If She Can Do It
September 26, 2012 by Megan Clare Johnson
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.
In a Portland café, MEGAN, a 40 year-old unproduced screenwriter, drinks tea with her friend, LISA, a 50 year-old writer.
You should direct your script.
Who me? No, no… I just want to sell it.
One year later at the same café.
You should direct your script.
No. I don’t want to do that. I mean it’s a huge job…
Another year goes by. Megan and Lisa are in a theatre watching an invigorating and inspiring one-woman show, Storm Large’s play Crazy Enough. Megan feels transformed – she turns to Lisa.
I’m going to direct my screenplay.
Good. It took you long enough…
Flash Forward two years later. Megan is on the set of her film directing her actors. She smiles and turns to her actors.
The script you just read above is abbreviated but true. I recently completed directing and producing my first feature film, which I also wrote, called Stealing Roses. It’s a comedy-drama starring John Heard (Home Alone, Big) and Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley).
It’s a low-budget indie – a warm love story about a man who decides to rob a bank when his wife gets sick with cancer and they have no health insurance (timely, huh?). The man enlists his eccentric friends to help with the heist and his son, a cop, tries to stop him.
The couple in the film, played wonderfully by John and Cindy, is too young for Medicare, too “rich” for Medicaid, and can’t afford health insurance. It’s a tragedy that we don’t have health coverage for all in the US –and having a background as a health care consultant, I wanted to make a movie with this as the catalyst mixed up in an older married couple’s love story.
It’s kind of a little miracle every time an independent film gets completed and sells to film distributors. You do need your film seen by an audience. It is also the toughest, in my opinion, part of the process – elusive, a bit of a mystery but one must always be hopeful for a happy ending – which I am.
To be an indie filmmaker you need fortitude, to be an indie female filmmaker you need… well… you need, or rather, I needed to be, ready. And I wasn’t ready until I saw a talented woman in her one-woman play. It inspired me, it transformed me, and it made me say out loud, “If she can do it, I can do it.” That’s really what I said in all of its ABC after-school special schmaltz. But it’s not schmaltz – I really had to go through that exact experience.
Why did I need to see a play to inspire me to go for it? I’m a very independent and successful business woman and I possess creative talents – I’m not shy about that. I’ve started businesses and have been a leader on many project endeavors. I know there are accomplished woman film directors (although too few). Why wasn’t that enough to spur me? What was holding me back?
I just don’t know exactly. Perhaps I never will. All I know is that I saw a live performance that touched my heart. It gave my heart courage. It was my defining moment. We’ve all heard of the term “defining moment” in articles and in speeches. Storm Large’s performance passed on courage to me. I literally felt myself change sitting in the theatre seat watching her performance (an honest and creative portrayal of her unconventional childhood). And for that I will be forever grateful. If Storm could do it, then I could do it.
So, with skills that I possessed and many that I had to develop through the process of getting a film off the ground I began my journey. I wrote a business plan, found investors, formed a company, found a LA Producing partner, Alexia Melocchi, of Little Studio Films, met with actors, formed a crew and shot the film in LA and Portland during the summer of 2011. We edited it, screened it at the Cannes marketplace, were accepted into some LA film festivals and are currently seeking film distribution in the US and internationally. It will screen at the LA Femme Film Festival on October 12th (www.lafemme.org) and also during the American Film Market (October 31- November 7th) in Santa Monica.
Phew! I did well, I made mistakes, and I skipped over some molehills, scaled some mountains and met many new friends along the way. I don’t think being a female filmmaker was any harder than if I was a male filmmaker but I am in the minority. Women comprised 18% of directors working on narrative features in 2011. The percentage of women directing top grossing films in 2011 was 5%. Numbers matter but they can’t hold you back or spur you forward. You have to be ready.
So, thank you to everyone who helped make the film happen. And thank you Storm Large for putting your heart into your play. I put heart into my film and I hope it also spurs another person (male or female) to say, “If she can do it, I can do it.”
Megan Clare Johnson’s Bio:
Megan Clare Johnson is a screenwriter and film director. She recently completed her first feature film that she produced, directed and wrote called Stealing Roses. The film stars John Heard and Cindy Williams – and is currently seeking film distribution.