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Meet Noah Marger

Today we’d like to introduce you to Noah Marger.

Noah, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It feels really challenging talking about yourself like this. I feel like no matter what I say, it’ll sound silly or dishonest in some way because I want to get it right. But I guess I’m worried about getting right instead of just saying what feels true, so I’m just gonna speak honestly, regardless of how it may sound.

I feel like the things I liked to do when I was a kid are pretty much all the same things I like doing now. And if I had my choice, I’d spend all day doing those things now as a 23 years old. Watching Movies and TV shows, playing video games, and spending time with my friends and family. Growing up, I was so enchanted by movies. It felt like the closest to magic I could get. You can learn to make a movie the same way that you can practice a magic trick. I’m not magician, but I think they’re very similar. And I was so entranced with the idea that after watching something really effective, I felt different. I felt “better” as I would have put it as a kid probably. Now I know it’s that catharsis that I was craving.

In Beaverton Oregon where I grew up, after elementary school you could apply to go to what are known as “option schools”. At the time, these didn’t require any real application or interview process. You could just apply, and you would be selected through a lottery. I thought the idea of going to an arts-based school (a combo middle and high school) sounded more interesting than going to a regular middle school, so I applied to Arts and Communication Magnet Academy (ACMA) in the winter of 2008. I was randomly accepted, and I truly believe my life would be so different had that stroke of luck not occurred. I was eleven years old, and I applied strictly because it sounded more interesting than going to “normal middle school”. The seven years I spent at ACMA from 2008-2015 really launched me on the trajectory I am now. That trajectory being “wow, there are so many things I want to do and I have to find a way to do them all.” One of the best parts about attending ACMA was that they didn’t limit you to one art form. You could study dance in the morning, and ceramics in the afternoon if you wanted to. They support exploration, taking chances, and finding your love of something purely because you love the thing.

While at ACMA, I originally thought I would spend most of my time taking writing classes. However, they didn’t offer writing classes to 6th graders, so I had to pick from the pre-approved list. Theatre 1 sounded interesting, so I signed up for that, and once again, the fact that I wasn’t allowed to take a writing class and had to choose Theatre 1 was a moment of change. I was terrified of the instructor, he was notoriously hard to get along with, but after really giving myself over to trying the class, I realized that this was something I was going to have to keep doing. It’s inexplicable the feeling that occurs when you are performing, but for me it feels like a pure connection with other people. A connection to the story being told, a connection with your scene partners, and a connection to yourself. It made me feel alive. So I headed down that path and spent most of my time in high school performing in the plays and inside of the theater.

But I was still interested in writing. So I took writing classes as well, and eventually film classes. I think what draws me to film on the creator end of things is that to me, it’s every other art form coming together. It’s theatre, it’s writing, it’s drawing and painting, it’s architecture, it’s dance on a certain level, etc.

In my junior year, I was playing Mr. Bumble in Oliver! and during a dress rehearsal about a week out from opening night, I had a moment of burnout. I was wearing an ill-fitting costume, with quite literally 30 to 40 middle school students that were recruited to play orphans shouting backstage, and I decided, “I don’t want to do this anymore”. I was going to get through Oliver! and after that, I was going to solely focus on filmmaking and writing.

For the next two years of high school, I really set my sights on getting better as a filmmaker. I had all but left the theatre department and spent all my free time working with friends on movies. I would shoot if they needed me to, edit if they needed me to, and act if they needed me to. The acting piece still felt really nice, but I was conflicted as to where that aspect of me fit in, especially as I was headed towards having to apply for college. Nobody in my family was in entertainment, everybody practices business or law. Although they were and continue to be supportive of me pursuing the arts, I couldn’t bring myself to tell them I wanted to “be an actor”. It felt really silly (I thought it did at the time at least). And it wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do either!

Knowing all that, when asked where I was going to apply for college, I told people “I want to go to film school”. After researching out what the “top” film schools were, I kept coming back to Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film. The school wasn’t too big, it was in California, and their emphasis was on ACTUALLY making movies. And that’s what I wanted to do. I knew how selective the program was, and with me only recently giving myself fully over to filmmaking, I thought it was a reach, and an inevitable “no” come decision time. The Film Production major let very few people in. However, in February of 2015, I got that email saying I had been accepted to Chapman. Not wanting to get myself too worked up, I actually called the admissions department and asked if that meant I got into the Film School as well (just to be extra clear). The woman on the other end laughed and said, “if thats where you applied, then that’s where you got in.”

I was overjoyed. It really affirmed all the hours and hard work I had put into that full switch. I was headed to California in the fall!

While at Chapman, I continued to explore things I was interested in. I got on student sets however I could, first as a grip or PA, but sooner or later as a 2nd AD, or a Location Manager, and I was meeting so many people. And as I rose through the program, I got to direct my own short films! Being the director of these small crews was an invaluable experience. From crewing as a freshman and sophomore, I learned what I liked in leaders, and what I absolutely can’t stand. It is important to me that when you are in a position of power, you treat everybody with the utmost respect, even if you’re working with someone you don’t like. Not only do you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but I find you also do better work as well. It allows you to communicate clearer and more effectively. Every time I step on set I’m flustered, I’m thinking about a million and a half things, and it seems none of the things I’m thinking about are what people are asking ME! But it’s important to me that they know I appreciate their time and their work. Because I do. That’s why I’m working with them.

I was also getting to write and direct my own work! A dream come true! But I was still missing acting. So I started to ask people I knew if they knew anyone who needed an actor in their films. Sure enough, people did! So I started going out on auditions for other student films, and it solidified for me that I had been denying myself the opportunity to do all the things I wanted to do because I was afraid. I was afraid of what other people would say, I was afraid of taking on too much, and I was afraid of failing. But I kept getting cast in comedic roles, and some of my most fond memories of film school are being silly with other people in these student films. I knew then that I owed it to myself to try to do the things I dreamed of. It doesn’t really feel right to not in my mind. I think people owe it to themselves to live the life they want to live. I think the regret of not is too powerful. I acted in many short films during my time at Chapman, and I really believed it helped me behind the camera, just as much as it did to sharpen my on camera skills.

I also discovered my love of radio and podcasting while at Chapman. I was heavily involved with the Chapman Radio program for three of my four years there, even working for the station for one of those years. I had shows about movies, and just general talk shows with friends, and I realized how creatively fulfilling that was for me. Screwing around with your friends, trying to make each other laugh, felt just as good as tediously crafting a script or stewing over an edit for weeks. My love of writing prose was also ignited while at school. I minored in English and took that as an opportunity to write as much as I could. Short stories, poetry, non-fiction, all of it. And THAT too felt amazing.

Upon graduating, I had no idea what I was going to do. I have all these passions and I don’t know how to make any of them my job yet. In July of 2019, I moved to North Hollywood and began freelancing. Mostly working as a PA, but occasionally getting some acting work as well.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Everything has its challenges. Life is a never ending series of challenges. Making movies is literally nothing but problems, and if it wasn’t, everyone would do it.

The actual external problems I will take any day over the internal and existential conflicts that you can come across. I often find myself fearful of what other people are going to think about my work. The self-doubt is ever present. As a young person trying to make a career in the creative world, the existential questions of “what if this doesn’t work out” seem to be floating around every corner. LA is a tough place to live in general, and when you’re not actively being paid to do the thing you want to be doing for the rest of your life, it can seem oppressive. But I believe that this is all an endurance test. If I can find a way to stick around and continue to put myself in proximity of people that I believe are doing good stuff, then eventually things will find a way.

I also have been doing all these things already, for no pay. So if I’m willing to do it for free, the free market doesn’t get to decide whether or not I get to keep doing it or not. I get to decide ultimately if I keep doing it or not.

And as far as the self-doubt thing goes…I don’t think that’s ever going to go away. But I don’t think it needs to. I think that self-doubt in a way is important. It shows an awareness that this project (whatever it is) exists as something larger than yourself. If I doubt a creative decision, I ask myself “do I actually want to do this?” and if I do, I’ll find a way. And if I don’t, then that self-doubt helped me make the best decision I could have. All you can do is make the best decision you can at the time. We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to screw things up. It is unfortunate that the entertainment industry seems so predicated on the “what have you done for me lately” mentality, but as an artist, I am most concerned with doing the best work I can, with the people I want to do it with. If you’re doing your thing, you will surround yourself with people who back you. I believe that.

I’ve also come to accept that I can be easily frustrated by things. Like if I don’t nail something first try, or if I feel like nobody is responding to something I do, I can get really frustrated. Especially with social media, where I debut a lot of my work, I have to remind myself that people use it so passively, that just because you share something and you didn’t get a “like” or a comment, that doesn’t mean it didn’t affect someone’s life. People are afraid to reach out, I think, but as an artist, you want to hear how it affected someone.

I also know that I tend to take things personally that often times have nothing to do with me. This is an ever-evolving battle of reminding myself that most people are so wrapped up in their own lives that they aren’t even thinking about you in that way. It feels liberating to me to know that because then all I have to do is make the decision that I want to. All I’m ever trying to do is create something that I would want to read/watch/listen to.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’ve directed three shorts, A 5 minute short about an awkward guy trying to befriend someone in a public restroom called PISSED, a 10 minute short about a lonely man with no friends trying to throw a birthday party for himself called HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOLDEN, and a 12 minute short about a clown trying to win the love of his estranged mother before she dies called BUTTONS THE GREAT. HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOLDEN has played at festivals on both the west coast and east coast, while BUTTONS THE GREAT won best short film at the Glendale International Film Festival!

I make comedy sketches with Fed Busciglio on our channel YOUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT (@ylg.world on Instagram) that we write, perform in, and direct ourselves, with editing and shooting help from our friends and outside collaborators.

I do two podcasts, one called IT’S ON THE LIST, a podcast about underrated albums and movies, hosted by myself and my co-host Mason Maguire, and MY FAVORITE PODCAST where each week I talk to a guest about something, anything, that they love.

I continue to write pieces that I post on my WordPress, everything from poetry to short stories to nonfiction. My most recent piece is about a personal reflection.

I also occasionally perform on Everything, Now! A live stream improv comedy show started by some Chapman alums.

I am not currently writing a movie or pilot because I don’t know what I want to do next in that regard. One thing I’ve really had to learn, especially during this pandemic, is that you can’t force it, and you have to do what feels right. When I’m ready to write that next script, I will. There’s a lot of things I wanna do and it feels like there isn’t enough time to do all of it, but right now, I got a lot of other things that I love to do that are keeping me busy 🙂

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Jack Freiberger, Claire Epting, Noah Marger

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