By Rebecca Martin Fagerholm

This article is a follow-up interview with Linh Tran and McKenzie Chinn, previously interviewed for The Call Sheet Vol. 1. To read those interviews, click here! Our 2nd edition of The Call Sheet is coming November 16th! Keep your eyes peeled for more updates on the release, and be sure to keep up with The Ambassador Chronicles and Cinema Femme.

“I hope that whoever watches VIDEO FUNERAL could be moved - moving people emotionally from tears to laughter and then into action… that’s my entire mission as a filmmaker.” -Linh Tran

“As America continues to struggle toward gender and racial justice, the experience of young Black women within these narratives is too often just a footnote. With A REAL ONE, I want to bring them and all their potential and flaws and humor and truth to the forefront.” -McKenzie Chinn

In honor of this month’s Chicago International Film Festival that wrapped up on Sunday, October 22nd, THE CALL SHEET followed up with two filmmakers whose shorts were part of the festival’s City & State Shorts Block. These filmmakers, McKenzie Chinn (A REAL ONE) and Linh Tran (VIDEO FUNERAL), had their short films featured in THE CALL SHEET Volume 1. McKenzie would go on to win the CIFF Gold Hugo for the Live Action Short Film Competition, and Linh Tran’s short won Camera Ambassador’s 2022 Community Builders Grant. On another note, Linh’s feature film, WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO CHANGE, is now streaming after a successful theatrical run. A REAL ONE is coming to the end of its festival run which kicked off at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles back in February, and will end at the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago next month. VIDEO FUNERAL is just getting started with their festival run, and the Chicago International Film Festival was her second festival screening the film.

As this year has been a hard one for the industry with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, McKenzie and Linh are emerging on strong paths despite the obstacles. Linh won Slamdance’s Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature for WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO CHANGE in January. McKenzie has been working with the Sundance Institute labs to adapt A REAL ONE into a feature. For me, Chinn and Tran are two of the most exciting emerging filmmakers working right now.

I asked both of them to expand on the quotes seen above. McKenzie shared, “Regardless of background, I feel the film is incredibly relatable to a lot of people. And of course, being a Black woman in the world is the lens in which I experience my life,” and, “I paved my way into filmmaking as an actor, and I was constantly disappointed about what was available to me for roles. They felt flat, were lacking in dimension, and were not particularly interesting to me. I just thought, ‘Well I’ll be a part of the solution to that.’” Linh went deep with me in her quote: “That’s my biggest concern is to be able to make movies that move people. It could be just moving from one emotional state to another, like when you become angry or become happy or sad. That’s the definition of moving for me.”

A still from Linh Tran's Waiting for the Light to Change.

I talked to both filmmakers about women who’ve been supportive and inspirational to each other’s careers. I talked about Sam Bailey with McKenzie: “Sam and I have known each other for a really long time. We met maybe ten years ago now. We were both doing theater in Chicago as part of the storefront scene.” I had interviewed Sam for Volume 2 of THE CALL SHEET, coming out next month, and I could see how their paths parallel one another, “We were just two Black women in Chicago who had done a lot of theatre but were figuring out this other form of artistry based on what we already had available to us. Neither of us went to film school. We just had an idea and started to learn how to build it from the ground up. I feel that we found a lot of camaraderie around that.”

A still from McKenzie Chinn's A Real One

For Linh, her friend Hannah Schierbeek has been supportive to her projects, and produced VIDEO FUNERAL. “I love Hannah. I rely on her so much for basically everything for this project. We went to the premiere of the film together at the Ouray International Film Festival, and we spent like five days at the mounds together. It was so cute.” Both Linh and Hannah support each other’s projects, and they have a production company together with Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan, who did THE HEADHUNTER’S DAUGHTER, called Prima Materia Pictures. With their production company, their mission is to put the filmmakers first, as it is filmmaker-run. Linh said, “We wanted to use the company as a collective of filmmakers who put movies together, and that’s it.”

Filmmaker McKenzie Chinn.

When I asked Linh about the life of her short, the thing she ended with was how the short is deepening her relationship with her family. “The way I grew up is we didn’t talk about a lot of things like grief. It’s not really a common thing to talk about” she continued. “I was really nervous to show VIDEO FUNERAL to my mom and my sister. Although it’s sad, they really liked it. We talked about it and my mom thought it was very moving too.” 

Filmmaker Linh Tran.

And McKenzie, who has slowed things down with her feature work in the midst of the strikes, talked proudly about her SAG-AFTRA family, as she is also a member of that union. She said, “I know that we’re going to win because I feel that the vast majority of actors are used to being able to work things out. We’re used to having to be able to improvise. Actors are also teachers and restaurant workers, and we have many other kinds of ways of supplementing our income. So we know how to be scrappy, we know how to figure it out, and we know how to survive. I think that’s the thing that the studios weren’t necessarily counting on.” 

I feel that we are entering into a new dawn of the film industry, and I’m so happy that McKenzie Chinn and Linh Tran are part of it.

Rebecca Martin Fagerholm is the Editor in Chief and Founder of Cinema Femme, and co-publisher of The Call Sheet. The second volume of The Call Sheet is coming soon! Stay tuned for more information and be sure to check out Volume 1!