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  • Writer's pictureHarlem Film House

Culture Spotlight Featuring Chauncey Johnson

Chauncey Johnson is an actor, writer, and director, who has appeared on NBC's Shades of Blue, Hulu's Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and BET's Soul Santa. After starting out as a sketch writer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Chauncey wrote and produced his first project, the political satire sketch CAWG Sketch followed by the short film Hope Is Not A Dream. Recently completing And Then There Was Damien, which was inspired by mental health awareness and social injustice, Chauncey has written another short film about education and anxiety called Control. When he’s not creating his own work or acting in others, you can find him training in martial arts or debating movies and TV shows with friends.

How was your experience at the Hip Hop Film Festival?

I can’t really express how amazing it was to be a part of the Hip Hop Film Festival, this festival was definitely different from other festivals. The hybrid functionality of the festival being in person and online was really intriguing but the opening night was probably one of the best opening night events. Playing movies at the Alamo Drafthouse and the quality of the films was bar to none. Another really cool event was the trailer party, now I’ll admit I wish the trailer party was in person so that we could have met one another in person but I understand because of the way things are going in society it is necessary to take safety seriously. Our award-winning short film And Then There Was Damien played virtually and it was an experience that many people all over the world could experience without having to be in New York to see our film.

Why are stories from the culture important?

There are so many film festivals that showcase a lot of great films from some really good filmmakers, but there’s a disconnect. Films that show the culture, our culture, need to be celebrated. For far too long the film industry has been telling people of color that “your stories are not bankable”, “people don’t want to see this or that” , and to be honest a lot of other film festivals follow that ideology. The Hip Hop Film Festival is changing that in a way where we have a safe space to tell our stories, whatever they may be. Our film, And Then There Was Damien, talked about mental health through the inspiration of two songs from the late legendary rapper DMX, other films showed the emotional toll the death of young black men has on our people, how Barbers are everything to some of us. There were stories that played to the darkest areas of our minds and others that made you realize happiness comes in different forms. We need to see more stories telling a wide range of the things we feel and go through in the culture and for the culture.

What projects are you working on now?

My team Alpha Stella Productions is working on creating a series out of another award-winning short film we produced last year called Control. This project explores the connections between mental health and societal issues. We’re also working on a full-feature film about interracial dating in a modern-day exploration of how the old unwritten rules of our society may still affect interracial dating in the present day.

What do you think the future holds for the Hip Hop Film Festival and our stories?

I think the Hip Hop Film Festival will continue to grow bigger and bigger. As technology advances and how we watch content these days change, I can see this festival being something that everyone can experience. Maybe in the future this festival could broadcast itself on streaming services or even create its own streaming service where our content can live. I see our stories becoming more personal and engaging as we tell our stories without having to think “I need to make this acceptable by Hollywood’s standards.” This festival will launch some major careers in the future if it hasn't already.

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