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Meet Meghan Gambling in Los Feliz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Meghan Gambling.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Meghan. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started calling myself a writer when I was seven years old. I used to make wall-paper covered books and fly through the story part just so I could write the “About me” at the back of the book. (A true Gemini!) ‘My name is Meghan Gambling and when I grow up I want to be a writer.’ What really set the course of my life were the writing classes I took in college at UNC- Chapel Hill; meeting my mentors and, for the first time, learning that being a professional play/screenwriter, was possible, cause there I was staring at people who had done it. I moved to LA at 22 and my wonderful brother-in-law helped me get my first PA job. After that, I got a writer’s assistant job, and a play I had written in college got into the New York International Fringe Festival and suddenly I had a production deadline on my hands. Over the next decade I wrote and usually directed my own plays while also working in TV production. It was exciting to get reviewed, and take shows to New York, and work with friends (and lose some along the way, which wasn’t so fun, but I learned a lot). My first play, ‘The Kitchen Sink,’ was adapted into a film. My second play was optioned (a company bought the rights to it but it was never made ) and another play, ‘Prom: Time Out,’ got productions all over California as part of The Car Plays, and I later directed it as a short film. My most recent play, ‘Bonnie’s Future Sisters’ was published with Original Works and featured in a Smith & Kraus anthology. It won me Best Playwriting out of several hundred plays at FringeNYC and was recommended in Playbill and Variety. Around that time, I started getting calls to do freelance script writing jobs. I was hired to write a script about the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, a pilot on the life of Mary Pickford, a feature rom-com “Retaliationship,” then the book to a rock musical, as well as adapting a coming of age WWII story based on the memoir “My Thoughts Are Free.” The past two years I’ve been underwater a bit, working on one project after another and now suddenly most of those projects are completed. Meetings are happening, interest is being drummed up and for the first time in my life, big companies are looking at my work and responding; which all sounds very vague and Hollywood, but as I like to say: ‘Nothing is Happening till it’s Happening,’ or, to quote my girl, Belle, in Beauty and the Beast, ‘There must be something there that wasn’t there before.’ Speaking of musicals, I grew up singing! When I met my man-friend, Jason Carmody, in 2010, he had been writing songs for years so we started a comedy band called Identity Crush. Jason can just pick out melodies that are so beautiful and catchy and has an enormous stage presence and I was like, ‘Gotta get in on this!’ We spent years writing together, shooting videos, and performing all over LA. We won Best Performance at the LA Comedy Festival, were featured on TruTV, invited to perform at Comedy Central Stage, and even landed a paid tour through wine country! Three years ago, we wrote a futuristic mini musical, Casual Lover/Sex Robot that takes place in a dystopian society where human love is forbidden! Over the past year we’ve been recording it, and Jason has been arranging/adding a full orchestra and mixing it with this fantastic guy, John Kimbrough, who produced Jack Black’s last album. Artist Albert Reyes hand drew the cover art and the album comes out, in all its never-before-heard Phantom of the Opera inspired glory, on all streaming platforms starting  September 14th! I am so excited!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I worked for this talk show host when I first moved to LA and once during a taping he looked over at me and said ‘No one is satisfied. Everyone’s looking up, at the person that’s achieved more than them. Including me.” And I remember being like, ‘Huh?’ He had Emmys, his own show, a gazillion dollars in residuals, how much further could he get?! But that hamster wheel of always wanting more – it can be very seductive. One of the biggest challenges is being ok with myself, exactly where I am. I have been hip pocketed by managers, signed and dropped by managers, terribly reviewed, considered for job after job that didn’t work out, rejected from countless festivals, contests and residencies. At 23, after reading my first play, an agent at Paradigm told me I had ‘a voice the CW had been trying to capture for 15 years’. And six months later he stopped answering my calls. I sold the screen rights to that same play and it was adapted into a feature film, which was exciting but also hard, because I lost control of the process and the final product was unrecognizable to me. Another agent guided me through writing a pilot for nearly a year and then told me it was so bad that he refused to continue sending it out to companies. “But, I followed every single one of your instructions,” I said. I never heard from him again either. The biggest challenge is reconciling what is going on internally. Learning how to talk to myself through the dark times in a way that’s not destructive. I used to scoff at things like “self-work” and “looking inward” but now I’m like, ‘Oh! These are actual survival techniques!” I’m not always perfect at it, but on the whole I feel really good writhing around in this sweet life and it’s taken me a long time to get here. Rejection doesn’t feel as insurmountable now and even if I find something temporarily devastating I can usually step back and say “Ok, guess that one wasn’t for me. Onward!” And friendships. They help enormously and take a long time to build, but now after thirteen years here, I feel more invested than ever in the people I love. I just started a new full length play for the first time in 4 years and I’m 65 pages into and I feel like a lusty mistress; all wide eyed and giggly, sneaking away to bang out some pages, blushing when I think about it, whispering in hushed tones when people ask me what I’m working on (Forgive the comparison, I’m currently devouring the book, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ – which is actually a devastating example of the realities of 16th century womanhood but the courting part seems fun.) And another thing that helps? Stability. I lead a bit of a double life because on top of writing and music I work a pretty straightforward TV producing job that has provided me much needed consistency in a totally unpredictable world!

Writer/Member of Extreme Couple Comedy Band: Identity Crush/Producer – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My calling card has always been writing strong female characters. But that phrase has become sort of a catch-all for women that have a semblance of a personality. So more specifically – I like writing women in power struggles, the intricacies of female friendship, the complications that come with social progress. But I also like integrating that stuff into marriages and relationships with those of the male persuasion. Currently I’m writing about a woman with rage issues that lies about a medical procedure, an ex con with an affinity for ice cream, and a high school math teacher trying to open his dream business. When I write professionally – I love sitting down with producers and trying to capture what they want, it really excites me when someone has a skeletal idea and I feel like I can fill in the blanks. I work for a producer right now who has such a clear grasp of structure and what kind of story she wants to tell, it’s really exciting to be able to deliver on that — our strengths complement each other. Other times it’s as if I’m grasping at straws trying to uncover what someone doesn’t want, in the quest to figure out what they do (want). The writing becomes very trial and error. That is definitely harder but a necessary part of the process. On the music front, with Identity Crush, I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like what Jason and I do. Our musical is something between Tenacious D and Phantom of the Opera. My day job is pretty rigid, and writing is very creative but also about delivering something in a marketable format, and with Identity Crush it’s like – ‘let’s write a song about discount meat, or forbidden futuristic robot love, or going off grid and becoming cannibals and eating each other’s faces off.’

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
What first comes to mind is getting my work in the hands of companies I’ve admired my whole life. Winning awards. Getting published. Getting paid to write long narrative stories on subjects I find fascinating and relevant. But those aren’t really moments per se; when I think of an actual moment – it’s a collection of times my heart was surging, when something I’ve worked on comes to life. Sitting in the audience of one of my plays and feeling the energy of each night’s show. Hearing actors I love read something aloud for the first time. Reading a review that favorably compared my play to the Broadway smash, The Humans. Opening the Village Voice moments before walking onstage and seeing a full sized picture of me and my performing partner at the time, Sascha Alexander, holding a cat and a cupcake respectively. Being on stage with Jason and not being able to hold a straight face because he performs with a level of intensity that is simultaneously, hilarious, startling and mesmerizing. Hearing the first song of our musical mixed for the first time. This one festival where Jason and I thought we were going to win an award but instead the festival director took us aside to inform us we needed to scrap our entire ‘lewd’ act and reinvent ourselves as a brother sister duo. ‘Oh so, you’re saying we didn’t win, and, also we should change our whole show and pretend we’re related? Cool!” When the lights came up on my play ‘Happy Birthday Mom’ and my father bellowed “Wow! That was incredible! Just incredible,” and ordered me to go on stage and join my cast. (I didn’t, but I will never forget how good he made me feel.) In my first play a character had lost her mother and afterwards a friend whose mother had died at a young age came up to me and said “I don’t know how you captured that. That enormous, specific feeling of loss. But you did it.” My grandfather was an artist and professor that died at 90. One of our family projects has been going through his 70 year art career, hundreds of paintings sculptures and prints dating back to the thirties – many sold, many didn’t, some hung in famous galleries, some didn’t, but he was always going, always creating, what happened afterwards was, important, yes, but also irrelevant cause he was onto the next thing. I love how that drive is just in my DNA. I am really proud that I have these things I love doing. During the New York production of Bonnie’s Future Sisters I walked outside before the show and my 5th grade teacher was standing there. He’d taken a four-hour boat ride to surprise me. He was the teacher that cast me as Annie that got me interested in writing that rewrote The Phantom of the Opera as The Phantom of the Office so our elementary school could perform it. He set the (quite literal) stage for the love I feel for all this madness. And there he was, waiting to buy his ticket, twenty-three years after I was his student. That’s the kind of stuff that breaks me into a million happy pieces, and sends me right back to the drawing board to figure out what to cook up next.

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Image Credit:

Ryan Bailey, Amelia Tabullo, Steven Robles, Albert Reyes, Joshua Tree Comedy Festival, Carly Kennelly, Jason Carmody, Ian Elston

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