Rising Star Chyna Robinson: “Don’t listen to all of the noise coming at you; Even when you don’t have the most experience in the room, trust your instincts”

Authority Magazine
Sep 22, 2020 · 9 min read

I learned this pretty quickly, but I wish someone had told me that, even when you don’t have the most experience in the room, trust your instincts. Don’t listen to all of the noise coming at you. Don’t change your vision to accommodate someone else’s. I’ve worked on projects where my decisions were questioned and, because I was the least experienced, I allowed myself to be swayed, and the project suffered for it. Advice is a guide. It is not a mandate. Certainly, there will be some that know more than you. Listen to what they have to say and then figure out what is best for the film.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Director, Producer and Writer, Chyna Robinson. She made her short film debut in 2017 with Greenwood:13 Hours, which won multiple awards including 3 Best Short Film awards, Best Actor and Actress, Best Edit, 2 Best Sound Design, and others.

Chyna was honored at SXSW as a “Female Filmmaker to Watch” by Film Fort Worth. She has also been seen on prime news segments on the CW network in Orlando, Florida and on Live at 9 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Robinson’s debut narrative feature film, “No Ordinary Love,” is a romantic thriller that has resonated with audiences all over the country, winning multiple “Audience Choice Awards,” “Best Film,” “Best Screenplay,” and other awards for editing and acting.

In addition to narrative projects, Chyna has worked as a director on several commercial projects and has recently crossed over into writing for television.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I had the best childhood! I grew up in a small neighborhood with a fairly large family, according to today’s standards. I lived with my parents, and 3 siblings. My older sister and neighbor were my best friends. We rode bikes and played kickball and watched movies, or I created plays for our parents to watch.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I knew, from a very young age, that I wanted to create worlds of my own. I watched movies like “The Last Dragon,” and “NeverEnding Story” on repeat, but it was my first visit to the movie theater that did it for me. We saw “The Golden Child,” with Eddie Murphy. There was action and special effects, which I thought was magic, and it was both funny and intense. The audience reacted to every scene and I knew then, I HAD to make movies.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was location scouting for my first short film, and I needed a house built in the early 1900s that was still in good shape. We couldn’t afford to pay for a house through a film commission. I looked on Zillow and found the perfect house. We called up the owner and asked if we could use her house and, without much thought, she said yes. Apparently, after she and I hung up, her husband asked her what kind of movie I was filming and she didn’t know. He said, “What if it’s an ‘adult’ film?” She called me right back. LOL. It wasn’t. This owner and I kept in touch and she and I became very good friends. As fate would have it, she is the executive producer on my debut feature film, “No Ordinary Love.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I actually started writing and directing for stage. Because of time constraints, I decided that we just needed a quick technical walkthrough to make sure the mics were fine on all parts of the stage. The lights were all working and we were ready to go. What I forgot to do, was change the batteries in my walkie. During the show, there was supposed to be a quick fade as someone was climbing into bed with someone else. Then the time came, and the lights didn’t go out, so the actor had to keep going. This was NOT an R-rated show, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. The lights just weren’t working on that side of the stage. The tech didn’t know whether to black the entire stage or not so he left everything on (which is where a tech run would’ve helped). Of course, I’m in front of the stage and the light tech is in the booth. My walkie was dead and I ended up standing and waving my arms like a madman to get his attention. I never ran a show, or started a shoot without testing all equipment and making sure the batteries were fully powered.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am working on two feature scripts right now. One is a Sci-Fi Fantasy. Most of my film work has been for an older audience, so it was time to change that up. I’ve imagined new worlds and characters; all of the things that enticed me to make films in the first place, and I’m just really excited about that.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

There are hundreds of reasons why diverse representation in film and television, as well as every other industry, is important. People of color and women have been excluded from the film industry since its inception. The voices behind the camera, as well as the faces in front, should represent the world which, as we are all aware, is not a majority white male. Every voice is valuable and adds something special. Really, we should be asking why diversity and inclusion in film are still being discussed in 2020. If the entertainment industry was inclusive, with diverse stories and experiences with a fresh lens, film culture would be so vibrant.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone told me that it was okay to get a ‘no.’ I made my first short film and began submitting to festivals. I got into the first festival and won Best Short. I got another acceptance email and another win. Then I got a rejection email. Then I got another, and then another. It crushed me. I didn’t know how to deal with rejection. I’ve always received encouragement and I’d not really gotten a ‘no’ before. I wish someone told me that a ‘no’ didn’t mean that my work was bad, or even that it wasn’t good enough. It just meant my work was not a fit for that opportunity.

I learned early on that you get what you pay for. It wasn’t when I first started though. I wish someone impressed the importance of that idea upon me. When starting out, producing independently came with a “rock soup” budget. Instead of spending money on staff, I tried to do everything myself. I never slept, my eating habits were terrible, and my light started to dim. Without the project suffering, I had to figure out how to sacrifice something to make sure I had to help I needed. This has made a huge difference, although I still don’t sleep much.

Setting boundaries is something that I was terrible at. I wanted to be friends with everyone I worked with, and I wanted to be available to talk whenever they called. Actors would call at midnight to talk about their marriage, or they wanted to grab a drink between shows. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt. I had to learn to how to set boundaries. I’m always kind and respectful, but I’m no longer having midnight conversations with everyone on set.

I wish I would’ve known that it was okay to take a break. Once I started, I kept going. For several years, I worked non-stop. Finally, my dad called me up and told me to stop and smell the roses. Things were going well but I never celebrated any project because it was always ‘on to the next!’ That made all the difference in my latest project. With “No Ordinary Love,” I celebrated each small victory. After it was finished, I gave myself time to step back and really appreciate that we’d made this great thing.

I learned this pretty quickly, but I wish someone had told me that, even when you don’t have the most experience in the room, trust your instincts. Don’t listen to all of the noise coming at you. Don’t change your vision to accommodate someone else’s. I’ve worked on projects where my decisions were questioned and, because I was the least experienced, I allowed myself to be swayed, and the project suffered for it. Advice is a guide. It is not a mandate. Certainly, there will be some that know more than you. Listen to what they have to say and then figure out what is best for the film.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Self-care is huge for me. Being creative is not for the faint of heart. You have to be able to unplug when you need to, and really take care of yourself. Just stepping away, if even for a day, can be an enormous help for avoiding burning out.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Take the Leap! There are so many talented people afraid to chase their dreams because they’re afraid of failure. You have one life to live. We live in a time with 24-hour masterclass access to almost any career path. Equip yourself with knowledge and fly!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are several people that have been instrumental in me being able to do what I do. My parents, my amazing husband, my family, and my friend/executive producer for “No Ordinary Love,” have all stepped in to make sure I had what I needed, whether that be a listening ear, the voice of encouragement, someone to share the workload with, or just someone to have coffee with. I’m grateful for them all. There is one person, though, that saw something in me, and took me under his wing. I was fortunate to get a mentor before I even knew that I needed one. There are things that he shared with me, that I still carry.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never let fear decide your future.” It’s hard to put yourself in front of others to be judged. For me, it would have been harder not to. Taking the leap was the best thing I’ve ever done; not the easiest, but certainly the best. I’m living my life like it’s the only one I’ll have.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Just one? I’d have to say Denzel Washington. He seems to have so much wisdom and advice to share about the film industry and life in general.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can find me on Twitter and IG @ChynaWrites. My latest project is on Twitter @NOLMovie, and on IG and Facebook @NoOrdinaryLoveMovie

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Authority Magazine

Written by

Good stories should feel beautiful to the mind, heart, and eyes

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Authority Magazine

Written by

Good stories should feel beautiful to the mind, heart, and eyes

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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