on falling in love with yourself

This post is not about filmmaking. But it is about a part of my journey I’d like to share:

On December 31st, 2012, I made a conscious decision to spend 2013 falling in love with myself. This would be the year I intentionally take time to explore the facets of myself I was too embarrassed, ashamed or prideful to explore; to experience a whole other level of vulnerability; to relish in the joy and love that already exists inside of and around me; this is the year for me.

I’ve been spending the last four months doing the external things, like treating myself to nice dinners and watching movies in bed all day; but I’ve also been doing a lot of the hard inner work that is making me a much more whole-hearted, self-actualized human being.

I’m confronting my shortcomings head-on, instead of hiding behind them. I’m practicing being present in my feelings and desires. I’m confronting people about grievances I have with them when I have them (all my life, this has actually been a very difficult thing for me to do). I’m embracing those who are positive influences in my life and who affirm me, while letting go of those who are not. But the biggest thing that I am journeying towards is my unconditional embracement of the fact that I am enough.

These three words sound so simple, but I realize not many people truly, truly believe this about themselves, including myself at times.

I am a confident person with an indomitable spirit. I was raised to always walk with my head held high – and I do, literally and figuratively. But then there are those moments, like when I am afraid to engage in conflict with someone I care about out of fear of losing them; or when I hide behind this false shield of perfection, instead of standing tall in my imperfections and my most authentic self.

All of these moments require an immense amount of vulnerability, and in being vulnerable I am sending the message that I am enough. Even after a confrontation, in spite of my imperfections, even during my moments of self-doubt and fear – I AM ENOUGH. I am enough to be loved, whole-heartedly and unconditionally. I am enough for any film festival, distributor or grant. I am enough for my friends, family and students.  I am enough. Chinonye Chukwu is enough.

Ever since my first rejection for AlaskaLand, I’ve been doing a lot of vulnerability work, and confronting my own shame and embarrassment (so many of my blog posts since then have reflected a level of me exploring my own vulnerability). But these past fourth months, and what will be a long time after that, I am practicing vulnerability and courage (I really believe true courage and strength come from being vulnerable) and actively embracing my own self-worth.

My life already feels so much lighter, my work is already getting so much stronger, and I am connecting to an even deeper love and joy within myself that I’m finding has existed all along.

——-

A few clips from two videos that really helped me on my journey are led by Dr. Brene Brown:

On Daring Greatly, The Courage To Be Vulnerability: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YeulUgWNp8

On Vulnerability Being Your Greatest Strength: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi0IEOBDRpQ

On Shame: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEBjNv5M784

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Stepping Into Your Destiny

It has been almost four months since my last blog post. This morning, I made the decision to recommit to writing more regularly, starting by blogging, at least, the first Friday of every month. This year, so far, has been about recommitting to my work. Lately, I have been teaching quite a bit. And while teaching is the single most selfless thing I have ever done, it takes so much of myself to be an effective teacher. I give so much of my energy, my time, my attention to my students – and I never regret doing so – but it can be draining. So, at the very beginning of this year, I made the decision that 2013 was going to be a year I dedicate to my own artistic evolution and productivity. I set goals for myself on what I would want to accomplish, artistically, and the projects I would want to complete. It took a lot of pushing forward, but I finished several grant applications, wrote the first draft of my next feature script, and am now about to enter pre-production for a film adaptation I am directing. Doing this while teaching was, to say the least, a challenge. And now that I am gearing up for a festival run with my latest short film, BOTTOM, and the upcoming release of ALASKALAND (details on that coming VERY soon!), it was getting more difficult to commit to the full spectrum of being a filmmaker, which includes exhibition and distribution.

So, amid all this hustle and bustle, I got a call from Princeton University that I have been selected as a 2013 – 2014 Hodder Fellow. Now, some of my greatest literary she-roes are past recipients, so I had applied to this fellowship, not at all anticipating getting it. But I got the call, and for just the first few minutes afterwards, I felt the strangest sensation: fear. For that very brief moment I had this thought: oh, crap! Now I actually have to do this. You see, the Hodder Fellowship fully funds artists who are on the cusp of taking their artistic careers to the next level, the exact goal I made for myself at the beginning of 2013; but now, it’s actually coming into fruition. I have never been afraid of failure, but that moment after the call showed me that a small part of me was a bit afraid of success. That night, a good friend of mine bluntly told me: ‘you better step into your destiny!’ Her words hit me deeply and reinvigorated my soul. Opportunities, like the Hodder Fellowship, are what I have been working so hard for. People wanting to screen my film or fund my next project is what I have been asking the Universe to provide for me. Telling stories cinematically is what I have wanted to do since I was 12 years old, and this is my time to do so completely. I am grateful to be on this cusp, and now I am ready to fully step into this exciting new chapter in my journey.

Stay tuned for updates and more exciting news. In the meantime, I’ll tease you with a still from my forthcoming short film, BOTTOM (much more news on this film coming soon!).

still image1
still from BOTTOM, 2013 | starring: Zora Howard and Tanya Jackson
For more information about ALASKALAND, visit:
@Alaska_Land
For more information about all of my work, visit:
@ChinonyeC

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

the film festival circuit in review, part I (and more)

Oh, what a wonderfully exhausting two months it’s been! I’ve traveled to Montreal, Chicago, Indiana, Martha’s Vineyard, Iowa, Trenton and just down the street in my residence of Philadelphia, all for screenings of my film, ALASKLAND!

With every single screening, what gets me most excited is talking with and meeting people afterwards. And I’m not even particularly interested in talking with them about my film. I’m interested in where they came from and the experiences that have effected their viewpoints and the conversations we have. I’m interested in what they don’t say, and observing how they say the things that they do. I’m especially interested in talking with young people. I had the privilege and honor of interacting with students from Drake University and my alma mater, DePauw University. I had the opportunity to listen to them about their experiences and hopes for and trepidations about the future. Hearing these students reminded me that I’m living for more than just myself (which is a huge reason why I teach).

At almost every screening, Nigerians, Africans and other immigrants represented in the audience, and several of them told me they saw themselves in these characters I had created. Some recounted anecdotes of their own personal battles juggling cultural dichotomies. This was amazing to me: creating something that evoked emotion out of people, inspired them, made them think.

And even beyond connecting with strangers, I’ve been able to share each screening with different people from past and present, and that has been one of the most fulfilling rewards from this entire festival circuit experience. Any success I have is not in a vacuum; rather, they are a result of having lifelong communities of people that have affirmed me and/or supported me. So to be able to share such a momentous achievement with people I love and that love me, has, literally, brought me to tears.

That’s why when we bring the film home to Fairbanks, Alaska on December 7th, the screening will be extra special – I get to share it with my community.

These past two months, I’ve been privileged to connect with humanity in a way that has refocused me and my filmmaking. I’ve had to talk about my work in a philosophical way, dissecting the reasons why I want to tell the stories that I tell and their potential larger impact on society. I’ve also had the opportunity to interact with different kinds of art – paintings, sculptures, experimental films, photography, etc. – and a myriad of artists that have inspired me to experiment in different directions for my own films, and I’ve been doing just that these days.

I’ve been working on a few projects that you’ll be hearing about soon enough.

I’m excited about the work I’m creating now because they are drastically different than anything I’ve ever done before. The work I’m creating now represents a new chapter in my artistic development and storytelling, and I am so incredibly excited to share it with the world! (I was so excited a few nights ago, I, literally, couldn’t sleep!)

It’s an interesting experience being in the middle of the festival circuit with a feature film,  while working on several other film projects, especially when the latter are so drastically different than the feature. I’m in different phases for each project, so I constantly have to  readjust my frame of mind when working on them.

But in this very moment, I am very much present in my ALASKALAND journey. I have more festival and University screenings of the film to look forward to, as well as working to solidify a release sometime next year. As mentioned, we’ll be doing our big Alaska premier in December. We are dedicating the Fairbanks screening to Adrina Knutson, the ALASKALAND set designer and UAF film student who tragically passed away a few months ago. Our hearts are still heavy over her passing.

I am incredibly grateful to be having these opportunities to share my stories with pockets of the world. I look forward to bringing the film to my Alaskan family. I’m so excited to soon start talking about the new work I’ve been creating. I am in the most unbelievable amazing place in my journey right now, and what amazes me even more is that it’s only just begun.

Much, much, much more to come.  :)

 

Lovin’ the Energy in Philly!

 

Just Arriving in Chicago!

 

Having a Ball in Chi-Town!

 

Posing With An Amazing Filmmaker That Reps South Africa!

 

My DePauw Crew in the House!!

 

Drake University Students Representing!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

being excited, present and officially in the festival circuit!

Oh, how beautifully crazy it’s been this past month or so! Today, it was announced my film, ALASKALAND, is an official selection of the Chicago International Film Festival! I got the news when I had just gotten out of the subway in Philadelphia and, literally, did a happy dance up and down Girard Avenue! I’m so excited to screen the film at such a large venue, and now it’s time to make sure each screening is packed. That’s the part of the journey I’m on right now: getting the word out and exhibition. Next Friday, I’m headed to the Montreal International Black Film Festival, then Chicago, Trenton, a few Universities, and a few more (soon to be announced, I promise!). And while I’m so excited and thankful, I’ve had this moment where the excitement and buzz fall silent, and then the voice in my head says: Okay, now what?

It’s great to get into the festivals, you want to get into the festivals, but that opens up even more work to be done: marketing, publicity, finalizing film stills, press kits and bios, travel arrangements, fundraising, sorting through the barrage of emails from festival staff members and other folks. It’s a wonderful situation to be in, but if I’m not careful, I can easily lose myself to the overwhelming nature of it all and not truly be present in the experience.

One way I stay present is making sure I spend consistent time with my friends and talk to at least one family member each day, amid the hectic moment. Hearing my mom’s laughter, eating jaloff rice and cookies with my sister-friends, catching up with an old friend all bring me such incomparable joy and rootedness, that it’s easy to put this exciting time into perspective: I am honored and grateful about the journey ALASKALAND and my career are taking, but it means so, so much more when I can share it with my community.

So this is where I’m at now: my film, ALASKALAND, is officially in the festival circuit! It has been one lesson-filled journey that you will hopefully see the fruits of on a screen near you. Please join me in spreading the word about the film and its upcoming festival screenings (the list is below). Many more updates and exciting news to come. We’re still just getting started.

Montreal International Black Film Festival
September 28, 2012
Du Parc Cinema (3575 Park Avenue  Montreal, QC H2X3P9, Canada)
9:00 pm
DePauw University
October 9,  2012
Location and Time TBA
Chicago International Film Festival 
All screenings to take place at AMC River East 21 (322 E Illinois St  Chicago, IL 60610)
Saturday, October 13, 2012 – 6:15 pm
Sunday, October 14, 2012 – 5:30 pm
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 – 4:00 pm
Trenton International Film Festival
November 10, 2012
Mill Hill Playhouse (Front & Montgomery, Trenton, NJ 08608)
12:30pm

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

a meeting with my future self

Hello, future self.

I need you tell me that everything will be okay. That my nights of anxiety and panic are just an extension of my inconsistent faith that everything will be okay, more than okay, phenomenal even, as exemplified by you, future self.

You know, you look a lot different from what I thought you would be. I always thought you’d be so luxurious and slightly unobtainable. I pictured you winning awards and accolades, massive amounts of recognition and praise. You’d have a catalogue of films that have gone on to premier at topnotch festivals and win a plethora of awards. Money. Wealth, Power. I’ve always thought you have it all, future self, and I’ve wanted to be you so badly. I’ve wondered if I’d ever be you, or if you’ll always remain a fantasy, a benchmark for my own self-worth. But I’m looking at you now, and I don’t see any of those things. Maybe they’re still there. Maybe you’ve kept them hidden from me, because all you want me to see right now is your smile. You look so happy, future self. There’s a genuine joy that permeates from your very being. You know, come to think of it, I might be seeing your joy so clearly because I can sometimes recognize it in myself as well.  Yes, we have shared the same smile, except yours seems to be accompanied by a knowing wink…

Maybe we’re not so different after all, future self, and that the only difference between you and I is time. But the time between us just feels so vast. Or maybe, it’s not days or years that separates us, but an untamed imagination full of hopefulness and possibility, not burdened by my present desires to always compare myself to you, future self.

No, I don’t think we are that different, because the light I see in you, I’m seeing in myself. The love and community I see surrounding you, I see them in my life as well. It’s only that you’ve further cultivated these blessings, while I sometimes take them for granted.

Talking to you now does make me feel a little better, but if you don’t mind, I think I need to go now, because the more I keep talking to you, the more I’m ignoring my present self. However, I’m sure I’ll see reminders of you the moment I drop this pen, because my mother’s laughter, an embrace from my beloved, hours of conversations with my sister-friends, and the creativity needed to write these words are all a part of you – and I.

A part of me holds onto the way I had initially imagined you, and maybe a part of me always will; it certainly can be motivating. But I hope now that I’ve talked to you, it won’t be that imagined future self I run to during times of insecurity and rejection; rather, I’ll try to think about that smile and wink that seem to be telling me that everything is already okay.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

at the festival

I left for Martha’s Vineyard trying to release myself of any expectation, other than being fully present in the experience and engaging with as many people as possible about my film, ALASKALAND. While I feel successful about the latter, i think I was only truly present during the second half of the festival.

Here I was staying in a house that was just yards away from the beach. Fresh seafood vendors, and homemade ice cream and donut shops lined the cobblestone pathways. One morning, I actually dipped my feet in the vast, clear blue ocean, the only sounds being the peaceful sway of trees and birds laughing with one another. Yes, my body was in paradise, but my mind was still teetering in unmanaged expectations of the festival.

The first day I was in Martha’s Vineyard, my mind was stuck in thoughts and hopes of having this festival be an experience that will, in some way, advance my film professionally. But advancement looked very narrow to me at that time. It wasn’t until the day of my screening, when I met two fabulous women, that I was jolted back into a presentness that had only briefly escaped me.

My conversation with these two women started with me trying to help them with their camera, and it blossomed into a weekend of laughter, conversations and, hopefully, a budding friendship. Yes, they were there to watch my film and we had great conversations about it, but I like to think that we connected on a more personable level as well. My interaction with these phenomenal women showed me the joy that comes from being present, as well as the true gift that film festivals can provide, no matter how big or small: human connection. Once I lessened the grasp of professional expectation, I was truly able to be myself and allow people to connect with me as a human being. There were people who wanted to see my film, solely because they connected with my personality, far beyond that of a filmmaker. This experience reminded me of why I love to teach: because I get to be grounded in a level of reality that can be forgotten amid the hustle of an artist.

Now, I am by no means being naive to the professional possibilities and opportunities that festivals can provide. But I do think that if we focus solely on that element we risk losing connection to a realness that can be quite revitalizing, and probably just as important (and maybe even more so) than the professional opportunity we might solely be seeking.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to share my film with people, for the conversations and late-night chats I had with some of the most inspiring women I’ve met in a while, for the great films I watched, and for the ability to be present in this next leg of the ALASKALAND journey.

Check out even more pics from the event on the ALASKALAND facebook page. The film’s website (www.alaskalandmovie.com) will be updated with future screening dates in the near future.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

the premier

Yesterday, it was announced that my feature film, ALASKALAND, will premier at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. Since then, I have been basking in a barrage of warm congratulations and heightened anticipation. Undoubtedly, I’m excited and eager to begin sharing my film with the world, but I had a brief flashback last night of when I had mailed out my very first ALASKALAND screener copy to a festival late last year. This was not the journey I thought I would be on with the film, but I am so incredibly happy and honored that this is the path I’m about to take.

I remembered mailing my first screener copy, but I also thought about the pivotal lessons I’ve learned, since then, that have shaped my present perspective on my upcoming premier: no, this isn’t the journey I had initially thought I would take, but this is the journey I was meant to be on. 

Eight months ago, I would have been resistant to embracing any other path than what I had originally planned, but then I was forced to do so, and an unraveling within myself began; that’s when the lessons (and blessings) appeared. And yesterday, after my film was announced as an Official Selection, yet another lesson became clear to me: once I stopped trying to control my entire journey, other directions started to appear. I had to stop trying to get my film into that one festival, trying to get my film to have the same exact journey as other films before mine. I had to stop basing the success or worth of my film and myself upon whether my desires happened or not. Essentially, I had to let go. And once I let go, that’s when things started happening:  I received acceptances into this festival and others (I can’t reveal those details just yet!), as well as other nontraditional screening opportunities. But more importantly, I was happier and I lived life a lot lighter; I still worked as hard as I could, but after that I left things to the powers that be.

This is the journey I am supposed to be on right now, and I am embracing it to the fullest. I can’t wait to share my festival experiences with you all, and hope that you will take this journey with me. 

ALASKALAND will be premiering at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival on Friday, August 10th at 1:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center (100 Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road, OB)

www.mvaff.com

www.alaskalandmovie.com

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized