Tonya McCornell‘s new short film Trayvia is the visceral response to police brutality and killings that we all feel. She explores protagonist Trayvia’s attempt to avenge her brother’s death by a police officer after the city fails to grant him justice. In doing so, McCornell sheds life on the painful reality filled with despair, hopelessness, and anger that the family member’s of the unjustly slain face on a daily basis.
McCornell opened up about her process and inspiration in the interview below:
“Surround yourself with a team of people who believe in what you are doing. You must have those cheerleaders in your corner rooting you on because when it’s tough and you start doubting yourself or the process, they will be there to reassure you and support you.”
Trayvia takes on a narrative that has never been told before and possibly controversial. What inspired the content for Trayvia?
The concept for Trayvia had been on my mind for quite some time, but I was experiencing writer’s block on one of the pivotal plot points so I put the script down for awhile. But then, when the verdict against the cop who killed Philando Castile came back as yet another acquittal, a spark went off in my brain. I saw flashes of the faces of Trayvon Martin, that baby girl who was in the back seat when Philando was killed, and of Aiyana Jones who was seven years old when she was killed by the police. I wanted to create a piece that would highlight what is still going on in this country and sometimes the best way to do that is to flip the script so to speak. Yes, I’m sure it makes some people uncomfortable so there will be controversy in that. But Black men and women in this country are also uncomfortable in knowing death could be the end result of an encounter with the police. So the constant realization that any one of those victims could’ve been one of my loved ones, and the feeling that it will only be a matter of time before I am personally affected, meant I had to create this film. Regardless of the controversy that surrounds it.
Content around controversial topics is not easy to put on screen. Do you have advice for filmmakers wanting to address heavy topics ?
Content around controversial topics is not easy to put on screen. Do you have advice for filmmakers wanting to address heavy topics?
To the filmmakers who want to address heavy topics that could be viewed as controversial, I say surround yourself with a team of people who believe in what you are doing. You must have those cheerleaders in your corner rooting you on because when it’s tough and you start doubting yourself or the process, they will be there to reassure you and support you. Thankfully, my BTFC family has been there since the beginning of this project and they are involved in my upcoming projects as well. Without them, none of this would’ve worked out the way that it did. We really do rally together to help each other and it is a beautiful thing! I am also grateful to the diverse cast and crew of Trayvia who understood the importance of getting this film made and the impact it will have on the people who see it.
There is nothing out right now quite like Trayvia. What is next for you?
With Trayvia, and all of my projects in general, the goal is to use my platform as a filmmaker in a way that sheds light on a number of social issues. It is especially important that my work showcases Black female characters who are layered. The portrayal of black women as the token Black friend or the prostitute or the drug addict, is not the only narrative to tell in film and we’re tackling those stereotypes one project at a time. Up next, I’m directing the pilot episode of a series called “Trace”. It centers around a newly promoted Black female special agent who uncovers a series of the bureau’s secrets while investigating the disappearances of a number of African American women. That’s filming at the end of July. Then in August, we’ll start filming another short film that I wrote and will direct called “Tainted”. That film sheds light on the struggles of a mother who is battling depression and PTSD. Both projects star Claudia McCoy who is the Michael B. Jordan to my Ryan Coogler 😉