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Women in Film oral history interview, 2006 October 12 : Debbie Allen

Author: Debbie Allen; Linda Feferman; Women in Film (Organization); Women in Film Foundation.
Edition/Format:   Film : Film   Visual material : English
Publication:Women in Film Foundation Legacy Series.
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
Debbie Allen (1950-) begins by talking about current projects, particularly as artistic director of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. She continues with talking about how her professor at Howard University, where she attended college, inspired her musical adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, called the Bayou legend, which she co-wrote with American soul musician and songwriter, James Ingram (1956-). She  Read more...
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Details

Genre/Form: Oral history
Interviews
Named Person: Debbie Allen; L L Cool J; Steven Spielberg; Bill Cosby
Material Type: Film
Document Type: Visual material
All Authors / Contributors: Debbie Allen; Linda Feferman; Women in Film (Organization); Women in Film Foundation.
OCLC Number: 423640617
Notes: 3.3-hour interview completed under the auspices of the Women in Film Foundation.
Materials not viewed. Length of interview and summary based on transcript.
Responsibility: interviewer, Linda Feferman.

Abstract:

Debbie Allen (1950-) begins by talking about current projects, particularly as artistic director of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. She continues with talking about how her professor at Howard University, where she attended college, inspired her musical adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, called the Bayou legend, which she co-wrote with American soul musician and songwriter, James Ingram (1956-). She continues with the renewed popularity of film musicals and that cultures around the world are embracing the genre. She continues with her role as cultural ambassador of dance for the United States in her role as a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. She continues with the feature film she made with LL Cool J, Out-of-sync (1995), the musical she is developing based on one of the children's books she wrote called Dancing in the wings, and producing the feature film, Amistad (1997). She continues with why it took her eighteen years to turn the story of the Amistad Africans into a film since she had to overcome the image she had cultivated during her years as an actress, choreographer, and director on the television series, Fame (1982-1987). She continues with her drive to connect with director, Steven Spielberg (1947-), after he made the film, Schindler's list (1993), since he had similar challenges in getting that project off the ground. She then continues with Spielberg's interest in Amistad, his commitment in developing it for DreamWorks, and how after the film was made, Spielberg made arrangements to get the film out to schools and libraries across the United States. She then discusses the effort made to get the research that was done for the film out in documentary form, so it could accompany the dramatization when it was released. She continues with DreamWorks' interest in financing the documentary so that the story would continue to spark discussion and new debate. She then talks about Spielberg's creative process and his passion and understanding of the importance of the history of the Amistad Africans. She continues with her years on the television series, Fame (1982-1987), learning from the men who directed episodes of the series, and how she learned the cinematic process through dance. She then talks about how she learned from Spielberg to be more expressionistic as a director--to have an idea, but be willing to let that idea evolve and develop and change. She continues with her frustration on being ready to direct a feature film, but not having had the opportunity to do so. She talks about sexism in the film industry and the experiences she has had with male studio executives not supporting her efforts to direct a feature film. She continues with her formation of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and her ongoing success directing for television, particularly her involvement in the series, A different world (1987-1993), which she was given a mandate by creator Bill Cosby (1937-) to produce and direct. She then changes direction and talks about her dance career, winning an Emmy for the television special, Motown 30 (originally broadcast on November 25, 1990), and choreographing the dance numbers for the Academy Awards for ten years. She continues with her early career as a dancer, studying acting and directing at Howard University, and dancing in New York on Broadway. She then talks about her mother Vivian Ayers, who was nominated for a Pulitizer Prize for poetry, her sister Phylicia Rashad (1948-), her two brothers, and the growing next generation. She concludes with the challenges of managing a family with a high-profile career.

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Linked Data


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