TV, Film, Ad Campaigns, Movie Sets, fashion and an encounter with Christopher Reeve. (For those too young to know, he is the original Superman)
We chat with John Sims, Owner and Director of Astra Apartments North Sydney who provides accommodation in the North Sydney area. He shares stories of his enviable past and what lies ahead for his portfolio of corporate apartments.
We didn’t all start our careers managing a portfolio of corporate accommodation in the North Sydney area. What did you do in your past life?
I studied electronics, and soon after graduating, started my career with Asylum Models – a company we later turned into the biggest model making and special effects company in Europe. So it’s here where my real adventures began. We worked predominantly in TV advertising and film, producing notable ad campaigns and movies. Our work was ‘In-camera’, live-action effects and models, so not the computer-generated special effects you see today.
Any work we would know about?
Because I was based in Europe, many of the ad campaigns we worked on would not have aired on Australian television. However, most of the brands you would be aware of such as Sony Bravia, Nicorette, VW, Volvo, General Motors and Shell Oil.
In terms of film, we worked for big names like Tony & Ridley Scott, Jonathan Glazer and John Cleese. We made costumes, prosthetics, visual effects, spaceships, metalwork, plus sets and animatronics for a myriad of movies. These included Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Judge Dread, The Saint, Fierce Creatures and Under The Skin.
It was an incredible part of my career. I remember we were once filming a commercial for Laser tag. Next door, they were making Superman II . We couldn’t work out why the girls were always disappearing off to the female bathrooms, but it turns out, those bathrooms were positioned next to Christopher Reeves’ dressing room. I later passed a man in a robe… turned out to be a cape over a blue suit.
My work took me on the most amazing film sets including a Brazilian rainforest, New York Streets, midnight Rome, Sundance and the Spanish desert. I was with the company for 28 years and went on to become owner/ partner of Asylum. At this time, the industry was swiftly moving into computer-generated productions, so I started looking at where else I could apply my skill set.
And so starts your next chapter. Tell us about that…
I then worked on developing the visual display side of Asylum, working on high-end window display installations. Here I designed and created the content of the windows for the Christian Louboutin, an exhibition for Theo Fennell. I was asked to Produce a giraffe for Louis Vuitton’s Maison store, for the opening of the Bond st store in London. They loved the work so much that I picked up the next two seasons. I introduced Ostriches, which made it to 5th ave in New York. Zebras for Châtelet-les-Halles. My work flowed through to the Sydney store around 2009/10.
I decided to make the move to Sydney in 2013, feeling fulfilled and ready for a change of pace.
In the beginning, I worked on a few movies with Australian production companies such as Pirates Of The Caribbean and Gods Of Egypt. At a similar time, I was introduced to Astra Apartments, where I started working together with Sydney CBD. I saw real promise in what we were providing to the Corporate Market and my passion for the brand quickly evolved.
In 2015, I branched out and decided to provide accommodation in the North Sydney area. At this time, I became the owner and director of Astra Apartments North Sydney.
Can you share one of your proud moments running your business?
When I took on Astra Apartments North Sydney, there were 34 apartments in the portfolio. Within the first year, I grew this to 45, and in two years, I had grown the portfolio to 65 full-sized, one, two and three-bedroom corporate apartments.
I do believe much of my success stems from my time on the road, where I was often away for extended periods throughout my earlier career. With the work I did, there was lots of travelling, and I stayed in many different places. I came to appreciate the real difference between being accommodated in a hotel compared to having your own apartment.
My personal experiences with extended stay travel meant I had figured out what people wanted when they were away. And today, I get great satisfaction from providing others with tailored long stay accommodation that is second to none.
What’s ahead for Astra Apartments North Sydney?
2020 & 2021 have been challenging years with unstable borders and travel restrictions decimating the corporate travel industry. As we rise from the pandemic (or at least learn to live with it), we will re-establish contacts, and build the business to where we were before. My goal is for Astra Apartments North Sydney to be the main and best provider of Corporate Accommodation in the area. We will provide the apartments that are best for the guests, and the customer service that makes the booker’s jobs easy.
Managing a successful corporate apartment business obviously keeps you busy. Give us a peek into John Sims outside of work hours?
My partner and I were both brought up in the countryside. Fortunately, we shared the same dream to one day settle and eventually retire in a similar setting.
In 2018 we took a step closer to this dream when we purchased a gorgeous rural property on the South Coast. This place is our perfect balance for a number of reasons.
Weekdays are busy – they are spent in Sydney on the ground focusing on the Astra North Sydney corporate apartment business. So most weekends, we balance this out and retreat to our little piece of paradise.
John Sims is the Owner and Director of Astra Apartments North Sydney, providing long stay, corporate accommodation in the North Sydney area. You can view his portfolio of apartment types and locations here.