*Stephanie Allain has spent her entire professional life with one goal in mind: to tell great stories. After obtaining a degree in Creative Writing, the New Orleans native began her career as a script reader for some of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood. Moving on to Columbia Pictures—where she kick-started the careers of John Singleton, Darnell Martin and Robert Rodriquez—she rose up through the ranks to become Senior V.P. of Production and in the process became the first African-American woman to make a major studio motion picture.
Later, as the President of Muppet creator Jim Henson Production, Allain added producing to her repertoire, working on films like Muppets from Outer Space, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and Rat, before venturing out on her own as an independent producer.
Allain has flourished as an independent filmmaker with an output of well-received films that includes Biker Boyz, Hustle & Flow, Something New, Peeples, and the soon to be released dramedy, Dear White People.
Tapped in 2012 to lead the prestigious Los Angeles Film Festival, Allain’s career has come full-circle as she now takes on the role of preparing the next generation of storytellers begin their careers.
The Robertson Treatment recently spoke to this cinema vanguard to talk about her career and diversity in Hollywood.
ROBERTSON TREATMENT: How have you successfully managed to navigate such a varied career in entertainment?
Stephanie Allain: I’ll start by saying that I’ve always loved stories. I’ve always loved reading and always loved the movies. Storytelling is one of the oldest of human endeavors and they give us our understanding of the world and our place in it. When I discovered that there were people who professionally were involved in the creation of stories it was game over – I knew what I wanted to do it. That passion has taken me to a lot of different places — from CAA to the studios. For a decade I had the joy of being able to identify a story and play a role in taking it out to the world. I truly believe in the value that stories have in being able to elevate humanity and make the world a better place.
RT: You are known for making some pretty bold moves in Hollywood? Where does that come from?
SA: I come from a long line of strong and confident women out of New Orleans. My grandmother and great-grandmother were women who ran their homes and were leaders in their communities. I was never taught that there was anything that I couldn’t do and I believed that. Growing up I learned that if you are passionate about something that you can move mountains. Passion is more precious than gold and it’s a currency that everyone craves. It’s something that’s hard to fake and when it’s real, everyone wants to be on that train. It’s about giving people something that they can believe.
RT: The question of diversity in the entertainment industry continues to confound reason. What do you think is the solution?
SA: An article came out recently that looked at a thousand TV shows and movies and the results show that projects with diverse leads and show runners made the most money. People are tuning in to see real lives that represent what we know in America today. This is the new norm. Advertisers have to get on board if they want to appeal to these consumers. At Film Independent and the LA Film Festival we are conscious of this fact, which is why I surround myself with curators who get it. LA is one of the most diverse cities in the world and my team reflects that with our offerings. Through our programs Film Independent supports diverse film makers and content creators beginning at the high school level. We align them with industry people, and track them to the next level. We also align people with mentors to give them the training that they will need to succeed.
RT: What personal attribute do you count as being essential to your success?
SA: I have come to rely on my three P’s: Passion – If you don’t have it, then you are just lost. Persistent: people are going to say no all the time, so your job is to figure out how to get beyond that. Patience: To make it in this business takes a lot a lot of endurance, tolerance and fortitude. Reaching your dreams is not going to happen overnight. Finally, you must know your authentic self – the things that make you, you. It’s important to keep a sense of humor and believe that you have the confidence to move beyond any kind of situation.
AUTOMOTIVE SPIN – 2014
I recently picked up the new 2014 Accord Hybrid during a recent trip to Atlanta that included a fairly long distant drive outside Georgia. The ride more than lived up to its reputation in providing my passengers and I with excellent performance through various road types and weather conditions, which definitely certified its credentials as a road warrior.
Wow Factor: The new Accord Hybrid earned high marks for the comfort, high-performance and fuel-efficiency that it offered my passengers and I. In terms of fuel-efficiency, I completed from Atlanta to a town deep into Alabama, plus made several cross town trips before I had to refuel. HEAVEN!!!
Ride: Powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s augmented by a 166-hp AC permanent-magnet electric-drive motor and an innovative powertrain, the 2014 Accord Hybrid is seamlessly able to respond to all types of on the road demands. The Accord’s electronically assisted steering and brakes further bolsters its overall road performance.
Comfort: Outfitted with comfortable seats, easy to reach [and read] controls and impressive tech features that include GPS and entertainment connectivity, plus ample head and leg room, the Accord Hybrid provides a ride experience to be enjoyed.
Spin Control: With its high-end comforts, sharp performance and fuel-efficiency (50 mpg city/45 mpg highway), the 2014 Accord Hybrid has all the goods to make it a real winner that will appeal to various demos. With price points that start in the high 20s, this ride is destined to be a permanent fixture on the road.
Gil Robertson is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author and president of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).
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