Writer, director and producer Chyna Robinson has found success in North Texas' growing movie making scene.
Robinson on the set of "No Ordinary Love."
No Ordinary Love takes on the cycles of domestic violence.
Chyna Robinson's first feature length film will have two screenings at Coyote Drive-In.
Chyna Robinson is a Fort Worth-based writer, director, and producer. Yes, that’s a thing ― thanks to the growing film industry in North Texas.
Her most recent movie, No Ordinary Love, has racked up nominations and awards on the international film festival circuit this year. The film premiered at Indie Memphis Film Festival, where it won Audience Choice in October 2019, followed by similar honors in 2020 at Atlanta’s BronzeLens Film Festival, the Worldwide Women’s Film Festival, and the Nice International Film Festival.
It also garnered praise at the American Black Film Festival.
No Ordinary Love, which was shot entirely in Fort Worth in 2018, is coming back home after its successful six-month festival run for a special two-night-only screening in October. It’s a chilling look at the reality of domestic violence through the cinematic lens, following two couples as their relationships take a manipulative and violent turn.
Robinson’s first feature film will be making its limited theatrical release debut at Fort Worth’s Coyote Drive-In on Saturday and Sunday, October 24 and 25. The Coyote Drive-In screenings will be held in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, with ticket proceeds benefiting SafeHaven of Tarrant County. (Get ticketing information here.)
The idea for the film is linked to SafeHaven in hopes of raising awareness of domestic violence and the resources to escape it. Chyna Robinson first met Tracy Rector by chance while shooting her short film Greenwood:13 Hours, which debuted in 2017.
“The story was set in 1921, and I needed a historic home in Fort Worth of that period to shoot in,” Robinson tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “After that, we stayed in touch.”
Rector, who serves as executive producer of No Ordinary Love, was also the past board chair of SafeHaven Tarrant County. She was trying to think of ways to get the word out about the resources and support available to men and women who find themselves in abusive relationships. While pondering putting billboards on the side of buses, Rector had a better idea and contacted Robinson to write and direct a feature-length film instead.
“When I went into it, all I knew was the physical side of abuse. And like so many people … I just thought, ‘Why doesn’t he or she just leave?’” Robinson says. “Through my research, I came to realize that I had been manipulated in past relationships, and about the mind games that are played. I didn’t know that abuse has so many layers, and came to understand that this issue is far more complex.
“Abuse doesn’t have a face. It’s not about color, gender, age, education or income level ― it’s about power and control.”
Robinson’s movie explores many of these different aspects of abusive relationships, from spiritual and physical abuse to emotional abuse. Robinson explores cycles of abuse and violence that are often more confusing and manipulative than cut-and-dry. These cycles swing between feeling loving and normal at times to becoming progressively more violent and dangerous.
It’s like falling down a rabbit hole and not realizing the danger until you find yourself trapped. Sometimes the only resolution is a safe exit from the relationship, and that’s what organizations like SafeHaven are all about.
As you might expect, there has been a huge spike in domestic violence nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shutdowns. Many men and women have been isolated, alone with their abuser. During that time, calls to domestic violence shelters dropped significantly. Then, in April, domestic homicide rates jumped dramatically.
In Tarrant County alone, there have been 15 domestic violence fatalities since March. By contrast, there were none in 2020 before that and only eight such incidents in the entire year of 2019. That’s why the message of No Ordinary Love resonates so powerfully.
A graduate of Fort Worth’s Southwest High School, Chyna Robinson stuck around close to home for her undergraduate studies. She was a double major in both English and radio, film and television at TCU.
“I didn’t know that it was possible for me to be a filmmaker,” she tells PaperCity. “The most I hoped for was to possibly teach English, but somehow I got the crazy idea to go for it, and I started writing screenplays.”
In 2019 Robinson was honored at SXSW as a Female Filmmaker to Watch by Film Fort Worth. She hopes to continue pursuing her dreams in her own hometown.
“There are a lot of things in motion, but it’s still difficult to maneuver and get permits to shoot in our area,” she says. “The Fort Worth Film Commission and the city are trying to create new opportunities, and to make Fort Worth filmmaker-friendly.”
Chyna Robinson hopes to make all of her work during quarantine pay off. “I have two feature films, one short film, and a pilot for a sitcom ready to go,” she says.
But first, more limited releases are in the works for No Ordinary Love ― at least a handful will be scheduled across the nation in the coming weeks. The voice of an important movie — and an important rising filmmaker — is being heard.