The Woman Behind Steve Aoki’s Latest Flick
Boss Babe, business creator, immigrant and soon-to-be mother… Now she officially adds “executive producer” to her long list of titles with her debut film, Behind The Card, starring Steve Aoki! Not only is she an executive producer, but a first-time executive producer of a three-time award-winning documentary that is busy getting ready to hit the theaters on November 18th; talk about a major list of achievements. After The LA Girl team had a chance to sit down with Paula, we got the vibe that she doesn’t sit around and wait for great things to happen to her, she takes action. But it didn’t always come easy for this fellow boss. Born and raised in Colombia, she made her way to the U.S. at the young age of 16, where she worked hard every single day in order to earn her spot on a University’s swim team in order to attend college and stay in America. Now that we understand the type of person she is, we’re not surprised that, yes, she proudly earned her spot and was able to continue her academics in Florida. From there, she set off to begin her career….the lack of owning a car led to biking 10 miles each way to her first job (while collecting debt), but not even the harsh Florida humidity could stop her from pursuing her first office job. This was truly only the beginning for her…
In the midst of pursuing her career, she met Chris (her now husband, pictured above), who was just a friend at this point in her life but was kind enough to let Paula use his car to attend interviews which helped her boost her career to land an even better office job (courtship props to Chris.) This platonic friendship soon turned romantic and led to an epic movie date that began with Chris telling her that he was moving to Los Angeles and ended with Paula agreeing to make the move with him. Thus, their (love) story in LA begins. Once arriving in Los Angeles, with very few months left on her work permit, she obtained her third job which was working at a wine company called Club W (now called Winc.) Although she enjoyed quickly becoming a wine connoisseur, her work permit eventually expired, and she was unable to continue her job there. This left her jobless and permitless in the middle of La La Land; if only she knew these conditions would soon improve.
Financially Free in The City of Angeles at 27 years old
Q. Can we talk about your stand-out role (and eventual exit) from an LA-based mega-company, Romeo Power, that left you financially free? And what about this complimentary Stanford degree I heard you got?
A. The tech side of LA was already consuming me and the cool thing at the time was iOS apps. So, I started taking online courses on coding with Stanford University as you could download the prior year’s classes for free so, yes, I got that “degree” for free haha. At the time, Chris loved mentioning that I was learning to code on my own to business owners he was meeting and he ended up connecting me to who later became my first business partner.
I initially was offered a non-paid internship at his software security company which was perfect because I had no work visa so I couldn’t take a paid job. Talk about hardcore coding, I was thrown to the wolves as it’s a security software company that focused on securing banking systems and money movement. I was faking it till I made it at that point as everything was above my head. I asked God to stay with me and I put my head down and grinded to the best of my capabilities. A few weeks later the company sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. I obviously didn’t get a cent because I was an unpaid intern and unfortunately, I had no equity in the company either. This did open my eyes to the possibility of hitting it big if I just owned some equity in a company, so this “non-paying job” was the biggest level jump I’ve had in my business career as it opened my mind to see past just a biweekly paycheck.
One night I got a call from the old owner of the security company to start a new company with him which ended up being Romeo Power. It was an electric vehicle company in the end but it started as something more humanitarian. We ended up building electric batteries for cars and hired the most important guy for batteries from Space X. It was the guy that built the rocket batteries for Elon Musk. He joined the team and from there we moved from one tiny room with 3 people to more than 500 employees at a certain point and went IPO in December of 2020. As part owner of the company, I gained financial freedom for the first time in my life.
Fast forward a year from Romeo Power going public, I started my film production company, Views of Business Inc. Making movies has more of a fun aspect to it. Not saying it isn’t hard work, but the work is more enjoyable. Chris and I created our first documentary last year, Behind The Card, which we are very fortunate that it’s going to be in select theaters and on-demand on Nov. 18th.
Q. Did you face any specific hardships/trials or setbacks in your career path and journey, tell us about how you overcame them?
A. I had to bike to Club W which was a good ten miles to and from my apartment in Culver City like I did at first in Florida. It didn’t matter as I loved having a non-service job and I was doing so well at it that I knew it would pay off big in the future. The hardest part was riding my bike back home with 4 bottles of wine in my backpack as returned bottles couldn’t be resold, so they gave us the choice to take them.
As I mentioned earlier, my work visa ran out so I could no longer hold a job, that was a stressful time as I only had so much money in the bank for expenses and I was now living in LA so very stressful time but I stayed focused on advancing my life by keeping my mind off it while I learned how to code. Let’s just say the “eating ramen story in college” pertains to this part of my life.
Behind the Card: Her Big Break
Q. Okay, let’s chat about the film, Behind the Card. What is it about?
A. Behind The Card is a feature film documentary on the sports card industry which means that people collect basketball, baseball or other sports cards. It is an unregulated industry where sports cards have been selling for millions of dollars over the past few years and a lot of crazy stuff has been happening in the space so we captured that all on film for those that don’t collect sports cards to see what’s going on.
Q. Your position is a special & specific one to the documentary-making process: you’re the Executive Producer. Did you ever pause to think about how a young Latina woman heading up an entire production company might be boundary-breaking? Did you notice it at all?
A. That’s an interesting question, and it kind of catches me off guard because I’m very forgetful of my age, gender or background when I’m focused on producing great quality work. I focus on the work and forget the rest. I simply see myself as a human being with a goal, working with and putting together the best team out there, regardless of their background. But now that you are saying it out loud, it gives me goosebumps to realize where I took this project and how influential this can be to the Latino film community.
Q. What are you looking forward to as the film debuts theatrically?
A. Just being in theaters is already a win for us because this is a documentary, and you never see documentaries make it theatrically. Especially after covid times as large movie productions have been pushed back to release this year so we have to fight the “Black Panthers” of the film world to get eyes to watch ours. Just super humbled to be in this position for my first film and looking forward to everyone going to Apple TV and renting it On Demand if they don’t have it in a theater close by.
How Do We Watch The Film!?
Q. Tell us where we can find out more about Behind The Card, where can we watch it and how can we view the trailer and follow along?
A. This link is for people to pre-order Behind The Card on demand at Apple TV. You can also go to Fandango and search Behind The Card and click the notification button so that you are notified of the location closest to you to see if it is in the theaters close to you. You can follow us on our Instagram page @whosbehindthecard for behind-the-scenes content as well.
Behind the Card, starring Steve Aoki, Rob Gough, and Dave Oancea, has been successful in winning three different awards, including Best Male Director at Best Film Awards (2022), Best Feature Documentary at Silk Road Film Awards Cannes (2021), and an award at Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival (2022) since being released. Order it here or visit a theater near you to witness the madness within the sport’s card industry unfold! Enjoy!