McKenzie Chinn Selected for Geena Davis' Bentonville Fellowship

McKenzie Chinn Selected for Geena Davis' Bentonville Fellowship

Eight female filmmakers have been selected to take part in an inaugural development program with Geena Davis' Bentonville Film Foundation, as part of an initiative to foster voices from underrepresented groups. One of those eight filmmakers is Chicago's McKenzie Chinn.

The See It, Be It Filmmaker Fellowship, a joint program between Bentonville and the Coca-Cola Foundation, offers a yearlong program for eight Bentonville Film Festival alumni, who will receive resources from the industry. Chinn debuted at Davis' Bentonville fest as the lead actor in the Chicago-made drama OLYMPIA.

"Being a part of this program means that there are folks out there who not only care about, but are willing to champion the work of women filmmakers," Chinn told SCREEN. "The obstacles on the road to getting a project made, let alone gaining traction, can feel insurmountable. This is amplified when you’re a woman, doubly so as a filmmaker of color. Being a part of this reminds me that my voice, and the voices of others like me have absolute value, impact, and are deserving of support."

McKenzie Chinn in the Director's Chair

This fellowship will serve as a catalyst for Chinn developing her short film A REAL ONE, which will be her narrative directorial debut. In it, two teenage best friends living on Chicago’s south side face consequences after an illicit secret is discovered. After the short, Chinn and her team plan to develop the story into a feature.

"A REAL ONE speaks to the ways in which many of our youth, especially young women, are not granted the social support structures that should protect them and allow them to reach their greatest potential," Chinn explained to SCREEN. "When we aren’t given what we need to thrive, we find ways to cultivate it - for better or for worse - within our communities and friendships. The teen girls in A REAL ONE do just that. It’s a microcosmic story about survival and the saving grace of friendship."

What's Next

The eight fellows will be recognized at the annual Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas, which is set to run April 29-May 2. Meanwhile, Chinn and her fellow filmmakers will be collaborating from various corners of the U.S. via monthly conferences, filmmaker retreats and additional development opportunities as part of the fellowship.

Final words from the founder Geena Davis herself regarding this initiative: “​When the images we see in our daily lives don’t reflect the real world, a powerful and unconscious bias is perpetuated," Davis said in a statement. "...The Bentonville Film Festival Foundation is proud to accelerate change by amplifying intersectional female voices, addressing pipeline issues and providing support that is both creative and financial.”

Check back with SCREEN for updates as McKenzie continues her journey with the Bentonville Film Foundation Fellowship and heads into production on her directorial debut, A REAL ONE.