The true-life stories of several women informed the characters in No Ordinary Love, which is exactly why Chyna Robinson felt the urgency to make it.
Robinson’s debut romantic thriller about the universal nature of abusive relationships will debut on Saturday and Sunday at the Coyote Drive-In near downtown Fort Worth, the city where much of it was filmed.
It chronicles the parallel stories of two middle-class women trapped in marriages to manipulative husbands, one a police officer and the other a pastor. Although one is more violent than the other, both victims realize they must leave. However, circumstances make that difficult, and even dangerous.
“Domestic violence, especially inside of these relationships, is like a little secret. Nobody wants to air their dirty laundry,” says Robinson, a Fort Worth native. “Sometimes the victims feel ashamed or embarrassed. Sometimes they don’t even know they’re in these situations.”
Robinson developed the idea with producer Tracy Rector, who served as the board chair for SafeHaven, a Tarrant County support organization for women. Rector initially wanted to make a short film about intimate partner violence, but the duo decided to expand their concept into a feature.
Robinson researched the characters by visiting women’s shelters. Although her characters aren’t based on anyone specifically, she wanted to examine both physical and psychological abuse, and how the warning signs — or the ramifications — aren’t always easy to spot.
“Abuse does not discriminate. It’s basically about power and control,” Robinson says. “Nobody starts out hitting. I wanted people to be very slow to judge somebody’s situation. We shouldn’t put a label on people’s relationships. You don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.”
After graduating from Southwest High School, Robinson attended TCU and UT Arlington before becoming involved in the local theater scene. In 2017, she directed a 20-minute short film called Greenwood, about the 1921 Black Wall Street riots in Tulsa, which won acclaim on the festival circuit.
No Ordinary Love was filmed in just two weeks in fall 2018, and has played at various festivals during the past year. The benefit screenings this weekend in Fort Worth will coincide with other drive-in showings across the country to commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Robinson hopes that in addition to spreading a relevant message, the film will open doors to more career opportunities.
“Hopefully this will be the next step,” she says. “There’s so many things I want to get into. I’ve already written a few shorts, a couple of features, and a television pilot. I’m ready to tackle whatever is next for me.”