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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #19. Megan Mercier (Unexpected)

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries”…
Megan Mercier: Kishi Bashi (music), Mike White (writer/actor/director), Black Mirror (TV show).

Lavallee: Not unlike the protagonist who appears to juggle many balls at the same time, professionally speaking you’ve been a multi-tasker yourself. I was wondering what was the genesis of Unexpected, how and why did this become a theme/subject worth tackling?
Mercier: It’s loosely based on a true experience from Kris’ (Swanberg) life. The themes were very natural to things we were experiencing in our own lives, namely juggling ambitious careers as driven, creative women while trying hard to avoid falling prey to stereotypes of strong women as well as the stereotypes of female instincts where relationships and family are concerned. It can be hard to find yourself when society is telling you that you can do everything and nothing at the same time. It’s challenging and dramatic and funny and no one’s journey or story is perfect.

Lavallee: How did you sketch out the non-stereotypical supporting character of Jasmine (played by Gail Bean)?
Mercier: We were so highly aware of how we DIDN’T want the character to be interpreted based simply on the fact that we were two middle-class white women telling her story. We just focused on what it is to be a dynamic person faced with unforeseen challenges and choices that can also be tremendous opportunities for growth. Both Samantha AND Jasmine are only able to do this when they make the decision to be true to themselves. We were so, so lucky to find Gail!

Lavallee: Seeing that you come a performance-based background, creatively I was wondering how this influenced your writing process? Are you more at ease with character actions and dialogue?
Mercier: I have always been an actor/writer hybrid, and came up in a place (The Neo-Futurists in Chicago) where the performance style was non-illusory no one ever told you that you couldn’t do something. Between that and lots of improv training, my eye and ear is to real people, their reactions, and their nuances. I got to calibrate real-life timing between performers playing themselves and an audience three nights a week for nearly six years. Writing with Kris was literally writing dialogue out loud for two years. It was totally an extension of my work style as a live writer and performer.

2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #19. Megan Mercier (Unexpected)

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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