Written by Shawn Thompson
“I want people to laugh, smile and have little pieces of light in their day. I want to be the escapism they are wanting from their everyday experience. I want my projects to be happy memories for people.”
How would you describe the “Philaye” brand?
“Positivity, silliness, and fun. Making everything light and fun. When people consume any Philaye art, they are just feeling the good vibes. Modern Family was my favorite comedy growing up, and was one of the main shows that inspired my love for the craft in a lot of ways. There was something so genius about their comedic timing. The show felt like a hilarious vacation from my everyday life. I want anything “Philaye” to be a fun vacation for people.”
When was the first time you realized you wanted to be an entertainer?
“Holding a Finance position on a creative executive board for a runway fashion org in college changed things for me. Even though I got my degree in Business Administration, I wanted to use that to help me create an artistic career for myself and to have fun doing it. I started a blog when I graduated and moved to New York City, and next was my YouTube web-series, “Black Sex in the City”, then I’ve just learned and grown from there. Black Sex & the City was a spontaneous creation. Conversations with daily friends and normal topics in the city are what made me want to create it. The project didn’t really have any forethought. It was a fun, young event in time. It was a nine-month, 21 episode, New York City experience.”
What was the concept behind your ideas for the series Flip Flop?
“The core of it is about tackling that very blurry line when it comes to sexual fluidity and masculinity. There isn’t necessarily a box that everyone falls in. I wanted to make a story that breaks that mold and is fun along the way. Exposing fun and humor in the chaos of figuring out your identity. I spent ages 7-19 closeted and felt more comfortable coming out after I quit track because of the “macho man sports culture” that Flip Flop sheds light on.”
Your most memorable Flip Flop experience?
“My most memorable experience was shooting the track scenes. It was really freeing to have that experience and be that character. I had a good time with my team and it was nice for us to have the experience of nostalgia since many of us were/are real track runners, and I hadn’t touched a track in years.”
Tell us about your Philaye Speaks! Podcast and some of the topics you cover?
“I started the podcast at the beginning of the pandemic as a way to spread some light with some intelligent guests, and we cover a wide range of topics. The very first episode was with my mom and we discussed finding purpose in your struggle. I’ve talked about being your own boss and more specific things when it comes to producing creatively. There’s a Black Lives Matter episode, gay dating episode; I don’t limit myself and use it as a platform to discuss whatever I’m feeling is relevant to me and the culture.”
You wear a lot of hats. Other than dancing, what are some of the creative ways you practice self-care?
“Sometimes I’ll write down things in my notebook. I like to draw and color even though I’m bad at it; I just like to take a piece of paper out and express myself on it. I paint some of the time randomly. I also love to spend time in nature. Spending time in the sun and water is my biggest form of self-care.”
Any future projects you can let us in on?
“In addition to the 1st season of “Flip Flop”, there are about a dozen other projects. “Risk”, a Black Gay Romance short film that I produced and starred in, was written by Alscott Worrell and will be released this year in 2021. I’m working with Delo Brown on Producing an exciting reality show that I can’t say too much about yet. I’m producing “Maybe Next Christmas”, a Christmas short film written by LJ Lameck. Breanna Wyrick and I recently signed a Warner Executive Producer onto an animated show inspired by my late friend Sa’Ku that we’ve been writing. We will also be filming a Romantic Fantasy short film that I wrote, also inspired by Sa’Ku. To sum up the rest quickly, I’m also producing a couple Drama/Thriller series, a horror film, a couple sketch comedy shows, another sitcom, etc. I’m really excited for everyone to see all of the dope art that will be released within these upcoming years.”
What kind of legacy/mark would you like your creative projects to leave behind?
“I want people to feel good when they watch Philaye projects. I want people to laugh, smile and have little pieces of light in their days. I want to be the escapism they are wanting from their everyday experience. I want my projects to be happy memories for people.”
Follow on Instagram:
Philaye Films - @Philaye
Flip Flop Tv Show - @FlipFloptvshow
What values from your childhood guided you in your current life and artistry now?
“I’ve just always been a hard-worker, almost obsessively. When I set a goal, I am just intrinsically motivated to accomplish it. I am the same way when it comes to film. Goal-oriented. Humility is a major value of mine also. Even when I was growing up running track I didn’t “trash talk” much before races because being cool with my “competitors” always made me feel the best. Not letting ego get in the way of my happiness and life is something I’ve carried with me to this day. I’m thankful for every blessing, every day that I wake up.”
What are some TV/sitcom influences that inspired you to become a writer?
“Modern Family, Schitts Creek, Insecure and Empire. These shows were like light to me. Especially Empire because it made me realize that people like me, young, black, and gay, actually existed. Empire made me come out to my mom when I was 19, and I want to help people feel that much self-love in this tough world. Empire was when I truly realized the importance of art in changing lives because of how it launched me out the closet haha.”
What was the process in being able to get your writing to come to life on camera?
“I really like everybody on set to have a voice and to bring their own unique flares. No matter if you are in production, an actor, an extra, whatever. The director is important, but I believe in everyone in the room voicing their opinions. I feel that magic gets made by spontaneity on set. It makes everything come to life. Those have been some of the moments that people loved most in my episodes; those parts that weren’t planned and just happened because people got to have fun with it.”
What made you want to start Philaye Films? What does it stand for?
“Philaye Films stands for creating positive black art and spreading light into the world. My stories are all black stories. I just want to be one of the many captivating black filmmakers in the industry. We always have to pull as many people up as we can with us as we rise. I’ve made that my mission and that is what Philaye Films is all about, and I believe we’re doing a great job so far.”