There is no handbook to guide you on how to be successful. Different strokes for different folks. What’s good for the goose, isn’t always good for the gander. While the cliches about how one’s pathway to success doesn’t always work for everyone are nearly infinite, they all tell the same truth. They also encourage you to find your own way instead of mimicking what has already been done. Be a risk taker! Well, at least that’s what I get from them. Alfonso Cuaron and I may just think along those same lines, having carved his own path to success in the world of film. As well as taking a few risks along the way, setting a standard through his vision for his films to become top-tier.

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Who is Alfonso Cuaron, though? Well, he’s someone that has directed a couple of the generation’s impactful films. His most recent work, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the most successful of Alfonso’s films, Gravity, have elevated him into an elite class of film directors. His journey to get there was quite different than many of his contemporaries, but movies were his first love.

His passion for movies stems from growing up in a household where his mother was an avid movie goer. Her love for movies was inherited by Alfonso and carried out in his pursuit to become a movie director. Alfonso was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico, where he would also go on to film school. Alfonso attended National Autonomous University of Mexico, but he wasn’t allowed to finish school however. In fact, Alfonso was kicked out of film school for violating a rule, that being his participation in a film that was done in English. While the punishment seemed to be a bit overboard, Alfonso wouldn’t let that setback be the end of him chasing his dream.

 

Alfonso continued to search for avenues to use the skills he had, and worked in television for a while. After years of working in television, he was given the opportunity to direct his first film. The 1992 film entitled Solo Con Tu Pareja, was released in English and Spanish. The English version was called Love in the Time of Hysteria, was a great way for him to get his feet wet as a director, and showcase his humorous side. The film also gave Alfonso a chance to work and co-write with his brother, Carlos. The film had a great deal of success in Mexico.

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Alfonso would go on to later work on English films, and switched up the genres a bit to show his versatility. He also enjoyed better success here, and worked on one of the generation’s blockbuster Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. This was another opportunity to delve into a different genre. Not only was this going to be his first time working on a kids film, but he hadn’t even read the book before working on the movie. How crazy is that?

Just last year, he was generating Academy Awards buzz for his work on the Sci-Fi hit, “Gravity”. This film starred two of Hollywood’s most decorated actors; George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. The movie was one of 2013’s best films as evident by having held the number one spot two weeks in a row. Gravity also received several Academy awards, including Alfonso’s for Best Director.

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“Gravity” was a different caliber than anything Alfonso had done before. It was just a different feel, and to have a chance to team up with his son as a father-son directing and screenwriting duo? That made for what was an incredibly special movie, and experience for all that were involved. And then of course you factor in the opportunity to work with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock on the same project.

Gravity was a 3-D space suspense film that was inevitably going to be great. From the cast, to the storyline, to the special effects and cinematography, there was all the components for a award-winning picture. It also gave Alfonso the smash hit that makes his resume one of the more respected in the film industry today. Not only has he proven that he can work in multiple genres, in English or Spanish, but he can do so with the best of them. While Alfonso’s uniqueness to take on the challenge of different genres puts him in a class all his own, some people question his untraditional path. As Alfonso told The New York Times, “A director I respect once told me: ‘You’re too much like a pendulum. You have to find your center.’ But I just do what I feel is the right thing at the time. I don’t think it’s a flaw.” He continued, “But, on the other hand, almost all the directors I admire do have a constant or common thread in their work.”

These days, Alfonso is back to working in the television department, and doing pretty well. Alfonso directed the pilot for NBC’s debut drama series, Believe. The show is a suspense filled story of a 10-year-old born with special telekinetic powers among others, struggling to control them as they continue to increase. Again, something rather different for him.

Sometimes the road less traveled is the most rewarding. After being dismissed from school and refusing to choose a niche, Alfonso Cuaron has found a way to become mentioned in the class with today’s greats. All of which was done while collaborating with his brother and son along the way, sharing the the limelight.

– Blake Holmes

Even though rock ‘n roll is an American creation, the United Kingdom has been a breeding ground for some of the most legendary rock bands of all time. Groups such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin have had phenomenal success across the pond and beyond. Their legacy led to the rise of groups such as Oasis, Radiohead, Muse, and Coldplay who have all achieved worldwide acclaim. Following in the footsteps of their iconic predecessors, up and coming British band Nothing But Thieves has been waiting for their chance to shine since their formation in 2012. The five man band consists of Conor Mason (vocalist), Joe Langridge-Brown (guitarist), Dom Craik (guitarist), Philip Blake (bassist), and James Price (drummer). The bandmates are all from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England and they’ve emerged as one of the premiere rock bands in Europe. Since signing to RCA Records in 2014, Nothing But Thieves has been thriving and moving up the UK music charts. With their early success, the group is making moves to reach a global audience.

When Mason was twelve years old, he met Langridge-Brown who already had his own band. Langridge-Brown was fifteen years old and mentored Mason. For fun, their band mostly performed covers of old blues and funk songs. Blake and Craik are cousins and they were schoolmates along with Price, Langridge-Brown, and Mason. Mason, Langridge-Brown, Craik, and Blake would later form their own band. Initially, Price was a drummer for another band that opened for their band. When the band’s original drummer left, they recruited Price to replace him. Since then, the bandmates have been inseparable and fully dedicated to making stellar songs. As longtime friends, they have a rapport that solidifies the group as a whole. They legitimately enjoy making music because it’s a manifestation of the bond they share.

Nothing But Thieves has always been passionate about rock music and they cite groups such as Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Twin Atlantic, and The Foo Fighters as influences. Mason was greatly influenced by Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC. As Mason told Slate the Disco, a Cambridge-based music and arts online magazine, “I remember being nine and hearing Bon Scott’s vocals cutting through the air like nothing I’d ever heard. I remember asking for guitar lessons straight away.”

The group has also been compared to British rock band Muse. Although Nothing But Thieves enjoys traditional rock, they consider their style as alternative rock. They also have diverse influences outside of rock music. Mason in particular is a fan of jazz and 50s R&B and also grew up listening to Ray Charles and Etta James. In today’s diluted music industry, it’s rare for young artists to show a thorough appreciation for the history of music. Mason and his bandmates understand that the artists who preceded them were genuine performers. As musicians, they pour their soul into their music.

When Nothing But Thieves works on a song, it’s an almost an instinctive collaboration. Their camaraderie and carefree attitude allow them to make heartfelt music. In contrast to other groups that are manufactured by record companies, Nothing But Thieves is as thick as thieves. Langridge-Brown, Mason, and Craik are the primary songwriters and the time it takes to write a song varies in length. Some songs may take weeks to compose while others require far less time to finish. In an interview with Outlet Mag, an online publication for music, fashion, culture, and lifestyle, Mason talked about his favorite song on the group’s album and gave insight into their creative process. “Yeah mine has to be ‘If I Get High,’ we wrote that in 45 minutes. [It] was a moment where all three of us just clicked and every decision made we were all in sync with. Really great to play live too, always a turning point in the set.”

Nothing But Thieves is very experimental and they think outside the box conceptually. Even the group’s name has a unique and interesting origin. Nothing But Thieves actually alludes to a quote from French satirist and philosopher Voltaire. In an interview with music blogspot It’s All Indie, Langridge-Brown explained, “There’s a quote and it said, ‘Don’t be impressionable, your religious leaders are nothing but mega thieves.’ I don’t think mega thieves is a very good band name, but thought Nothing But Thieves is a good band name so there you go.”

The group’s self-titled debut album was released in October 2015 in the United Kingdom and will be released in the United State in February 2016. In an interview with Gigwise, a British online music news site, the group talked about the concept behind their album. “The whole point of this album and the way we wrote it, is that we don’t really hold any barriers in our sound; we just explored and it’s quite diverse. It’s all over the place, but in a good way.”

Their single “Itch” represents an urge to break free from a mundane existence. The lyrics, “There’s a hunger in my heart. It’s full of promise, promise. There’s an itch under my skin. It’s under my skin, under my skin. ‘Cause I, I just want to feel something real. ‘Cause I, I just want to feel something,” paint the picture of someone struggling to discover true liberation. Mason’s androgynous voice ranges from soothingly subdued during the verses to impassioned and unrestrained in the chorus. The music is lively and high-intensity which, appropriately, brings listeners out of the doldrums.

Following the success of their debut album, Nothing But Thieves plans to tour in Japan, Australia, and the United States in the near future. With their energetic sound and raw enthusiasm, Nothing But Thieves is not your run-of-the-mill rock band. They take pride in their craft, and they’re ready to take rock music to new heights.

-Elijah Yarbrough