We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Raney Aarons and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Megan, how do you think about risk?
If I look back at my career to date, my favorite projects & endeavors have all involved varying degrees of risk, or some equivalent leap of faith.
Whether it was leaving my rural life in England for a year out in Toronto then Los Angeles to try acting, before starting University. Or deciding to step behind the camera as a cinematographer, despite how few female directors or camera people had managed to break through at that time. Or going to University in London over Oxford (who says no to Oxford?) which led to me meeting the love of my life, Brad. Or learning to operate camera from a tour bus with a band through Europe (trial by fire without Google to answer my questions). Or the risk of following a boy (future husband) to live in NYC sans money or friends & vowing to only work in film. Or saying yes to driving cube trucks through Manhattan in order to get my first PA gigs. Or saying yes to filming everything from bears in Alaska to the last finishing school for girls in a Louisiana plantation home, with people I’d only just met. Or dropping everything to volunteer with my production friends at the base of the Twin Towers after 9/11. Or starting my own production company with my brother & moving to Los Angeles. Or saying yes to marrying my husband. Or covering the 2005 Palestinian elections throughout Israel & the Westbank / Gaza despite everyone begging me not to go. Or never working a normal, regular paying job, always trusting the next freelance gig will come before an eviction notice. Or buying a house when we couldn’t really afford it. Or filming my first scripted project in the slums of Mumbai & directing actors in Hindi, a language I do not speak. Or deciding to have kids & still trusting I could travel for my work. Or realizing I missed performance & needed something that felt scary, so saying yes to doing stand up comedy to scratch that itch. Or being clear & determined about wanting to direct scripted features, even though it’s meant years of writing on spec. And being willing to say yes to work that takes me away from my kids, knowing everyone will be OK & my career goals matter too.
Looking back, it’s safe to say the best decisions have been the ones that have scared me the most, that felt uncomfortable or difficult, but could not be ignored. They have all been things I felt compelled to do, that in my heart of hearts, I knew I would not regret.
The corollary is the things I regret, the risks I did not or could not take. Like simply not risking buying two more mags of film (given I was a broke student), rolling out my last can at the Camden Bar Fly in London while filming my friend’s band, only for Cold Play to come on stage next – an unknown band I could have been filming… if I’d had any film left. Or being too scared to finish some of my early doc & comedy films. Or not finishing my early scripts for fear they wouldn’t be good enough. Or basically every time I’ve accepted “no” as the answer when I knew I was right for a job. This list goes on and on.
Risk taking is at the core of every career beat, every big life moment, every breath we take. If we’re willing to trust our gut, listen to those around us without feeling beholden to their advice, understand that no life is without regrets, and allow ourselves a little forgiveness along the way, then risks are the best. I say, if it’s not going to hurt anyone, if you think you’ll live to tell the tale, if it will enhance your world view… go for it.
Thanks to the risks I’ve taken I have been Knighted in Hungary (alongside my brother, Lucy Liu & Quentin Tarantino – career high!), I am happily married, have two bad ass kids, have doubled down on our homestead in Venice Beach & just had the honor of being named 2022 Emmerging Woman Artist of Venice by this epic community. I am humbled, thankful, energized & ready for more. I wish the same vibes for anyone ready to take the risks that are right for them too.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with storytelling, whether through song, dance, fire side chats, instrumentation, theater, film, canvas of all kinds, projection, sketch’n’stand-up comedy & of course the written word. Every form of art ultimately comes back to story.
As I honed my sense of self, I became crystal clear that I wanted to be part of this storytelling tradition. I also always wanted to tread the boards with my big brother, Colin, who shares this obsession (thanks in part to our mother) & helped me find my voice.
As this has evolved, the focus for our production company together, and most of my work to date (albeit not all!), has been about shining a light on lesser known stories, about celebrating those real life people or places that would otherwise go unnoticed, and about finding the universal truths in their experiences. I want audiences to walk in the shoes of those they could in another light see as “other” and instead recognize aspects of themself.
I have also found myself drawn to stories of injustice, to people standing up against insurmountable odds, taking risks beyond measure in the name of good. Call me naive, but I’ve always felt good storytelling can help make a difference in the world, in how we treat others & how we interact with the planet around us.
I’m now branching more whole heartedly into scripted feature writing & directing, which I’ve longed for my whole career. It’s deeply exciting, nerve racking & inspiring. I look fwd to continuing this mission, and doing it in deeply artistic, thought provoking, plot twisting & surprising ways. That’s my goal.
Most of all, I hope that in some small way, the messaging of my work helps remind us all that we are but a very small (albeit important) part of the precious drop of water that is planet Earth, floating in the big, scary science experiment that is space infinite. Until we recognize that we are connected, purely by having our feet on the ground of this earth… we will fail. And this planet, the universe, the galaxies beyond, will not care. So let’s use our time here wisely.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, I’m a Venice Beach girl through & through, so let’s start here.
There’s so many good spots to check out. Going from morning to night, I’d suggest Menotti’s Coffee Shop (under the Venice sign), then walk your beverage out to watch the surfers, skaters, graffiti artists from the bluff.
Riding the waterfront by bike, getting some beach volley ball on, jumping in the ocean & swimming with the dolphins (if you’re lucky), walking the canals – all of that is worth featuring. If you can get yourself out on a boat or stand up paddle, do it.
There’s Zinqué on Lincoln which is the present hub of our community. You can buy paddle tennis rackets there and hit the courts up at the beach which are a solid local scene.
Get a sunset drink on the roof of the Erwin Hotel (High), then head over to Great White off the circle, for dinner looking out at the Venice sign lit up – you’ll feel really on holiday (Great White also good for breakfast/lunch).
Late night I love the old school Townhouse depending on the night (where Jim Morrison used to hang & home to the original LA speakeasy), the Winston House for live music & scene, plus while it’s not the hole in the wall gay bar it once was, Rooster Fish on Abbot Kinney is worth a stop. Wandering AK for the shops is also a must, but for the old school Venetian in me, has def lost it’s charm some.
As for the rest of LA, well if you want it, you can find it. There’s always great art shows & incredible music venues around town. I love the Highland Park Lodge Room (restaurant upstairs before a show too), and all the special out door screenings you can find. To get a sense of old Hollywood, I love driving around the Hollywood Dell, up towards the reservoir, then getting lost in the streets up there.
Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains is always a treat. Just time it to avoid the heat of the day. I love getting lost & swimming in the river of Malibu State Park (off path), or getting all the way to the best seat in town, the long hike that starts off Paseo Marimar.
Downtown LA is always a treat. You can do a historic walking tour & end at the Hotel Figueroa (rumored to be haunted) for a pool side hang, before catching a show or hitting an art gallery.
LA is full of fun surprises too, whether it be the Roller Derby, Mexican Wrestling, KCRW tips on the best places to score real street taco flavors… do your digging and make it your own. Such great vibes abound.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Pretty much everything I do is dedicated to my incredibly supportive & inspiring international community of family, friends & colleagues. They’ve made me laugh, adventured with me, mentored, grounded & called me on my sh*t. At the very core of this galaxy of great people, are my two kids & my husband Brad. You 3 make my heart tick.
Todd Erickson @ Good Enough Photo Edizen Stowell @ Venice Paparazzi