Chi-made “Olympia” at Chicago Int’l Film Fest

McKenzie Chinn in "Olympia"

McKenzie Chinn in “Olympia”

McKenzie Chinn’s
“beautifully complicated”
feature arrives onscreen
with help from
notable industry vets
and indie distributor
Cow Lamp Films

The 2018 Chicago International Film Festival “Sneak Peek” has just been announced and Chicago’s very own filmmaker and actress McKenzie Chinn is making headlines with her writing and feature film debut Olympia at this year’s fest, distributed by Cow Lamp Films.

Chinn partnered with fellow filmmaker and former fellow student Greg Dixon to direct this feature. Chinn takes the acting lead accompanied by Charles Andrew Gardner as her significant other, Felix, in the film.

Olympia is a story about a young woman in a great relationship who isn’t ready to take the next step. Stuck in a dead-end job and coping with a mother who is dying, she feels reluctant to firmly plant her feet in the world of adulthood. It’s a beautifully complicated film filled with humor and insight into the process of life and growing up — even at the age of 30.



Chinn recently shared with me her background and motivation for writing this semi-autobiographical film.

The story’s roots stem back to her own parents and observing the milestones they attained at certain points in their lives.

“I wrote Olympia shortly after turning 30, which felt like a major milestone,” she says.

Yet Chinn didn’t feel like a real adult at that point, not having attained those same milestones of her parents. She expressed that while there are still these expectations and pressures to achieve these goals, the millennial generation is thwarted by the economic difficulties of our country.

Additionally, the character of Olympia is “…in this relationship that has gone really well, but that she doesn’t necessarily feel like she owed anything… and her mother is ill.”

All of these issues come to a head and force Olympia to grow up.

Chinn recalled her childhood and always being a writer. She shared her memories about her very first story, a unicorn that got kidnapped, and after a bit of laughing, she continued to recount the writing process of Olympia.

The flexibility in her receptionist job at the time allowed her to write Olympia.

Chinn also received DePaul University’s Annenberg Artist Fellowship, providine her with the financial support and guidance from Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight) to help her take the screenplay to the next step.

"Olympia" screens at the Chicago Int'l Film Festival
“Olympia” screens at the Chicago Int’l Film Festival
Olympia, a coming-of-age story, is also a Chicago story thanks to being filmed entirely in the Windy City.

Using drone shots, an element that Dixon insisted upon, the film pays homage to the iconic buildings and sights of the city many of us call home.

In addition, Dixon’s idea of intertwining graphic artistry to punctuate particular events in the film gives the story a certain whimsical element, perfectly counterbalancing the life decisions Olympia is making.

Chinn expressed absolute appreciation in being able to work collaboratively on this project and feels that by doing so, it “…lifts [the film] to a level that you never imagined.”

The cast is strong, also elevating the film and its storyline.

Chinn pointed out that the cast included many people of color, an element that, because the story is relatable to all, is not something that is obvious. She felt that, as a woman of color, it was important for her to have a cast that was also of color.

“I think so many times when you’re a person of color in media, you get asked to lean into a stereotype,” she says. “I’m just over it… Every single thing doesn’t have to revolve around oppression and marginalization.”

Chinn finds it exciting to be in a time period that everyone, no matter your color or sexual orientation, can have a voice and their own story.

Olympia is sure to be the first of many stories she tells to the world.

Olympia was produced by Lucy Lola Manda, Sarah Sharp, Elliott Lonsdale, Chinn and Dixon through the production companies 30 Pictures and The Line Co.


Pamela Powell
Pamela Powell

Pamela Powell, member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, writes for numerous publications across the country including FF2 Media, Fete Lifestyle Magazine, Q Voice, and The Daily Journal. She focuses on independent film and women filmmakers, giving these groups a louder voice in the film industry.

Contact Pamela at pampowell5@att.

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