The Star Whisperer

Parkhurst’s Taryn Uhlmann is a content and marketing specialist in the digital entertainment industry. We chat to her about being at the forefront of launching Internet TV, her love of cinema and what it’s like to meet some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Morgan Freeman!

Being in the entertainment industry, you must have met many famous faces … who stands out for you? One of my best experiences was when I worked on marketing the local release of the comedy film Bunny Chow and Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry visited Joburg. We organised an all-day comedy workshop with the Bunny Chow cast as well as other well-known South African actors. Watching the brilliant Emma and Stephen up front was incredible and the way they imparted humorous advice to the local actors was wry and clever but never patronising. It was a very rare opportunity to see such great talent in action.

Do you ever get star-struck?

I’ve always managed to remain professional but, while working on the South African release of Invictus, I spent some time with Morgan Freeman and I was particularly jittery when meeting him. While chatting to him at dinner (our team took him to Moyo), he completely surprised me by asking a lot about my thesis study at UCT and what I wanted in my future career. Despite taking me completely off guard, his genuine, almost fatherly interest was really lovely.

Tell us more about Morgan Freeman!

Working on Invictus was a real highlight in my career. Through his visit, so many opportunities for good came to light thanks to his participation in various charity events for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, The Make a Difference Foundation and The Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Players’ Fund. Morgan’s work here also raised the profile of our country’s high calibre of local production companies and film studios. It was amazing to see the reconstruction of the Robben Island prison where every crack in the floor replicated the real prison.

We hear you chaperoned John Cleese while he was in South Africa for the launch of Spud, what was he like? He’s a consummate professional. I’ve often found that actors who seem to fill the screen with personality tend to be quiet behind the scenes, and John Cleese was very much like that. But the minute he met fans or attended premier screenings, you could see that  ‘X-factor’ in action. He also had a very supportive bond with the younger cast members.

 If there was one other movie star you could work with, who would it be? I am a huge fan of actors who are all round talents – Hugh Jackman is not only an exemplary actor but he can sing, dance and play multiple instruments … I’d love to meet and work with him. Meryl Streep is another multitalented actress I’d love to meet. If I put my director’s cap on though, I’d be very keen to work with Ben Affleck – I think he is an enormously talented director.

What is your all-time favourite flick? Without doubt Beautiful Girls … the 1996 quirky comedy by Ted Demme, starring a fantastic cast including Matt Dillon, Lauren Holly, Timothy Hutton, Uma Thurman and a very young Natalie Portman!

Tell us about Discover Digital and Internet TV…  Discover Digital is a small, smart company founded by Stephen Watson with a single goal in mind – to make quality, digital entertainment available to everyone. We provide video on demand (TV shows and movies over the Internet) and are just about to launch our service DEOD (Digital Entertainment on Demand), which allows people a lot more choice and flexibility in terms of what they want to watch and how they want to pay. We also have a huge focus on education and want to use online video to take quality content into communities where access to textbooks and schooling is a constant challenge.

What are some of your other passions besides films and how do you make time for these in your busy schedule?

I absolutely love photography and travelling. Walking through a beautiful new city, taking in the people and the food and wine, all viewed through my camera lens is one of my favourite activities. Unfortunately, working and motherhood don’t allow for extensive cinema visits and travelling but my boys, Jake who is five-and-a-half and Ben who is almost four, certainly provide a constant source of amusement and inspiration.

We hear you have an eye for South African investment art? I’m definitely no expert and I’m still learning but art can certainly become a bit of an (expensive) addiction! My husband, Mark, and I recently bought a Peter Hall mixed-media piece featuring Albertina Sisulu Road in Joburg. Peter’s work is so moody and often features rainy scenes where you can almost hear the water sloshing on the soaking roads as the cars fly past.  Im also a big fan of Stompie Selebi’ who is a painter, activist and jazz musician and his work features a mix of music paper covered with strong oil colours in a very striking and powerful way.

The only way to discover the limits of THE possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.

Go Beyond. Go Discover.