News Reel & Blog

Written by Jack Hopkins on 30th November 2018

An omnipresent figure on our screens, Louis Theroux continues to unearth more and more controversial topics in contemporary society. For the majority, his discoveries are topics that are rarely talked about in mainstream discussions.  His most recent venture has seen him return to the United States - the place where he started his career as a journalist, and one of the most divided nations on the planet. They can all be found on BBC Iplayer, and they’ve raised a few questions and talking-points about euthanasia, monogamy and adoption. We’re going to have a quick look through his back catalogue, and what makes him one of the most influential and widely watched documentary-makers.

Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends (1998-2000) was his first venture with the BBC, and it followed under-discussed topics that have fundamental underlying issues. Three stand-out episodes focused on South Africa, wrestling and Black Nationalism, in which Louis throws himself right in the think of it all, exposing the contradictions and unfathomable aspects of certain beliefs surrounding them. In these earlier escapades Louis seems to take more of a backseat approach, letting the weird and unorthodox subjects in the episode to take centre stage.

When Louis Met… (2000–02) marked a bit of a shift by Louis as he gradually became more opinionated on the topics being raised, becoming increasingly penetrative with his questions to try and pry out opinions that may not have been brought to the forefront before.  In each episode  Theroux accompanied a different British celebrity throughout a normal day, interviewing them as they go. Celebrities such as Anne Widdecombe and Chris Eubank were followed, along with the infamous Jimmy Saville episode.

His documentaries (2003… onwards) are what he’s probably most known for. In these special programmes, beginning in 2003, Theroux returned left the British shores and returned back to the states, working at feature-length and in a more penetrative way, showing both sides of an overarching argument, often portraying the persona of a naive fool in order to let the subject slip up and unwittingly reveal more than what they bargained for – much like another British documentary pioneer, Nick Broomfield. Episodes such as The Most Hated Family in America, LA Stories: City of Dogs, Murder in Milwaukee were all underlying sub-discussions in America and how now been brought closer to the surface, all being met with huge critical acclaim.

My Scientology Movie (2016) marked another step in Louis’ conquering of the documentary genre. This longer form of analysis into a controversial subject matter, featured actors "auditioning" for parts playing high-profile Scientologists in scenes recreating accounts from ex-members about actual occurrences. Although the film managed to strike a chord with The Church of Scientology, and their subsequent monitoring and denouncement of the film, Louis had the opportunity to be a bit more intrusive with his questions, with plenty of missed opportunities to ask more about what actually happens behind the scenes in the scientology religion – something that was picked on by certain critics.

The obscurity of Louis’ interests and subject matter makes it’s hard to predict what direction or area he’s going to investigate next. But one thing’s for sure; we’ll be watching.


Written by Jack Hopkins on 13th November 2018

The world lost a truly imaginative pioneer on Monday. A man who created his own universe, heroes and alter-egos with a stroke of a pencil.  His death sparked a gratuitous explosion of thanks and condolences from celebrities and fans alike, and it’s become increasingly clear that it’s nigh on impossible to think of an individual who has influenced contemporary culture as much Stan Lee has.

Throughout his time as an editor, writer and publisher he co-created fictional characters including Spider-Man, The Hulk, Doctor Strange, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, and—with his brother, Larry Lieber— the characters Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Thor. In doing so, he pioneered a more layered approach to writing superheroes and made them what they are today.

Before his rise to his unprecedented status within modern society, Lee served in the US army writing manuals and cartoons. Upon leaving the army, Lee joined what is now known as Atlas Comics, writing stories for a whole host of genres including romance, Westerns, humour, science fiction, medieval adventure, horror and suspense. He became more and more disillusioned with the work that he was doing, eventually turning his gaze towards superheroes, joining a new superhero team which allowed his imaginative characters to really gain some traction.

The first superheroes Lee and artist Jack Kirby created together were the Fantastic Four. The success from this first project launched the team’s work into the mainstream, leading to the commissioning of a huge collection of new superheroes, all living through the same universe.  Lee and Kirby collated a group of there newly created characters together into the team title The Avengers, which is now the basis of one of the highest grossing film series’ of all time. 

The cross-universe nature of Lee’s creations has helped develop an endless narrative cycle that allows characters to jump in and out of films at the pleasure of the writer. Lee has been credited executive producer on most Marvel film and television projects beginning with the 1990 Captain America film. In the 46 films that Lee has been an Executive Producer, a remarkable $26,410,622,876 has been made across world-wide box offices. He has had cameo appearances in 42 films in total, thankfully completing the footage for his cameo in the upcoming Avengers 4 film prior to his death on Monday.

He eventually retired from Marvel, but continued as a public figurehead for the company, allowing him ton continue his own creative ventures into his 90s, right up until his death.

Stan Lee was a true creator who pushed the boundaries of our imaginations, and the entire world is sad to see him go – but, as he said himself… “Excelsior!”


Written by Jack Hopkins on 9th November 2018

The shear amount of content that is widely available to a vast amount of people means that streaming VOD companies need to adapt and progress their content in order to remain at the top of the pile – providers such as Netflix and Amazon Video have gradually turned their gaze towards original feature films.

How can newly commissioned feature length films impact the content conflict? They will obviously cost more to produce than a single series of a television show, but it’s how much exposure they continue to receive after the initial honey-moon release period which is the question.  Series’ can be watched over and over again, drawing bigger viewership due to their length. Netflix’s move into films needs to ensure that the content remains uniquely ‘Netflix’,  as they have done with binging shows over a short amount of time.

Operation: Finale is one of these originally commissioned films by Netflix that has all the production value, cast and historic significance, but ultimately has something missing for a lot of reviewers. Charles Bramesco from The Guardian states that it ‘it isn’t the best version the Eichmann story that could have been made. But it’s also impossible not to sort of enjoy watching it anyway.’  The film almost feels like it’s purely Netflix flexing it’s productive muscles, showcasing how much money they can pump into a single film and the calibre of performers they can attract.

The Eichmann story is a narrative that will definitely be re-visited in the long-run, but Netflix have revisited a horrific subject whilst it’s still fresh in the minds of many. There have already been a couple of reproductions of the terrifying events that occurred in Norway, and Netflix commissioned their own film to portray the events. Neil Smith from the BBC states that they’re all ‘made with sensitivity and respect. Inevitably, though, they raise questions as to whether events of this nature can and should be recreated on screen.’ The fact that Netflix is a paid service almost gives Netflix a bit more license to make a controversial film like 22 July, as people are paying money to see hard-hitting content that they can’t get on terrestrial television, but it does still contribute to the argument whether a film should be made about such horrifying events.

Outlaw King (which is released on Netflix today!) is also a film that has a huge budget and production value, causing many to suggest that it would be more suited to the big screen instead of the small screen – that’s exactly what Netflix plan to do.  A theatrical release is necessary, per Academy regulations, for a film that wants to be entered at the Academy Awards. Tasha Robinson from The Verge states how  “the streaming service is inevitably still going to be caught up in the conflict between how to best serve its paying audience and what’s best for its profile and recognition as a legitimate film studio.” The fact that Netflix’s commissioning slate is attracting such pivotal filmmakers and having the capacity to enter films into such prestigious awards is one of the most appealing factors of the service, and it needs to ensure it continues to do so.

The conundrum for Netflix is whether it would want to make the transition into a legitimate production studio or not. Their processes are a lot different to those of a traditional studio; the quick turnaround on shoots and the marketing that surrounds releases are certainly unconventional. This possibly could act in their favour should they focus all their energy and resources on production and rejuvenating the production processes for all – would this impact their ability to provide quick and exclusive content on demand? The unique selling point that’s made it such a powerhouse today.


Written by Jack Hopkins on 1st November 2018

The Searchlight Team welcomed trainees from the Media Trust to our offices at WeWork Aldwych House to provide an insight into what makes a great CV, a stand-out cover letter and how to break into the media and entertainment industries.

Our session was part of The Media Trust’s Creativity Works: Multimedia Genius Training, supported by Mayor’s Fund for London and Berkeley Foundation. It’s a ‘free intensive 10-week crash-course of high-impact media masterclasses and employment skills training for media-focused Londoners who are not in employment, education or training.’

We started with an introduction to some of our employment histories as consultants. Rosie has an extensive background in production and events, Suzanne has nearly 10 years experienced in media recruitment, Amy originally came from a retail background and Victoria was originally a dancer and an actor! We then continued with a deep insight into what should and shouldn’t be in a CV, followed by discussing the structure of a cover letter and how they should be laid out. We then had a Q&A session where attendees had the chance to dispel any myths or concerns they had about recruitment within the media industry.

Following on, we put on a workshop that pulled together all the advice and insights into the job application process we had presented on. Those in attendance had to put together cover letters from example job-ads, with our consultants also on hand to offer CV advice.

We had a really great time we hope those who attended our session did too! We really hope to see you as you progress throughout your media careers and who knows, our paths may cross again down the line!

Huge thanks to WeWork for their support during the session, ensuring nobody went hungry with a hefty supply of doughnuts for the trainees!

Lastly, many thanks to The Media Trust, The Mayor’s fund and The Berkeley Foundation for everything they do to provide opportunities for young creatives to break into the industry, and for allowing us to play a small part in their inspirational training scheme.