Recently I published an article called “Wanted: More Women Behind the Scenes in Entertainment Media.” It’s great. I’m super proud of it. I shared it with everyone I know. It made me feel smugly satisfied with myself. I definitely felt like I’d done my good deed for feminism for the day. Then I logged onto Twitter. 

Still basking in the afterglow of my own cleverness, I paused when I saw this tweet from Chelsea Peretti, a star of the brilliant and inclusive Brooklyn Nine-Nine:

But, like I said– I had already done my bit. I scrolled on. 

I paused longer. I really *am* sick of non-intersectional feminism. But… I had already done my good deed! I scrolled on.

Dang. You got me, Chelsea. End smugness. Begin effort to score an interview with director Tchaiko Omawale to talk about the film Chelsea has been tweet-shouting about, Solace.

Tchaiko OmawaleThe good news is that Tchaiko was extremely nice and eager to talk about her project. I talked to her about what she’s doing and why she’s doing it this way at this time, and she laid it all out. 

Leona Laurie: Why *this* story?
Tchaiko Omawale: There were two stories I wanted to tell when I was thinking about my first feature! A narrative fantasy film based on my short experimental film, Sita, and then Solace, a film about a Black girl who is dealing with a hidden eating disorder. I thought it would be really hard to raise the budget needed for the fantasy so I went with the smaller personal story, yup fairies are also super personal to me LOL.

LL: Why now?
TO: Honestly it’s not now. Most artists have been working years and years before people really know about them or the work.

The film took me three years to complete – well maybe four if you consider that my first crowdfunding campaign was in 2014 and I shot the film in 2015! But what is so beautiful about NOW vs when I started is that I have seen a lot more discourse around eating disorders and POC and a movement amongst Black folks and POC that considers Self-Care as radically central to our liberation. We have a long way to go to dispel myths around mental health and stereotypes around Eating Disorders, but I’ve seen progress since I first made my short film Solace in 2012, to when I kickstarted the feature film Solace in 2014 to now when shows on TV have storylines involving Black folks actively seeking therapy and talking about mental health challenges.

Tchaiko Omawale SOLACE 2

 LL: The current fundraising says you’re in the phase of scoring and mixing the audio for the film. How did you raise the funds for the rest of production?
TO: We raised the funds for production from our 2014 Kickstarter campaign that was huge. After shooting we ran out of money and started editing in 2016 after an indiegogo campaign and help from our Executive Producer, Chelsea Peretti. Then we ran out of money again and weren’t able to restart until the beginning of 2017, when we received a grant from Women In Film. Then we ran out of money again. See a pattern?

In the fall of 2017 things turned around with when my friend, Lisa Mecham, organized a fundraiser: a conversation about Food, Trauma and The Black Body with Roxane Gay and Tchaiko, moderated by Franklin Leonard and hosted by one of my champions, Roya Rasteger, and her partner, Moj Mahdara. The support and energy just continued to grow, and Morgan’s Mark came on board to get us to picture lock – they invested in the film, and we were able to get to picture lock. Then we got a grant from FiLM iNDEPENDENT to do color timing, and then guess what? We ran out of money.

So, this latest crowdfunding campaign is partially to pay for the amazing human beings responsible for the sonic landscape of the film – Me’Shell NdegéOcello for score and Nathan Ruyle for sound design, and then also to pay for all the deliverables necessary to get it to film festivals and beyond.

LL: A score by Me’Shell NdegéOcello would be amazing. How is this happening? Why her?
TO: I have been a fan of hers since I was 15 years old. At that time I lived overseas and I was on summer break in New Jersey with family friends and saw her video for “Dreadlocks” and was totally taken by this beautiful, dark-skinned Black woman with a bald head.

Growing up Black in Asia in the 80s, I had nobody beyond my family who looked like me. I remember being made fun of at school when I cut off all my hair, and specifically being asked if I was a boy. So, seeing Me’Shell be beautiful and make beautiful music that spoke to me, it was my everything as a teenager. I followed her music, every album; I would read her lyrics as if they were poetry; my sadness felt comforted by her music.

Me’Shell and I became friends in my 20s. We met through mutual college friends. So, I’ve known her for some time now, but it still took me a while to ask her to work on Solace. I got the nerve, and she said yes! I mean, what a dream to have your teenage idol gift you with beautiful music for your first feature film at 40!

Tchaiko Omawale SOLACE 3

LL: How did Chelsea Peretti get involved?
TO: LOL. I’ve known her for over half my life! We went to school together and lived together in a dorm our sophmore year– she was a Barnard student, and I was at Columbia.

Chelsea and her friend Josh Rofe (a director) were huge cheerleaders for me when I launched the 2014 KS campaign. They kept reminding me to not worry about whether it would be successful or not and by just deciding to put myself out there it would eventually happen. Most of my friends and family backed the campaign in 2014, and lots of people who I don’t know at all but who heard about the film through Chelsea’s Twitter and on her podcast. There was an episode where we called my mom and asked her what she thought about me having an eating disorder.

I’ve had a lot of cheerleaders along the way, and I feel really grateful. It definitely helped me not give up when the obstacles seemed too big to overcome.

LL: Why are you DIYing the film?
TO: At the time I was super inspired by Ava Duvernay and Lena Dunham making their first films for $50k. There is a special kind of creative energy that develops out of lack, and I leaned into the fact that I didn’t have traditional funding sources but I did have a community that would get behind my story and film. It’s important for me to say that I didn’t choose to create out of lack, but you know I’m Black and finding funding for a film about Black girls dealing with Eating Disorders made by a Black woman isn’t easy. Despite the discourse around diversity – films that center Blackness, you know, not concerned with the white gaze or white guilt, still have difficulty accessing financing.

RELATED: Growth Static for Women Behind the Scenes in Television

LL: When & where do you hope to release it?
TO: I hope as we play the festival circuit we get a great deal that allows as many people to see the film as possible, especially internationally. It’s important to me that the film can be a source of conversation in the diaspora about our relationship to food, to family, to joy, to friendships and death.

LL: Will supporters be able to see it?
TO: Yes, for sure. There are other festivals that we will be screening in. After LA Film Fest we are at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville, then the New Orleans Film Festival, then two more that will be announced later this month on the East Coast.

Do what Chelsea Peretti wants you to, and click here to support Solace now. You’ll be glad you did.