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Aug 21, 2019

By Adam Pollock

Words by Adam Pollock

Alice Glass by Floria Sigismondi

MAAVVEN’s stable of visual artists is dominating the creative commercial landscape, thanks to #girlboss Coleen Haynes

To the consumer, it’s content and delicious eye candy to thrill, distract, relish, and share. To the fan, it’s an image, a brand, an enviable lifestyle. Above all is the product: endless videos and photos designed to provoke and cut through the continuous barrage of media we’re subjected to daily. Behind every seemingly effortless look and four-minute cinematic extravaganza is a team of people working towards maddeningly exacting standards to deliver just the right result, and behind a select group of those people is Coleen Haynes and her LA-based creative clubhouse, MAAVVEN. 

Since moving to Los Angeles from Atlanta at 21, Haynes has led what seems like a charmed career in filmmaking, production, and creative management. Plucked from her restaurant job by Hollywood big shots, a chance meeting with a legendary director at a party, MTV awards, David LaChapelle, Christina Aguilera, her bio reads like a classic Tinseltown success story without the inevitable third-act downfall. Five years ago, after two decades of near constant work, Haynes struck out on her own and opened theindependent creative agency and incubator MAAVVEN, which almost immediately made a name for itself with a stable of visionaries including Floria Sigismondi, Amanda Demme, and David LaChapelle. 

Alice caught up with the fast-talking businesswoman over two afternoons of spirited conversation on the past, present, and future of MAAVVEN. 


AP: Let’s start with a kind of existential question: how is it possible that you – maybe the answer is because you know what you’re doing and you’re good at it – but how did you manage this quite amazing track record of working with all these great artists and breaking the record of MTV awards and stuff like that? 

CH: It’s a lot of everything. Maybe what I should do is kind of start with my little story. 

I moved to L.A. when I was 21 and didn’t know a soul. I worked at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Beverly Hills waiting tables; I did the graveyard shift. These producers would come in every night from the studios nearby and they gave me my first opportunity to work on a film set as a production coordinator. Which I’d never even had done that or knew what it was. And a week before we shot, the production manager got a paying job and had to bounce, and they were like, “Well, you’re going to be production managing now.” Of course, I had no idea what that even meant. So it was definitely a sink-or-swim kind of thing. Obviously, it turned out well, and I started doing short movie projects with him. I was able to quit Jerry’s just a couple months after starting that process. 

Then at 23, I met Mary Lambert, who was really the first female director in the music video world. She directed “Like a Prayer” for Madonna, “Isla Bonita,” “Borderline,” “Lucky Star.” I met her at Sofia Coppola’s house. I knew who Sofia Coppola was at that time and I got invited to the New Years’ Eve party and I had no idea what was going on. I met Mary and talked to her, and she was like, “Wow, I really love your energy. I’m a director, I would love for you to produce for me.” So she got my number and I went into the bathroom and like had that freak-out moment where I was screaming but not screaming out loud, but jumping up and down in the bathroom at Sofia Coppola’s house like, oh my god, this is going to change my life! The next day I called my mom and my mom was like, “Well, that’s nice honey, but you’re in Los Angeles and people don’t follow through with things and don’t get your hopes up.” And literally the next day on New Years’ Day, Mary called me and was like, “We met last night and I just really wanted to follow up with you.” She basically took me under her wing and taught me everything that I know, taught me how to produce.

Nicole Kidman Ny Mag by Floria Sigismondi

We ended up doing eight music videos together. Then I started getting calls to go work on production jobs at Propaganda and some of the other big companies. I quickly got into producing and then basically at 25, I started producing for big directors. But most importantly, David LaChapelle. I started with him on the movie Rize, and then we did the Christina Aguilera “Dirrty” video. And then off that music video, I got to know Christina. I had done a couple of videos with her prior, but on that video she approached me afterward and she was like, “Wow, after watching you produce this video, I want you to come work for me and be my manager.” And I was like, “What? I’ve never managed before. I’ve only produced. I don’t know if you can afford me.” So I got a call from Irving Azoff’s office and it was Irving. He was like, “I don’t even know who you are, but Christina wants you.” So I go in and have a meeting with him and I’m like, “Look, Irving. I’ve never managed anybody before; I’d be completely green at this.” He’s like, “She told me to name a price and she wants you and she wants me to make it happen. So I’ve got to figure this out.” So I literally went away, thought about it, named a price. He called me two days later and was like, “It’s done.” So again, I just had this amazing opportunity dropped in my lap. 

Irving had been her manager. He’s the big, big manager. I was basically her day-to-day. When we went out on the road, I did everything, made decisions of stuff that she should do and et cetera. So we basically did the Justified & Stripped Tour with Justin Timberlake and were on the road for two years. When we finished that cycle and we came off the road, I woke up and I was 30, and it was like, woah, I’ve been eating, shitting, breathing Christina Aguilera, I haven’t talked to my parents, I haven’t seen my dog, I haven’t seen my friends. It was a whirlwind of an experience.

GUNEE by Pandagunda

AP: Where did you come from originally?

CH: Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up in Atlanta. 

AP: So when mom was calling saying, “Don’t trust anyone or don’t expect to hear back from people in L.A.”, she was calling from Georgia?

CH: From Georgia, exactly. I didn’t go to college. When I graduated high school, my mom left my dad and I was very angry at 18 and basically went to college for one quarter and purposely dropped out with a 1.5 GPA just to piss off my parents. 

AP: Even I did better than that. So after the years with Christina?

CH: And then that year at 31, I got the job offer at H.S.I. Productions, which was David’s production company and had Paul Hunter, Hype Williams, Diane Martel, Sam Bayer. Huge people. Chris Robinson. LITTLE X. So I got the opportunity to come on and be the executive producer to run the music video division. Then I was there for seven years and ran the music video division at H.S.I. And then I resigned after that and took a sabbatical for about four months. 

During my sabbatical, the Ridley Scott Company approached me because I’m really good friends with Ridley’s son Jake. And they were like, “Hey, come run Black Dog,” which is the music division of the company, so I basically ran Black Dog for four years, and in that third year of being there was when we got 18 nominations for MTV awards. We did Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball,” “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake “Mirrors,” “Britney, Bitch.” It was just one of those amazing moments in time where just a group of good videos that basically broke records – “Wrecking Ball” broke the record for…what’s that band. The boy band.

Savage x Fenty Holiday Campaign by Philippa Price

AP: *NSYNC? Boyz II Men? Backstreet Boys?

CH: No. But it was during that time. It was the new Backstreet Boys, they’re London based. 

AP: Harry Styles. One Direction.

CH: One Direction, exactly. They had held the record at that time for the most views in 24 hours and Miley broke that with “Wrecking Ball.” “Blurred Lines” had this insane amount of success. 

AP: And you started MAAVVEN after that?

CH: I had this kind of “my moment” where I thought I should really go off and do my own thing. I was 41 and I figured if I’m going to do this, I have to roll up my sleeves and get back in the trenches. And that was my deciding factor to jump off and take that leap of faith. And so here I am.

Yves Tumor by Floria Sigismondi

AP: Well, things going in your favor seems to be a theme of our conversation. 

CH: I started with a core group of artists and the rest of it came from other artists saying, “Hey, you should meet this person,” or “Hey, check out this person’s work,” et cetera. And that’s really how the roster grew. I think one of my greatest gifts too is connecting people, so as MAAVVEN has started to happen, it was really about how each artist has kind of helped the other artists come up as well. For instance, Floria being kind of like the mother artist of MAAVVEN and she used Nina McNeely to choreograph a couple of videos and then she did Rihanna “Sledgehammer” video and she brought Nina in to choreograph Rihanna. And after, Nina’s choreography career just kind of went out the window and then from there, she went on to New York and Sia and Florence and all these artists. And that was kind of a catalyst for her. And then that’s just kind of happened many times. Like with Philippa Price bringing Jasmine Albuquerque in to choreograph the St. Vincent tour – the “Pills” video that she did for St. Vincent. And then recently did the Katy Perry video, and then brought her in for Puma. So again, you know, here’s Jasmine who was just building her choreography reel when we find her and now she’s also kind of exploded on the choreography scene because we’ve been able to pull her into MAAVVEN jobs. So it’s just a really amazing kind of…I don’t know, like, cultivation system within the artists of MAAVVEN. And I think too, when somebody does a good job at MAAVVEN it’s kind of seen as a collective in the industry. It feels like it’s not just like one artist is doing something. Everyone’s like, oh, MAAVEN did that music video. 

AP: That talks to your brand and your DNA too. The company’s DNA. 

CH: Exactly. 

AP: let’s talk about the showcases you’re putting on. 

CH: It kind of started I guess about a year ago, Deena Thompson, who’s one of our artists, she’s a dancer for Sia and kind of Ryan Heffington’s muse, and one of the main dancers for Florence + the Machine. She had this vision of a thing called CONGRESS, which is basically a showcase of choreographers. It’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It’s a showcase of 10 choreographers for the evening. And when we do that at Sweat Spot, which is Ryan Heffington’s studio in Silver Lake and now it’s amazing because it’s, I mean, it’s sold out every night. It’s open to the public and it’s just really interesting because it’s been cultivating this really great kind of, outlet in Los Angeles for the very kind of underground as well, you know, for the dance community and for the arts.  

I kind of took what we’ve done with Deena and having so many friends from the music business and thinking like, okay, like here’s an opportunity where we could spin-off and do the same type of thing and make it like a musical showcase in Los Angeles. You know, working off the number of MAAVVEN, which is the number seven and just do seven showcases in L.A. and then it’s done. The only criteria for the musical artists would be that they can’t be signed to a record company. So it’s really giving an opportunity for an unsigned artist to then basically create a musical showcase for about 30, 35 minutes. And then I’ll match them up with one of the visual artists off the roster of MAAVVEN. 

Stella McCartney by Philippa Price

So it becomes a night of music and visual art and allows for this artist who doesn’t have any backing or probably really many monetary resources as well, to give them a bigger visual footprint. I basically open my Rolodex to the music business and invite record company people, and managers, influential people in our, you know, whatever, to actually come to the showcase. Then it’s kind of a win-win for everybody. It gives musical artists a chance to have the right record people in the room to hear their music. And then also whatever MAAVVEN artist is doing the visuals, and that could be anything from performance art to dance, to the lighting, to projection, it also gives them a chance to showcase a visual element as well. So I think between the two things, what’s been great is just seeing MAAVVEN grow not just from the work that we’re doing that we’re getting hired for, but actually being kind of culturally relevant, you know, in Los Angeles and supporting the arts, through different ways, through music and dance and visual arts. 

AP: And how many have you done so far? 

CH: Just the one. We’re doing the second showcase with Chika. I don’t know if you’re familiar with her.

AP: And its just word of mouth? 

CH: Yeah, yeah. We have about 6,000 people from the industry on email and then we do it through Instagram, which is definitely like, a word of mouth thing.

AP: I’m sure you’ve got plenty of people to come. 

CH: Yeah. Now it gets pretty packed pretty quickly. It’s very invite-only at the moment, just because I do want to make sure that we make sure that we keep room for the record industry crowd because that’s point, for the artists to really feel like there are people in the room that it’s like, okay, I’m given this amazing shot tonight because somebody’s going to hopefully see me and something might come out of it and it’s not a promise, but it’s, you know, at least there’s potential. 

AP: Sure. That’s great. Do you feel that you have the final say in all that happens at MAAVVEN? I mean, you probably have a collective of people you weigh in on things, but it’s your baby. 

CH: Yeah, it’s definitely my baby. I mean, I have hired, you know, some stronger team members to kind of come in and start running like different divisions for me. But definitely, at this point it’s just me. Sometimes I want to have a partner. Trust me. But I’ve declined. I have a friend that started a company and there’s two of them, and I always say to them, “I’m so jealous that you guys get to have such an equal banter and wake up and be like, fuck, and you know, what am I doing for you?” I do see it as a cultural brand and as a lifestyle and I see it being a distribution platform the way that VICE or NowThis has served that in a different kind of way. The big vision of MAAVVEN is so big that I do see the partner coming in at some point, but until that happens, you know, then it’s just a little old me behind the Oz curtain.

Miguel Tour by Pilar Zeta

AP: But you do have grand ambitions beyond what you’ve accomplished so far?

CH: Oh, absolutely. Oh, yeah. I mean, I see there being a small hotel chain, again, the number of seven for MAAVVEN. I envision it like a hotel slash MAAVVEN house kind of a, like, I guess like a Soho House. I mean, there are so many brands doing that now, that membership-only thing. But the difference for my vision of MAAVVEN house would be, it’s based on the artist, it’s more like how the Chelsea Hotel was back in New York back in the day for like, you know, Basquiat and Andy Warhol and Joan Jett and whoever was just all staying at the hotel, you know, bumping into each other in the hallways. I kind of see it as just an artist only, no agents, no nothing.  But having this really, you know, amazing hub in seven major cities around the world where it’s only artists that are members. And there’s an ecosystem for artists that have made it, I can pay more money for the starving artist, but you know, that would be, you would know that when you go to this place in Paris or this place and Berlin that you are literally like anybody that’s sitting around and possibly the next great poet or writer or painter, you know what I mean? Or whatever. I don’t know. 

And with that, there’s also products of MAAVVEN that could come out that could be collaborations with artists to do another ecosystem to give money back to young artists that are still coming up and still finding their way from a monetary standpoint. So, and I see it being a distribution platform for also visual content, that again, has no censorship or no definition, whether it’s, you know, not putting anything in a box between a commercial, a video, a short film, a long-form, you know, whatever anybody calls anything. It’s just art, visual art. You know, so there’s a lot of ideas that I have. And I think that would take a greater partnership to get that going. But yeah, just baby steps. I think as long as we’re creating the footprint now with artists, we just keep going.

AP: Is there an era of art that you hold closer than others? Like New York in the 70s or Paris in the 20s or anything like that? 

CH: I definitely am very inspired by the 80s. That’s definitely my soft spot. And African art culturally, I really just kind of navigate towards African culture and the art that’s come out of that and music. 

80’S ALTAR by Pilar Zeta

AP: You mentioned the greats of New York, Basquiat and Warhol. Do you feel there are artists these days who have as much influence? Do you see you see figures like that emerging? 

CH: I do. I almost think that because of what’s been happening politically in the last, you know, five years or whatnot, and the discourse and people being so upset, it’s actually an exciting time for music and art; that’s what was so great about the 70s is that the revolution was actually getting people to really speak up and say, “We’re not okay. We know we’re not okay.” 

And I think right now the revolution from women in general, you know, as well, the women’s movement and equality are really exciting. I think in general, equality is coming up for everyone. And I think music is getting better. I think art is getting better. So I don’t know. I’m excited about where we are. I mean, I’m not excited about the logistics of our government at the current time, but I do think that it is causing a real wake up moment for everybody. And I think that we’re going to see a lot of artists emerge both from music and visual art. And it’s exciting, you know? I think people are also not, they’re not staying comfortable, you know what I mean? I think art has a place where it was getting a little bit lazy. And now it’s like, no, you have to fucking like get up and go make something out of nothing, you know, and not be spoiled. And be creative, like really get out there. 

King Princess by XS Studio

AP: To me, I think it takes a lot of a lot of balls to do that in this climate because everything is really scary. And it’s, it’s kind of easier to just sit back and be afraid and think, what the hell can I do? So for the artists, yeah, the get off their butts and go do something, it takes energy and strength to do that because the prospects for the planet and humanity are honestly quite grim. And that’s a horrible thing to have to live through. 

CH: Yes, it is. It is. No, I’m with you.

Transcribing – Angelina Fay

Find MAAVVEN on their website www.maavven.com and Instagram @maavven

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