I don’t know what to say about producer Stephaine Allain that won’t sound like I’m describing a new Marvel superheroine; one with such single-focused purpose and effortless hipness she would easily fit into the Black Panther’s Dora Milaje. She’s that woman. She’s made careers happen in an industry known for keeping doors shut to Black and Brown people.
So, when the Academy president David Rubin announced that Stephanie Allain along with Oscar-nominated producer, Lynette Howell Taylor, would be producing the 92nd Oscars—which airs live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020—the response by filmmakers of color was overwhelmingly positive. Those of us in the industry know the impact that Ms. Allain has made. The waves she’s made. The doors she’s smashed open. The careers she made possible by following her heart and digging in her heels.
I’ll rewind the clock. Allain is without question one of the most prolific African-American film producers working today and make no mistake she puts in the work. She understands creative people and remarkably she understands the cardboard suits in Hollywood who have to be constantly reminded, hashtagged and forced into submission for their woeful lack of diversity and inclusion in every pocket of this industry.
If Allain was ever, nervous making history she didn’t show it in public. She’s one of those special warriors that keep Hollywood haters on their proverbial toes; just one of the reasons she is so beloved.
And Allain is accessible to those she champions. To wit, on the day the news broke about her being part of the Oscar producing team she (quickly) responded to my emails. And to be fair and accurate she always responds to my emails even now when she’s deep in the trenches to produce the Oscars.
Her award-winning films by writers and directors of color continue to make headlines, launch careers and shape the cultural landscape. Critical acclaim includes Oscars, Independent Spirit Awards, NAACP and Image Awards, and worldwide recognition at Telluride, Toronto, Sundance, and Cannes Film Festivals.
A striking woman. Tall. Beautiful. Stylish, Allain started her film career at Columbia Pictures where she championed the late John Singleton’s directoral debut, “Boyz N the Hood,” which earned $65 million and two Oscar nominations. She stayed for a decade supervising independently-spirited films including Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi & Desperado” and Singleton’s “Poetic Justice,” and “Higher Learning.”
In 2003, she founded Homegrown Pictures and produced award-winning films such as “Hustle & Flow,” “Something New,”“Peeples,” “Beyond the Lights,” “Dear White People,” “French Dirty,” “Burning Sands,” “Juanita “ and upcoming, Stella Meghie’s “The Weekend.” Set for this year is Justin Simien’s “Rapper’s Delight” (Warner Bros) and “The Fighting Shirley Chisholm.” In television, she is executive producer of the Netflix series “Dear White People” and executive produced Freeform’s “Life-Size 2.” As a screenwriter, she adapted Misty Copeland’s best-selling memoir, “LIFE IN MOTION: AN UNLIKELY BALLERINA,” for New Line Cinema.
Her passion to bring awareness of filmmakers from around the world includes being the director of the LA Film Festival a position she held for five years where she created an inclusive program that celebrated women and filmmakers of color. She knows her stuff and as such, she is a frequent moderator and panelist at conferences, as well as an inspired lecturer and keynote speaker and often teaches at USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program.
She is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Writer’s Guild of America and the Dramatists Guild of America. She sits on the board of Women in Film and the Producers Guild of America. She is a member of gender parity orgs ReFrame and Time’s Up. In 2019, Variety named her an Agent of Change.
But all of those things combined still don’t add up to why Stephaine Allain is so respected by artists and executives in the industry. I’ve had many years of pondering just what makes her special. In reading the piece she wrote for Variety on the late John Singleton entitled ‘Boyz N the Hood,’ producer Stephanie Allain on John Singleton: ‘He Changed History’ I think I began to understand. In the piece, she wrote this: “John was always so happy with other people’s success. That’s why he wrote the check to get [Craig Brewer’s] ‘Hustle & Flow’ made. He cared so much about upcoming filmmakers. I never saw him depressed or down.” In a way, she is describing herself.
The best advice Allain gave me—almost 20 years ago—was to “never give up if this is what you want.” She cares. Encourages. Dares to tell the truth and stands in her convictions well — just like a superheroine.