Article By: Maria ShamkalianPAFIA Vice-Chair
Meagan Hill has served on the Philadelphia Local SAG-AFTRA Board since 2012, and was recently elected VP Actor/Performer. In addition to her union work, Meagan has been active in PAFIA since its formation. In 2013, she produced and directed a promotional video showing how a one small Pennsylvania town benefited from TV and film production work in the area.
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it?
I was recently elected VP (Actor/Performer) for the Philadelphia Local of SAG-AFTRA.
How did you get started in the film industry?
After I graduated from DeSales University, I performed leads in numerous dinner theatre and murder mystery productions and with several comedy troupes. I also directed dozens of children’s theatre shows. More recently, my creative partner, Tom Orr and I have written and produced several cabaret shows together. I joined AFTRA in 1980. This made me eligible to work on film projects in the Philadelphia/NYC areas. In 2012, I was asked to fill a vacant seat on the Philadelphia Local SAG-AFTRA Board and to serve on the National Honors and Tributes Committee. Once I became a member of PAFIA, I encouraged many actors and crew people to join. I was notorious for having stacks of “Why join PAFIA” postcards with me in the holding area. “Are you a member? Why not? Go to the website!” When an Academy Award nominated actor from Pennsylvania admitted that he wasn’t a member, I handed him a postcard!
Why do you choose to work in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?
I live here! NY and LA are not the only locations with professional actors who are capable of getting the job done.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?
Olde City Philadelphia, Jim Thorpe and Hatboro (yes, my hometown!)
What do you love the most about your job?
“Do you *want* to act, or do you *need* to act?” I NEED TO ACT! I love being part of the creative process to make “Make Believe” look “Real”.
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?
I was playing a homeless drug addict in a student film and supplied my own costume. While I was sipping my coffee, the director inspected my outfit. When he commented that my tee shirt was too clean, I DUMPED my coffee down the front of my shirt. His jaw dropped and he said admiringly, “Wow… you ARE a professional!!!”
What are some of the challenges of being a female filmmaker?
I was hired to play a doctor in a print ad. Once on set, they gave my lab coat to a male actor because, “The public won’t believe a female doctor”! In addition to acting, I also direct corporate videos for a local production company. I’ve had a few camera operators and crew people blow off my instructions with a snide “women can’t direct!” (seriously!).
What is your advice for other women in film?You *can* have a family and a career! The Arts and taking care of children (or elderly parents) is not easy! Cultivate a supportive network that includes your partner, friends and family.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?
Directing corporate video interviews. Writing a new cabaret show with my creative partner.
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life?
Find the video I directed that was on the PAFIA website in 2013/14. Shot in Hatboro with statements from PA Rep Thomas Murt; local actress, Patsy Meck and Tim Lewis, owner of Lewis Paints. Says it all!!!
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?
LISTEN! FOLLOW DIRECTIONS! BE PREPARED AND PROFESSIONAL! LEAVE YOUR EGO AT HOME.
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?
Network. Be the most professional representation of your craft.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?
LEAVE YOUR EGO AT HOME
What is your favorite film shot in Pennsylvania?
Silver Linings Playbook. SAG Award winning film where I got to “tailgate” with Bradley Cooper!
What is your favorite project that you worked on?
Student film for Temple University: The young director wanted me to play a homeless drug addict… for free. I told him that I was in SAG-AFTRA and that the union had student film contracts. “You want to be a professional filmmaker? Then you need to know about working with film contracts”. He and the student-producer thanked me on the set for helping them take their first steps as “real filmmakers”.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?
Last Thoughts?“Pennsylvania artists and crews are visibly distinct from the rest. We clearly show the training, dedication and professionalism that took years to attain and was hard won. The Guild and the film industry of Pennsylvania should be synonymous for excellence. Professionalism will reduce production time by adding value through skill"
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org