Series Creates Compelling, Female Action Hero, Launches Transmedia Project
Black Kung Fu Chick, a transmedia web series created, directed, and written by Emerson College assistant professor Rae Shaw, will make its world premiere at the virtual 2021 Slamdance Film Festival, February 12-25.
Set and filmed in South Los Angeles, Black Kung Fu Chick is an impactful, coming-of-age story that mirrors the lives of many teenage Black girls, whose dreams are deferred by responsibilities they should not have to carry. However, the struggle to pursue one’s dreams also reflects the challenges faced by so many young women everywhere in a world that socializes them to put aside their ambition for obligation.
The Black Kung Fu Chick web series launches the innovative transmedia project, which will extend across multiple platforms including a game, comic, and an interactive website. By immersing the viewer in a more engaging experience the series creator aims to empower young girls and connect audiences around the world with the diversity of the rich cultures within the South L.A. community.
A large portion of the project was funded through Emerson College Faculty Advancement Fund Grants and faculty funds, with the support of College leadership. Emerson alumni contributed in the following roles: Paolo Cenci ’19: Key PA, Ryan Porter ’20: second AC, and Danielle Marascalchi ’20: title designer and poster designer.
Shaw is a bold new writer-director, who gives birth to a compelling, female action hero, Black Kung FuChick. Taking a fresh perspective on fighting for what is right, the film goes beyond high-octane violence and instead brings the audiences into the grace and healing power of martial arts.
Shaw said of her inspiration, “Growing up, I hungered for heroines who looked like me and I wanted to change that for young girls of color. I wanted to share this story of a vibrant and powerful community that has commonly been portrayed through stereotypical lenses that create limits and boundaries instead of empowering and inspiring.”
“Black Kung Fu Chick is at its core a story about the possibilities and choices that young women of color deserve, the right to imagine and to achieve,” Shaw continued. “Black Kung Fu Chick has the power to reflect what I didn’t have as a young Black girl: the ability for young women of color to see themselves onscreen and believe that they can be anything they desire.”
Inspired by her love for martial arts movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Shaw opted to shoot the series on a Super8mm camera to capture the nostalgia of the classic Kung Fu era in the present day and implement an Afrofuturist approach to the transmedia series.
Starring Taylor Polidore (Snowfall, Black Lightning), the series follows high school senior Tasha, whose aspirations of becoming a doctor are disrupted when circumstances force her to fight for the people she loves.
Peter Boon Koh (Chronicles of Jessica Wu, 9-1-1, In the Room) stars as Mr. Jian, who teaches Tasha the healing principles of White Crane Kung Fu and Tai Chi to help her turn her life around.
Slamdance will showcase the first episode of season one’s ten episodes. Each episode is comprised of a sequence of mini episodes making up the 17–22-minute episode and will feature a fight sequence bookending the episode, a healthy eating component, a female issue, local public art, and a philosophical Kung Fu lesson that teaches a real-life lesson. Each episode is based on the 10 moral laws of Shaolin and visits 10 principles of learning Kung Fu.
Behind the Scenes: Created, directed, and written by Rae Shaw, Black Kung Fu Chick is a Wicked Lovely Films & Media production in association with Varona Productions. Raven Stevenson served as Director of Photography. The series is produced by Shaw, Sandra Varona, Desiréia Valteau, Reko Moreno, Jainardhan Sathyan, and Sascha Brown Rice. Co-Producer Belinda Salazar Kizy. Music by Joshua Lim. Music Supervision by Michaela Green. Sound Design by Marcellus Wesley. Editing by Mengfang Yang.
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About Rae Shaw:
An award-winning writer, director, and producer, Shaw is known for her films, screenplays, poetry, essays, and short fiction. Her work explores diversity, connection, sexuality, and disparity. A graduate of the University of Chicago and University of Miami, Shaw has directed both theater and films, which have premiered at festivals nationally and internationally. Her writing has also received awards from such noted screenwriting competitions as the Academy Nicholl Fellowship, Austin Film Festival, and Cynosure Screenwriting Awards. Shaw is also the recipient of numerous fellowships including the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, Guy Hanks and Marvin Miller Screenwriting Fellowship, and Woodrow Wilson National Foundation Fellowship.
A member of Alliance of Women Directors, Independent Feature Project, Echo Park Film Center, Women of Color Unite, and the ACLU, Shaw champions projects that uplift women and offer a diverse perspective. Bi-coastal, Shaw splits her time between Los Angeles and Boston where she teaches screenwriting at Emerson College.
South L.A. Inspiration for Series: Shaw got to know the South Los Angeles community during her work at Charles Drew University during her time working as a media facilitator on a health study called the FEMAALES project, an HIV and STD prevention/intervention program designed to empower Black women.
After working in the industry for top executives, Shaw returned to work closer to her community and discovered a South L.A. that was vastly different from the violence, poverty, and sexism portrayed in the media. She saw community gardens, vibrant urban art, and people working together for a common cause.
As a storyteller, Shaw was inspired to create a story for young girls of color to imagine and achieve their goals. Shooting the film on location in the communities of Watts, Willowbrook, and Compton, the story comes alive against the backdrop of electric public art, whimsical communal gardens, and jazzy train and bus station plazas.
About Emerson College
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has 3,780 undergraduates and 670 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups.
Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, the Netherlands, London, China, and the Czech Republic as well as its new Global Portals, with the first program launching this fall in Paris. The College has an active network of 51,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit emerson.edu.
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