In our quest to bring you a behind the scenes look at those who “make the magic happen,” the latest instalment of our ‘Meets The Makers’ feature spotlights Chokolate team.
Launched by Caroline Khouri and Guido Fabris, the agency has a multi-dimensional focus and has been instrumental in casting and creative direction for the likes of Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and Paula Abdul.
Boasting a wealth of knowledge and know-how, the pair have an impressive résumé – and it’s continuing to grow.
Read below as they reflect on their journey and drop a number of noteworthy gems for those looking to break into the industry.
That Grape Juice: The Chokolate journey has been an amazing one. Tell us a little bit about how and why you formed the idea?
Caroline: We both came from a creative background, I was into dance and casting and Guido was into acting and production. When we met we got on really well and we just knew that we could do big things if we merged our skills together. We always dreamed big! We felt we were stuck at a certain level at the previous company we were working at and there was no room for progression or sharing of ideas, so we decided to set up shop on our own so we could have more freedom and do things our own way. We both have a passion for entertainment – whether that’s live shows, films, tv, music we love it all.
Why the Chokolate name?
Guido: Well we both love chocolate and we just thought it would be a memorable name rather than initials that you can never remember. Also chocolate isn’t something you’d automatically associate with fitness and dancers and models which we also liked, we wanted to stand out and be different.
Caroline: The K is a nod to my last name, there was nothing we could play on Guido’s name so he missed out haha.
Also with a name like that you can lend it to anything you want, Chokolate Films, Chokolate Productions, Chokolate Records, so on and so forth.
In embarking on the path, who were your influences respectively?
Guido: Well, business-wise, Richard Branson and his Virgin brand is what we had in mind. He ventures into all different kinds of areas with the name Virgin. Caroline calls me MegaloG because I want to build a Chokolate Empire.
Also the founder of Diesel jeans Renzo Rosso has always been a great influence for me, as he created a super successful brand from scratch. Plus he’s from my home town Vicenza, in Italy.
Campaigns like ‘Only the Brave’ and ‘Be Stupid’ for instance were/are very inspirational for us; I think we were always daring and pioneered into fields that our competitors are not interested in, that’s the niche market we love to explore and develop.
Caroline: Although it’s intended for us to be brave and to not be scared to do things differently, we did make some stupid mistakes but we learned! I always wanted to have a dance studio, I remember reading Debbie Moore’s book about how she started Pineapple Studios while Guido was reading Branson’s book. So we did end up building a dance studio from scratch and opened an office in West London. Otherwise we didn’t really have anyone from our business that we looked up to, we had to learn a lot on the way. The friends we thought we had in ‘the business’ didn’t end up helping us at all. So we did everything on our own.
Let’s discuss your relationship with Frank Gatson. How and when did you meet him?
Guido: That’s a funny story. We were booked on the MTV Awards in 2008 in Liverpool; we were looking after the creative director and all the dancers on the show and we knew that in order to grow we needed a big American choreographer on our books. An agent in the US suggested we look at Frank Gatson since he’d be at the show.
Caroline: We were new so we didn’t know who he was at the time, we just knew that he looked after Beyonce who I was obsessed back then, I told Guido if we could work with her I could die happy.
Guido: After the show was done, I saw a man hanging around her team so I went up to him and asked if he knew where Frank Gatson was and he answered “I am Frank Gatson” and proceeded to walk away, I started following him and explaining who I was and what we did but he didn’t seem too bothered. I gave him my card and he quickly left and that was that. We followed up with a phone call and invited him to come to London to meet with us, and crazily enough after a few months of stalking, he agreed; he admitted he didn’t like agents but liked us and the rest is history!
You’ve worked on a number of Beyonce related projects – what’s it like being a part of her process? What don’t we see that people would be intrigued by?
There were 2 very different eras to Beyonce; we were there when Mathew Knowles was in charge and we were helping on the surface and it was light and fun. And then when she started managing herself and we were more deeply involved. I think everyone knows this now, but she really never stops working. The process is very difficult. It’s a lot of work, there are changes happening until the last minute all in the search to make the show better or the end product the best it can be, whatever it is. There’s no complacency, you can’t be lazy, you have to be on top of it at all times. So much work and preparation goes into that 3 min performance.
Beyond Bey, you’ve worked with huge names such as Jennifer Lopez, Paula Abdul, Macy Gray, and Kelly Rowland. Which project/s have been the most rewarding?
The longer projects are more satisfying because so much work goes into them and then after the sweat and tears you can see the final product and the audience reacting positively to what you’ve worked so hard on. Probably the Jennifer Lopez NYE concert at Caesars and the Graphics for Paula’s tour and Beyonce’s ‘Run the World’ because of all the people we had to cast and it was part of a long campaign. Also Chris Grant’s music video because it was our first Chokolate production. Working with the genius Macy Gray as her Creative Directors and Directors is also very rewarding and gratifying, also her ‘White Man’ video has been nominated for the “Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival 2017”.
What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about show-business?
That it’s very glamorous and that we’re always at parties and it’s easy and always fun. People believe everything they read in the papers when a lot is set up and PR constructed . It makes you a little cynical. The reality is that you have to sacrifice a lot to get to where you want to be. As soon as you book a holiday, work comes in and you have to let your friends and family down constantly. But for all the backstabbing and awful people you meet you also meet the most amazing people and keep them close and you get to travel the world and see things you would never see and in the end the good outweighs the bad. Other people may look at what we do and think we’re masochists but you work in showbiz because you love it otherwise you wouldn’t survive!
As an agency active in the fields of casting, creative direction, and choreography, you’ve covered a lot of ground. What’s next on the agenda for Chokolate?
Well we’ve done Chokolate Vision and Chokolate Records so maybe Chokolate Films next? Our dream is to make a comedy movie. We love working on our own projects, they’re much more satisfying and fun. When you come up with an idea/concept and you see it come to life, that’s the best feeling in the world!
A proper Chokolate production that encompasses all our services is the ideal so the director, choreographer, make up, dancers, stage, graphics etc thats the aim.
Who’ve you yet to work with that dream to?
Caroline: It would be nice to a do another biggie like Madonna or Cher! Or Gaga, Bruno Mars or like Daft Punk. Although if I could do something with Larry David or Melissa McCarthy it would fulfill another side for me away from the music world.
Guido: Same as Caroline plus I’d love to add Sophia Loren, Martin Scorsese, Danny De Vito, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jonah Hill, Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle, Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti.
And the list goes on and on.
What drives you?
Caroline: It’s like there’s a feeling inside that something big is coming and I can’t stop until I get there. I’m always looking for the next big thing.
Also any negativity from anyone else or lack of belief makes you want to succeed even more.
Guido: The will to do something great and meaningful through the channel of entertainment, at the end of the day Showbiz is an amazing, powerful and artistic way to express ourselves, to communicate something to the world.
Having worked with the best, what advice would you give to rising stars hoping to make a major mark?
If you believe in what you’re doing and you know in your heart that it’s all you want to do then you just have to keep going and not give up, be persistent. We know it sounds cliche, but there were so many times we felt like giving up but just kept pushing through and by doing that it got us to the next step and step after that.
To any artists out there, we’d say work hard, don’t think it’s magically going to come to you. You have to put the work in. Be nice to people! When you find someone you work well with that you trust, keep them close to you because they’re rare. Surround yourself with talented people who want the same things. Don’t let other people’s words keep you down, if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.
Network too! Trust your instincts and sometimes you have to take a detour to get to the final destination.
Want to reach out to team Chokolate?