There’s a lot that has changed in the film world. One of the most exciting times for a filmmaker is getting into festivals and reading critics’ reviews of their films. But, now with COVID-19, that all seemed to pivot. I caught up with SAG-AFTRA Chicago Local President, Charles Andrew Gardner (OLYMPIA, THE CHI, CHICAGO PD) about his latest work, writing, producing and starring in the short, LONG RIDE HOME and how he’s staying creative during social distancing.
LONG RIDE HOME makes its U.S. Premiere this weekend via online streaming at the Oscar-qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival, on the heels of a North American Premiere at the Toronto Black Film Festival. The short film that takes place in the south side of Chicago, where two Black men have a brief conversation in a rideshare and one of them realizes how hard it is to escape their challenging circumstances.
It was shot on the same street where Gardner grew up, which was symbolic in a way. Though short, the film is quite profound and speaks to Black upward mobility.
“It’s about the Black duality in Chicago. Two Black men somewhere along the line, their paths have become so separate,” Gardner says.
He described the film as a memo to self and drew inspiration from Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” which is a viewpoint on human connection and how we should care for each other. “Plato says the job of the unchained is to go back into the cave and unchain as many people as they can,” Gardner describes. In the same light, LONG RIDE HOME looks at general platitudes like “everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” and rather encourages a greater sense of self and community. By acknowledging systematic and institutional oppression and racism, “Long Ride Home” calls for the dire need and responsibility to help others, no matter how far or not you succeed in life.
Film Festivals and Next Steps
This is a difficult time for a lot of artists. Gardner recognized this saying,”Even if no one sees our work, our work has merit, we’re on to something, and this is just the beginning.”
LONG RIDE HOME is currently streaming for Ohio residents as part of the 44th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival, April 15-28, click here for the live stream. Looking ahead, the film is also an official selection at Capital City Film Festival, Twister Alley Film Festival, Fear No Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Southeast Regional Film Festival, and the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, which has pushed their dates to June 17-21.
“I think it’s really important for us to really remember that our creativity is not solely connected to our careers. We are still artists and creatives and capable of making our art pivot and change,” Gardner shared.
Gardner is the SAG-AFTRA Chicago Local President, where he is now on a lot of Zoom calls, assisting actors across the city. He also teaches On-Camera Acting at the Acting Studio Chicago and is a company member at TimeLine Theater Company. Upcoming, Gardner is back on stage in Chicago later this fall. He also is writing another short film, a relationship drama inspired by social distancing, that he hopes to film this fall.
Amanda Elliott covers the TV and Film scene for Screen Magazine. She works alongside independent filmmakers as the Marketing Manager for Questar Entertainment, a film and TV production and distribution company, and its subsidiaries, GoTraveler and Cow Lamp Films.