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Life & Work with Megan Chumbley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Chumbley.

Hi Megan, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Oh man, where to begin. I initially went to college in Nashville to study music business, but after a few internships it became clear that I’d much rather enjoy music than work in it. In 2015 I did a semester in LA where I interned at Conan, took improv classes, and overall fell in love with the energy of the city. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky where the culture was very narrow and working in the movies seemed completely out of reach. Spending time here felt like finally acknowledging a huge piece of myself that I never wanted to live without again. I was devastated when I had to return to Nashville to finish school and came back as soon as I could. I spent my first couple of years here working at a startup, then working on as many sets as often as possible. I did everything from holding the boom to ADing, production design, the list goes on. Ultimately I decided to pursue directing and have completely fallen in love with everything about it. I’m very grateful to have had the experience of working in almost every role on set, I like to think it’s given me the ability to communicate with crews more effectively and empathetically. I had a goal in 2020 of directing ten things; I exceeded that goal, learned a ton, and now am focusing more on who I am as an artist. I think it’s inevitable as an aspiring director to want to emulate others, but at the end of the day you have to find your unique and authentic voice to make truly good and powerful art.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
There have been many, many challenges… but here are a couple: As women, we have been conditioned to make ourselves small, easy to work with, low maintenance. For a long time, I didn’t feel I had the grounds to ask people to come work for me because I didn’t have enough experience or didn’t want to be too demanding or presumptuous. Finally, I started asking myself when writing emails or planning projects, “would a man feel any hesitation to (x)?” and it changed my world. I spent so much time working on other people’s projects, why couldn’t it be my vision that others are supporting? Someone recently said to me, “If you’re not hearing no in this industry you’re not asking for enough.” I love that advice. Another challenge has been recognizing which projects to say no to versus what is worth my time. When I commit to something I really put my heart and soul into it, so it’s easy to get drained really quickly. I’ve been working the muscle of listening to my intuition, but there was a time when I didn’t have the foresight to recognize when a project was going to do more harm than good. Harmful on my mental health, or spending too much time on something that would have very little benefit. Time is the most valuable (and sometimes the only) currency we have as young artists, so I’m learning to manage it and value it similarly to money, which oftentimes means saying no for the sake of resting and quieting the noise to listen to yourself.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a writer, director, producer, sometimes actor. I love to take age old tropes or “all American” ideals and modernize them, which to me means reflecting groups that have been erased from media or ignored for so long. I feel particularly passionate about women and the queer community; I’ve recently been liberated by acknowledging my own queerness and I want to help empower others do the same. For example, one of my favorite music videos we made was starring a 50s housewife with another women as the love interest. Queer people have always existed, we’ve just been manipulated to think we were outliers. There’s a certain comfort for me in seeing what oppressive traditions or cultural norms would look like were they truly a reflection of humanity. It’s like rewriting the past to help us progress into the future. Overall, my goal is always to keep it real, whether that be encouraging my actors not to be concerned about what they look like, if a facial expression is “attractive”, or making projects about topics that are generally kept quiet like my first film “Donuts” about bulimia. To me, the most beautiful things are raw and uninhibited.

What makes you happy?
What a lovely question! My punk band, Butt Dial, makes me extremely happy because it’s a creative outlet that’s teaching me about collaboration and honest expression without the self-inflicted stakes of my filmmaking career. Community and relationships make me happy; to be truly seen and supported and feel valued for who you are. I’m extremely grateful to be surrounded by beautiful people who lift me up every day. PARTIES make me happy!! I can’t wait until it’s safe to have them again. Cooking a good meal, animals, dancing, nature, warm weather, a good book, and of course watching movies and tv are a happy place for me. I’m happy to sit in silence and soak up and the sun and listen. It’s all about connection, baby – whether it be with yourself, nature, the energies around us; I believe true happiness is when we allow ourselves to experience it all and savor and value every moment.

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