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Meet Rachel Myers of Rachel Directs and 3 Penny Design in NE LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Myers.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Rachel. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m a West Coast kid and grew up in the valley before my family moved to Oregon when I was 12. I came back to Los Angeles for college and then left to pursue my MFA at Yale Drama School to work in the entertainment industry. The siren song of Fred Astaire movies made a myth of old Hollywood in my imagination about the magic of creating films. Even now, after working in the business for 20 years, I still get butterflies when I work in the backlot or read a new script.

Originally I started in the business as a child, acting and directing plays and building sets and costumes. I love fantasy and making things, drawing and sculpture and working across platforms as an artist and with different vocabularies manifested in text, dance and song but mostly collaborating with other creatives to tell stories in all types of mediums. I’ve worked as a production designer for movies, television, theatre, commercials and events and out of that work my company 3 Penny Design was born. I’ve had some amazing work opportunities on projects from studio films to Independent. In 2016 I conceived and directed a show that won awards and inspired me to return to my roots and first desire as a director.

Since then, I’ve been creating as a filmmaker and director, but I still love design. I think moving pictures have made sense to me as a filmmaker because starting with a visual art and theatre background, its been the perfect combination of many things I love.

I‘ve found it inspiring to work in theatre and live events because of the shared experience and joy of performance which satiates something else in me as an artist. I’ve worked at BAM, the Watermill Center the Geffen and many other LA theatre and live venues. A new opera that I was working on was set premiere at the LA Philharmonic and was canceled at the start of all this. I read somewhere that when they studied a live audience, that their heartbeats synced in the same rhythm and I really feel that.

As a director, my first film Wendy’s Shabbat Premiered at Tribeca and the Palm Springs International film festivals and was broadcast on television by PBS and Topic and qualified for the 2019 Academy Awards. My latest film 2 Black Boys just premiered at Outfest and won awards at Cadence festival for the NW Film forum and will be at Cannes AVIFF this month. I’m currently working on my first feature film, which has been deeply fulfilling and a wonderful adventure (that sadly I’m not supposed to talk about.)

I’ve always been independent-minded about making my way artistically and not following a set path but as a younger artist, I wrestled with finding my place and believing in the voice of my own work. This has gotten both easier and harder with age because I am humbled by the ideas and talent in the world but also emboldened to put my heart into work I believe in.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Coming up in the industry, I felt that there were very few women role models as both directors and creators whose careers I could look up to.

I remember auditioning when I graduated college 20 years ago and looking at casting posts and the roles for young women at the time were so limiting. I remember a private meeting and audition I had at 20 with a very fancy manager to a big star at that moment. After I poured into performing a monologue in his office he said, “yah that was great, you’re very talented but you either need to gain 20 lbs or lose 20 lbs.” That was when I decided I was done acting and wanted to be in control of making the work myself.

When you don’t see yourself represented in the people who are doing the hiring, it’s hard to imagine yourself in those positions. After working as a woman department head in a male-dominated field it was a big hurdle in the beginning, with too many stories to count, but I do see that things have opened up and started to change which has been amazing motion forward. With so many women and people of color helming projects and companies the landscape begins to shift. I feel that there are spaces and opportunities for new voices and that the world wants to hear them. I have had many remarkable women in the field mentor me and open doors for opportunities for me and I feel responsible to do the same to help other women as I have been helped.

Rachel Directs and 3 Penny Design – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My company specializes in multidisciplinary storytelling. As a filmmaker and artist the work has been focused on creating, designing and inventing ways to communicate story from concepts to execution. In some formats this has meant film and video content and in other contexts, it means immersive, interactive storytelling through live shows and experiences or working with teams to create narrative.

The work boils down to approach and how to think about theme and story arc, how does an audience engage in, discover and experience a narrative and what do they see, touch and feel? In the past, the range of projects have extended to branding, live stage, film, events, exhibitions but I think that is part of a fluid and evolving dialogue. Things will look different in the next wave after this moment in how we engage in experiences and tell stories and that will be part of the conversation in the future.

Each project or film is an invention, dreamed up with a recipe of play and discovery. I’m always searching to explore the next way to access an idea in how to make something new.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I think I’m fairly straightforward. I want to make things I care about with people I like, on projects that I believe in and be able to live in a way where I can eat vegetables and enjoy the world and people I love. Success means different things to people but for me, it’s about what feeds you. To me this question, what feeds you? Doesn’t literally mean what feeds your belly but also what feeds your soul. Of course, you need to buy gas or eggs but what is the sweat spot of creating and earning and collaborating where you feel fed and full. What are essentials? What makes the heart sing in art-making versus what do I actually need versus want?

My first film was the best lesson in this because I made it with $5 and favors and I cared about it and it touched people and it was successful (which I never imagined). I believed in it and my team put their sweat into it and people responded and that felt like success. We still get responses to the film and it’s so touching and every time I am tickled that this little project moved people. That’s the best you can hope for!

Early in my career, I was told to not take a job unless it has 2 of 3. Those being- good people, good pay or good project. I like this rule because it speaks to basics. I find that I am happiest when I have these elements in my work. That I feel safe to share my ideas, that I respect and like the people I am working with and that my heart and belly are full.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jess Fee – Confidence Photo

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