Interview : Stephanie Allain

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From Hustle & Flow to Something New, producer Stephanie Allain is making a huge mark on film industry. As she plants her feet firmly in the ground, she advises others that it took awhile to get there and describes a ‘white run’ Hollywood environment dominated by men but still able enough to knock down obstacles and open up a world of opportunity’ but having to work to get it.

BSN: Was there any part of the film with the girls that was your favorite?
SA: The scene that was the most fun was the one in the Rabbi’ study. They couldn’t stop laughing. I said, we have two hours to get this.

BSN: Being in a film dominated by men Stephanie; do you set a standard for the projects you take on?
SA: Absolutely. You know, I really gravitate—it’s so hard to get a movie made with kids and a family. So for me it’s got to be something that contributes a positive message to the world. And that’s how I pick my films and for Hustle it was having the notion; the courage to create. It was so important. And for this movie it’s about opening up your heart and taking risks. There is an opening of possibilities of ‘Something New’; be it love or work or just things that your not used too. Because the world is a huge place and the possibilities are really endless.

BSN: Have you encountered any difficulties in the process of filmmaking because you’re a woman?
SA: Oh. Absolutely. Hollywood is really run by white men. That’s who I interact with all the time. That scene in the board room-I have been there. I still-last night I was watching the movie again…tear up, when she has the scene in the grocery store and they trust it to the file clerk. They think I’m there to get the coffee and take notes. It’s something that I think as women, you know, you have to armor yourself so that it doesn’t get to you on a really personal level. And then you have to learn how to let the armor go when you go home and when your in love. So, all of those issues are very pertinent, not only to myself, but to a lot of the women.

BSN: Stephanie, how do you incorporate all of that and still have time for a family? What is a typical day for you?
SA: Well, I just got married. Beautiful, beautiful black man; and because of my recent success; when I work and I’m making a movie, I’m there everyday and when I’m not working, I have a pretty relaxed life. And I think its really important to not just be in the movies all the time, to have a real life. To go to school, do the carpool thing and have friends outside of the business. Because that’s how you get a feeling for the pulse of what’s really going on and not just wanting to make movies and be about movie stars and that sort of thing. It’s a challenge. Again, I am so happy to have a blossoming career. A fabulous husband and fantastic kids…so I’m quite lucky.

BSN: How old are your children?
SA: 20. 12 and 10.

BSN: Can you articulate the current role of film in our society? Does it stress problems, does it create issues? With this film, I see it presenting a lot of issues that people can all reflect on.
SA: I think storytelling has always served a vital purpose in society and not just to entertain but to reflect who we are and to pose questions and to seek answers about who we are and why we are here. So today, film is so pervasive it travels all over the world. It changes peoples thoughts and views about things. And it’s so important. Again, that’s why when I am associated with a movie, it’s got to promote positivity because there’s plenty of negativity out there.

BSN: Do you still think interracial dating is still an issue with black women?
SA: This is the first romance starring a black woman falling in love with a white man. That’s says a lot within itself right there.

BSN: Can that pressure break up a relationship?
SA: I was married to a white man. Fabulous white man. The father of my two kids; my two boys. 16 years we were together.

BSN: Did you allow the negativity you get from society ruin your relationship?
SA: You know, there’s this insidious pressure that seeps in. It’s hard to be in another persons shoes. You can’t know what someone else feels if you don’t have black skin. Love is about being open to understanding and being sympathetic to someone else’s feelings.

BSN: Blair Underwood’s character was so arrogant. Was it supposed to really be played out that way?
SA: No. I don’t think the intention was to be arrogant. I think the intention with Blair was to make him…

BSN: Do you think society is moving in the direction of being ‘color blind’? Is that a good thing or not?
SA: I think the one thing that we all have in common is our humanity. And getting closer to that I think is the way of peace because what causes the tension in differences is not respecting the differences. And trying too change someone to be like you. My kids are mixed and they have a very real identity of mixed kids and there are a lot of other mixed that they see and that they relate too. And it’s a beautiful thing because they carry both with them. And they respect both and the love both. And they are both. So, I think it would be fabulous, not only grow towards acceptance but to celebrate the differences.

BSN: For Valentines Day, to you, what is sexy in a man?

SA: For me? A man who can stand up to me because—it’s someone who won’t back down.

Copyright © 2006 Tonisha Johnson

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