Q&A with filmmaker Megan Griffiths: Director of “Lucky Them”

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Melissa Seymour: Hi, Megan! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Megan Griffiths: I am a filmmaker based in Seattle, WA. I have made four feature films (LUCKY THEM, EDEN, THE OFF HOURS and FIRST AID FOR CHOKING) and ten short films. I also spent ten years working in various crew positions, including cinematographer, editor, first assistant director and producer. I got an MFA in film production from the Ohio University School of Film in 2000.

MS: Which of your films are you most proud of? Why?

MG: I have made such different films with each outing that it’s difficult to compare them to one another, and I’m proud of each for very different reasons. FIRST AID FOR CHOKING was my first feature and it taught me so much and really helped me to begin to understand my specific point of view as a filmmaker, which is a critical lesson for any artist to learn. THE OFF HOURS was a film that came from a huge amount of personal passion and focus, the hard work of some amazing and dedicated producers, and the support of my community, which makes it very special to me. EDEN addresses an important topic that doesn’t get enough attention and I’m proud of the conversation that it starts, as well as the technique that was utilized to tell the story in an engaging way and make it more than just an “issue” movie. LUCKY THEM was an opportunity to stretch into comedic territory, and I’m proud of the response it elicits from audiences, both the laughter and the real emotional connection people have with the characters.

MS: You often shed light on social issues in your films. Could you explain why you focused on human trafficking in Eden? What drew you to this problem?

MG: EDEN was a project that came to me after it had already been in development for several years. I was truly blown away by the fact that it’s based on true events, and that the woman whose story it tells was involved in the writing process. I also really loved that it is a story of a woman who is never “saved”—she has to utilize her intelligence and tap into her survival instincts to transcend her circumstances. So many films about similar topics include some hero swooping in to save the day, but the unfortunate reality is that most people in these situations are never rescued. There are a lot of complicated moral questions raised and difficult relationships that are formed within the film, and I’m always very interested in wrestling with complexities.

MS: Tell us a little bit about Lucky Them. Why did you want to tell this story?

MG: When I read this script, I really felt like I recognized the characters. They all felt so specific and real. I’m often drawn to stories about people who are stuck, and Ellie (the main character in LUCKY THEM) has been frozen in time, emotionally and psychologically, since the departure of a person who really shaped her whole lifestyle, career and sense of self. I really responded to the idea of a character having to shed that old skin and move forward.

MS: What challenges have you faced in your career?

MG: I think the main challenge is trying to take something I love to do and turn it into a viable career. Making films independently is incredibly rewarding and offers you a lot of creative freedom, but it’s not a lucrative path. Branching into larger budgets, there is more financial reward, but often more creative voices and roadblocks to retaining your singular vision. Learning to navigate these issues and continue to create and pay rent all at the same time is something I’m still trying to figure out.

MS: What frustrates you most about the media or the film industry?

MG: I think at the root of any frustrating issue, there’s always an explanation that makes it at least understandable, even if it doesn’t really make you feel better. For example, I find it frustrating that character-focused films are being made with smaller and smaller budgets (or not at all) while effects-driven blockbuster budgets are inflating to a ridiculous degree. While I understand that there must be piles of box office data that are driving the studios to focus their efforts on tent-pole fare, I still miss the complex and intimate stories that once were made and promoted with the same ferocity.

MS: Who is your hero/heroine?

MG: Probably the person whose career I admire most would be Soderbergh.  I really appreciate how he has been able to move between genres and budget levels and bring such thoughtfulness and intelligence to every project. He’s also a filmmaker who doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, and in someone so talented and prolific, that’s refreshing. I also have huge respect for Meryl Streep, who has done so much work all over the spectrum and still manages to push herself creatively. Even when it seems she’s reached her pinnacle she manages to raise the bar with each successive project, which is incredibly inspiring.

MS: What advice do you have for women aspiring to be producers, writers, directors or actresses?

MG: Understand who you are and what you bring to the table. You are nothing without your instincts, and in order to trust yourself you have to know who you are and what makes you special.

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