Interview with Director PAUL COY ALLEN
For over fifteen years, filmmaker PAUL COY ALLEN has been building his industry credits. You’ve definitely seen his diverse body of work. From directing the video montage for Justin Timberlake’s Future/Sex/Love Sound 2007 World Tour to music videos for Timbaland, Katy Perry and Drake.
Allen has a knack for being on trend and knowing what audiences want to see. He developed and executive produced TV-One’s record-breaking series, R&B Divas Atlanta and R&B Divas LA. He directed the most recent episode of Nickelodeon’s hit series “Sam & Cat” starring pop sensation Ariana Grande. Allen’s episode entitled “#PeezyB” featured popular 90s actor Kel Mitchell. The show was not only trending worldwide on Twitter, fans also called it the series “best” and “funniest episode.”
Allen translates his skills as a director in developing productions and talent along with his partners at Ten2One Entertainment. Allen talks to AimerAmour about memorable moments in his career and advice for aspiring filmmakers looking to create their own opportunities.
AimerAmour: Your resume credentials include: MTV, Comedy Central, E! Networks, and NBC. Do you believe more opportunities have opened up for people of color behind the scenes? As a Director/Producer, what are you doing to provide more opportunities for upcoming and coming African Americans interested in a similar career path as yours?
Paul Coy Allen: As far as I’ve seen in my career, there have always been opportunities. My doors are and continue to be open for advice, and guidance for anyone trying to get involved. No one ever really steered me down any sort of path when I first got into it. I kind of made my own lane, and have helped many others along the way. Some people I’ve hired in the past as PAs (Production Assistants) are now running successful production companies, or are producers, or directors themselves.
AA: What are your thoughts on the misogyny of women in music videos? As a music video director, are you cognizant of the way you portray women in the media?
PCA: If you’ve seen any of my past video work you’ll see I take a different approach from the ground-up. A lot of my productions usually have a heavy narrative base. It was music videos like Aerosmith’s “Crying,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Remember The Time,” that really stuck with me growing up. That’s the sort of impression I want leave behind when people see my work. Nowadays you can’t really point the finger at anybody. Before Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, how many women out there claimed to be models…sex symbols at that? These outlets have pulled back the curtain on how a lot of women perceive themselves. There’s misogyny of women in quite a few mediums these days besides music videos. It takes a spark to light a fire…good or bad.[youtube]http://youtu.be/AdklLgwRbeI[/youtube]
AA: You’ve worked your way up from an intern to Director. What advice would you relay to a PA (Production Assistant) that’s looking to transition to an Associate Producer, Production Manager or just the next step in having more responsibility on a production?
PCA: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’d be surprised on how many people are willing to help when you are on the inside of a production, and eager to learn. Those are the kind of people I would want on my crew. I’m not saying be a pest about it, but it could even be a question through a simple email. Many doors have opened up for me that way. I also highly suggest working on your own or other independent projects on the side to help gain as much hands on experience as possible.
AA: With technology and camera equipment being so readily accessible many young directors aren’t studying the craft. Instead, they are finding success in the trial and error of creating their own content. You studied Film in college. Do you believe a degree in Film (or within some area of Production) is still relevant and necessary?
PCA: I will never steer anyone away from learning the process traditionally. You can never know enough these days, but due to the massive transition of film to digital media, I’m sure most of the original curriculum has changed. I say go with your gut, and see pros and cons on both sides. Put it this way…Steven Spielberg stopped attending college, and didn’t return to earn his bachelors degree until 2001. By then he was already considered a master whose works have been celebrated many times over. There’s no telling if things would have been different if he would of finished earlier on.[youtube]http://youtu.be/KDKva-s_khY[/youtube]
AA: What are your goals with your company, “Ten2One Entertainment”? What services are you providing to your clients such as Tristan Wilds that differentiates it from other production companies and management firms?
PCA: Our goal is to become that entity people associate with quality, diversity, and all around success. Through relationships across all mediums including TV and film, we try to help our clients visualize what they want out of their own careers, and present them with new refreshing ideas along with key guidance. Since we launched the company, over four years ago, the Ten 2 One offices were frequently visited by some of today’s hottest talent including Bruno Mars, Miguel, Michael B. Jordan, and Ariana Grande to name a few. A convincing sign that our finger was on the pulse.
AA: Of all the reality shows, how did you come to the decision to Executive Produce “R&B Divas: LA”? If you plan to be involved in the next season, is there anything you will change?
PCA: Ten 2 One Entertainment managed Faith Evans a couple years ago. At the time she brought the project to our attention. With my history at Think Factory Media, and Phil’s at TVOne it was a no brainer to bring everyone together. Phil and I are involved heavily in everything that goes on with the life of the “R&B Divas” franchise. We always look to keep things on track with the initial true essence of what the show was based on which is sisterhood.
AA: Is there a particular career experience that has been the most memorable (ie directing the Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSound tour video montage or your first time directing a TV show). What did you learn and what was the take away that carry into your other projects?
PCA: Those two projects to be exact are the most memorable. Not only did doing the montage for Justin’s tour open up the floodgates of work between me and Timbaland, it also proved to me that all my hard work was finally starting to pay off. All the years of preparation, and sacrifice were finally being put to the test. With directing “Sam & Cat” for Nickelodeon, it showed me that staying in touch, and acknowledging those who have supported you throughout your career can go a long way. It was Dan Schneider who granted me a huge opportunity while working on “All That” to pitch sketch ideas for the show. Although one was purchased, it was never produced. This was by far one of the most motivating moments of my career. After reconnecting late last year he invited me to be apart of his crew of directors on the “Sam & Cat” series.
AA: What is some career advice/words of wisdom you’ve received that keeps you confident and motivated to continue to pursue your goals?
PCA: “Don’t Give Up”, “Believe and It Will Be” “Stand Out From Others”
AA: How do you continue to grow and nurture your craft? What do you do to stay creative and foster new ideas for films, TV shows, music videos etc.
PCA: Staying active and observing the trends. I’ve never been the type to shun a project because the budget wasn’t high enough. I may visualize a concept for a script or song even when there is no money involved. I’ll have the same exact enthusiasm to create when there’s a high budget. As an artist, you can’t hold back your imagination. I’ve learned that over the years.
As a director you have to look at yourself as a brand [you’re] a product. You never want that product to go bad or stale. Keep things fresh and be selective in what you choose to shoot. Don’t let them put you in a particular category…keep’em guessing.
Special Thanks to The Front Page Firm for your assistance in coordinating.