Originally Published in Edition Four (2020)
I chatted to Megan over Zoom on a warm afternoon, wishing her a happy Oscars nominations announcement day; a mouthful of a "holiday" that made up on the spot.
"Oh, is that today?" she laughed and then proceeded to claim her unawareness of my imaginary holiday as indicative of her being a "bad film student". The furthest thing from the truth,
Her mile-wide grin when discussing her recently released film 'What is not Said', of which she played writer, editor and director, evokes an equally goofy grin over my face Meg's ceaseless wit, comprised of dad-joke dagginess and dry quips reminiscent of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, renders her work an asset to the VCA Film cohort.
Megan is equal parts classiness and goofiness. Her cackling laugh means you can hear her approaching from 100 metres away. She energises the room like a shot of espresso, a perpetual hostess with the most-est. Her excitable energy is complimented by a palpable warmth and calmness.
Megan arrived on VCA soil fresh from high school, armed with a love of editing and a proclivity to rapidly recall Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging quotes. Imposter syndrome set in early for Megan as she initially struggled to find her feet despite smashing through various acceptance rounds.
"I was surrounded by film buffs who had these classic big dream stories and I just really liked editing and Bridget Jones's Diary, but I was okay with that!" Megan's first year involved many learning curves as she gradually found her way through making fun yet provocative content.
"I had no distinctive style or technique.., yet!" As Megan reminisced on the first year of Uni, it was clear to see her talent was only just starting to grow. COVID unleashed havoc upon everyone's life, including Megan's. Online learning meant Megan was unable to experience the irreplaceable collaborative and technical aspects of her degree. She turned to writing to satiate her creative musings, determined to create a film she was proud of despite COVID's interference. Megan deferred university for the remainder of 2020 and writing became her main focus, even though she approached time off with apprehension. However, the absence of a rigid academic perspective let Megan develop her insights into interpersonal relationships and identity, benefiting her writer's eve. Upon her return to study in mid-2021, Megan found herself connecting emotionally and subjectively with content and situations like never before.
What is not Said
In What is not Said', we sit huddled on a couch in a share-house living room with Nadia, a dating-weary twenty-something, and her friend Cherie After prompting from Cherie--"Well what would you have said? Pretend I'm him'-Nadia unleashes a stream-of-consciousness vent on the regularly debilitating and infrequently rewarding game of casual dating. Megan's poignant dialogue sees Nadia grapple with rejection, interrogate the validity of her feelings and, above all, express confusion as to why her actions do not align with her usual sense of self. However, the film concludes by swinging back to square one. Cherie again asks the initial question--"What would you have said?"--and Nadia reaches for her teacup without answering before the screen fades to black. Did the conversation even happen? "Well, that's the thing," Megan said to me with a grin. "In the end, Nadia chooses not to say it even to her housemate. If she said it, it would be with the sole intention of winning back the rejector, so she decides not to."
Don't Hate the Player
In developing the narrative, Megan sought inspiration from her own experiences of casual dating as well as from her friends. She redirects the trope common to romantic dramas of charting long-term relationships and instead explores the casual dating scene. Megan primarily chose to explore the occasional loss of self that follows short-term intimacy.
"I wanted to tell the story of a fallout of purely an intimate interaction, not a relationship, between two people which transformed how one person--Nadia-perceives herself. There's this assumption that casual dating is pain-free, easy and empowering, and it can be, yet compromising our values to sustain a short-term emotional connection has the potential to prompt identity crises."
Megan discussed how these casual blips generate feelings like "big and wonderful" love stories, however, you feel shameful using heartbreak discourse to refer to your experience. How do you grieve a six-week-long relationship that leaves one side of the party confused and grappling with a loss of self?
Megan suggested that saying the unsaid to our rejector with the goal of "winning them back" may not be a good enough reason to remove burdens from our chest. But shouldn't we say things for catharsis, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the person on the receiving end? I'm sure we have all experienced this intoxicating desire-if only I could clumsily explain myself to the rejector, maybe this pit in my stomach would subside. But Megan mentioned that if we did say the unsaid, perhaps all the person would do is sit there and stew in awkwardness. Yet don't we need that for a sense of vengeance after rejection?
Megan put my rallying cry for revenge into perspective, and I nearly spat out my milky tea in applause.
"For Nadia, it's not about the pain of losing the rejector, it's about the pain of losing her sense of self. She's always believed she was a certain way, and now, for some reason, this intimate experience prompted her to display coldness. And she needs to find out why instead of relying on a knee-jerk reaction."
Megan suggested yearning to win someone back who does not want us anymore, perhaps has nothing to do with the person we've lost, but the realisation that something needs to change within us.
Above everything, Megan sought for her film to provide a moment of relief for audiences by reminding us that we are not alone in feelings of confusion and despondency.
"I believe no one truly knows what they're doing," she said with a slight laugh. Almost everyone has a default setting of stumbling aimlessly around, unsure whether others are experiencing the same internal emotional conga line. Thus, Megan aimed to create content that speaks directly to the audience, in whatever way they require.
Best Woman in Film
From uproar at the lack of female nominees for best director at the 2020 Oscars and BAFTAS, to Cate Blanchett accepting her Oscar for Best Actress at the 2014 Academy Awards and subtly disparaging the common view that films with a strong female lead are "niche", the discussion regarding gender inequality within the film industry persists.
Some argue that a fixation on women in film' is redundant. Megan remained as unsure as me regarding the direction and priorities, however, her perspective offers a sense of hope.
"I've been so excited by film that I haven't yet felt disadvantaged. I know that VCA is my sole experience yet there is an equal proportion of females, males and non-binary people in my cohort. So far, I've been treated with only respect and kindness on shoots." However, Megan expressed her frustration at the ubiquitous male lens.
"We are still so used to stories being told by males, and how they direct... we more often than not only have an exclusively male experience to go off." Megan implored for emphasis to put on storytelling ability over gender.
"If you can nail story-telling, you're in with a chance." She also addressed the difficulties of attributing a lack of female directorial and screenwriting nominations to gender discrimination.
"Productions are comprised of so many moving parts, and there are countless reasons as to why a film flopped." Megan's stance reflects her belief that film should operate as an unequivocally collaborative process.
"It's not just one woman in film, it's many people in film."
What's Next for Meg?
As a shameless fan of Megan's, I will continue to operate my post as head cheerleader for whatever she does. But where does Meg see herself in the next few years?
"Heading overseas! I see myself giving the film industry a crack for ten years and working on projects that I truly care about." Megan described the joy gained from mere involvement in a production, even the ten-hour days and sleepless nights. She is open to begging on her hands and knees for experience--as we've all predicted doing post-graduation--however she's already clocked up work experience as a runner and researcher for the ABC. Megan's charm will have far-reaching influence, as she also sees herself pursuing a career in psychology or hairdressing, because, as we recited together--'hair is everything!'
Megan Cox's short film 'What is not said' is is now available to watch on YouTube: https://www.voutube.com/watch?v=le7T-A ¡4qU