The number one question director Megan Griffiths gets asked in the Q&As that follow festival screenings of her latest film Lucky Them is this: How did you get [Very Famous Actor] to be in your film?
Very Famous Actor has a small but hugely-important cameo in Griffiths' movie about a female rock journalist (Toni Collette) in search of a musician who has dropped off the face of the earth. That musician also happens to be her ex-boyfriend, whom she is not over — even though it’s been 10 years.
Very Famous Actor plays the musician and we finally meet him at the very end of the movie in a scene that’s painfully familiar to anyone who has ever suffered a broken heart. (Watch how Collette exquisitely transmits both heartache and shock.)
“In this context, when you’re not expecting to see [Actor], it’s like Oh!" explains Griffiths. "It gives you that very weird feeling." The very same weird feeling that Ellie (Collette) experiences. "Just to have any approximation of what she’s going through," Griffiths continues, gives Lucky Them audiences "a slightly better filmgoing experience.”
So even though The Actor’s name is out there (see IMDb), and Griffiths knows that dropping it would help draw audiences to her film, and she’s fine with me saying who it is . . . why ruin the experience?
“I want the movie to succeed,” she says. “I just want people to go to it.”
And you should, because this is Griffiths’ highest-profile project, cementing her national and even international reputation as an intelligent filmmaker. (Lucky Them world premiered to a standing ovation at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival.) Plus, Griffiths is a homey, one of us.
“The [NW] people, the scenery, the weather, even in its moods, they all feed me creatively,” says Griffiths, who has lived in Seattle for the past 14 years. “I just like being in this space. I don’t feel like I’m fed that way when I’m in New York or in LA. I’ve spent significant time in both places, but it’s always a relief when the plane lands in Seattle.”
Griffiths is 39. She lives in Ballard. When I ask her to choose a “very Megan Griffiths” location for our meeting, she picks the Puerto Rican restaurant La Isla. She’s a huge fan of their tostones cups with salsa, a dish she craves if she’s out-of-town for too long. She arrives in jeans and a baseball-style T-shirt. (It's actually the crew shirt for her movie).
“I’m headed to a Mariners game tonight," she offers. "My first!”
She wears a lucky charm around her neck, a dog tag engraved with a jagged scrawl that looks like an audio file. Which it is. The scrawl represents a sentence recorded by Griffiths. She explains: “I found a journal that I had been writing in when I was in college (University of Idaho), and I found an entry where I wrote: I am going to be a filmmaker. It was one of those things where it was earlier than I would have thought that I would be that decisive about making that choice. So I consider that date an anniversary of sorts and this is me (she shows me the dog tag) saying that date.”
Lucky Them is Griffiths’ fourth feature film, although she’s played various behind-the-scenes roles on several other movies over the years. At SIFF 2012, she earned praise and buzz for Eden, a harrowing look (and very good film) about a young woman kidnapped into the sex trade.
“Eden was released theatrically but it did most of its business in the VOD (video on demand) world,” she says. “Getting people to go see it was the hard part. Honey, do you want to go see a movie about human trafficking? It’s a very worthwhile, very valuable film, but I do realize it’s not for everyone.”
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