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TIFF Women Directors: Meet Megan Griffiths

Interviews
by Melissa Silverstein
September 9, 2013 12:30 PM
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"Lucky Them"

Megan Griffiths was born in Athens, Ohio and received her MFA in film from Ohio University. She has written and directed the short films Moving (08), and Eros (09), and the features First Aid for Choking (03), The Off Hours (11), and Eden (12), which received the Audience Award and the Emergent Narrative Female Director Award at SWSW. Lucky Them (13) is her latest film.

Lucky Them is playing as a part of the Special Presentations program at TIFF.

Women and Hollywood: Please give us your description of your film playing at TIFF.

Megan Griffiths: Lucky Them is a film about a female rock journalist (Toni Collette) who is tasked by her editor (Oliver Platt) with tracking down a revered musician who disappeared ten years earlier. The fact that the musician in question also happened to be her long-time boyfriend at the time of his disappearance makes her reticent to take on the assignment, to say the least. But she teams up with an eccentric would-be documentarian (Thomas Haden Church) and sets out to track down her ex and reconcile herself with her past.

WaH: What drew you to this script?

MG: I was drawn in by the characters. I really felt I recognized them and wanted to spend time with them. Ellie (the rock journalist at the center of the film) is such a tough cookie on the outside, but through the film she takes a journey that is very internal and profound. I found the story very relatable and funny as well--it's a story I would want to see, and I thought I could tell it well.

WaH: What was the biggest challenge?

MG: I guess I'd say the biggest challenge was telling a story with such a complicated, flawed character at the center. I am completely attracted to those elements but audiences can be really hard on female characters that stray from the safe confines of traditional femininity. I think it's important that films reflect all the different ways to be a woman in this world and I really wanted to stay true to Ellie's complexity, while at the same time keeping the audience engaged and entertained. It was an interesting tightrope to walk.

WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?

MG: I think directing is all about discovering your own voice--what you have that is unique and sets you apart from others, whether you're male or female. Once you know what that is, it's about developing that voice and building confidence in what you bring to the table. That's where things get a bit more challenging, as we ladies tend to be socially conditioned to be humble and unassuming. Having the confidence and, let's face it, the gall to go into a room and tell people that you're the only person for the job can be a daunting task, but you've really got to believe it yourself if you're going to convince anyone else.

WaH: What's the biggest misconception about you and your work?

MG: I have actually been trying to address potential misconceptions as I go. When people know you for one thing, they tend to want to keep you in that box. I went to Sundance with my film The Off Hours, which is a very character-driven, atmospheric drama. Coming out of that, I didn't want to be labeled as a "drama" director--I felt I had more to offer. With my next film Eden, I really tried to embrace the thriller aspects and push myself into territory I hadn't been able to explore before. Then when Lucky Them landed on my doorstep, I suddenly had an opportunity to step into the comedy sphere and I leapt at it. I guess the misconception I'm fighting is that a director has a specific space they occupy and they shouldn't stray from that space. I believe there's worthy stories all over the genre spectrum and I'd love a crack at all of them!

WaH: What are the biggest challenges and or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?

MG: I think the challenge is finding a way to connect audiences with the films they want considering the sheer number of films that exist in the world. The gatekeepers have been largely removed, and in a sense it's fantastic because those gatekeepers didn't always serve the large variety of tastes and desires of the viewing public. But in another sense it makes it more challenging to audiences now to find the things they want--the films are more widely available, but they are also lost in a sea of other VOD titles. Once we start to build some channels to guide people to what they want, or even lead people to what they may not even know they want, it opens up so many opportunities to tell stories that might not have been possible to tell before this paradigm shift.

WaH: Name your favorite female directed film and why.

MG: Tough question! There's so many phenomenal films directed by women. I guess I'll go with the first one that struck me, which is Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold. Such a confident, compelling film with incredible performances. It felt so urgent and true that it really energized me and made me want to reach farther with my own work.

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