We had the good fortune of connecting with Cheryl Bookout and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cheryl, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
It’s my privilege to be the Executive Director for The Chimaera Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing advocacy and opportunities for female filmmakers. We aim to help change the hiring practices of the film industry to be inclusive and equitable for all creatives.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Art is the through line of my work. Artmaking as a child is all I ever wanted to do; things haven’t changed much over the years. My fine art practice and filmmaking career are intricately connected. The illustrations of Alice in Wonderland by John Tenniel conjure up my earliest memory of falling in love with art. I am still influenced by those early memories in the work I create today, particularly in my paintings and drawings. I use frogs, insects and mythical creatures to tell stories – to take heed of environmental issues in need of our attention. As an individual artist, I am included in the California Women Artist Project archived at the University of Southern California and Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. My artwork is often categorized as surreal, so no surprise the first two short films I produced fall into that category, “I Am Be” is the retelling of the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone through a contemporary lens. The second film, “Gloria’s Call” is a short documentary about the Women of Surrealism. Both films garnered awards in the film festival circuit and “Gloria’s Call” has distribution agreements with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Video Data Bank and the Simone De Beauvoir Audiovisual Center in Paris, France. I’m very excited about my current film projects: A feature-length documentary film “Acting Like Women: Performance Art and the Woman’s Building” and “Inside the Beauty Bubble.” I’ve recently completed a sci-fi screenplay with a strong female protagonist and a proof of concept for this project will be produced as soon as safe to do so, staying in compliance with the COVID-19 restrictions. The path I’ve taken has been like many artists, full of twists and turns, certainly not a straight path and I wouldn’t describe it as easy. I dropped out of college much to my regret. My advice if you are in school – finish, get your degree(s)! I was an aspiring artist and filmmaker in college and dropped out to open my own business designing and manufacturing women’s sportswear. Within two years I had showrooms in every apparel center across the U.S. selling to major department and chain stores. After ten years in the garment industry, I closed the business and went back to my artist roots and became a gallery director/curator and filmmaker. Overcoming challenge is a running theme in the art world. Seldom do artists make enough income to support themselves and the side hustle is important. After my garment industry years, when trying to make it full-time in the art world, my primary side employment was working as an independent grant writer, helping nonprofit art organizations obtain the funding necessary to fulfill their missions and continue their good work. I’ve remained deeply involved with nonprofit art organizations; I believe they fill an important void in the world. In addition to my dedication to The Chimaera Project, I’m on the Board of Directors of four nonprofit organizations and the Advisory Board for two others. The lessons I’ve learned along the way – so many! My first response to lessons learned would be stay true to yourself. Stay on track, one foot in front of the other, it’s so easy to become derailed. The one thing I want the world to know about my story is that everything I’ve done in my life has led me exactly where I want to be, working as a filmmaker in collaboration with amazing and talented people!
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Dreaming that my best friend was visiting with me for a week, I’d start our adventure in my home territory. My primary residence is near the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park where people come from all over the world to rock climb and explore. It is truly beautiful and a great place to share with friends and kick-start some fun. There are great eateries in Joshua Tree Village and of course the famous Joshua Tree Saloon! I’m privileged to know many accomplished musicians that call Joshua Tree home and there are always music performances to attend, both intimate and large scale in amazing venues like Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, Joshua Tree Music Festival, The Palms in Wonder Valley, The Landers Brew Company, FurstWurld and more! So, the local music scene is a must. I’d also take my friend for a sound bath at the Integratron, self-described as the fusion of art, science and magic! I concur, the place is magical. We could easily have a great week in Joshua Tree, but we could also hop in the car and head 30 minutes down the hill to Palm Springs and check-out the music scene there, too. I especially like The Alibi on Palm Canyon Drive. They offer a great live music experience with performers like my personal favorite Jesika Von Rabbit and they serve yummy cocktails. Honestly, I don’t know if we’d make it out of the desert to Los Angeles before the week was up! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Los Angeles. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, cruising Van Nuys and Hollywood Boulevards every Saturday night with my friends – back when that was a thing!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I think my family fits the definition of a support group and I wish I could list them all – a special shoutout to Bob, Tim, Stacy, Amanda, Alisha and Tom! Cheri Gaulke, the woman who has taught me so much about filmmaking, who invited me to be part of her creative team and who has encouraged me to take the lead – what can I say? Cheri deserves a great deal of credit and recognition in my story, thank you Cheri! Sometimes it’s really difficult to truly express enough gratitude to people in your life and that’s how it is with Shana Betz and America Young, my co-founding partners of The Chimaera Project. I dedicate my biggest shoutout to these two incredible women!
Other: Website: www.jcherylbookout.com;