by Nicholas Jackson
Many people return home for the holidays. On Wednesday, December 5th, Ohio University School of Film alumnus, Megan Griffiths, did just that as she returned to her native Athens for a screening of her latest feature, Sadie, at the Historic Athena on Court Street. Earlier in the day, the School of Film presented her directorial debut The Off Hours to an enthusiastic crowd of students, faculty, and film lovers. Speaking at a Q and A session immediately following the film, Griffiths said that The Off Hours brought “opportunity instead of money.” That opportunity came in the form of four other features that she directed between this debut and her latest, Sadie. It has also afforded the chance to direct in the television industry, most notably for Room 104 and Animal Kingdom.
After graduating with a MFA in Film at Ohio University in 2000, Griffiths ventured West - not to Los Angeles, but to Seattle. Working as an Assistant Director and a Cinematographer, she willed The Off Hours into existence. Faced with a micro-budget, Griffiths made the bold decision to realize her dream as a writer-director anyway. Once the project picked up steam, more financial investors jumped on board. She asked for help from her newly adopted hometown of Seattle and the community responded in kind. When asking a trucking company if she could use their trucks in exchange for product placement, they immediately fired back, “which ones do you want?” The semis were all donated as well as the drivers.
The Off Hours is a quiet drama that first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. It follows the shifting relationships among the staff and regulars of a truck stop diner during third shift hours. The film originated from personal experience as Griffiths worked the night shift at a film lab in Seattle. She noticed it to be a peculiar lifestyle, one of complacency and settling for those that “gave up on the dream you had when you were little.” Still, production did not come without its challenges. The primary setting, the truck stop diner, had been abandoned for a number of years and the production team had to fix it up in order to make it camera-ready. Moreover, it had three sides of glass, which means that they could only shoot during limited times.
Griffiths views Sadie as a sister film to The Off Hours. It is a drama, but the center of action has moved from the highway diner to a rural trailer park. While it also deals with intimate shifting relationship dynamics, Griffiths promotes Sadie as a war movie.
However, it is about the soldiers back at home - a vulnerable adolescent daughter and an estranged wife. At the film’s core is the theme of violence and how it can seep through every aspect of life. Sadie premiered at this year’s South by Southwest festival and both movies can currently be streamed on both iTunes and Amazon.