5 Minutes with… Charlene Houston
Tell us about yourself – who are you and what do you do?
I am a spirit having a physical experience on Earth. I’m here as a person of mixed ancestry, drawing on cultures from near and far. I delight in sometimes being one thing or other times being a mixed masala of cultures.
I am a writer, researcher, history scholar and activist. I blow bubbles and colour mandalas. My areas of interest are strongly informed by my identity as a woman and the experience of growing up in a society dominated by racial and class oppression. My values are informed by my ongoing spiritual journey and the material experience of poverty and limited opportunity that was my childhood.
I use documentary film, museum displays, articles, essays and poetry to remember or to celebrate or to promote healing, love and/or social change. I work at Afrosoul Productions as filmmaker and heritage practitioner.
- What are you currently up to? Are there any exciting projects ongoing?
At Afrosoul Productions, I am working on 2 documentary features. Johaar Mosaval: a celebrated dancer features the legendary ballet dancer sharing his life story. The Life and Death of Coline Williams remembers a heroine of liberation history. This project is supported by a research grant from the NFVF.
- What’s your best project/work to date?
I cherish all the people who entrust me to represent their life stories. I only work on stories that take up residence in my soul or those that stir my imagination so each has been special for different reasons.
- Who or what inspires you?
Great screenplays or books (especially biographies) stimulate my writing juices, complex characters (on screen and in real life) spur me on to create my next story and social injustice ignites an urgency in me to use film as a weapon.
- When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
Watch movies, listen to music, cook, sing, dance, walk, swim, do nothing somewhere outdoors, read, repeat.
- Finally, what tips or advice could you give to other documentary creatives, just starting out or to the most experienced creatives needing a bit of encouragement?
Resist the temptation to be a one man band. Instead of writing, directing, shooting, editing all yourself, include others. Documentaries are work in progress until the very end and there is so much benefit from collaborating with another creative at each phase. Avoid preachy teachy messaging because audiences will switch off.