The brilliant writer, and now director, aims to make multi-dimensional Black characters.
Tina Gordon Chism is the brilliant writer behind some of your favorite blockbuster films: Drumline, ATL, Peeples, and What Men Want.
As of late, she’s stepped away from the writer’s desk and into the director’s chair for the Marsai Martin executive produced Little starring Martin, Regina Hall, and Issa Rae. The film is also produced by producer extraordinaire Will “Power” Packer (Girls Trip, What Men Want, Night School).
Little according to Variety, generated $15 million when it launched in 2,667 locations to which they call a “solid debut.” Regardless, Little while filled with some magical elements, is rooted in a very true narrative about childhood, love, and appreciation in the Black community.
The essence of Gordon Chism’s work is the relatability in creating very real, flawed, multi-dimensional Black characters. Something she was first inspired to do when she realized as an aspiring actress that her auditions were for people who did not know anything about “her world and lacked the cultural acuity for casting talent like her,” explains a feature in Black Girl Nerds. Gordon Chism decided then that she wanted to see things change and she would have to do so by taking part in creating and writing these characters herself.
Today, Gordon Chism continuously urges others to “just start doing” what ever profession or dream it is they desire. Shadow & Act quoted Chism saying, “I have found when I talk with writers that I hear more than not, ‘I want to write.’ Or, ‘I’m trying to write.’ I want to always encourage writers to just push past the wanting to and start putting things down.”
She also adds that starting is not without risk. “Start writing, whether it’s in your journal, whether it’s in your computer, whether it’s perfect or not perfect. I feel like many times because of people judging writing as a career because we’re not typically in those spaces, we have to accept that we have to have an extra dose of audacity and courage to push through into these new lanes.”
But it can be worth it. Early in her college career as an English major at the University of Virginia, Gordon Chism mailed a television script to NBC Studios inspired by The Cosby Show. She actually received a telephone call advising her on the correct means to submit a script and by the end of the call she was also invited to New York to see a taping of the show before eventually interning there. Major key!
Gordon Chism said she was also very inspired by The Cosby Show and its powerful, positive messages. “The hidden messages of the show were very deliberate,” she said of having worked on the set. “What I learned from that experience was that even all the art on the wall told a story about the culture and history of the people. All the art, the clothes on their backs, the fashion that included the HBCU shirts and hoodies, the black designers, the black musicians—all of that was a part of a strategy and was deliberate. I learned all of that.”
Moreover, she applied this same method to her latest work. “To this day, I apply these lessons. In Little, which I directed, the items on the wall will tell a story. What they’re wearing on their backs is going to tell a story. It’s all about using the setting, props, and costume design to tell another story within a story.”
Gordon Chism’s beautiful, relatable, and powerful characters are what have made her films such a success. Her desire to see and hear our community in more than one light is essential to film today and we look forward to more of her work in the future.
Little is in theaters now.