Find the Elephant in a Virtual Table Read for a New Austin Film

Chinwe Okorie uses childhood embarrassment for her latest short


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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Naked City
How Medical Cannabis Provider Compassionate Cultivation Is Adapting to COVID-19
How Medical Cannabis Provider Compassionate Cultivation Is Adapting to COVID-19
Ineligible for federal aid, Compassionate Cultivation adjusts to a new paradigm: more deliveries and less contact

Kevin Curtin, May 1, 2020

Asian American Resource Center Fosters Community for Older Adults During Stay-at-Home
Asian American Resource Center Fosters Community for Older Adults During Stay-at-Home
Seniors encouraged to share family memories with online story project

Beth Sullivan, May 1, 2020

More by Richard Whittaker
Riley Stearns Helps Karen Gillan Look Herself in the Eye in <i>Dual</i>
Riley Stearns Helps Karen Gillan Look Herself in the Eye in Dual
Riley Stearns' new sci-fi drama makes its world premiere at Sundance

Jan. 21, 2022

Marc Maron, Nikki Glaser Headlining Inaugural Moontower Just for Laughs Festival
Marc Maron, Nikki Glaser Headlining Inaugural Moontower Just for Laughs Festival
Amped-up comedy fest adds over 100 comics and podcasts

Jan. 19, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Naked City, Chinwe Okorie, AFS Grants, Elephant

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle