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Interview: Tina Gordon Chism and Stephanie Allain Talk 'Peeples,' New Projects, and Changing the Black Image on Screen

Interviews
by Jai Tiggett
May 10, 2013 11:43 AM
13 Comments
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Left: Peeples Producer Stephanie Allain. Right: Writer-Director Tina Gordon Chism with Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington

Tina: I'm slow, she's fast.

Stephanie: You're kinda Country Mouse.

Tina: I'm total Country Mouse. This is how it goes. Even if we're getting it done, my demeanor is slower and yours is faster.

So goes the banter between writer-director Tina Gordon Chism and producer Stephanie Allain, who were gracious enough to grant an in-depth chat about their new film Peeples (which opens today), as well as their careers and views on the film and television industry.

It was an effortless conversation, as you might expect. The two witty creatives who have a string of noted films to their credit (Drumline, ATL, Hustle & Flow, Something New, Hurricane Season, and others) could always be counted on to steer the discussion where it needed to go, and had lots to share about their experience making this film, and what they'll be tackling next. 

***

Jai: Tell me about how you started working together on this film.

Tina: I reached out to Stephanie with the script. When I finished it, I gave it to my agent -

Stephanie: We have the same agent, Charles [King]. Everybody knows Charles.

Tina: I had a special affinity for Stephanie and I said make sure you give this to Stephanie Allain and see if she likes it.

Stephanie: I got it and read it immediately.

Tina: She sent me an email directly and she was just like who I thought she was, which is very smart, and just ready to roll.

Stephanie: But then I had to campaign for it too, it wasn't that easy. She's a big writer at a big agency. They have people to satisfy. So we met at Jones on Third, and I came prepared with a whole list of actors and directors.

Tina: Stephanie was the only producer that had this presentation, by the way. You know, you write a script and you send it out to all these producers. And then the ones that are interested in you, you go and meet them. All of the other meetings were just meeting, you say hello and you talk and generalize. But when I met with Stephanie she’s got like a PowerPoint presentation with casting, directors, locations. The whole production was set up on the table.

Stephanie: So we go through everything and I'm just trying to get a sense of her vision. But as we were talking, she was talking to me like a director. She wasn't talking to me like a writer.

Jai: What do you mean by that?

Stephanie: Writers are mostly concerned with story. But Tina was creating this world that was already full-blown. She was talking about the wardrobe, the production design, the set design, the tone of the comedy. Her vision was crystal clear for the piece. So I flipped over my meager list of directors, and there weren't that many.

Tina: They all were talented but you know what happens when you want to direct a certain piece. Nobody is good enough.

Stephanie: So then I asked, "Why aren't you directing it?" And she said she was writing something else to direct that was smaller, just three characters.

Tina: Which might have been smarter of me because this had dogs, kids, singing --

Stephanie: Action, and a huge cast. But I was like, "No, you can do this. We can do this."

Tina: That's Stephanie's genius. She will charge up a mountain, and I'm looking at it going "Oh my God."

Stephanie: After that, we high-fived it and said let's just make it happen. Then it was fun, because I had to ward off all the other producers. We actually took it to some places with other producers, but I had to make it clear that I had to go everywhere. Because once I’m hooked, that’s it. I said to Charles, "This is going to change my life. This is what I'm talking about: real portrayals of us across the spectrum. This is my life's work."

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13 Comments

  • NO BRAINER | May 11, 2013 10:22 PMReply

    "Changing the Black Image on Screen"

    Really? Delusions of grandeur.

  • Campbell | May 11, 2013 9:17 PMReply

    Enjoyed the read.

  • Katie | May 7, 2013 11:22 AMReply

    this mos def not my thing. Imma pass. I like films with complexity. It just too simple and trite for me.

  • donnadara | April 22, 2013 5:49 PMReply

    I was going to skip this based on the trailer, but now I think I'll give it a chance.

  • EP | April 22, 2013 1:38 AMReply

    The trailer looks like some'ol BullSh*t, the dialog sounds like it was written for a 14 year old, and the comedy looks horrible....No disrespect to the Actors, they have to with what they have to work with.

  • CC | April 22, 2013 11:56 AM

    "With a child's heart go face the worries of the day. With a child's heart Turn each problem into play. No need to worry, no need to fear, just being alive makes it all so very clear. That's with a child's heart nothing can ever get you down" ~Stevie Wonder

    Mr or Mrs EP, please slow down and take a deep breath. I am not a 14 year old but sometimes I go to the movies to be entertained. If living with a child's heart for that period of time, relieves my pain and worry, I don't care what you say. Me and my baby are going to this movie. And, we will continue singing Stevie's song...

    Love, love is welcome
    As a sunny, sunny day
    No grownup thoughts
    To lead our hearts astray
    Take life easy
    Easy like a child
    So gay and care free 'Cause with a child's heart nothing can ever get you down

  • Booker T. Mattson | April 20, 2013 4:56 AMReply

    Stephanie Allain rocks.

  • Sheneith H | April 19, 2013 9:45 PMReply

    :-) I look forward to seeing #Peeples this Mother's Day Weekend. Thanks!!!

  • CareyCarey | April 19, 2013 9:07 PMReply

    So round, so firm, so fully packed, so free and easy on the draw...

    Well, I'm sure Sergio is old enough to recognize those words from the 40's Lucky Strike commercial, but for those who are in the dark, let me explain. Lucky Strikes is a cigarette, but...

    While reading the post, those words expressed my exact emotions. I'm serious, I've always loved these extended interviews, they go beyond the superficial fluff that's normally associated with "selling their film" interviews, and this one didn't fail me. So round, so firm, so fully packed, so free and easy on the draw.... oouuuweeeee "Some where to rest my aching mind, where there's no time, your love just divine. Heaven must be like this, it must be like this"

    Okay, I'm not an Ohio Player so I'll stop singing their song, but I loved this interview.

    First, Stephanie mentioned how she becomes hooked on a project... "I’m emotionally engaged. I have a physical reaction - my heart beats fast, I'm really excited, and that's how I know"

    Well, I am hooked, I am going to see the movie. Yeah, the entire interview gave me a picture, a nuanced image that emotionally engaged me. In essence, they convinced me that me and mine will have a fun night out at the movies.

    It wasn't anything in particular that hooked me like a catfish swallowing a dew worm, I just think I felt their conviction, dedication, honesty and professionalism. Nor does it hurt to have a great cast who I believe were perfectly cast, not to mention their stellar acting credentials. That reminds me, who said matching Kerry Washington with Craig Robinson is like putting caviar on pig feet? Please, I totally disagree. I mean, look at Jay-Z and Beyounce, it happens. And as Sergio said, for all of us ugly guys, it keeps hope alive. Hey, I wonder if Tina and Stephanie have ugly men? :-) I know Stephanie said her husband can play the piano, but...

    But moving on... I loved how both women did their due diligence. I laughed when Tina said Stephanie came with a Power-Point presentation. And Tina didn't come on the half-step.

    "She [Tina] wasn't talking to me like a writer. Tina was creating this world that was already full-blown. She was talking about the wardrobe, the production design, the set design, the tone of the comedy. Her vision was crystal clear for the piece."

    That's what I'm talking about. Although someone could say they're "plugged", they didn't take each other for granted. So they sat down with their minds set on BUSINESS. That reminds me of their take on the business of television. I found the following to be very interesting and insightful:

    "with television there's no pay wall, and it's so accessible. Those characters are in your home every day. And those gatekeepers guard that influence much more adamantly than I estimated... you have to balance out what you're trying to win in terms of pushing black images forward, balancing what the studio might expect of you and sliding in the things that you want to deliver. The excellence level has to be so high because what you might want to slide in, in terms of your messaging to whomever, it's scrutinized."

    In short, this whole post was a thrill... so round, so firm, so fully packed! 3 black women doing the dang thang - to the highest degree. Bravo!

    I know one of my stops on Mother's Day weekend.

  • Ali | April 19, 2013 6:46 PMReply

    I don't have to read the article I can tell from the promos that this movie is NOT going to change the images on the screen in the same way that "Something New," "Love Jones," "The Best Man," or "Think Like a Man," did. ... I buy the family as upper-middle class and all, but the story premise is plain stupid. And, I'm certainly not buying that Kerry Washington's character would be attracted to Craig Robinson's character. He's extremely average and in real life they only way the two of them might -- and that's a big might -- be together is if he were loaded with $$$$. So, I'll be skipping this one.

  • Donella | May 10, 2013 4:54 PM

    Er... maybe Craig Robinson's character is good at... thangs. You know? LOL

  • ALM | April 19, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    "What I love about it is that they actually really look like a couple".

    That is truly a matter of opinion. Maybe their coupling will work when I see the film, but I don't believe them as a couple at the present time. I should have picked Chris Tucker or Blair Underwood, etc.

    Also, can you all start including Soundcloud players for these longer interviews? It is much more user friendly to listen to an audio file when you have this much content.

    Nice thorough job Jai.

  • Jai | April 19, 2013 6:27 PM

    Thanks! We post audio at times, but I'm a writer to the core and prefer to do interviews in print ;)

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