Find the Elephant in a Virtual Table Read for a New Austin Film
Chinwe Okorie uses childhood embarrassment for her latest short
By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Feb. 12, 2021
Ever wanted to sit in on a movie table read? That's when the cast and crew sit down together and perform the script, often for the first time ever. Now's your chance, as Austin filmmaker Chinwe Okorie will be hosting a virtual table read for her upcoming short film "Elephant" via Zoom, and you're all invited.
The event will feature an introduction to the cast and crew, that table read of the script (which she described as drily funny in the same way as The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos' works), and a special screening of the animated concept trailer, "Just so people can hear the story, and hear the inspiration for this dark homily," said Okorie.
There will also be a special Q&A with a mental health specialist, which is important to Okorie as the story she retells in "Elephant" goes back to a strange moment in her own childhood. A Black immigrant from Nigeria, she found herself in a predominantly white school. She made a friend, who admitted to her that she was going through a lot of home stresses, before revealing a dark secret: something that, as an 11-year-old dealing with her own complicated life as an outsider at a new school, went completely over Okorie's head. "A normal person would freak out," she said, "But I heard it as, 'Well, I'll see you tomorrow!' ... I didn't pin together what the impact of what her words were."
The fallout from that conversation, and how it pivotally affected Okorie's new life in a new school, spills out in "Elephant." However, the filmmaker had completely forgotten about it until two years ago, when she took an improv class. "The topic thrown at me was 'The most embarrassing thing you did in sixth grade,' and this memory came at me like a bulldozer." Initially, she blanched at recounting this incident, because it contained so many complex and embarrassing emotions. "I thought everyone was going to judge me, but as I was telling the story they were laughing – not rolling on the floor but this nervous chuckle, like, 'Oh, my god, what the hell?'" That's when she realized: "This could be a dark comedy. Let me store this information, this experience that I'm having."
Okorie wrote the script as a distraction while she was working on her last short, "Lovebites." That film was supposed to screen at SXSW 2020 as part of the Austin Film Society Showcase. When the festival was canceled, she was left at a loose end until a friend, fellow filmmaker B.B. Araya, convinced her to submit her short to Issa Rae: The Insecure star loved it, and hosted it on her YouTube channel as part of her Sunday Shorts series. Now, after the same brief production lull that hit every filmmaker during the pandemic, Okorie is busier than ever on a list of projects, including editing two films for other directors, plus a third project for a friend, all while prepping "Elephant." An AFS grant in December meant she could greenlight production, and she finalized her casting at the end of January, with filming set for May. "It's fun to be busy this way," said Okorie, "because at least I'm doing things that I actually want to do."
Addressing the Elephant: A Virtual Table Read presented by the Austin Revitalization Authority,
Sat., Feb. 20, 7pm. Due to the weather and power outages, the reading has been rescheduled for Sat. March. 6, 7pm. RSVP at www.eventbrite.com.
The producers are still fundraising for the production, and you can become a backer here.