Leading Ladies Interview: Allia McLeod, TV Producer/Co-founder Of Anthologie Films
Interview By: Liron Davis
Photos By: Angela Lewis
Whether it’s a passion project or a 9-5 gig, being able to bring your true self to your work is ideal. Not only do you feel more confident being your authentic self, but this openness and comfort affords you the opportunity to brainstorm fresh ideas, explore concepts further and work hard at bringing them to fruition. For filmmaker and TV producer Allia McLeod, she’s recently reached a place where she fully embodies her genuine, multifaceted identity in her career. This can be seen in the short film she produced called Waack Revolt, a gender-bending film about love, defiance and the need to dance that had its second Canadian premiere at the Inside Out film festival and walked away with the Hot Shorts Award. Allia’s journey towards embracing and exuding her creative self has even led to her founding her own production company, Anthologie Films.
FORTNIGHT: Who are you and what do you do?
ALLIA: My name is Allia McLeod. By day I’m a senior producer with Bell Media, working specifically with The Movie Network and HBO Canada. And by night, I’m a filmmaker.
FORTNIGHT: What kind of filmmaking do you do?
ALLIA: I’ve produced a short film and worked on some other films outside producing, fully spearheading those films. I recently founded a company called Anthologie Films where we have done a lot of corporate videos and are working on producing our next creative outlet, which could possibly be a web series. We also have two short films in pre production.
FORTNIGHT: What was the impetus to starting your own company/doing your own thing?
ALLIA: I knew I always wanted to work in film and television and oddly enough I knew growing up I wanted to be a producer. I don’t think I even knew what a producer was as a child, but for some reason I latched onto that. When I got to that level as a senior producer in this large media company I was like, “this is what I always wanted to do and here I am.” But I was finding I wasn’t having as much of a creative outlet as I would like to. My job is creative and I do enjoy it, but I found I wasn’t able to create my own content and I was missing that being-on-set kind of feeling. Through the years of working in the industry, I met some amazing people and a few of us just came to this place in our lives where we decided to merge our skills and see what we can create.
FORTNIGHT: How do you incorporate your values, passions, and community into your creative work?
ALLIA: I think it stems back from embracing my full identity. I have finally come to a place in my life where I am comfortable and proud to share my queer side with the world. And embrace my identity and voice as a strong, black woman. I’ve always wanted to create either art or film that is inviting and has meaning, while really allowing me to express my creative side. I found that my love of film drew me to the Inside Out, Canada’s largest LGBT film festival. I sit on their Marketing Committee Advisory Board as well as their Programming Committee. It was really incredible to watch films being created by young voices – this new generation of filmmakers – and hear what they have to say in regards to queer culture. It’s been amazing to be a part of the programming this year. On their Marketing Advisory Board I can help shape the message that the festival wants to relay and help them influence this new generation and sustain the audience that they currently have. Working on Inside Out helped me embrace that creative side and obviously my queer identity.
FORTNIGHT: Did you feel that feeling when you made your short film Waack Revolt?
ALLIA: Making Waack Revolt fell perfectly in line with the type of content I want to put out there. It was very female positive and gender-bending. It came around at a time when I was looking for a project that I could be passionate about, that exemplified the things I valued in my life, lifted up other women and saw women in the LGBT community succeed. It encompassed all of that. I had such an amazing time producing that film and see it go out into the world and draw in a great audience. It also opened my eyes to a whole new dance side of film that I never experienced before which was really great.
FORTNIGHT: How do you incorporate your interests and identity into your 9-5?
ALLIA: At Bell Media, I searched for queer people within the organization and for what Bell was doing for those people and what I found was the LGBT Steering Committee. The committee was in its fifth year when I joined them and at the time was a small group for such a big company. Since then, we have done some amazing work in terms of engaging the Bell employees and bringing awareness to things like Pride and International Day against Homophobia. And I’m actually the Co-Chair of the committee now! This provides me with the ability to step in on a more corporate level and use my skills to plan events or just help with the research and discussions around what we can do to engage employees and let them know that Bell is a safe space.
FORTNIGHT: Who is your greatest support in life?
ALLIA: I would have to say my wife Alison. She’s kind of the opposite of me in a good way in that she’s the strongest person I know. Her incredible strength has helped me become stronger in how I go about my day-to-day. Alison challenges me all the time. She keeps me motivated. She’s the type of person that when I write something or am working on a script/pitch, I’ll bring it to her because I know when I step away from talking about it with her, I’ll feel so ready and prepared to bring that thing to the world; I won’t go on in with any anxiety or nerves. There will always be butterflies, but she always makes me feel so confident in what I am creating and doing. Basically, Alison always has my back.
FORTNIGHT: Do you and your wife ever brainstorm together? You’ve mentioned she has an artistic side.
ALLIA: There are times I bring her into projects because her creative side comes from a different type of art. She is involved in theatre and dance, so when I show her some film or television thing I’m working on, her different perspective and mindset really helps. We often brainstorm and I’ll get amazing ideas from her. I also pitch some ideas to her and she will say, “oh that is great, what about this? Or what do you think people will like about this?” and she really adds value to a lot of the stuff I do.
FORTNIGHT: So how do you refuel or recharge?
ALLIA: I am a film junkie. I think that is part of my refuelling, which is funny because I’ll research and screen films at work, but when I get home or have some free time I still want to watch films and programming that I find really engaging. I love documentaries! I’m a sucker for documentaries, musicals, comedies and they really help me re-energize and keep me passionate about what I’m doing.
FORTNIGHT: How do you gain inspiration or who do you turn to for inspiration?
ALLIA: A lot of people in my life right now are branching out as entrepreneurs and to see friends who are passionate about whatever business they are launching, really inspires me to continue working hard at what I’m doing. I find inspiration in people around me who are stepping away from maybe the norm of what society says they should be doing and are working hard to find new ways of generating income or having a creative outlet. I have friends who are running their own jewellery line right now and I see how hard they are working and that inspires me to continue working hard and be successful in terms of my own success. But I also recently listened to an audiobook by Brené Brown called The Power Of Vulnerability, which greatly inspires me. She does such an amazing job taking all the puzzles and stress of life and making sense of it. Her work makes me feel confident in my own skin and being content in what I’m doing.
FORTNIGHT: What’s a really good piece of advice you’ve been given recently?
ALLIA: I’m actually going to loop back to Brené Brown and what she says about vulnerability. I think for a long time I was masking what I could be. I wasn’t allowing myself to be vulnerable. I wasn’t allowing my true self to be seen and be comfortable with that. And sometimes when you are vulnerable that can be uncomfortable. But creativity comes from that place of being vulnerable and leaning in to discomfort. There are just all these positive things that can come from being vulnerable. And I’m really learning to be that way right now in all aspects of my life. From working my day job to putting out films or projects that have my company’s name on it. That is a very vulnerable feeling to put something out there or stand up in front of a room and pitch something.
FORTNIGHT: I love the vulnerability concept, because you’re a stronger person by being vulnerable which seems counterintuitive.
ALLIA: Right, it is so true. When people think about vulnerability they think it’s a weakness, but really it’s the opposite.
FORTNIGHT: What advice would you give to a woman who wanted to be a leader in her workplace or industry?
ALLIA: I would say “take risks” and don’t wait to feel like you are 110% qualified for that position or that task or whatever it is. Take the risk because in taking the risk you learn so much. I think sometimes as women we shy away from putting ourselves in situations where we might not feel as qualified, but we have so many skills to offer and those will come through when you put yourself in new and challenging situations.
FORTNIGHT: If you could be locked in one store overnight and raid its contents, which store would it be?
ALLIA: One store? Can it be all the stores in Parkdale?
FORTNIGHT: Describe your equivalent of the power suit? An outfit that makes you feel strong and powerful like you could take over the world.
ALLIA: I think I try to put my power suit on every day. Give me an awesome pair of pointy-toed Oxfords and some wicked pair of pants. But it’s really about the blouse. A really nice button-up blouse paired with a big statement piece necklace and bright lipstick.
FORTNIGHT: What are your favourite independent labels or products?
ALLIA: Cat Janiga jewellery, White Feather Designs (who made our wedding rings), Nuvango, Kate’s Town Talk Bakery (for butter tarts), Fresh City Farms, Sanagan’s Meat Market.
FORTNIGHT: What’s your breakfast of champions?
ALLIA: An avocado on toast with some chia seeds, olive oil, tomato and cheese and this may sound crazy but I am addicted to Chimichurri sauce and I’ve been making it almost weekly. I put it on everything. It is so good and so easy to make.
FORTNIGHT: How do you make Chimichurri?
ALLIA: You use parsley, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, cilantro, a lot of garlic, a bit of salt and pepper and you blend that all up in a food processor and it is this garlicky, flavourful sauce that you are really only supposed to eat on steaks but I love it on sandwiches and everything.
FORTNIGHT: What is your favourite act of self-care?
ALLIA: Always having my hair looking fly. I change my hairstyle all the time and I think that is the one thing that I always need: my hair has to look good.
FORTNIGHT: Share one life hack you use regularly.
ALLIA: I use coconut oil for everything! As a face and body lotion and on my hair. The only downside is that my cat wants to eat me all the time.