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

Shadow and Act By Jai Tiggett | Shadow and Act May 10, 2013 at 11:43AM

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 conversation where it needed to go, and had lots to share about their experience making this film, and what they'll be tackling next.
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Left: Peeples Producer Stephanie Allain. Right: Writer-Director Tina Gordon Chism with Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington
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."

This article is related to: Exclusive


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