Twin sisters Emily and L-J Keston are trained actresses, having started their careers in professional television, film and the theatre with roles in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ in the West End, ‘Mr Selfridge’ on ITV and the film ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’.
At the age of 20, while at university, they set up Stagebox (https://www.stagebox.uk/) with the aim of discovering, mentoring and training children who demonstrate extraordinary talent and potential in the performing arts, regardless of background or income.
Stagebox auditions thousands of children each year in theatres across the country and trains company members during the school holidays to an unrivalled professional level. The company also creates musical films on exclusive locations with 15 million YouTube views and counting; Disney recently featured their mini-Hamilton on Disney+.
The Kestons’ reputation and talent for scouting and finding child actors led to producers approaching them to work independently as casting directors so they created a second company Keston & Keston (https://www.kestonandkestoncasting.com) to do just that. Keston & Keston are now children’s casting directors and children’s general managers. Their casting next-generation approach includes the use of an iOS app (the first children’s casting app in the industry) which encourages open access and genuine diversity across the U.K.
It’s a joy to interview these creative powerhouses on the blog.
Describe a typical day for you?
A typical day (pre-pandemic!) would start with us heading straight to our office in White City. We love to get there early, before our team arrives so we have time to plan the day ahead and grab a coffee. If we’re not in castings, we are managing projects from the office. We try and get to the theatre as much as we can, normally a few days a week to watch young talent for upcoming productions.
What do you feel are your greatest achievements?
We are proud to have built 2 companies that centre around championing others. It’s a real joy to work with young people everyday- they always have unique, thought-provoking ideas and inspire us with their honesty, spirit and determination.
…We’ve done some pretty cool things like casting calls at the biggest theatres in London such as The Savoy and producing our first show aged 24 with legendary Director Arlene Phillips who was a huge inspiration and wonderful woman to work with. Other achievements we’re proud of, are developing an app (the first children’s casting app) and of course, the success of the children we’ve worked with, and our colleaugues we now count as friends.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
We’re always on the go so normally run around with laptop bags. We have our casting ipads, phones, Calpol (always comes in handy!) and sharpie pens. Our dog Pippin comes with us when he’s allowed too – he’s a small cavapoo but he doesn’t fit in our handbag sadly!
What are your ambitions in life?
Our ambition is to make a difference in children’s lives- to inspire, encourage and champion children, and equally be a positive role model. We’d love to travel more with work, and on the horizon, we have international dreams as well.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
It’s okay to not have a plan. Things change so quickly month to month so we all have to learn how to adapt to challenges. We wish we’d know from the start, that we didn’t have to follow a set formula. In the beginning, it could be daunting going into meetings with people much older than us and with more experience so I wish I could return to that time and reassure ourselves that we will learn and grow.
We always take risks and work on gut instinct, now. We’ve taken huge risks when launching businesses like developing our app, producing a show, running big events and they’ve paid off so my advice to others would be to just go for it. We wish we’d believed in ourselves more in the beginning.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Hopefully still running businesses, travelling, spending time with family and friends, and innovating. We work at Huckletree in West London and we’d love to expand what we’re doing in that space as we adore the creative commity there. On a personal level, we obviously love children and hope to have our own one day.
What advice would you give a budding company founder?
Be kind. Be a team player and a useful collaborator and always make time for others. Surround yourself with brilliant people you believe in so your team is positive and strong.
If you spend every day giving yourself reasons not to do something then you won’t do it so fight the self-doubt and pursue your goals. We believe that passion in what you do shines through in the quality of the product and end-result.
Finally, happiness is…
Being surrounded by people who lift you up and inspire you.
Read more Wonderful Women interviews here.