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Directing from Down Under: Charmaine Bingwa

While in college, Charmaine Bingwa was given the opportunity to enroll in an elective theater course. Falling in love may be an understatement. Being a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and a DJ, this entertaining powerhouse was more than prepared for the physical and skillful demand that the Hollywood’s of the world could bring. However, the question was if she was ‘ready’ for the industry.

By the end of 2018, Netflix will have produced or acquired 700 new or exclusively licensed television shows including more than 100 scripted dramas and comedies, dozens of documentaries and children’s shows, stand-up comedy specials as well as unscripted reality and talk shows from an estimated 21 countries. When Charmaine realized the ability to access those types of statistics, the new filmmaker threw her hat in the ring.

Charmaine’s passion for diversity led the Australian native to decide that the US market was what she wanted to pursue next. She arrived with nothing more than her with her love for acting and film and an exuberant amount of drive for creating a global career.

SUAVV: So from my understanding, you were a business major, never really had a passion for acting and decided one semester that this was going to be the class that you took to fill in your schedule?

Charmaine: I just thought it might make me a bit more career savvy and a more confident public speaker. Then, from the first moment, I just kind of clicked with everything. Doing exercises and then when we started getting into scene work, it just came really natural in a way that I felt like I shouldn’t have had an ability to perform at that level, for someone who’s never done it. I really enjoyed it.

SUAVV: Nice. So you’re a natural. You went through this learning process and you said: “Okay, I enjoy this and want to do this.” What was your introduction to the film industry like? Was it difficult, quick, long, and/or easy?

Charmaine: I had done like a couple of productions and then I had a business background. I gave myself three months to do as many projects, (whether they’re short films or independent films), and then at the end, I can decide whether I want to do this for the rest of my life as a career. I think I did like 15 projects in those three months. It was enough to become psycho, but I loved it.

SUAVV: That’s a lot of work and a lot of different personalities and roles to take on in a short period. After that, how important do you think it is to have a level of authenticity in this career? And at what point did you decide that you needed to have your own voice and start creating your own material?

Charmaine: Um, well, it was just kind of when I was more determined to have more of an international career. From what I’ve seen, the kind of way to really put your own stamp on things was to, to write something in your own voice. I mean there are people like Issa Ray and Donald Glover who are just killing it by putting things into their own voice. So, I just thought, I felt like I had a story to tell and if you’re doing other people’s material at the beginning of your career, you’re always going to be shaped by what they see you as. I’d wanted to shape myself by what I saw myself as; when people would do the opposite. That way, they could really get a sense of what I’m thinking, who I am, and what I’m capable of.

SUAVV: Very true. Making your own lane has become the new pulpit of talent. Do you find it harder to keep that voice or even feel that you may lose a part of your audience because you’re a part of the LGBT community? Is it more difficult for you?

Charmaine: Um, no, actually. I think it’s been a really, really good experience. Like, it’s so much easier to write when it’s just the absolute truth of who you are. It has just been released as it’s been responded to really strongly. I’m pleasantly surprised by the support and how everyone’s been receiving it.

SUAVV: Now, you will next star in the upcoming web series Little Sista which you also wrote, produced, and directed. Congrats. Tell me about “Little Sista”. What inspired that project?

Charmaine: First, Thank you! I guess it came from two things that we’re talking about in terms of just wanting to make something that could play on an international scale, that would kind of introduce me to the market. I was talking to a friend and the story kind of came organically because I was actually a mentor in a little sister, big sister program a couple of years ago. I kind of took that story and made a hysterical comedy and dialed up everything. And the story just painted out quite naturally and before I knew it, I wrote a season of it. I’m just a self-starter, so I was like, ‘let’s shoot this thing. Let’s do it, let’s do it now’. And then, this is where you’re at. I always wanted to shoot something, and I was just waiting for the right story. And then as soon as my friend reminded me that I had mentored in this program, I just started writing it and it came out in like a week and I kept and revising and had a story very quickly.

Prior to and since this interview, Little Sista has enjoyed success on the festival circuit, winning the award for Best Screenplay at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival and earning selections in the Web Series Festival Global, Hollywood, Out Fest LA, Sicily Web Fest, Roma Cinema DOC, and Melbourne Web Fest. The highly-anticipated series also premiered on the re-designed Revry network.

To see more of Charmaine and follow her career, check her out on Instagram at @CharmaineBingwa

 

Photos by Paul Smith

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