zedd.
Pull Up’s Jesse Armstrong looks at chart-topping DJs like them and thinks, “Why can’t that be me, too?” That’s the driving and, more importantly, relatable force behind Pull Up. “People have realized that with a few simple bits of equipment they can make they're own music,” says Vilanova about dance music’s current popularity. “All you need is two turntables and a mixer and the sky's the limit. It's a relatively new art form. Even though it's come a long way from people DJing in the park and on the street, it still retains that rawness, whether it's in a small club or a large arena, and it's only going to get bigger.”
DJ IQ anchors Pull Up with a serious pedigree: when he was 17, the West London native won the Under 18 section of the DMC World DJ Championships, and he’s backed up hip-hop acts both mainstream (Black Eyed Peas) and underground (The Beatnuts, Non Phixion). “Having Luke/DJ IQ on board playing Jesse was a real blessing,” says Vilanova. “He’s a natural talent and comfortable in front of the camera. It would have been hard to gain that same authenticity had we not gone with someone who's from that world.”
Maintaining Pull Up’s genuineness across the board, IQ’s co-stars are all also first-time actors discovered throughout West London. “A lot of the time with ‘actors,’ there was a need to perform and impress,” says Vilanova, “whereas with the ‘non-actors’ we could show them from the beginning what we were after.”
The inspiration to look beyond formal casting calls reaffirms Pull Up’s universally relevant point-of-view. For reassurance that relying on untrained actors could work, Vilanova and Curran looked towards American cinema. “Harmony Korine’s Kids inspired us,” says Curran, citing the New York-centric 1995 indie film sensation as a touchstone. “The characters were so real because they were cast on the street. They were real skateboarders and real teens living the life they portrayed in the movie. It’s the same thing with Pull Up. The people we gravitated towards were the characters we had been writing about. We tried professional actors, but most of the time the kids we cast in estates and friends who read lines just worked and really helped with our cinéma vérité style.”
Vilanova and Curran have already shot Pull Up’s first episode, which will debut online in the coming months. Once they’ve completed the other five, all of which will average around 15 minutes in length, the filmmakers plan on drumming up interest with specialized Pull Up mixtapes and promotional club nights. If all goes as planned, they’ll make viewers all around the world feel as if they’ve spent 90 minutes living in West London, just like Entourage’s fans were transported to Hollywood and How to Make It in America brought folks to Manhattan. “We want our audience to have a real idea of the place we come from, much like Martin Scorsese did with Mean Streets,” says Vilanova. “In no way am I trying to say what we've made here is at all comparable to Mean Streets, but we wanted to create, to coin a hackneyed phrase, a love letter to our neighborhood.”