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"Art is fantasy, and we can use that to build up the part of you that needs to heal"

An interview with CLAIRE CHUBBUCK | RESILIENT | VMA Winner - March 2023


In the realm of filmmaking, there are individuals whose work transcends traditional boundaries and creates a profound impact on both the audience and those involved in the production process. One such visionary is Claire Chubbuck, an emerging female director, and VMA multiple awards winner who has gained recognition for her unique approach to storytelling called "Cathartic Realism."


With a background deeply rooted in the film industry as the daughter of renowned acting coach Ivana Chubbuck and the late film director Lyndon Chubbuck, Claire has taken the reins of her artistic destiny. In this interview, we delve into her stunning directorial work for the award-winning film "Resilient," exploring the transformative power of art, personal experiences, and the profound healing that filmmaking can inspire.

 

• Welcome to today's interview with Claire Chubbuck. Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our audience? Who is Claire Chubbuck and what do you do?

It’s a pleasure to do so. I’m Claire Chubbuck, an award-winning director, Vice President at Chubbuck Studio in Hollywood, and founder of the Cathartic Realism process of filmmaking.

Both the Cathartic Realism and Chubbuck Technique use the fusion of science and art to create catharsis for survivors of trauma and shame. Cathartic Realism as a production company makes films that heal the participants and inspire the audience by using a set of steps that are infused with the current research of Dr. Brene Brown, and Dr. Van Der Kolk, among others.

• How did you start your career in the film industry and what inspired and fascinated you the most?

While I was at Tisch’s Kanbar School at New York University, I scored an internship at AMC Networks that quickly turned into a job on the studio side of television as a Programming Executive. My fiancé wanted to move back to Los Angeles, so I took a job at Participant Media where I helped them launch their network called PivotTV while working on the acquisitions and programming team.

Things were going really well, and then my fiancé tragically died and I was diagnosed with PTSD. This trauma made it impossible to go to work.


That’s when I started teaching the Chubbuck Technique, which gave me a space to use my pain in a purposeful way. I was able to help myself, and others. I saw, firsthand, the power of creating with your brokenness to make something beautiful - so I wanted to take that to the next level. I wanted to make films the same way.


Through filmmaking and the process we go through in the creation of a cathartic realist piece, I have been able to create lasting, meaningful relationships that feel more like a familial community.

• You are the Vice President of the Ivana Chubbuck Studio, creator and founder of the Cathartic Realism genre, which facilitates catharsis in artists to use traumatic events in their lives to make art, own their own story, and become winners, not victims. How did you come up with the idea for this astonishing genre?

The Chubbuck Technique has been working this angle for years. We use the sciences as the base of finding a character’s purpose and how they accomplish their purpose without judgment.


Most people self-destruct from their pain and fears, Chubbuck technique uses the very things that cause doubt and shame, and taking the judgment out of it allows you to see it differently – and to see it as the very things that create personal empowerment. This allows for a more dynamic journey, both for the actor, writer, director, and for the audience.


It also is a great way to think about life for everyone. To see all that befalls you, your missteps, and insecurities as embraceable gifts to help you grow and prosper – is also a more effective way to live life as well. Content creation has the power to guide culture - so making films in this same fashion has the potential to do the same.

• Could you explain in more detail what Cathartic Realism is, a method so unique and effective?

The process of Cathartic Realism is broken down into the four main steps of filmmaking. I lace the idea of winning throughout the steps to create emotional confidence.


The Writing Process of Cathartic Realism

You have to revisit the events of your life to discover who you are and where you fit. When you revisit these through the lens of scriptwriting and storytelling, it adds an element of fun and purpose to the discovery. Then you realize, and your realizations help you understand. We have a process for finding the story you are going to tell, how to tell it, and what the dialogue should be in order to maximize the cathartic component.


The Production Process of Cathartic Realism

Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk discusses the lived experience of trauma, the relationship between the mind and the body, and the differences between our “experiencing” and “autobiographical” selves. The writing process deals with cognitive reframing of the autobiographical self, while the production produces creates a visceral memory for the “experiencing” self.


Art is fantasy, and we can use that to build up the part of you that needs to heal. The creation of the film works as an artistic processing mechanism that is done in the safe space of fellow artists.

During the production, the survivor can have conversations that they would otherwise never be able to have. This gives you a chance to find your voice and be heard as you perform. This can be done through directing or acting.


The Post-Production Process of Cathartic Realism

All the edits, sound design, and other elements of post-production reflect how it felt to be in that moment. You own your story by showing the audience your version of the experience to shine a light on the things that cause us shame, which creates empathy for the self.


The Release of Cathartic Realism Films

The audience is split into two – those who have experienced something similar to the trauma, those people may feel seen or may disagree with the telling, but either way, their experience is validated. Then there are those who haven’t been through it, those people have now witnessed this – and understand how it feels. Either way, we are creating an understanding and normalcy – this is a starting place for change.



• We know that you have created a specific rating scale designed to study and collect data on Cathartic Realism for the purpose of scientifically validating your work. Are there any recurring results that you have noticed over the years that you would like to share with us?

We have studied the artists that have engaged in the Cathartic Realism process, and have found through analysis of data that making art in this way reduces the burden of PTSD and accompanying depression.


For the measurements of PTSD, we use the Davidson Trauma Scale. For Depression, we used for one case the PHQ9 and for the other case the Hamilton depression scale. The main storyteller is studied before the process begins to form a baseline, and then again after every aforementioned stage. We are also continuing the study to see if the process maintains effect.


We are assessing for PTSD and Depression, but we are also looking at secondary measures including a sense of self and identity, how one relates to others, and to how one tolerates emotional dysphoria and emotional regulation. So far, the reduction of symptoms indicates that Cathartic Realism is a main factor in providing relief, despite not having a placebo available to test against.


• Your innovative method contributes to the artist's journey on another and much higher level, having a significant impact on both personal and creative, and professional quality of life. How has changing the lives of others through art in such a significant way changed your own life?

We need to belong, to feel loved, to feel seen, to feel connected. And what prevents connection is shame. As someone with a lot of shame, I need to take it head-on.


As an only child, I have an irrational fear that I am too much, but also have a desperate need to connect and be liked. Those two things together made it hard to cultivate friendships that felt safe.


Through filmmaking and the process we go through in the creation of a cathartic realist piece, I have been able to create lasting, meaningful relationships that feel more like a familial community.



• Last March, you participated and won with two films that were representative of the Cathartic Realism genre: RESILIENT and BLUEBERRY. Both were true stories, written and performed by participants who relived their traumas and were able to heal through their films by processing those life events. Can you tell us from your point of view about the difficulties that you witnessed and how the artists managed to reach their inner victory?

Fear - it’s the main difficulty. It is scary to expose your truth, but you can’t be fearless if you don’t know fear.


We are able to overcome it by making the project the higher power at the moment. It’s fun to look back on these moments because the process works, and some of that can only be seen in hindsight.


• We know Simin Vaswani as a victorious participant with her film TIMELESS LOVE. How did your relationship with her develop, and what distinguishes the relationships you create with artists thanks to your sensitivity and Cathartic Realism genre that is different from her past work?


Working with Simin using the cathartic realism steps creates a loving relationship that radiates coast to coast. When I direct pieces of cathartic realism, I share what this film’s creation means for me, and I do my best to match what the actor is bringing emotionally so we are going through it together. Simin knows as much about me as I know about her - and she has this insane intuitive sense that has really made this process the utmost pleasure.


• In Simin's case, the art of dance is combined as a visual element with the storytelling of emotional experiences that takes over. Dialogues are reduced to zero, and everything is masterfully amalgamated to use an emotional language that does not need words. Can you explain how this stylistic choice came about and how you and Simin worked together to achieve such an effective result?


That choice was purely of Simin’s creative intuition. She has always found catharsis through dance - so it was a main component when I signed on as Director. I had a lot to learn as I never made a dance film before. My contribution was personalizing the language of dance similarly to how I teach actors to personalize lines via the Chubbuck Technique. To not just use the truth of experience in your work, but to use the pain, trauma, fear, and insecurities to impassion your ability to overcome and ultimately create the experience of catharsis.


• Thank you so much for being with us today, Claire. It has truly been an honor to have you here. Your work is certainly inspiring for our festival too! For those who are reading and want to embark on an artistic journey with your genre, where can they find more information?


Thank you! You can find me on IG at @claire_chubbuck and you can find cathartic realism at @catharticrealism If you have a story that you need to find catharsis for, please reach out.


If you want to take a look at what we do, you can find us at catharticrealism.com.




 

Website - https://clairechubbuck.com/ Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/claire_chubbuck

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