Since graduating from GFA in 1998, Annie Chiappetta Allen has made a career for herself that has taken her all over the world (like active war zones and inside the Pentagon) and allowed her to meet high-powered people from all walks of life (like both Clinton and Trump). But it is the additional role of “mom” in which she finds the greatest inspiration and adventure.
A University of Richmond graduate with a degree in journalism and political science, Allen (née Chiappetta) left college early to work as George Stephanopoulos’s assistant at ABC News – finishing her classes while working. She transitioned easily to politics, working in the ABC News Political Unit and at ABC News Special Events — covering the presidential elections of 2000, 2004, and 2008. Her job in Special Events meant covering essentially anything that wasn’t part of the regularly scheduled programming: breaking news, big events, election night results. On-your-toes stuff. And she maintained that pace for more than eight years. A transition to ESPN as a producer in the content development department didn’t slow her down, either.
In 2011 she left ESPN to stay at home with her two kids, away from the working world for four years. Not only did she return to the workforce in 2015, but she dove in headfirst, taking a job as a producer at Al Jazeera America, then moving on to produce The Circus: Inside the Biggest Story on Earth for Showtime, a weekly behind-the-scenes documentary series about the 2016 presidential race.
Her latest adventure has taken her all over the world, including a weekly commute (sometimes twice a week) to Washington, D.C., to produce the upcoming documentary for National Geographic: Chain of Command, “an intimate portrait of the war against violent extremism and the men and women devoting their lives to it.”
Throughout the production of Chain of Command she could find herself performing almost any task that needed to get done: oversight of editorial content, producing the different shoots, liaising with the Pentagon to maintain relationships, finding just the right people to interview — just a few of the roles she filled to help shape the story.
Film/television production wasn’t always on her radar, but when she let go of the idea of being a bio major in college and instead enrolled in news media classes, she realized: “I love being able to tell stories about people. I loved the idea that I could be in a position to teach people things they don’t already know.”
Projects like The Circus and Chain of Command also give Allen and her viewers a prospective on the world and the U.S. that they might not otherwise get. For example, the extended documentary format gives her a chance to really expand on ideas and provide more information, a luxury that live television doesn’t have.
“I have this amazing opportunity to actually tell a story with breathing room, and that has opened doors,” she said.
She can also bring to light the stories of those who have gone unnoticed — those who are risking their lives every day, making no money and moving their families around the world because “they really believe they’re making a difference in the world. To be able to show that has been inspiring to me.”
But it is her role as a working mom that has proved to be more exhilarating than any other job she’s had.
Even balancing what would amount to more than two full-time jobs for most people, she volunteers at Person-to-Person, a nonprofit in Norwalk, CT, served on the board of her children’s preschool, and serves on the School Governance Council at Rowayton Elementary School.
“Being a mom is the most important thing I do, but getting to have a badass career and be able to spend time with my kids makes it even better,” she explained. “So many women think they can’t do it all and don’t have the confidence to go back after they’ve been home with the kids — and you can.”