Spotted: Chloe Walters Wallace


Spotted: Chloe Walters Wallace

Sunday, March 22, 2020

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WHO: Chloe Walters Wallace

Manager of Artist Programmes

Firelight Media

Her back story...

I work on the artist support/industry side of documentary film, and am particularly dedicated to acting as a support system, learning space, and advocate for diverse film-makers across the country. I work to have diverse, independent film-makers' stories seen and heard by providing professional guidance, industry connections and opportunities, and more. But my love for documentary is the simple fact that I've always thought that real life, in all its glory and drama, is far more interesting than fiction. There are films and topics about moments in people's lives that I've seen that you couldn't make up even you if tried. My journey started at the Tribeca Film Institute in New York which is part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Then I previously led two programmes at the New Orleans Film Society — the Emerging Voices and Southern Producers Lab programmes. So I've been committed to advocating for underrepresented voices for most of my working life.

... & educational background

I attended graduate school at University College London in Material & Visual Anthropology which is a very long-winded way of saying I studied the way people interact with objects, visual mediums, art and the digital world to create culture and ways of being.

She's based in New Orleans because...

New Orleans is an incredible place, very similar to Jamaica in that it's a very, very vibrant, deeply cultural, very proud place. So I gravitated towards it immediately.

Projects she's currently working on...

I manage 24 film-makers right now, each at different stages of working on their projects which tell unique, fascinating perspectives of international or American life. We pride ourselves at Firelight on supporting a range of topics from historical to experimental, personal to social justice. For instance, I'm very, very proud that in our 2019 cohort we were able to support our very first Jamaican film-maker, Sasha Gay Lewis, whose documentary focuses on our local Schools' Challenge Quiz! On the other end of the spectrum, we're also supporting an African-American film-maker named Dru Holley, who is telling the untold history of the buffalo soldiers in the Pacific Northwest.

On people of colour telling their own stories...

The documentary space largely focuses on telling the stories of the underrepresented, but rarely offers the opportunity to put those same people in a position to make decisions for themselves or their communities. Firelight has been an incredible support system, learning space, and advocate for diverse film-makers across the country, for decades, who are making the effort to tell the stories often from their own communities. We've been supporting and cultivating film-makers at the beginning of their careers, who are now at the top of the game. Our film-makers have won Emmys, Peabodys, Oscar nominations… all of it.

As a Jamaican, coming from a country which has often had distorted narratives out in the world about who and what you are, I've always been a proponent of supporting those who wish to tell their own story. The stories we tell, whether negative or positive, can define a nation, a people, or a life. Whether we realise it or not, stories can have all sorts of political, social or economic ramifications. Colonial powers tell themselves a story about who or what another country is in order to subjugate and retain power. Same thing applies to people. So any chance I can give someone to push back against that narrative, I'm for it!

Her film documentary inspirations...

... In terms of veteran documentary film-makers, my boss and founder of Firelight, Stanley Nelson, is a big one. In graduate school I was introduced to the autobiographical films by Ross McElwee, another veteran who's been making work since the 70s. There's really cool animation coming out of Brazil, specifically Guaxuma by Nara Normande which is free-to-watch on Vimeo online. I'm also very inspired by emerging film-makers who work in a more experimental form and all happen to be black women — Garrett Bradley, Ja'tovia Gary, Jenn Nkiru from the UK, and fellow Jamaican Keisha Rae Witherspoon, who's mockumentary T was screened at the Portie film festival and just won the Golden Bear at Berlinale!! Keisha is co-founder and also part of a collective I really admire called Third Horizon, out of Miami. They host a Caribbean-focused film festival every year which is a MUST for me, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

Her all-time fave documentary is...

Time by Garrett Bradley. You have to see it.

The subject of her own documentary would be...

I've actually been working on a short about the artist David Marchand for a very long time, which I hope to complete this year. But more than anything it's a personal goal of mine to make sure more Caribbean-focused documentaries get out into the world from the entire region and diaspora.

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