Born to Guyanese parents, award-winning filmmaker Karen Chapman is committed to honing her craft as a storyteller. She is an alumnus of Emily Carr University, the Banff Centre, Women in the Director Chair, the CaribbeanTales Incubator, the HotDocs Accelerator and TIFF Talent Lab and the TIFF 2020 Accelerator.
Chapman’s CBC Short Doc, Walk Good won WIFT - Toronto’s 2017 Audience Choice Award at their annual Showcase and her short, Lesson Injustice won the Best Screenplay Award the year after. In 2018, she completed the Cineplex Film Program - Directors’ Lab at the Canadian Film Centre and was named Chapman one of the “5 Filmmakers to Watch” by Playback Magazine. Chapman’s love story, Essequibo Rapture, won the Caribbean Film Academy’s International Screenplay Competition and it received funding from Bell Media’s, Harold Greenberg, Shorts to Feature Fund. Her VR experience, They Should be Flowers, premiered at HotDocs and was nominated for a Canada Screen Award for Best Immersive Non-Fiction. And her short Measure, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019, where it won the International Hollywood Foreign Press Award and Residency at the 2020, Golden Globe Awards.
Chapman is currently preparing to shoot her first feature film, Village Keeper through Telefilm Canada’s Talent Program.
Check out our Exclusive Interview with the Trailblazer Below
Q: What Drives you?
Becoming a better storyteller.
Q: Is there a theme in the work you pick?
Loss, dignity, joy. I’m always chasing these themes somehow.
Q: Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?
I’ve work very hard to be lucky.
Q: Who impacted your career the most?
My little one. She looks at me with eyes of wonder and expects me to do the right thing. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my Mom always pushes me to strive for better.
Q: How did you build the team around you?
I’m still building but a practical method that I use is to remember the nuances of the film and each department while reading the credits and approach them. Sometimes it works out but for whatever reason if it doesn’t, there’s no harm in trying.
Q: Did you ever give up hope that you’d not make it?
A few years ago, after trying for years I quit. But before I did, I completed my first feature script and applied for as many as grants as I could. I was in my second job interview for a costumer service job when I found out that the script I wrote was awarded Telefilm Micro-budget grant.
Q: What was your worst experience in this business?
I’ve learned a great deal even from not so great experiences. Nothing is for nought.
Q: What was your best
experience in this business?
Last year we filmed in Guyana and as I called cut in a scene, I made eye contact with a little girl in a school uniform, wearing the biggest smile. In that moment, possibilities felt endless. It was one of the best moments in my career so far.
Q: Advice to someone just starting out?
Find community and form creative alliances to achieve one another’s goals.
Q: How was Reelworld instrumental in your career?
Dr Oliver Winters. I used to pretend that I asn’t looking when my granny watched, The Young and the Restless. But seeing a Black woman on screen, around an ensemble cast of other Black actors who had their own storylines throughout the series, was a window for me.
I’m deeply inspired by Tonya Lee Williams and her vision for creating space for the past 20 years.