Originally published in Kingwood Observer – February 9, 2018
Chloe Csengery held her tiny, trembling dog close to her as she waited with her family to be rescued from their flooded one-story house in Kingwood after Hurricane Harvey.
Csengery is in many ways a normal teenager. She loves her family, her best friend of many years, her dog, and like many her age, she is thinking about plans for college.
And she also happens to be a Hollywood actress.
Some may recognize her from her performance as Maise, the bubbly college roommate of Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) in “Modern Family.”
Others may know her as Katie, the demon-possessed girl whose terrifying scream at the end of “Paranormal Activity 3” is celebrated among horror movie enthusiasts.
Csengery began acting at the age of 7 and started pursuing roles in Los Angeles when she was nine. Her resume is quite extensive for a 17-year-old who has lived in Kingwood, not Los Angeles, her entire life.
She’s made appearances on hit television shows like “Speechless,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “iCarly,” “Parenthood,” and “Criminal Minds,” and has been in movies starring such big-name actors as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. She just recently finished filming as the lead in the short independent film, “Sweet and Lo.”
Csengery’s roles have exposed her to some pretty heavy concepts like demon possession, homelessness and teenage pregnancy, but nothing could have prepared her for what she, and so many others, endured during Harvey.
Ever since the hurricane, Csengery and her family have been staying with loved ones.
She and her mother sat in her grandparents’ living room in January, as Csengery recalled the experience.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, Aug. 29, she awoke to the sound of water.
“We were in a one-story so we didn’t really have anywhere to go,” Csengery said. “So we just stayed in our house.”
She and her family were forced to stand in the rising water for five hours before they could be rescued. They could not open their front door and couldn’t access the garage. Her dad had to break a window so the family could climb outside.
Once rescued, they were brought to a church on Woodland Hills Drive with other Kingwood evacuees.
“The people were incredible that day,” Csengery said. “They had so many boats going in and out. People were helping people – bringing their own boats and their own trucks and transporting people. It was just amazing, honestly.”
Leaning forward on the couch as she continued telling her story, she opened her laptop and brought up a video.
Entering the film industry seemed a natural fit for Csengery from early on in her life.
“I’m a very dramatic person, so when I was little I would always put on productions in the living room,” Csengery said. “We had a neighborhood ‘gang,’ we called it, and we would put on plays in our neighborhood. I liked being the director and actor and everything. So, I think my mom kind of picked up on that.”
Csengery takes both her acting and her education seriously.
She’s not only a Hollywood actress, but also senior at iCademy – an alternative to public or homeschool, which allows her to take online teacher-taught classes with other students and do schoolwork at times when it works in her busy schedule.
She intends to get her college degree, and was in fact studying for the SAT in the days leading up to Harvey. She hasn’t yet decided whether to major in film at Loyola Marymount University, or study acting at the University of Texas.
The video Csengery brought up on her laptop was a short film called, “The Story of Harvey.” It is a poignant account of the events Csengery experienced during and after the storm.
Her best friend, Grace Daigre makes her debut portraying Csengery in the film, which also features performances by her mother, Stacey, among other family members – including her one-year-old dog, Millie.
Csengery wrote, directed, filmed, edited and did the voice-over for the film, which will be submitted along with her college applications. But, when watching the film with her, it becomes very obvious it’s much more than a college application requirement to her.
“That was actually the window we used to get out,” Csengery said, pointing to the computer screen.
“And those were all houses in my neighborhood.”
The video showed house after house with massive debris piles sitting in the front yards.
“I just used everything I had around me to make it,” Csengery said.
At one point, there’s a scene in which Red Cross volunteers were passing out supplies. Remarkably, it caused Csengery to laughed.
“Those are real Red Cross people,” she said. “I was walking around my neighborhood with my friend, my camera and my tripod and I saw them and was like, ‘Can you hand the water to her please?’
“They were like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I thanked them for being in the film, and then was like, ‘Also, can we please actually take this water? Because we need it.’ It was literally perfect timing.”
One of the main purposes of the film, Csengery explained, was to build awareness of Harvey’s lasting effects on people.
“I felt I should do something that focuses on this and show people how horrible it really was because a lot of people, like in California, had no idea what was really going on, so it just can really open a lot of people’s eyes about it,” Csengery said. “I filmed part of it in my house while it was being rebuilt, showing how it was completely destroyed. So, it showed the destruction of the neighborhood and the house.”
While Csengery’s film does highlight the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, it is also lesson in resilience and kindness – something that reflects not only her own enlightenment, but the community’s as well.
“I realized hope remains in times of despair,” Csengery says in the movie. “The tears of sorrow become the tears of thankfulness. …
“Nothing is the same and it never will be. The past is dark. The future is bright.”
To view Csengery’s film, visit https://vimeo.com/250644118.
To learn more about International Academy, visit http://www.icademy.com/.