When Megan Griffiths finished a stint in film school, she didn't move to Los Angeles or New York like so many of her peers.
Griffiths had fallen in love with Seattle, specifically the vibrant music scene of the 1990s immortalized in Cameron Crowe's movie Singles.
"It's a really strange idea to move from film school to Seattle because it's not a known industry hub. But I just kept giving it one more year, than another year. After five years I thought, "I'm just gonna stick around a while."
Griffiths has made acclaimed independent feature films as well as built a career directing for television. And she's watching closely as our regional government finally starts to seriously invest in film industry infrastructure, including a newly opened sound stage facility on Harbor Island.
Griffiths talks to Vivian and Marcie about her work, her love for the region, and the legacy of her friend and fellow filmmaker Lynn Shelton.
ABOUT THIS EPISODE'S GUEST
Megan Griffiths is a writer/director working in film and television. She has directed shows for HBO, EPIX, TNT, Hulu, USA, Fox, Netflix, and served as the producing director for season two of Amazon’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” Along with the upcoming YEAR OF THE FOX (starring Sarah Jeffery, Jane Adams, and Jake Weber), Griffiths also recently directed I’LL SHOW YOU MINE (starring Poorna Jagannathan and Casey Thomas Brown, and produced by Duplass Brothers Productions), which will be released in June 2023. Prior to this, she wrote and directed SADIE, which premiered at the 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival and stars Melanie Lynskey, Sophia Mitri Schloss, and Tony Hale. She also created the thriller THE NIGHT STALKER, starring Lou Diamond Phillips as serial killer Richard Ramirez, which premiered on Lifetime Television. Her film LUCKY THEM starring Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church and Johnny Depp premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was distributed by IFC Films. Griffiths’s film EDEN was a breakout at SXSW 2012, winning the Emergent Narrative Director Award, the Audience Award for Narrative Feature as well as a Special Jury Prize for lead actress Jamie Chung. Griffiths’ feature THE OFF HOURS, distributed by Film Movement, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Additionally, Griffiths has produced several projects including the Sundance absurdist buddy comedy THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM, as well as YOUR SISTER’S SISTER, directed by the late Lynn Shelton, Griffiths’s close friend and frequent collaborator. Griffiths and Shelton also co-wrote a feature for This American Life, and together with producer Gregg Fienberg sold an original pitch to HBO.
Griffiths was recently invited to join the director’s branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. In her adopted hometown of Seattle, Griffiths was the recipient of the 2012 Stranger Genius Award for Film, was named the 2013 City Arts Film Artist of the Year, and received the 2015 Seattle Mayor’s Award for Film. She serves on the board of Northwest Film Forum and is an active advocate for sustainable production.
You can learn more about Megan and her work on her website
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:00):
Hey, I'm Vivian Phillips.
MARCIE SILLMAN (00:01):
And I'm Marcie Sillman. And this is DoubleXposure Is DoubleXposure Exposure. <laugh>
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:16):
DoubleXposure is a podcast where we plumb the deepest depths and the tiniest cracks of our world to understand how culture and creativity shape our lives.
MARCIE SILLMAN (00:28):
On this episode, filmmaker Megan Griffiths on making movies in Seattle and across Washington state. Vivian, it is lovely to see you on this sort of, uh, Juneuary day. We're speaking on Juneteenth, where there's, uh, seasonal 55 degrees in Seattle
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:59):
And I'm wearing a sweatshirt, a hoodie, and all of those good things. But it's great to see you. Marcie, how have you been?
MARCIE SILLMAN (01:08):
I have been busy. I adopted two little kittens about two weeks ago and I don't know where they are. Hopefully they're asleep somewhere because they are wonderful. But it's like cat TV at our house. We just sit and watch these little maniacs bounce off the wall and the 15 year old cat is looking at them going, what the hell have you done to my life?
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (01:32):
Why did you go get some new fresh cats.
MARCIE SILLMAN (01:35):
Some new fresh cats? Are you trying to replace me? So yeah, that's where, that's where we are. How about you? You've been busy.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (01:43):
I've been busy, but I've also been enjoying some things and I was so excited that I was able to get to the next, to the last performance, I think of the 50th anniversary season for Pacific Northwest Ballet. And let me tell you something, I smiled through the entire performance. It was beautiful. It was not your grandmother's ballet in many, many, many ways because one, the works are a little bit more contemporary and the dancers are definitely not your traditional ballet company ensemble. They are a little bit of everything in everybody, and I absolutely loved it. So thank you because you're the dancer aficionado or half of this team, so thank you for encouraging me to get there.
MARCIE SILLMAN (02:39):
The individuals are really of every kind of body shape, every kind of race, every kind of gender expression. For folks who've never seen the ballet in late September, they open again with a really cool modern program. And so I'd encourage people to show up.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (02:56):
I encourage people should absolutely do it. And there's one other thing that I experienced recently that I think everybody should tap into because it's available, you know, whenever you want to access it. And that's the Black Arts Legacies project that Crosscut slash Cascade Media has produced. This is the second iteration. And let me tell you, talk about a room full of creatives, elders, up and coming creatives. I mean, it was the most exciting and beautiful room that I've seen since last year when we were at Langston. This one was at Washington Hall and it was just so much fun. So I, I encourage people to go find that Black Arts Legacies, just do a search and you'll find it.
MARCIE SILLMAN (03:49):
There's print articles on the website and there's also short video profiles of artists. It has got me to thinking, because another thing that's happened this year in Seattle 2023 is that after decades of conversation, King County has really jump started the local film industry, which has been here for a long time, but very kind of under the radar and Harbor Island, which is just what it sounds like, it's an island near the board of Seattle where the harbor is. They've opened a real, for real film production studio. And I know it's something that the local industry, independent filmmakers, commercial makers, all sorts of, of people who work in that medium are super excited about it.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (04:36):
And we have some of those folks to thank for their advocacy and making sure that that happened. Now, of course, all praises due to King County executive Dow Constantine for really pushing that through, along with his Creative Economy Director, Kate Becker. But we had the opportunity to speak with a local filmmaker who has also been very, very involved. And we're just thrilled in our third season to introduce our audiences to Megan Griffiths.
MARCIE SILLMAN (05:11):
We are speaking to you. It's early June, 2023 and Year of the Fox just had its debut last month at the Seattle International Film Festival. And, if I understand correctly, you have a second feature that is scheduled to open this month. I'll Show You Mine, which makes me believe that even though there was a pandemic happening, you were incredibly busy during all of this time.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (05:36):
<laugh>. Yes. I mean, I don't know if incredibly busy. It definitely, I kept myself occupied that summer that I shot those two features was very busy, was the summer of 2021. So at the beginning of the pandemic, I started looking for projects. 'cause I had been doing a lot of television. And so I specifically was sort of yearning to get back into the feature world. And so I, I reached out to some people about the project that ultimately became, I'll Show You Mine. And then, Year of the Fox Eliza Flug, who I've known for many years, who wrote that script and it's, uh, inspired by her own story. She sent it to me. So I sort of developed the two of them alongside each other. And then once the vaccine was released more widely, everything just kind of moved really quickly into production. So it was a busy summer, uh, wall to wall. And then, uh, just trying to kind of find a way to get the films out into the world. Wow. Since then,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (06:35):
It sounds like you were really busy during Covid, uh, you know, during the pandemic, but one of the questions that comes up a lot for us, I think is, you know, what were the challenges and opportunities for people in all creative fields? What was it like for you and your career trajectory during Covid?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (06:55):
I was very grateful in during Covid that I had been able to make a shift into directing television in the previous three or four years before the pandemic struck, because I was able that, I mean, television, like every other, every form of production sort of went down during when the pandemic struck that that just, it, it just universally, there was basically no production happening between mid-March and mid-September, mid early September, 2020. It just was done nothing. And then as things came back, it was very slow and there were fewer opportunities. And so it definitely was a challenging time. But the nice thing about having done television and been able to work a lot as I had leading into the pandemic is that I was getting residuals through the pandemic. So it really helped me like sustain and pay my mortgage. And it was just if I'd only, if I hadn't been able to make that leap, which took me a long time to get, because I had done a lot, I've been making features and working in the film industry, you know, for 20 years. But to shift from features to television is really challenging. And so having been able to do it when I did it really saved me when the pandemic happened.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (08:13):
If I might ask just a quick follow up question to that, uh, around how, uh, the pandemic changed the industry. 'cause I was, I'm a credits reader, I like to read the credits on films. Yay. And I was watching the credits on your film, the Year of the Fox, and there's a whole element at the end around kind of this Covid team. Describe that to us, how that has impacted the industry.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (08:38):
And I don't know if it's a thing as much now, but because the, all the, um, parameters are so loose these days, but for the first several years as we kind of got back in, you had to bring on a whole team of people to manage the testing and the, you know, if someone tested positive, informing them, informing the production in a in a way that wasn't ostracizing or, you know, uh, you know, and so every morning you'd go in and, uh, get your temperature taken. You'd have to fill a little Google form that said, you know, that you weren't having a fever or whatever, and then you would get a wristband or whatever. And, uh, then every other day, I think for most people it was a, it was a test and then getting the results of that. So yeah, it's early in the pandemic, it was like, I went back in September, 2020 for a project and there was handwashing stations everywhere.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (09:33):
Every table that was like a six foot table that you would use for lunch that used to be full of like, you know, 10 or 12 people, like crowded around it, had one chair at either end of it. Um, and they were all spread apart from each other. So locations had to get so much bigger of a space to have like a base camp. So yeah, it had a huge impact. It was a major expense. I, on that project that I went back to, they were spending something like $250,000 a week on just Covid expenses. That was a big television show, but I'm sure it tapered off as the, as we got used to it and understood it more. But initially it was all hands on deck.
MARCIE SILLMAN (10:10):
Wow. Wow. Wow. That's all we can say. That's a lot of money. <laugh>. Um, we're kind of talking as if the whole world does know who you are and maybe everybody does.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (10:20):
If only, if only.
MARCIE SILLMAN (10:21):
I have known you for a long time, but I wanna walk back a little bit in time and talk about the beginning. How did you start in film?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (10:29):
I moved to Seattle from Ohio where I went to film school and got my master's. And so I had made the decision to go and study film and I made short films there and, uh, sort of learned my craft. I thought when I'm graduated I was gonna be a cinematographer and that's how I was gonna make my living. But it ultimately was a very competitive landscape for cinematographers in Seattle where I, when I moved here, um, because it's, let's face it, it's much more glamorous <laugh> job than a lot of the jobs on the sort of below the line quote unquote. And so I had an opportunity to be an assistant director on a film of a friend of mine. Um, and that is, uh, as you probably know, the person who sort of is responsible for maintaining the schedule and making sure everything we're getting, everything we're supposed to get every day.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (11:15):
Uh, and I hadn't done it, but I thought I probably could do it. So it was a low budget project and they were willing to have someone who'd never done it before. And that opened the door to a whole different career for me for five years after that. I, I worked on larger and larger budget projects until, I think the last one I did was like a $5 million feature, uh, that was shot in Seattle called Late Autumn. That was a beautiful film. And that right after that is when I shot my feature the Off Hours, which is something I'd been trying to get made for seven years at that point. And we finally went into production and made it on a shoestring, my producers and I, and uh, it ended up getting into Sundance, which opened an opportunity to direct a feature called Eden, which went to South by Southwest and won the audience award. And, uh, some recognition for me and my lead actress. And then that provided an opportunity for me direct Lucky Them, which was a feature that starred Tony Collette and Thomas Hayden Church and went to Toronto International Film Festival. So it's sort of like everything sort of just builds on, uh, one after the next. Um, I've made my films The Night Stalker, Sadie and then these new two since then. So yeah, it's been a, it's been everything sort of building onto itself.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (12:33):
Well, it sounds like it's been, um, really good for you being here in Seattle as a filmmaker, but why did you come to Seattle? Was it to work on a film or was it to do something else? I mean, we think you came here to make movies. What was the real reason? <laugh>
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (12:50):
<laugh>. I mean, I wanted to be, I wanted to make movies, but I, it's a really strange idea to move from film school to Seattle for that reason because it's not like a known hub of the industry. But I just loved Seattle. I had spent my high school and undergrad years in northern Idaho. So Seattle was the closest city. I saw lots of shows here in the nineties. I was over for music reasons many, many times. And so I, uh, I just really wanted to give it a shot 'cause I knew I loved the city. My best friend was also moving here and we, and I thought, you know what? I have one person I know there, doesn't work in this industry <laugh>, but at least I have one friendly face and I'll just give it a year and see if I can find any reason to keep me.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (13:40):
And initially I was worried because I wasn't really finding that. Uh, and then I worked on a very small budget film called Shy Carpet Sunset, where I was the cinematographer and I found all these people who felt like my people, the kind of people I wanted to be working with, the kind of film atmosphere I wanted to be part of. And then that just kind of led to another project and another project as it does in this business. And I just kept giving it one more year and then another more year <laugh>. And then after five years I thought, you know, I, maybe I'm gonna stick around for a little while,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (14:11):
<laugh>, we hear or and or understand that Cameron Crow's Singles might've had some influence on you. I mean, it's a film I love watching because I know all of the locations. Right. And so how much influence did that have on you, maybe staying around?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (14:30):
It came out I think ‘93 or nine two or 93 92. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> two, yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I definitely, like, I was so very much into the Seattle music scene at that point that I saw it the first day that it opened in my area, <laugh>. I was very ready for that movie and I loved it. And I owned it on VHS and everything. You know, <laugh>, should I pull my copy out?
MARCIE SILLMAN (14:50):
I have on on the shelf next to me,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (14:52):
<laugh>. Oh, gosh, gosh.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (14:53):
It's a beloved classic, you know? Yeah. And so I, I just, it was like an important movie for me in terms of just, uh, I felt like I recognized the world of it and loved it. And then, you know, I loved Seattle so much that it sort of represented this world that I wanted to be part of. And then I moved here on the first feature that I shot that Shy Carpet Sunset that I mentioned, we shot at the singles apartments for one of our locations, <laugh>. And so that was a nice little closing of that circle. Well,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (15:20):
19th and Thomas is famous <laugh>, it's <laugh>,
MARCIE SILLMAN (15:25):
Maybe it's got historical landmark status at this point. You've been talking Megan about like building, building, building and, and you chose to be here, you found a tribe of people that you wanted to work with. But I'm curious how living, let's face it, this is not the cinematic limelight, or at least the industry limelight, you know, heart of all of it. So how difficult was it to keep that trajectory going upward?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (15:51):
It's hard to make a name for yourself on a national level when you're in a non, I mean, honestly, it's probably hard for people live in LA and New York to do that either. But like as a director, when I finally sort of shifted more into that seat, I was very fortunate to have been accepted to Sundance with that film, The Off Hours. That's really good branding for you as a director, <laugh>. Um, it's, you can kind of use that forever as a, as part of your legacy. And it's obviously, it's a good platform to get a movie released as well. But like, that I think helped if I, and, and all of my films, uh, have been, have had opportunities to, to play on a national scale and have, and be available widely. But yeah, it is, it is a choice to stay in a place where, well, for me, it's like a place that I love and feel like is home and is very comfortable for me.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (16:49):
And it makes me feel like I'm the most sort of grounded version of myself, and that's the version I wanna be when I'm directing movies because, or television, because of the fact that I, I don't wanna lose touch with real people in real places and get too caught up in the industry that I'm a part of, because I feel like it can really remove you from the lives of the character’s stories that you're trying to tell. So yeah, it's, it's, and I just love it. So it's also just the, every time I, I made a short film called The Sound in 2018, and it was all about the feeling I have when I, my plane lands back in Seattle, uh, after being away where I just have this like, release of like tension and I, and so I made a film about a ferry worker who has that when he goes out on the water.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (17:37):
Oh, nice. Yeah. Nice. So yeah, tell the world that it's a nice place even when you land and it's raining like crazy <laugh>,
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (17:45):
I always am happy to see the rain
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (17:47):
<laugh>. So Megan, what draws you to a project? What kind of scripts are you looking for? For film and television?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (17:55):
I mean, with film, some of them are self-generated and some of them come to me, but it's, it's always like, do I feel connected to the character? Do I feel like often there's, there's a connection via they're making choices that I don't understand and I want to understand, or they're going to teach me something about my fellow man that I, that I wanna understand, or they're addressing a theme that I wanna talk about and having like starting a conversation that I wanna start or I just wanna be part of, you know? So that is really common for me is just to, every film is the start of a conversation, not necessarily the end of one. And so I always want that to be, uh, something that registers for me when I read the script or watch whatever I'm sent. Yeah.
MARCIE SILLMAN (18:41):
Let’s talk about Year of the Fox for a second, because it's about a, a teenager. Sadie was also about a teenager. So those are the two last, uh, major works of years that I've seen. It's a, a young woman whose parents, her adopted parents divorce, they are living in Aspen, Colorado. Her mother who's very disturbed by everything that's gone on moves to Seattle. And her father, who's also very disturbing to me, stays in Aspen. Sorry, he was disturbing. Right. <laugh>. And so I'm curious, uh, you mentioned that, that the screenwriter, this is kind of her story, but I also, I'm had read that you had filmed, even though a lot of it takes place in Aspen, it's really not all set there. So how much of it was made here? Tell us a little bit more about this film.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (19:32):
Well that's what your description of it is, is good. And, uh, it is, it is sort of, I would say it's it terms of how it's set, it is primarily Aspen, but in terms of where we shot, it's primarily Washington. So we shot a lot of Aspen, out of our Aspen locations. Were in North Bend, Snoqualmie area, which is a pretty good double, but we did go to Aspen as well and shoot some beautiful footage of that. I mean, we can double up on some locations, but the beauty of Aspen is, is sort of unparalleled. So we had to go there and make sure we captured some of the specialness of it.
MARCIE SILLMAN (20:08):
But you, it was a movie made in Washington state.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (20:11):
Yeah, none of our actors were ever in Colorado for the film. So it's, there's footage of, of Aspen, but all the scenes with actors in them took place here.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (20:21):
And that folks is why we are advocates for bringing more film to the city of Seattle and Washington State. Because guess what, when people come here and stay here for a while, they contribute to the tax base.
MARCIE SILLMAN (20:39):
Our conversation with Megan Griffiths continues after this.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (20:44):
Our music is courtesy of Big World Breaks, many thanks.
MARCIE SILLMAN (20:48):
And this year we welcome our sponsor LANGSTON, cultivating Black Brilliance from their home at Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the historic Central District.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (21:12):
You know, you, uh, have been here, you seem to have your fingers on the pulse of what's happening. We wanna shift now and talk a little bit about the Harbor Island Film Studios. That facility has opened, I think, what will it offer filmmakers for folks that don't know about it?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (21:31):
Well, we have needed a, like a sound stage facility in this area for a really long time. We've had smaller stages that aren't exactly soundproof, but offer sort of a, a version of what you need. But this is a very large cavernous space, and the county is putting a lot of energy and resources into making it a real studio space, meaning like soundproofing, you know, it has all the spaces that are required for a production to be set up. And, and so it's really exciting because it means that longer term productions that build sets like television series, uh, would have a place to set up shop and, you know, create jobs that last for nine months instead of 30 days or one week or whatever we're normally doing around here. You know, it is a huge deal to me as a person who would love to work locally more because I, in television especially, I travel every time I work, and so I'm gone a lot.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (22:34):
I was gone for five months last year on one job in Wilmington, North Carolina for, um, an Amazon show that I worked on. And I, you know, I miss being home. I, I like traveling, but it's hard to be gone for that long. And, and then I also really love this community and I feel like we have such a strong crew base that are so talented and passionate about what they're do. So it's, I would love to feel like they have sustainable income throughout the year and not just these sort of peak summer months where everyone is offered all the jobs and then nothing for months on end. You know.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (23:08):
You used the word sustainable and I read in your bio a mention of your support for a sustainable production. What does that mean?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (23:19):
It's basically the way you would consider sustainability or green production. You know, you're, you're being aware of your impact on the earth as you're making your choices. And so, you know, film has been a big, <laugh> has been guilty of a lot of waste, uh, over the course of it. Like, you know, so many water bottles, so many pieces of paper, so many sets built and discarded. So it's just being sort of aware of, of those choices as you're making them and, and as a leader in any given production, encouraging all the department heads to be aware of that and think about the choices they could make that might have a less impact on, uh, the environment. So…
MARCIE SILLMAN (24:02):
The flip side of this great new studio that is opening is that after it feels like decades, I was gonna say years of lobbying, decades of lobbying, the state legislature finally recently expanded Washington State's film incentive program. That's money that helps offset feature productions. And I'm wondering for, for people who are listening who don't actually understand what it is and why it's important, can you talk about its role in making a movie and whether you've taken advantage of it?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (24:34):
I definitely have taken advantage of it multiple times. It's been, uh, it's the reason I was able to shoot Eden here. The reason I was able to shoot Lucky Them here, Year of the Fox, it provides literally an incentive for people to set up shop here where there is, you know, we're trying to create the sustainable business in, in Seattle through just our solid work that we're putting out. But at the end of the day, you have all of these states that are, that have production incentives. And so just, you know, trying to remain competitive in that world is really important when you know that there's producers who are breaking down a script and looking at the bottom line, and they're doing it for this state with their incentive in this state, with their incentive in this state, with their incentive. And then they compare that bottom number and they go to the one where they can get the most bang for their buck, you know?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (25:24):
And we wanna be that place because as we were talking about, we are getting a a stage, we have the most diverse landscape. I've shot a movie that's set in the southwest here. <laugh> shot a movie that's take place in Aspen here. I could, there's been a movie that was, that took place in the rainforest that was shot on the peninsula. You know, it's, we have a lot of different things to offer. And so, you know, I think people would be very excited to be here shooting. It's just they need it to make sense for their bottom line.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (25:55):
Yeah. We were talking Marcie and I, about the fact that, you know, when we are watching films and specifically those shot in Seattle, we want our city to be a character, right, in the film as well. And I we're just curious about whether or not the sound stage, the film incentive, are those the only two ingredients that's really going to change the way in which Washington, Seattle, and Seattle, get marketed as a good place to make your film? Or what are the other elements that need to be included?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (26:29):
Well, I think there are two big ones. And the other, the third one that has happened recently that is gonna be a, a major part of it is the film commission that was just put together for the city. So we really ki it's kind of amazing. We have like this great advancement that's been going on on the state level and on the county level with the stage and on the city level with the commission. So everyone's sort of pitching in to the effort to make this creative economy vibrant, you know? And so yeah, the film commission is trying to find opportunities to grow this film industry locally and work with city officials to, to make sure that we're capitalizing on all of those opportunities. And all three of the state, county, and city are all centering equity in all of the choices they're making in the, the, the structures they're building. So it's, it's really, it's very cool.
MARCIE SILLMAN (27:23):
You have a long perspective. You've been doing this work for a long time. I think that there are some people who'd be surprised to hear that Seattle even has a film industry. But, you know, I've been reporting on this for really those decades that I worked. How have you seen things change? Does it feel more like a real contributing part of the economy now or are we on the cusp of that, or?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (27:46):
I would say we're on the cusp of that. Like right now I feel like we're setting all these building blocks so that it's, it is a little bit of a long game. It's not exactly, you make these things and then immediately see the results. Over the years we've had ebbs and flows in our, in the busyness of our year round production schedule. And we've lost people to LA and Portland and even Spokane. And, um, and I think it, you know, we have to rebuild our, our infrastructure and on like a crew base level and vendor level. And there's still amazing people who are here. I mean, I just shot Year of the Fox using all of these local resources. Um, but it, you know, to be able to sustain more than one large production at a time, we need to draw a lot of the, the talent back in. And I think that it, it just, it grows with, uh, it sort of grows when it's watered, I guess. And so, you know, right now there's a lot of, there's a lot of stuff being done to enrich the soil and water it, and then hopefully it'll yield a big crop. <laugh>.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (28:46):
It's just a, a a quick process question for, you know, individuals who got filmed sitting in the back of their head, they've wanted to do it. They live here in Seattle. It's been a challenging place to try to do something like that. What's the first three entry points? Where do people go? Where do they start?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (29:07):
To when they have a movie that they wanna make?
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (29:09):
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (29:11):
Let's see. I mean, the cha it's the most challenging part of the process is, is to get it going. Second most challenging is to get anyone to see it when it's done <laugh>. But, you know, raising money is a huge part of the process at the early stages and it's nobody's favorite part. And it's really challenging if you don't come from like institutional wealth yourself, you know, where you don't have those people who were friends with your parents, who you can call or whatever, which I, I never could make those kind of phone calls where I was. That's the reason Off Hours took seven years to get it made because, you know, we were just trying everything we could think of to put resources together to get the movie made. So I think it's kind of taking stock of what resources you have that aren't money that can help the movie get made, what you actually need to make the movie on a fi, you know, 'cause it's, it, it isn't free.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (30:10):
There's always gonna be some level of expense. And, you know, being realistic in terms of what's happening in the film landscape right now, the marketplace, what things are being bought, how, how much they're being purchased for at film festivals. All this stuff is like in the trades. And so I think understanding the world that you're about to walk into with your movie, which is not a fun thing to do sometimes because it's a pretty bleak landscape actually. Um, I think it's good though, to know, to set your expectations. Just as an example, this is an old example, but when I was make, trying to get the Off Hours made initially we had, my producers and I had all been working on movies and we set this budget level that we thought this is what we need to make this movie. It's got a lot of characters, it's got a lot of locations, it's got big semi-truck in it.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (30:57):
Like it's got a lot of needs. And then I went to Sundance with the Hump Day crew, Lynn Shelton's film, and that movie was like the toast of Sundance, but it still didn't sell for that much money. And so it was just interesting. It really sort of reset my brain a little bit. And also Lynn had just won “Someone to Watch” award at the Spirit Awards, which is independent film, Oscars-ish kind of thing. And, um, she, her speech was all about, you know, get your friends together, make your movie. And so between those two things, I just, we sort of drastically reset what we actually needed to have insurance and protect and feed our crew and protect the safety of the set. And then we just kind of forged ahead and made the film and, but it changed it. And it just kind of having that, that look into what the market was doing at that point really shifted how I was approaching it.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (31:51):
Thank you. That's really good. People just should not just rush down to the Seattle Film Commission <laugh>
MARCIE SILLMAN (31:56):
With their proposals in hand,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (31:58):
with a proposal, right?
MARCIE SILLMAN (31:59):
So you have, as you mentioned, summer of 21, you were very busy making these two features Year of the Fox, and I'll show You Mine. Are both of them getting theatrical releases?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (32:10):
Year the Fox just had its premiere, so we're in the process of, we're having a lot of conversations about sales. Yeah. But we're, I have nothing to, I can't announce anything on that front yet, but, um, I'll Show You Mine is coming out in a few weeks. Has this, uh, sort of a limited theatrical and then, uh, uh, VOD, video on demand same day. So it should, it will be available to anyone who's looking to watch it, uh, at the end of the month.
MARCIE SILLMAN (32:33):
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (32:34):
Well, I'm part of the Writer's Guild, so there's a strike going on. And so there's not a lot of work happening. Uh, it is slowing things down considerably, but for a good cause. Definitely rooting for a good outcome for the writers. I'm in that guild and the DGA, which is, uh, seems to have come to an agreement already. So I'm just sort of waiting to see how that all resolves and sitting on the sidelines and cheering everyone on from Seattle as much as I can. And hopefully there'll be some opportunities that come up once that's all been squared away and everyone's taken care of <laugh>. And then I'm hoping, and, and assuming that I, I'll be doing a little bit more TV work, um, now that I have remembered my love of features and done two in a row, <laugh>,
MARCIE SILLMAN (33:20):
I know it's more lucrative. You mentioned the late Lynn Shelton, who was not only a good friend of yours, but a very good friend of the local film industry, and I know you are as well, but do you feel some responsibility to step forward and assume that flag bearing mantle that, that she wore?
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (33:40):
I certainly would never feel like I could take her place in any way because she was hugely meaningful to this community and me personally. Um, but she did a lot to draw attention to Seattle in her work and in her outspokenness about how much she loved this part of the world. And so, you know, that's the tradition that I am more than happy to carry on <laugh> because I also love this, this community and I love shooting here, and I'm very happy to talk about why with anyone who asks me. And it's just a beautiful place to shoot. So I've always felt so supported shooting things here, and I learned so many lessons working on sets of a lot of local filmmakers, but Lynn especially. So I, yeah, I'll take all of those things forward with me and try to honor that memory as much as I can.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (34:27):
You know, Lynn Shelton had a huge presence and was a great advocate, not just for Seattle, but for film in general. And we miss her. Thank you so very much for hanging in there, maintaining your space here in Seattle, and just thank you for talking with us today.
MEGAN GRIFFITHS (34:43):
Oh, thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
MARCIE SILLMAN (34:45):
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (34:46):
You know, Marcie, one of the things that I'm starting to learn and recognize and appreciate is that the City of Seattle can essentially be any place <laugh>, you know, and I think that Megan talks a lot about the, the fact that the majority of her film was filmed here in Seattle, and you know, the movie Singles is the one that really kind of put location, Seattle location, in my view, on the map, although I'm sure it's been a location for many, many, many, many films. Oh yeah, that's right. Wait, Elvis <laugh>, that Elvis movie, <laugh> at
MARCIE SILLMAN (35:21):
The World's Fair,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (35:22):
The World's Fair, right?
MARCIE SILLMAN (35:24):
Um, oh, there, there are so many. And I'm just thinking one of the things that Megan was talking about was the importance of not just the Harbor Island film studio, but also that the City of Seattle has established a film office, and we've had people at the city bureaucratic level dealing with this in the past, but this is, uh, reviving it. And so it really shows intent on the part of,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (35:51):
MARCIE SILLMAN (35:52):
Yeah. Of our region. And it is, it can be a really big economic player. So it's not just that we get to see, you know, the apartment on 19th and John, that that is in a lot of films, or that we get to see like Cinderella Liberty, which was the old waterfront downtown, you know, or The Fabulous Baker Boys or Sleepless in Seattle. Mm-hmm. Which if you watch, you realize how did they get from Lake Union to Alki on just one fell swoop? You know, stuff like that can't
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (36:22):
MARCIE SILLMAN (36:23):
It can, it can happen,
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (36:24):
It can happen in film, right?
MARCIE SILLMAN (36:26):
Yeah. A lot the magic of film. So I wish Megan all the luck, you know, she talked about building that career and how she's, so this is my favorite thing that she said is that it's a really strange idea to move from film school to Seattle because it's not a known hub of the industry. She goes, I, after five years, I thought, I'm just gonna stick around here for a while. And she's been here for more than 20 years, and her films are little love letters to the city and to the region.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (36:58):
And the fact that, you know, we talked a lot as we've been talking with artists and arts administrators over the last couple of years. We talked a lot about this concept of pivoting. And I love that she talked about the fact that, and she didn't call it pivot, but that she had already started work in TV production when Covid hit. So that allowed her to continue to have some work. And I'm really, really grateful to her for sharing a bit with us about Lynn Shelton, because Lynn's tragic death a couple of years ago just came as quite a shock to those folks who knew her, loved her and the industry locally. So her work is being carried on by people like Megan.
MARCIE SILLMAN (37:47):
And if you haven't seen any of Meghan Griffith's films, you can find them streaming online. Maybe Year of the Fox will be in a theater near you. We don't know that yet, but that would be really cool.
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (37:59):
Thanks so much for listening.
MARCIE SILLMAN (38:01):
Thank you. DoubleXposure’s Executive Producers are me, Marcie Sillman, and
VIVIAN PHILLIPS (38:10):
Me, Vivian Phillips, associate producer Hilary Northcraft
MARCIE SILLMAN (38:15):
If you like what you're hearing on this episode of doubleXposure, be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app and check out our website, doubleXposurepod.com.
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