Friday, December 16, 2016

Females in Entertainment Interview: Producer/Actress Sarah Megan Thomas of Backwards and Equity Movie Can You Have it All?

                                                                                      By Suzanne Ordas Curry

Sarah Megan Thomas of  Equity and Backwards
Sarah Megan Thomas is an actress, writer and producer whose second film, Equity, a financial thriller rolled out in theaters nationwide this past year and is now available on DVD.

Aside from the suspense and storyline of this timely drama, Equity is known as being a film written, directed, starring, and produced mainly by women. In Equity it’s the females that call the shots.

Prior to Equity, Sarah produced and starred in Backwards, a movie about a subject near and dear to her heart, rowing.

But how did Sarah go from the suburbs of Philadelphia to Hollywood? In this interview Sarah talks about her beginnings, and what it’s like being a female and a mom in entertainment.

Suzee: So let’s start at the beginning. When did you first realize the field of entertainment might be for you?

Sarah Megan Thomas: It’s so funny cause I feel like I have wanted to do it since I was born, I don’t really remember the genesis. I do remember my dad made me and my sister play the piano for many years. And remember putting on Les Miserables with my sister in our living room, playing various roles. That was the beginning and end of my singing career because I’m a horrible singer! Just always wanting to create and perform. My parents were like “that’s nice she’ll outgrow it”. I come from two lawyers, very practical. So they said “not until after college, you have to wait till after college to pursue it.”

They thought maybe I would stop, and I was a theater major, they were always supportive. After college they said, ‘Well, I guess she’s really going to do this.”

Sarah Megan Thomas,  Roe Hartrampf and Samuel Roukin behind the scenes at the making of Equity

Suzee: So you showed them you could make a career out of it, and I know they are so proud of you and supportive too, as they’ve told me so! When you were studying theater, as you got older, when did you say to yourself, “I love this job!”:

Sarah Megan Thomas: Good question. I was in a gender-reversed play right out of drama school. I played Barona, who is the lead guy. It was my first New York play, over in Ttribeca. The New York Times gave it a review. I came out of drama school with, “This is going to be easy!”. It isn't! That brought back a lot of memories because I trained in Shakespeare. Haven’t done a lot of it since.

Suzee: Not much of a market now for that, huh?

Sarah Megan Thomas: No not at all, but that was a really fun thing.

 Jamers Purefoy, Alysia Reiner, Sarah Megan Thomas and Director Meera Menon at the Sundance Premiere
                                                                                                                                  Photo Suzanne Ordas Curry
Suzee; Tell me how your first movie, Backwards, came to be.

Sarah Megan Thomas: I soon realized I wanted to create and tell stories that haven't been told about about women before, and specifically something that I thought was commercial.

I was an athlete. I played basketball  and I ran, so sports were very close to my heart. Rowing was something that was never in film about women, so I wanted to write a romcom about rowing. But there was another concept that intrigued me when writing the script, the concept of  almost making it in life, which is what I don’t think people talk about enough, This women Abby in Backwards, is the number 1 alternate in the Olympics. So by any standard she is a success but by her standard she is not a success because her goal is the Olympics. So in all sports movies you win in the end, well what if you don’t? You know, in a way that is also friendly to young girls. And I wanted to make it friendly, family, wholesome heartwarming entertainment.

Sarah stands with Alysia Reiner
and Anna Gunn at the Sony Photo Shoot in NYC
Suzee: What did the rowing community think about it?

Sarah Megan Thomas: Yes, the rowing community was incredible for that movie, we shot inside all of the boathouses on boathouse row and they made costumes for free. Rowing is this fantastic sport where rowers band together and everybody came together and was very passionate. The movie is really a celebration about rowing,

Suzee: I do have a friend who is a champion rower locally. He’s seen the movie, always doing those rowing machines.

Sarah Megan Thomas:  Yeah I’ll never do them again, they are so hard!

Suzee:  What did you learn about in putting together this movie? I know you know the technical aspects of putting together a film, as well as the softer side of it. What did you learn from Backwards that you could use in Equity?.

Sarah Megan Thomas: Great question! I learned so many lessons, but to boil it down to one, I just learned on the go how to just roll with the punches!

Equity was a much more challenging movie to shoot than Backwards. I think in Backwards, my health actually suffered. At times I felt I was going to pass out from the stress when it reached a certain level. My goal is to always make my investors happy, I really want it to be an experience. With Equity, I learned to try to assemble a stronger team around me and to roll with the punches more. I understood more because i lived through it before because shit is going to hit the fan every day. And every day I can solve it if I sit down and breathe and talk things through with my team Then I can make a good decision  So i didn’t have to panic because i knew I could do it, if that makes sense.

Sarah Megan Thomas and fans at NYC screening                                       Photo Suzanne Ordas Curry
Suzee: Yes it does, and it is words to live by in any job, because shit does hit the fam on a regular basis!

Sarah Megan Thomas: Right and you have to learn how to roll with it, And also, you know I have to say this, I found it very interesting that I was more able and confident to be tough with decisions that I believed in on Equity than Backwards. I was able to say very strongly that I believe in this and this needs to get done this way and this is why. And I can say this confidently, which I need to, because as a Producer my opinions had more weight, and so I  understood the consequences of everything.

Suzee: I think that in general, woman can sometimes find it harder to make a decision and feel confident that they made the right one. We sometimes second guess ourselves. Sometimes we just have to make an “executive decision” and go with it.

Sarah Megan Thomas: Right. And that’s tough with artists sometimes, everybody wants the art and you have to understand there is a business to movies, there is a bottom line of dollars and cents and the movie has to be developed in terms of that.  

Suzee: So now another issue females face, you have a son and a husband. He’s such a nice guy and so supportive of you. He was at so many of the movie events.

Sarah Megan Thomas: He's incredible.

Suzee: How did you handle all this? I think any mom reading this would think how glamorous it is to be making a movie, but in reality, it’s a juggle like everyone else’s.. Who was taking care of your son?

Sarah Megan Thomas:  That was really, really tough. I did not see my son for most of that summer (during production). He was young, he was one year old, and this is the decision we have to make.

We didn't shoot in NYC where I live because the tax credit in Philly is so much better, so we shot almost all of it there. And we shot weekends because I  was able to get my mom’s law firm to give us their building to be the offices, but we could only shoot on weekends because people worked on the weekdays!

So my husband would come down with my son from NYC and I'm working 14-16 hours days. And since I was on camera and working behind the scenes I could barely get to see him. So he would come into makeup and he would get really upset because he is only one and he needs to see his mom. And so it was a really tough summer but the positive side of that is that I have something that I’m proud of and he's not going to remember that I wasn't there for 2 months. He's gonna be like, “Wow I have a good mom who did something really cool.”

"You know I don’t think you can have it all."

Suzee: No, you can’t have it all, ask any working or successful mom that. However, I do think it is getting easier for women. And I do think that working and being productive and being happy about your work is good role modelling for your kids, even though some guilt will always be there.

Sarah Megan Thomas: Totally and I think what really helped is that I had a working mom, she was the first female partner at her law firm. She had to go back to work like 2 or 3 days after giving birth to me and my sister. You know she couldn't breastfeed in the office. I know she had some guilt about that but she’s the best mom in the world and she's always been there when I needed her and that’s what’s important.

So knowing that I never thought negatively of her working freed me to know that I can do both and my son will think that way too. That’s what a good mom does.

For more on the movie Equity:
More Behind the Scenes on Equity:

Equity and Backwards are both available on DVD on Amazon and other fine retailers.

Come back to this site for more #FemalesinEntertainment interviews.