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Rising Star Allison Powell: “It’s hugely important to encourage people to make films, write books, and perform plays that tell THEIR story so other people can see and relate to it”

I’m not sure how to make it a movement, but I am a HUGE believer in the idea that everyone has a story to tell. Stories are what connect us, they help us feel less alone, and the more stories we see from people with different backgrounds and experiences to us, the better the world […]

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I’m not sure how to make it a movement, but I am a HUGE believer in the idea that everyone has a story to tell. Stories are what connect us, they help us feel less alone, and the more stories we see from people with different backgrounds and experiences to us, the better the world will be. So I think it’s hugely important to encourage people to make films, write books, and perform plays that tell THEIR story so other people can see and relate to it.


As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allison Powell. Allison’s motto is “Make it Happen”. Her short film “Black Widow: Origins” got rave reviews from Movie Pilot News, she recently completed her first feature, “Banging Lanie”, as producer/director/lead. Allison is an avid runner and just completed her first 50 mile trail run.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Phew! It’s a long story, the short version is that I’ve loved acting from a young age andI always wanted to move out to LA and pursue film acting. So, with a lot of hard work I was able to save enough money and move out after graduating college. However…I quickly realized that getting even an audition was extremely competitive and I wasn’t working as an actor as much as I wanted.

So I began to create my own projects. Everything I know about producing and directing was learned on set, on the job. I fell in love with being behind the camera! I realized I had been giving away so much power by letting other people make the decision to hire me or not. As a producer I have all the power in what projects I make, what role I play, and what stories get told.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

It’s hard to pick just one! I think I would say that on my first BIG producing project, (Black Widow: Origins, A Marvel Fan Film) we had an incident on day two of production where our First Assistant Camera quit two hours before we were supposed to film. Unfortunately, that was the day I had booked our most difficult location (a bar). I knew we couldn’t reschedule, we HAD to film that day. So while driving to set I went through everyone in my phone, texting and calling people I hadn’t spoken to in years asking if they were available to be on set in an hour.

Luckily I found people who were! And one of them (Josh Andersen) ended up being the Director of Photography for my feature a few years later! So I learned to ALWAYS stay in touch with people and, as a producer, you can have no shame in asking anyone for help.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s not a horrific mistake, luckily, but on the set of Banging Lanie I kept telling my Director of Photography to “pan up” which is incorrect. You PAN left to right and TILT up and down. We all had a good laugh about it and then jokingly referred to it is “pan up” the rest of the shoot — which has not helped me remember to use the correct terms!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m super excited because I’ve launched a coaching and consulting business to help beginning filmmakers get their first projects made. Filmmaking is magical, but it isn’t magic. I love helping aspiring filmmakers realize they CAN make their pieces and tell their stories.

I also just signed on to produce a web series about stay-at-home dads, who I think do not get enough recognition in the media. The project is a comedy highlighting the trials of raising kids and trying to find connection with other parents.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I had the pleasure of being part of a very ambitious film last year called Fame-ish which we filmed in six days at GeekKon in Madison, Wisconsin. I had a blast filming, not only because I got to be “just” an actor, but because of the incredible people we met at the convention. We had attendees voluntarily sit as extras in our filming room for six hours — time they could have spent attending other panels or events at the convention. They were so kind and incredible and their enthusiasm gave all of us a boost to keep going when we were tired. Filming 80 pages in six days is no easy task!

Everyone in Madison was incredibly welcoming, from the TSA Agents at the airport who let us film for free, to the employees of the Marriott we stayed in, who prepared and served us food every day. Every single one of them was a huge part of making that film a success.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Make sure you watch TV shows and movies YOU want to see. There is so much on TV there is no point in watching a show just because you think you “need to” or it’s “important” Outside of a few classic films that you should probably watch in order to understand film history (Citizen Kane, Casablanca) watch what makes you happen and don’t over analyze it! Not every movie night needs to be a film studies class.

Filmmaking can often seem like a 24/7 job, make sure you take time off on the weekends or wait to respond to non urgent emails till the next morning if they come in while you’re eating dinner.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m not sure how to make it a movement, but I am a HUGE believer in the idea that everyone has a story to tell. Stories are what connect us, they help us feel less alone, and the more stories we see from people with different backgrounds and experiences to us, the better the world will be. So I think it’s hugely important to encourage people to make films, write books, and perform plays that tell THEIR story so other people can see and relate to it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Admit you don’t know something right away. I really struggled with this early on and would pretend I knew what was being asked of me, or that I knew how to do something when I didn’t. I could have saved so much time by just admitting I didn’t know what to do and getting help right away. There are too many examples of this to share!
  2. It’s ok to fail. I think everyone needs to fail a little bit at the beginning. Without failure, you can’t learn. The very, very first thing I produced has never seen the light of day — I don’t even know where the footage is — but I learned so much on that project! Like how to communicate properly, why sound is important, what to buy for crafty. And I only spent $100! I encourage everyone to fail at the start.
  3. Saying “No” will not blacklist you. I used to feel that I had to say “Yes” to every job offer, every audition, every supposed opportunity that came my way. Nothing is further from the truth! I used to think saying “No” would make people never want to hire me again, but now that I’m on the other side I know that a “No” is HELPFUL. If I get a “No” I can move on to the next person to hire or location to book, a “Yes” that is secretly a “No” only lends to people, locations, and actors who don’t actually want to be on your set. That is NO good.
  4. Networking isn’t worth it. I used to make myself go to all kinds of events and parties and it was exhausting. But I felt I “had” to do it. I could have saved myself a lot of time, energy, and effort if I had focused less on networking and more on working. Getting on small sets as an extra or a PA, for example. On set is where I do my best networking AND people get to see how hard I work (and I get to see how they work) If you love parties, go for it, if you don’t, it’s ok to skip.
  5. Producing is a job!! How I wish I had known what producers do in college! I might have changed my major! Producer and Producing are fairly vague terms to people outside (and inside) the industry, but essentially a producer (especially on smaller projects) is the person who is responsible for making EVERYTHING happen. Hiring crew, renting equipment, finding locations, getting food, handling paperwork, budgets, approving scripts, casting, and on and on! I LOVE producing because it allows me to feel very empowered and confident in my career and I wish more people knew it was a job and pursued it!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Not sure if it’s “Life Lesson” but my all time favorite quote is “Too low they build, who build beneath the stars” by Edward Young. This quote reminds me that the only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves. Anything is possible!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are just too many to name! You all know who you are! But at the moment I would say Gabe Cowan of New Artist Alliance has been a fantastic mentor to me in the past few years. He has been extremely generous with his time, making suggestions on how to make my feature script more “low budget” friendly, and checking in while I was on set filming. In fact, during our hardest days on set I was able to call him directly to get advice on how to handle the issues we were running into. He was always encouraging, even when I was losing faith and crying on the other end of the line, he reminded me how lucky I was to be doing this, that it should be fun, and that I would be able to make this project happen.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Another tough one! I think I would have to go with Jodie Foster. I have greatly admired her for many years. She is a phenomenal actor, director, and her ability to stay poised in the spotlight is incredible. I’d love to get the chance to talk about her career, in particular her transition to the other side of the camera in a one-on-one setting.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m at @AllisonHPowell on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. You can also keep in touch via my newsletter on my site, https://www.allisonhardingpowell.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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