What to get the man who has everything, for Christmas? For those willing to forget the socks and aftershave and think bigger – a Crazy Rich Asians kind of bigger – here’s a gift he’ll never forget: being James Bond for 24 hours.
A Swiss banker’s wife recently gave her husband his own 007 film, with him in the lead role, as a birthday present.
To save the world from a deadly virus, he was flown to Eastern Europe by helicopter, took a high-speed ride in an Aston Martin with a stunt driver, met a “dangerous scientist” on an island in Croatia, drove a tank, fought off weapon-wielding henchmen, blew up a hut, and headed to Venice for a casino party where he faced his nemesis over a tense game of cards. The party guests: all his friends, who had been watching his exploits live while they waited for his arrival.
“I created the Bond experience for a client whose favourite films are Skyfall and From Russia with Love. It was fully scripted, played by very experienced actors, and filmed by cameramen and drones to be broadcast live to his friends,” says Mark Pepler, of Footprints & Dreams, a new company that offers immersive VIP experiences.
“There were no Bond girls as his wife organised it for him, and she didn’t want any kidnapping. But she was especially keen on including a tank.”
Being James Bond is not the only fantasy Footprints & Dreams can bring to life. “Breaking Bad, Harry Potter, Sex and the City, a Bruce Lee film or playing Jackie Chan – all these are possible,” says Pepler, who would not disclose the sort of sums involved in creating these bespoke films.
The company can also set up a weekend survival course with one-to-one coaching by TV star and bushcraft expert Ray Mears, arrange a supercar race with private tuition from Top Gear’s the Stig or a Formula One driver, or get a character from the film Frozen to ski down to a chalet that’s been turned into a wonderland for your daughter’s birthday.
Pepler draws on 20 years of experience in the events business. “With vast corporate spending budgets, we have put together extraordinary events in extraordinary venues that offer experiences the normal person doesn’t have access to,” he says.
“As an individual, you can hire a private island, but for Richard Branson to turn up, this is usually only for corporate clients. But the wealthiest individuals want to be able to access these experiences themselves. So we started Footprints & Dreams so that they can.”
Footprints & Dreams is London-based but Pepler and his Hong Kong-Laotian business partner, Waiwan Lee, are heavily targeting the Asian market, as well as the Middle East and America. The company’s website will be launched in Chinese and Arabic.
“We see a massive demand for Rolls-Royce, grand Bordeaux, and high-end European fashion in Asia, and we can create experiences around all of these,” he says.
While not offering as bespoke a service as Footprints & Dreams, UK-based travel company Niquesa Travel also allows guests to star in their own film on one of their unique itineraries. Its X-Box Detox trip, designed for families with teenagers, allows children to create their own wildlife documentary, with guidance from filmmaker and wildlife guru Jonathan Scott.
The action takes place in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, with a chance to film lions, elephants and rhinoceroses, both on foot and from above in a hot air balloon ride. Scott teaches teens how to create a storyboard, then shoot and produce a short documentary of all they experience.
“With teenagers, there’s often a frustration between the virtual and the real worlds, so we designed this trip as a family experience so families can reconnect,” says Mark Allvey, managing director of Niquesa Travel. “Any operator can create a holiday in Kenya, but what we endeavour to do is find something with an element of uniqueness.”
One family has been on the trip so far and Allvey says more bookings are confirmed for next year.
“The guests were amazed at the accessibility of the wildlife. The trackers know where to go and the patterns of the wildlife and the hidden tracks, so you can get up close,” he says. “On the last trip, the guests were caught in heavy monsoon rains and the 4×4 had to be pulled out of a track, which was exciting for the children. Then there are the wonderful, luxury camps to go back to in the evening, which keep mum and dad happy.”
Next, they are looking into designing an underwater filming experience with a marine biologist. “Travellers are looking for a deeper connection with the world around them,” says Allvey.