From runway designer to red carpet: How a fashion designer became a Hollywood producer
By Anicia Bragg
Hollywood is the place everyone with big dreams flocks to. There are plenty of reasons that attract people to the film industry. Some want to be movie stars and producers; others want to tell a story. Stacey Blanchet had no desire to do any of these things. Since she was a little girl, Stacey wanted to become a fashion designer. What she did not realize is this journey would take her into the heart of Hollywood the long way around.
Stacey stepped into a Hollywood career being a ‘girl Friday.’ It originally meant a woman who did different jobs in an office, later becoming the female who can do anything. That is an accurate summation of Stacey and why her first foray into Hollywood was her company Your Own Girl Friday (ironically operated out of San Diego). That is when I met Stacey. I was working for Viva Glam Magazine as a columnist when I approached her about her unique talents. With Stacey’s help, we created the show “Living Large with Anicia,” and was optioned by five stations across the country. As I got to know Stacey, I learned about the many lives she had lived before being the Hollywood girl Friday I knew her to be.
Stacey’s early life was not easy. It is the kind of childhood that can do a lot to strangle aspirations. Her mother went through two divorces. Entering her teens, Stacey’s self-esteem suffered because of sexual abuse by a family member. It took going to therapy to find stability and a stronger sense of self.
Throughout Stacey’s twenties and thirties, she recounted having worked under the radar in several careers. While it all seemed scattered when she was living it, Stacey took in everything she could about finance, business administration, and marketing. These skills would serve her well later in life.
In 2010, she started the fashion brand, Blanchet Designs. Stacey was approached by a documentary team about following her as an up-and-coming designer. Fascinated by her life story, the director asked if they could make the film about her life.
Together, they produced her first film called The Journey to Myself, and won several awards for the documentary including the Award of Merit from the Indie FEST Film festival and Official Selection at Cine Fest Film Festival. Over the next four years, Blanchet Designs would design dresses for the Emmys, Oscars, and Grammys for a red-carpet sweep. It was now the seed was planted for Stacey’s migration to Hollywood.
Stacey was offered a position as a writer by Runway France Magazine, which was the beginning and the end of everything. While covering Paris Fashion Week for an article, she had one of the most important moments in her life: watching the designers highlight their fashion lines on the runway. On one of our talks, she recounted sitting in the crowd, in heaven and hell at the same time. She watched the models on the runway in this season’s haute attire and had an epiphany – this was not what she wanted anymore. She could not see herself designing runway pieces like this. Rather, Stacey realized she could run a fashion house much better than she could be a designer. In this moment of doubt and darkness, new paths and dreams were forged.
It was an interview with Shari Belafonte (daughter of Harry Belafonte) that put Stacey on her current path. Shari’s backstory was fascinating to Stacey, that she created the documentary, In The Know with Shari Belefonte. Shari became a key figure in Stacey’s life during this period. Their friendship and understanding grew for one another. Shari saw what Stacey had been grasping around all these years — her business savvy as well as her perceptive insights into marketing and public relations were strong assets when you need to make moves in Hollywood. One fateful day, Shari said to her, “Stacey, you’re a producer” and that is how their partnership began. Stacey and Shari set up Rowan Moon Productions shortly thereafter, taking advantage of the industry downtime during the initial covid shutdown to establish their presence. There is still more to go – with Stacey, there is always more to do. Rowan Moon Productions has multiple projects in various stages of development. The process is long but gratifying once contracts are signed. Then the hard part begins.
When asked about it all, Stacey said, “I did not really set out to be a film or television producer, it just turned out that I happened to be willing, ready, and good at doing the producing work. Storytelling is an art. It gives you a liberty and a privilege to impact several millions of people and to change their process through your idea. I have found my passion, and this is it.”
The many hats throughout Stacey’s life all culminated in finding herself in Hollywood and reinventing who she thought she was (Hollywood has that strange mystique to it). Stacey’s story is as layered as her skillsets, both of which can only keep growing. Despite never thinking she would end up in Hollywood, Stacey is right at home in Hollywood, whether it be in a power lunch or attending a high-profile event with A-list talent, executives, and managers. How far this little girl with shattered self-esteem has gone and how much further can she go the story.
How do you become a producer and break into the film business as an outsider?
Stacey has a few questions for those looking to get into the business of filmmaking:
1.) What is my network? Who do I know?
2.) Are you financing your own project? What is your budget?
3.) If you are financing the project, what is your plan to get it picked up?
4.) How do you plan to market and distribute your work?
You need to look at all aspects of a project — filming, financing, distribution, and marketing your project to get it off the ground and become successful. You must understand the nuances of the film business. Networking is the key to navigating these waters. You want to be someone people want to work with and place their trust in. The industry is exceedingly small, and a bad reputation will follow you throughout your career. How you are with people matters more than you think. Ask yourself – Do people want to do business with YOU?
Here are five insights from Stacey on the industry and what you can do to succeed:
How do aspiring entertainers and producers get a foot in the door?
Age-old question. So many avenues that used to be available are no more. I would start as a producer looking for networking opportunities with the Academy and Producer’s Guild. I would start reading and watching interviews with producers on how they started, their advice and what is important in the industry. It is NEVER a clever idea to cold pitch a studio or producer with your ideas as legally they cannot open it or respond. It protects you and them. Join filmmaking groups and go to film festivals. Directors and producers need to attend those festivals because their movies are featured there. It is a reliable source of networking.
What are the most important fundamental concepts of creative producing – from developing to financing your projects?
You must have an open mind to hearing all aspects about your creative project – from the studio, streamers, or company you are pitching to. There are a options on how to get a project made. 1)You take it to a studio, and they finance and distribute. This is the major way and extremely hard to do without the proper connections and can take years. 2) Take your projects to all the other outlets and try to get them to finance and distribute on their platforms and 3) You can raise the capital yourself and film the project with hope of either selling the projects or managing the distribution yourself.
I want to be a producer. I have no film school or formal education and I am not Jewish. Where should I start?
Today, filmmaking is global and open to anyone who wants to make a film. The days of the three movie studios controlling the content run by three figureheads is over. You still have your movie studios, but they are now more diverse from Tyler Perry, Reece Witherspoon, Kathleen Kennedy, Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay and many more. They each have their own style of movie making but most who are at the top worked in the industry for decades. Do your homework and first decide what type of filmmaker or producer you want to be. Look to how it has been done and how it is currently being done. Do not make the mistake of picking that one person who went outside of the system to get it done. Look at what happened to many different filmmakers. You can be that one person, but the odds are going to be against you, and you will need that back up plan to earn a living while you pursue your dream. Never make any decisions when you are under pressure. Being in ‘survival mode’ is never good in the decision-making process.
What is a typical day for a producer working on a project?
Do not think there is a typical day. I have an agency that represents me. They get all my projects and ask for my wish list to pitch to. But before I get to that point with them, I do my homework on whether there is another project out there like mine. I put together the pitch deck and top sheet and then talk with my agent. This of course is not every day, but you will be surprised how much time it takes.
How does one handle the NO’s, rejection and tough things that people in the industry tell you? Like ‘you’re not good enough, your projects sucks, go back to the drawing board, that’s been done before, re-work your pitch’
That is a big part of this industry. YOU must be able to handle the NO. It has been my experience that getting the NO is usually telling you that your project needs some work. I am the kind of person where I personally love to hear that. I want to learn and receive information from people who are making the decisions. Usually, it is not back to the drawing board but back to cleaning it up. Projects are usually in a state of disorder, and you need to clearly define what your angle is. What is your message? And what is the reason you should get picked up? What is special about your projects? If you cannot answer these questions, you will get nowhere.