Guest Contributor: Victoria Renee, M.A.
CEO of Victoria Renee Productions
How do you promote change and well-being in the Black community?
Catharsis is a film about the importance of mental health within the Black community, especially among Black women and girls. The story follows a young Black woman painter named Trinity who is struggling to balance her creative desires with her adult responsibilities. She has finally been accepted into her first prestigious art exhibit that requires a $500 participation fee but she also needs to pay her past due light bill. Trinity doesn't have enough room on her credit card to pay both. So, she chooses the art show and figures she can pay her light bill by doing mundane work online. However, once her lights are cut off, Trinity is stressed. But she suppresses her feelings by clinging to the "strong Black woman" narrative, i.e. "Superwoman Schema" and she tries to constantly remain positive, i.e. "Toxic Positivity". This is how she copes until she enters her mental space. Once inside her mind, Trinity meets personified versions of her inner child (ID) and sophisticated self (Superego), and she discovers how to process her anxiety. Trinity discovers the importance of balance, and self-empowerment through honesty, vulnerability, and therapy. Thus, we hope that viewers will feel inspired to seek the healing they need.
This project was adapted from my USC MFA application essay. Previously, I earned an MA from Columbia in psychology, so, I leaned into psychology to write a discourse between my Id, Ego, and Superego about how to proceed with my career. It not only got me into one of the best film schools but I was also encouraged to turn it into a film to help others. Thus, our goal is to destigmatize mental health, especially in the Black and creative communities. We hope Catharsis helps people self-reflect and seek solutions.
We are currently in the preproduction for Catharsis and we aim to film it this December in Atlanta, GA. We received an Invest Atlanta Creatives Grant for Catharsis and we are actively seeking additional sponsorship to cover production costs. Furthermore, our project extends beyond a typical film experience. We are teaming up with mental health organizations to host Q&A panels at the film screenings to address audiences' mental health needs. Thus, by supporting this project, you are not only supporting a Black woman-owned business with a predominately underrepresented crew, but you are also helping to increase mental health awareness and access in underserved communities across the nation. Additionally, I look forward to providing employment via Catharsis to my fellow underrepresented filmmakers who have been out of work due to the WGA & SGA strikes. I delight in giving back to the same community that has given everything to me. Moreover, I hope our work inspires our youth to dream bigger.
What wellness strategies do you think should be given more attention within the Black community? Are there any reasons why you think they are not given more attention?
One issue that is important to me is the concept of a "Strong Black Woman." This superwoman schema has been passed down throughout our generations as a mechanism for survival. However, I think it's time we take our capes off and allow ourselves to be human. Humans feel. Humans hurt. Humans grow tired and weary. Humans can ask for help and be extended assistance and grace. Humans can be strong but they can also be soft and vulnerable. Humans not only manage to survive but are afforded the opportunity to thrive. Thus, I want Black women to be more comfortable embracing their full humanity. This notion is presented in Victoria Renee Productions's upcoming film, Catharsis.
How do you make time for your own wellness and self-care?
I prioritize my wellness by exercising 5-6 times a week, participating in therapy, journaling, writing, painting, and hiking. I also pray and check in with myself by asking questions about how I feel, what I feel I need, what can I learn, and how I can change things that are within my power to improve. Finally, I remind myself to extend myself grace during challenging moments and recognize that they will pass in due time. These practices allow me to enjoy my journey.
Victoria Renee is a multi-hyphenate storyteller from Atlanta, GA and is the CEO of Victoria Renee Productions. She earned her M.A. in clinical psychology with a specialization in forensics from Columbia University and became an award-winning researcher. Her mental health background influences her storytelling and led to her becoming a George Lucas Scholar and a 2021 M.F.A. graduate from USC's School of Cinematic Arts (SCA). She earned a 2023 Invest Atlanta Creatives Grant, served as a director in the 2022 CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge, and won the 2020 Viacom CBS / NAACP fellowship. Moreover, last year she wrote, directed, and produced five commercials and a jingle for a clinical nonprofit in the southeastern U.S.
Her work has advanced in contests, such as the Sundance Feature Film Development Lab, Sundance Episodic Lab, Warner Brothers Writers Workshop, MACRO Episodic Lab, Screencraft’s Pilot Launch, Black Boy Writes/ Black Girl Writes Mentorship Initiative, and others. Victoria Renee tells stories about characters who navigate different worlds and wrestle with identity and acceptance. She pens dramas, dramedies, Sci-Fi, and horrific tales about people within the African diaspora living ordinary to extraordinary experiences. She aims for underrepresented people to feel seen and empowered by her work.