Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro, NC | Follow On Instagram @InsideMonthly

Paula Lauzon is the creative force behind Harlau Productions, a diversified media company that she founded in 2020. During her interview with INSIDE Monthly at Picture Studios, she looked back on her youth and explained how it shaped the stories that she’s bringing to the silver screen. From short films to music videos and a new feature film, Paula’s projects are defined by her approach to team building and storytelling.

Where were you born, and what was your childhood like?

I was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, a mill city in the southeastern part of the state. My childhood was challenging, and I’m willing to open up about it. Both my parents were alcoholics. I lost my mother when I was 14, and my siblings were quite young at the time – my sister was 11, and my brother was 8. It was tough growing up, but when they were sober, we could experience a somewhat typical family life. My dad would cook and bake, and television was a significant presence in our home. I couldn’t ask him questions when something was on TV. I was expected to sit down, watch, and learn. It wasn’t an ideal childhood, but it’s these experiences that shape us and prepare us for the paths we choose. Siblings in such an environment either bond or clash, and our family life was somewhat unconventional. It was the 70s and early 80s, and we’d often venture outside to play, sometimes riding our bikes around town to see how far we could get before our mother noticed. I often wondered what our mother was thinking and how long it took her to realize we were gone.

What foods do you remember eating while growing up?

I remember eating a lot of Portuguese and French Canadian food. My mother was from St. Michael Azores, and my father had French Canadian roots. He was also a baker, not just for us but for neighbors, the convent, the Catholic school I attended, and the rectory of our church. My father made fruitcakes that I enjoyed, and they had a unique twist – they were laced with whiskey. My sister and I ate a fair amount of one fruitcake, and it made us drowsy because of the alcohol. My father added whiskey to give the fruitcakes that special flavor. We learned our lesson and never touched them again. My father baked various breads, scones, and Portuguese sweet bread, which everyone loved. I believe I inherited my love for cooking and baking from him, although I’m a better cook than a baker.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro, NC | Follow On Instagram @RentMyStudio

What were your favorite movies during high school?

During high school, I developed a penchant for action-packed films. I enjoyed movies with stars like Steven Seagal and any action-oriented content. However, my absolute favorites were the classic films I watched on TV rather than in the theater. I loved watching “Casablanca,” Spaghetti Westerns, and historical films, among many others.

What gave you the courage to move to California?

My decision to move to California is quite a story. My son was living with his father, just a town away, finishing high school. I was working part-time for a job placement agency in Fall River, Massachusetts, but I felt it wasn’t enough. I decided to do some background work for a film and a television series in Boston, and from there, I started getting walk-on roles, where I’d cross the screen briefly. It piqued my interest, and I realized I could make some money in the industry. I auditioned for a commercial through Actors Access, and they liked me. They flew me to California, where I stayed in Santa Monica and filmed a print ad for Lyrica. This ad ran in multiple markets, including the Latin market. I thought there might be something more to this if they appreciated my personality and presence. So I researched and reached out to agents in Los Angeles. I eventually signed with a boutique.

In the fall of 2014, I decided to make the move, and in April 2015, I packed my 2010 Ford Fusion, drove across the country alone, and arrived in LA with only 40 dollars in my pocket. But I was determined to make it work.

I signed up with Central Casting, did background work on various studio sets, and also took on student films and short films. This journey helped me grow in the industry and taught me valuable lessons.

What was the red carpet like during the daytime at the award show?

Oh, the red carpet was so much fun! One of my best friends, Becky Dennis, and I attended. We had the opportunity to meet several A-listers at the Emmys, and we were part of the audience when Viola Davis won an award for her outstanding performance. It was amazing to see a woman of color, let alone a woman, take the stage. Her speech was truly inspiring, and I still get goosebumps thinking about it. Being among these talented individuals, talking to them, and expressing our appreciation was an incredible experience.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro, NC | Follow On Instagram @RentMyStudio

What are your thoughts on the recent growth of the Triangle?

I can’t speak directly about Raleigh’s growth since I’m based in Durham, but I’ve noticed some positive developments in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (aka “Triangle”) area. There’s a noticeable increase in restaurants and coffee shops, which is great for the community. However, I believe there’s room for more film production in the region. North Carolina boasts a significant pool of talent, and the growth of the film industry in the area could have a substantial impact on the state’s overall progress.

How did you come up with the name for your brand?

I came up with the name for our brand by combining the first three letters of my husband’s last name with the first three letters of my last name. This fusion gave birth to “Harlau Productions.”

When did you know there was a need for your production company?

I recognized the need for a production company in Durham, when I observed many talented individuals pursuing their creative endeavors. I believed that establishing a larger entity could not only provide opportunities for these individuals but also contribute to the community’s economic growth. This realization led me to establish Harlau Productions in 2020.

Makeup by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro, NC | Follow On Instagram @RentMyStudio

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in film?

The most significant challenge I’ve faced in the film industry is ensuring that I have the necessary funds to compensate both above-the-line and below-the-line professionals. It’s crucial for me to ensure that everyone on my set can meet their financial obligations. While collaboration and creativity are vital, we all need to pay our bills and keep our lights on. To me, this is a substantial challenge—having a substantial budget to fairly remunerate everyone.

Tell us about the team you’ve assembled.

The team at Harlau Productions consists of seasoned professionals from various areas of the industry. Each member brings a unique skill set to the table, and I prefer to work with the same people because of the trust we’ve built. I don’t micromanage them; they know their roles, which allows for a smooth collaboration. Over time, I’ve added one or two more individuals to our team, and they are now an essential part of the foundation of Harlau Productions.

What can people expect to see in the near future?

In the near future, people can expect the release of “CONSEQUENCES,” a short film that entered production in March and is currently in post-production. Additionally, we have several more music videos in the pipeline, along with a feature film called “Cell Block Z,” written by Steven Garvey, who is based in California and set to be filmed here in North Carolina. As we move forward, I plan to expand our brand by continuing to enhance our website, actively seeking script options and engaging in constant networking to bring more stories to life.

Who is the best-dressed member of your family?

The best-dressed member of my family is my son. I say this not just because he’s my son, but because he has an excellent fashion sense. Throughout school, he would frequently change his style, and during his birthday weekend in Fall River, we reminisced about his various phases. One of them was the sweater vests, which he wore so well that everyone loved them. He’s always dressed nicely, and even though he might shake his head about past fashion choices, I genuinely believe he’s the best-dressed guy in the family.

What are the best spots to take a date to around town?

The best spots to take a date around town include Jordan Lake, where you can enjoy kayaking on the lake, which is a fantastic activity. Another great option is having dinner at the Angus Barn, a highly recommended restaurant. In both Durham and Raleigh, there are numerous places for a small meal or a bite to eat. Additionally, the trails and waterfalls in different locations offer a lovely experience for a date.

What would you do on vacation if money was not an object?

If money were not an object for a vacation, I would love to take a transatlantic cruise to Europe, visiting countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy, and more. These 12- to 15-day cruises offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the beauty of Europe. It’s a dream vacation that I believe will become a reality one day.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro, NC | Follow On Instagram @RentMyStudio

Who would be the lead actor in a film about your life?

The lead actor I’d choose for a film about my life is Pamela Morgan. She’s relatively new in the industry but has made significant strides. I believe she’d portray me exceptionally well. We both hail from southeastern Massachusetts, and I think she can truly bring my character to life. Her ability to immerse herself in a role and convey the emotions from the script to the screen is impressive. I’ve witnessed her work, and she has what it takes.

Which professional sports team would you like to own?

The professional sports team I would want to own is the Boston Red Sox because they’re simply the best.

Do you believe that connections are more valuable than money?

Yes, I firmly believe that connections are more valuable than money. People can guide you and introduce you to the right individuals, especially in the entertainment industry. No amount of money can replace the significance of personal connections, be it with family, friends, or industry professionals.

“In April 2015, I packed my Ford Fusion, drove across the country alone, and arrived in LA with only 40 dollars in my pocket. But I was determined to make it work.” – Paula Lauzon