Reel Black List: Chakka Reeves, creative producer, mentor

Chakka Reeves

Chakka Reeves

The versatile pro
has a proven
knack for making
an impact on
film sets
as well as

Chakka Reeves is a creative producer, coach, and workforce development specialist who has been mentoring young artists and producing films for more than a dozen years.

The corporations, institutions, and organizations that have benefitted from Chakka’s full time drive and talent include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Community TV Network, and the independent media production and marketing company Eighth House Creative, where she has continued to serve as director since 2010.

Chakka has also worked as an educator and consultant for the likes of After School Matters, Alternative Schools Network (Chicago), and Columbia College Chicago’s Convergence Academies Program, Rebuild Foundation.

In her most recent position as Industry Pathways Manager for Free Spirit Media, Chakka spearheaded several creative workforce development initiatives — providing underrepresented emerging media-makers ages 18-25 with professional development, production and skills training, mentorship and work-placed opportunities.

One of them resulted in Fuzzy Legs, a short film that tells the story of a “timid young brown girl” whose attempt to go unnoticed at the start of middle school is foiled by her hairy legs.

Chakka served as Lead Creative Producer for Fuzzy Legs.

Since its August 2018 premiere, the film has entertained and enlightened audiences at DePaul University and viewers of WTTW Channel 11.

Chakka, who earned a BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Education from the University of Maryland, is also the producer of the Highwater podcast, a forum for artists and creatives to share their stories.





What was your first break? Directing a music video for the song “I Think She Knows” by Daniel’s Son for Carvin Haggins, of the famous Philly-based music producing duo Carvin and Ivan. We had an ultra-micro budget but it was one of the most fun shoots I have ever been a part of, even to this day. I created the video with a production collaborative I co-founded called The Free Film Collective in Philadelphia. We took on projects for free as long as the client would pay the production costs, and allow us to choose/vet the concept. It was a great portfolio builder and I learned a lot about filmmaking, collaboration and being resourceful.

Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black? To paraphrase James Baldwin, to be a Black person in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. Having said that, I never forget that I’m Black, and only positive occurrences reacquaint me with the joy and honor that I feel for getting to be Black. However, I have witnessed things that remind me that this country (U.S.) and much of the world is systemically racist and sexist.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black? I never forget I’m Black, but our indelible mark on culture, art and creativity around the world remind me to be grateful for being Black.

Amber AEwani and Chakka Reeves
Amber Eswani and Chakka Reeves

Work you are most proud of? Serving as Lead Creative Producer of Fuzzy Legs with Free Spirit Media. Not only did I get to bring Amber Eswani’s important story about bullying, identity, self-love and self-acceptance to life, I got to work with a great crew of emerging and professional filmmakers, great industry partners, and create an experience that has spurred the film and TV careers of 13 Black, Latinx and Asian-American filmmakers right here in Chicago.

I am also proud of my creative coaching and producing business, Kocha Creative. It is a natural culmination of all of the work I’ve done previously, not only producing, but working with people from all age groups and identities and helping them build the skills, tools and relationships necessary to tell their stories and see themselves as artists and creatives.

How has the business changed since you broke in? Chicago has emerged as a major global player in the film and TV production space. I have friends from all over the world who are thinking about moving to Chicago to build their careers in film, TV and media, and that’s a wonderful thing. Having film and TV economies outside of New York and L.A. not only contribute to the creative economies of cities like Chicago, but when people can work and thrive in Chicago or anywhere, we get more representation, more authentic and innovative story-telling, and healthier creatives.

Of course, web series and streaming services have changed the game as well. Platforms like OTV | Open Television are great incubators for diverse talent, inclusive producing practices and innovative storytelling. Netflix is leading the pack in streaming content but all of these platforms offer a way for storytellers to find an audience for important stories that may be deemed too “niche” for broadcast or even cable television.

Trapped on an island, what essentials must you have? A journal, my account and an iPad (hopefully I have some books downloading before this occurs), a 20-pack of Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens and index cards.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? Write more. The only way to get through the blocks is by writing through them. The sooner you stop trying to be a creative in a “safe” way, the better. Take more risks.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? James Baldwin. He really embodied the vital and urgent work of the writer. His work has both a consciousness and clarity about race relations in America that galvanized his contemporaries and continues to be relevant today.

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