Megan Park: Capturing Passion
Megan Park is a producer and storyteller. She’s the founder of Little Sprig Productions, the creator of Putting Women In Their Place, and a board member of Women in Film’s Cincinnati chapter. We interviewed her at her home, where she served fresh fruit and homemade tea on her back porch.
Tell us about yourself.
I am relatively new to Cincinnati. I’ve been here for five years. I’m a producer, and I’ve produced everything from publications to events to parties to conferences, films, television – everything except radio and plays. I just like to put stuff together.
We moved here from Albany, New York. I was only in Albany for a couple years, but I was in New York state for 20 years, five of those in Manhattan, where I was working on independent films and a documentary and a TV series for a while. My husband laughs at me. He said, “You worked for this tiny little publication north of Manhattan, and you said, ‘I’m going to move to New York and be a filmmaker!’” And yeah, that’s kinda what I did. I found a really cheap apartment, at the northernmost point of Manhattan. I was working in Soho [at an indie film company], and I would take every odd job I could get. And at the end of the month, I would go back to my old job at a publishing company and put the magazine to bed, and they would pay me for that.
I would cold-call every film company in the city, and say, “Who’s your director of development?” I’d get on the phone with him or her, and I’d say, “Can I take you to lunch? I have a script I want you to read.” And nobody passes up a free lunch, so I’d come back from lunch, and I’d hand (my boss) my receipt for some outrageously priced lunch, and I’d say, “But our script is in Spike Lee’s office right now.” And he’d say, “How did you do that?” I just called. I can network. I’ll call anybody.
Our first film that we made went to Sundance. That was a great experience. It was so fun. I think the credit was production associate. We rented a whole house. The next year, I went back to Sundance but we didn’t have a film there. On the way back, I met my husband on the plane. He was traveling [for work], and he ended up moving to New York.
A few years later, I had a baby, and I was like, you know what, I’m just going to go and be a mom for a while. I was a full-time mom for about five years.
Why did you move to Cincinnati originally?
It was my husband’s work. When we were back in Albany, he was working for the same company in Blue Ash. He was on the road all the time, and it was not working for us. His boss said, “You can move to Cincinnati or Chicago.” I was like, let’s look at both of them as though we’d never been to either of them. We came here first, and I was so struck by the murals downtown. That blew me away. This city loves art.
This city really goes out of its way to make itself beautiful – not to mention the architecture and the buildings, and Music Hall, and all that. Then we called a realtor, who said, “Sure I’ll show you some houses.” The price of the houses were unbelievable. Then we called a school, and they said, “Sure, come over any time!” And then we went out to dinner and we paid $3 for parking, and we were like, “Wow, this is easy, and they have all this great stuff.”
I really had a good feeling about Cincinnati. I still do. I have no regrets.
We moved here when my daughter was 8. And I was like, I gotta figure out what I’m going to do. I have to reinvent my career. So that’s what I did.
What did you do next?
I didn’t know anybody in Cincinnati. We enrolled my daughter in a Montessori school, and I met another mom there, Michelle Gardner, whose daughters were at the school. And she had just recently moved up here from Houston.
There was a big fundraiser for the school, and she said, “I’ll make a video for it.” And I’m like, “You make videos?” And she said, “Well, I used to work in news; I know how to do it.” I said, “I’ll help you.” So we made this video that was very simple but very heartfelt. And afterward, the auctioneer called us and said, “That’s not the kind of video I usually get from moms on committees at schools. You guys knew what you were doing.”
He sent our names to all of the [fundraising] committees he knew. All of sudden, we were getting calls from Habitat for Humanity in Dayton, and American Heart Association, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Suddenly we’re making these videos for these big organizations, and they’re raising $20,000, $30,000.
We’re like, “We should make this a business.” So we did.
And you know, we both still had kinda young kids, and we were as busy as we wanted to be, and we kept them really cheap, because we literally shot them on our DSLR cameras, and they were going to be seen at an auction. It was really fun. We made some money and we met some great people, and it really got us into the movers and shakers of Cincinnati and who was doing what. It made us feel good. It was like, good karma, instantly. And that was fun. So she and I started this business called Little Sprig Productions.
Now we’re working on a documentary [“Common Goals”] about the soccer team at Withrow High School, which is entirely refugee and immigrant kids. They come from 14 countries and speak seven different languages, and not one of them was born here.
We started that last year. When we started this, the election was sort of an interesting backdrop, and Trump’s rhetoric was interesting noise, but that has changed. We have kids on the team who won’t talk to us [because of immigration status concerns for their families]. So it’s changed the scope of our film. The film is now really about these kids in relation to this time and this place. A lot of people are like, “Really, that’s happening in Cincinnati?” You think it’s happening in Arizona or New York City or Los Angeles. It’s here. So that’s what we’re focusing on.
And these kids, they exemplify the best of us. They can get along, they don’t care what your religious background is, or where you came from, or what color your skin is. They’re just like, “Hey, let’s play this game. We’ve got a goal. Let’s make this happen.” So that’s really fascinating. We love those kids.
Speaking of the election, tell us about Putting Women In Their Place.
After the 2016 presidential election, I joined all of those online things: writing and signing the petitions, writing letters, going to the Women’s March. But I still felt like, it’s not enough. I’m not running for office. I’m not an activist in the sense that I can’t be on Capitol Hill. So I’m like, what do I do? I know how to network, and I know how to make videos. This is what I do. So I came up with this idea for Putting Women In Their Place, which is all about supporting local and regional candidates – that idea of filling the pipeline. And I was guilty of voting every four years at a presidential election.
When these off-year elections come around, who knows who’s running for city clerk? How would you ever find that information? What does that job entail?
So we came up with this idea to make videos for progressive, pro-choice women running for local and regional office. And I kind of modeled it loosely off EMILY’s List, which supports pro-choice Democrats running for bigger offices, typically.
I’ve filmed seven women so far in Cincinnati. It’s going to be nationwide. We have these 12 questions that are not so much about your platform or the specific issues of your city, though I ask them, “What are your three goals for your time in office?” But it’s more about, “Why do you want this job? Why do you love this city? What is your career and how did that inform your decision to run for office?” – so kind of more of a get-to-know-you thing. I hope these appeal to men and women, but I do know that women respond to that getting-to-know-you style. Hearing voices, hearing someone speak, is so important. That’s what I’m hoping to get across with these videos. Every year, there are some elections somewhere. And as a citizen, you need to be up on it. So I’m hoping now you’ll Google this person’s name, this video pops up, you get to know a little bit about them, you can dig a little deeper if you want. But I just want this to be a tool that [women candidates] can use to get elected.
You also are on the board for a women in film organization. How does that fit into the other work that you do?
Women in Film is a global organization. They’re all over. When I moved here, one of my struggles was everybody kept saying there was this big film scene, that films were coming into Cincinnati, that lots of people were working on them. And I’m like, who are these people; where are they? I can’t find them.
I kept trying to scratch the surface and find who these people were. I met a woman named Andrea Torrice, who’s a documentary filmmaker, and somehow I got invited to this group of women at a Sunday brunch. And somebody said, let’s start a Women in Film. You just call yourself Women in Film and open yourself up to networking and supporting one another. Men can join too; in fact, we have a man on the board. It’s to promote women working in film, films about women, that kind of thing.
It’s supporting women and their passions. I think my whole life has been about that.
I’ve been a feminist my whole life. I love promoting women’s work, and women’s passions, and women’s ideas and helping them get to fruition. It’s a great way to get to know the film community here.
Tell us more about your business partner.
Michelle and I are kinda like sisters. The reason we’re really good partners is we have very different brains. She would never pick up a phone and ask a stranger to lunch. That would terrify her. But she will sit at her computer and figure stuff out. Her brain is so fast. She just comes to the right answer. I’m like, I’m going to take a walk, I have to think about that, after my shower, I’m going to meditate, and I’ll give you an answer. She’s on, and she’s so smart in that way. And she just has my back, and I have her back. If I could’ve dreamed up a partnership, this would’ve been it. You always hear the stories: “Don’t go into business with your friends.” Who else should you go into business with? Go into business with the person you trust, who’s got your back, who fills in the missing part.
It seems like all your work is tied to media, but it also brings women together. Is that something you consciously set out to do with all of those?
Definitely Putting Women In Their Place is, but when we started doing Little Sprig and doing those fundraising videos, we knew the key to it was reaching women’s hearts. At [charity] auctions, women make the decisions about how much money to spend or to donate. We knew we had to reach them.
Tell us about an influential woman in your life.
My mom. She’s a really staunch feminist. She went back to school for her MBA when I was in fourth grade. She was always changing the rules for women. I found out about EMILY’s List from her when I was 20. She’s very influential.
Women in Film Cincinnati is presenting a special screening, open to the public, for a documentary called “Cincinnati LEEDS the Nation,” on October 1.