screenwriter to watch
Megan Park is a veteran actress having starred in dozens of feature films and appearing in several TV series, most notably six seasons as a series regular on the hit teen show, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” opposite Shailene Woodley. She most recently worked on “Room” with Brie Larson, “Central Intelligence” with the Rock and Kevin Hart and can be seen next as the lead in the feature film, “Deported” opposite Nick Swardsen and in Uma Thurman’s new TV series “My So Called Wife”. “Lucy In My Eyes” was Megan’s directorial debut and her first writing project. She has since written a TV pilot that was optioned by a major TV network and has two more in the works. She recently started working as a director commercially with Pretty Bird and is writing a feature film and has several other projects in development as a writer/director.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I had just finished acting on “Secret Life of The American Teenager” for six years and I felt a little burnt out creatively. I wanted more of a voice and I had just worked with actress/writer Zoe Kazan who had encouraged me to try writing as it was something I had been interested in. I secretly started writing a TV pilot and when I finally sent it to my team, we had several major TV networks wanting to option it right away which was very exciting and encouraging. I wrote “Lucy” right after and instead of acting it it like every assumed I would, I wanted to try my hand at directing and took a chance and I’m so happy because I totally got the directing bug after that AND the writing bug. I haven’t stopped writing scripts since I had my first one optioned, its become just as important to me as my acting career.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Finish. Just finish it and send it out. It’s the scariest thing to send a script to your team or to people to read. Its much more vulnerable even than doing an audition because in your mind with acting, you can always fall back on other peoples words, the director, the casting director….but with writing your own work, it’s ALL you. If something isn’t working YOU need to fix it. It’s very scary but also incredibly rewarding when it goes well. I’ve always just learned to sit down, focus and finish. If you don’t finish it, nothing will ever happen good or bad.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
I just had to do a re-write of a pilot script while navigating studio notes WITH an experienced show runner guiding me who had very different ideas of writing. It was hard to not get discouraged when it wasn’t “right” over and over but I also learned SO much and it gave me a thick skin which I think will be invaluable as I hope to continue writing things that networks are “ripping” apart for a long time so it was good to get my first taste of how to come back from that even stronger. You can’t take it personally and you have to know that everyone WANTS you to succeed, you just have to stay open and stay focused on your vision and the pieces will slowly come together.
What was a major turning point in your career?
I think after winning the Grand Jury Prize at Austin people started to really take notice of what I was doing as a writer/director. It was. the first thing I ever made and to have that type of response was really encouraging. I got signed as a director commercially and have had some really amazing opportunities come my way and even more than getting something optioned by a studio, being an “award” winning writer really opened up doors for me and gave me some credibility to be in the mix for some super exciting projects.
What are you working on right now?
I feel like I’ve never been busier which is nice. I’m still acting a lot and auditioning and doing press for some projects I have coming out in FRONT of the camera and I’m working on a pitch for a major studio feature, directing two music videos this month, writing a new youg adult pilot, writing a feature and another web series and editing a web series I wrote/directed and starred in this summer. I always feel like I have 5 jobs going on at once which is very fun.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I love Sofia Coppola’s movies. She was my biggest inspiration in becoming a director…and Melanie Laurant’s films. Respire was a huge inspiration for me. I also love Wes Anderson’s movies. Obvious Child is a recent favorite. I love female coming of age stories.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
Elan Mastai who’s a good friend. He wrote one of my favorite rom-com scripts I’ve ever read which I was fortunate enough to act in, “The F Word”. I also think Zoe Kazan, another friend, is brilliant…I can’t wait to see what she does in the future. I love Paul Feig, Sofia Coppola, Melanie Laurant, Wes Anderson also.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival:
I had never seen my film on a big screen or with an audience until the festival and I remember sitting in the back row with Madeleine McGraw who’s 7 and the star of the short and her little giggle over black starts the film and as soon as I heard that, my stomach flipped and she squeezed my hand and said “Megan, thats OUR movie!” and smiled at me so big….that was really full circle and wonderful. It was a special moment that I’ll never forget.