Sister of Hollywood Actor from Derby on course for a career in directing
Megan O’Connell is 23 years old, she’s a first-year student at London’s MetFilm School studying the BA in Practical Filmmaking, she’s also the younger sister of Hollywood actor, Jack O’Connell.
“When I was 12, Jack took me to the film set in Bristol where they were filming ‘Skins’. I got to see a couple of night shoots, I was so excited – it was insane!
“It was the first time I’d seen anything like that, watching all of these busy people behind the scenes working on a professional film set, shooting and directing, and basically putting the show together – it was something that I’ll never forget.
“I think it was then I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I remember looking around and thinking how do you learn to do these things? Where do these people go to school to learn all this?”
Megan, who is from Derby dropped out of Sixth Form during her first year. “It just couldn’t offer what I wanted, I knew I was wasting everyone’s time.”
“I had a few jobs, I worked in Top Shop and did some bar work, but I knew I needed to get into the film industry, so I kept trying until I managed to get a job on a set working as a PA.
“I was able to see what life would be like from inside the industry and it just made me want to make films even more. I asked around, trying to work out how I could learn this craft and someone recommended going to a specialist film school.
“So, like any prospective student, I went to Open Days with my mum. I was really nervous, I had to move to London from Derby, I was anxious about being older than the other students and that I didn’t know anything – I had no portfolio or body of work or anything.
“I know MetFilm School has a great reputation, but I chose the School because of the experience that I had on the Open Day. I was made to feel so welcome, I was reassured and everyone was really friendly. I felt comfortable straight away and no-one had any expectation that I should know what I was doing.
“I love being on set, and even now while I’m studying I take any opportunity to get on set as a runner or an assistant. Being part of a crew is such a fantastic experience, it’s truly amazing how everyone works collectively, and it doesn’t matter how ‘stressy’ it gets – we get there in the end.”
Megan had to make a short film as part of her BA and she has chosen to tell a story that’s close to her heart and is inspired by her grandparents.
Set in Derby 1959, Megan’s film ‘A Mother’s Ruin’ tells the story of pregnancy outside of marriage and the lengths that some women had to go to, to ‘manage’ their situation, exploring society, social norms and metal anguish.
The story tells of a young working-class couple feeling the pressures from society. Beatrice, a 21 year old off-license owner, discovers she’s pregnant out of wedlock and she’ll do what she must in order to get her boyfriend Arnie, a 30 year-old football coach for Derby County, to propose – even if it means emotionally blackmailing him.
Megan explains: “I only learnt of the story recently, and I want to do it justice – it hit me quite hard. I hadn’t really appreciated how harshly women were judged and the total lack of support a woman could expect if she ‘got caught’.
“I really want the film to be historically accurate – I love history almost as much as I love film and the first scene starts with an old Roberts radio broadcasting the 3-nil defeat of Derby County in a football match with Middlesbrough.
Gender bias is close to Megan’s heart, she is very aware that there aren’t enough female directors; She said: “I hate that the film industry is not an equal split between genders, but it’s changing. Strong women have always worked in the industry, and many have paved the way for the likes of me; now’s the time that I feel we’re getting a proper foothold, I’m at a school where I’m pretty sure the gender split is 50/50.
I look at directors like Andrea Arnold and Angelina Jolie and I think they’re so inspirational they are my role models and I want to do similar work. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do when I leave MetFilm School, I may decide to do an MA in Directing or I might jump straight into the industry – all I know at this point is that I definitely want to be a director.”