Pre-production is inevitably always hectic. I love it when everything falls into place especially after you have spent painstaking hours sending endless emails and making umpteen phone calls to get all your lovely, dancing ducks in a row. Well that’s NOT what happened while prepping for our shoot in Los Angeles as one of our key ducks fell off in the most unexpected, last minute way.
I have become a firm believer in the rather annoying cliché ‘everything happens for a reason’. Sometimes being forced to change carefully laid plans can transform into an ‘opportunity’ to have a positive experience. Which is what happened as the initial agony of sleepless nights and rapid heart beats turned into beaming smiles. As my new friend Ofunne Obiamiwe reminded me “It’s immensely powerful and liberating to realize that the mind is all we really have control over. And when we do so, we can almost sculpt the world around us in magical ways. People often say, “Why worry, when you can pray.” I say, “Why worry, when you can imagine!”
One Woman Creative Think Tank
That’s what Allee Willis is.
On June 2nd we filmed an awesome interview with Allee who co-wrote the music for the Broadway musical of The Color Purple. Her other collaborators were Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray. Between them this stellar trio have penned some of the most memorable lyrics in popular music.
Most folks are très familiar with the theme song from Friends “I’ll Be There For You”. Well Allee wrote that too. Who knew when I was watching endless reruns of the long running series Friends at my home in North London and the song played over a montage of Jennifer Aniston and friends dancing in the fountain, that one day I would meet the creator of this rather happy, upbeat, catchy song. Allee’s other impressive hit songs include – Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” and Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done To Deserve This”.
Allee’s stories about writing songs for The Color Purple musical are as fascinating as her personality. A black cat who Allee had rescued the day she started writing the score for the musical would sing melodies whenever Allee and her collaborators had reached a creative impasse. Yes that’s right! A lyrical cat, which Allee had named Celie (after the lead character in Alice Walker’s book). Was it Celie’s spirit that had entered the feline? Well that’s what they believed especially as Celie passed away on the day the album of the musical was released. Her journey was completed.
Museum of Kitsch
Allee’s home, a museum of kitsch is a pink wonder palace, a former MGM party house full of incredible art. The exterior of the house is as much a visual feast as the interior.
Allee had a great story of how she built this wall in 1987 for a Debbie Harry video when she art directed the music video of “French Kissing In The USA” which, they shot at this house. In a last minute creative flush, Allee decided to rip down an old gate falling apart in the backyard and build this concrete wall. She ran around her house collecting vintage found objects (as you do) and stuck them in as the concrete dried. It was still wet when they shot the video! Now that’s creativity firing on all cylinders!
- Here’s a picture of Allee looking resplendent while the puffy eyed, tired, stressed out director next to her looks positively pale. The portrait of Allee behind us is made up of found objects from around her house and created by a fan of Allee’s. It totally captures Allee in her vibrant exuberance.
Talking of getting all our ducks in a row, here we are trying to get this particular duck to float in the right direction. Ah if only some ducks would learn to float more like the pros’ !