A Filmmaker’s Journey

A Filmmaker’s Journey

By: Terra Clarke Olsen

EMP and SIFF are holding their annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival this weekend in Seattle. I wrote about the festival in my Seattle Weekly column, The Geekly Report, and in doing so had the pleasure of being introduced to Vanessa McMeekin. 


McMeekin is making her SFFSFF debut with her short film Red Summer. The story revolves around a young boy who watches the world end around him (Sounds intense!). McMeekin is the only filmmaker from Seattle showing a film (SFFSFF received over a 100 films this year, and only picked 20, so it is a big deal to be selected), so of course I’m cheering her on. And even more so, she is a lady science fiction filmmaker-love it!

After our interview, it was clear I couldn’t fit her whole story in my column. But I found her story interesting and inspiring! What to do but share with you all, our wonderful Have You Nerd readers!

red summer vanessa mcmeekin

TC: When did you start making films?

VM: I started making films in 2006. I went to film school in London, at the Metropolitan Film School, and that’s what really got me involved in filmmaking. Before that I just loved writing. But to see my writing come to life in film was an experience that took my breath away. I was instantly addicted. 

Originally I wanted to be an author. I started studying literature, and absorbed everything I could get my hands on. I gained a Masters in literature, writing my thesis on female automatons. I was accepted onto a PHD but my friend encouraged me to switch majors into film studies, saying all I ever did was talk about movies. I was halfway through an MA in Film Studies when I realized I really just wanted to make the damn things. That’s when I went to film school. It’s 8 years later, and film is my life. 

TC: Are you a long time Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan? 

VM: I am a huge sci-fiction and fantasy fan. I kinda grew up as a massive nerd. It started when I was a kid with Star Trek. Every Sunday night I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation with my brother. It was my favorite day of the week. I loved Data, and his exploration of what it was to be human. To this day he is still my favorite science fiction character. 
The first books I read were novelizations of Star Trek episodes, which led me into Heinlein, and Bradbury. The world of Science Fiction really opened my eyes to the possibilities of life, the universe, and what it is to be human. I became obsessed. I went to the Pacific Science Center’s Star Trek exhibit when I was in the sixth grade, and stood in awe in front of Starfleet Uniforms and Kirk’s Captain’s chair. It made the whole world feel special, and strange, and fascinating. 
When I got older, I continued my love of these genres through Alien Nation, Sliders, Farscape, X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Battlestar Galactica. Now I embraced it in graphic novels. I read Fables, anything by Gaiman, and Brian K. Vaughan. 

I still embrace geek culture. It was a big part of growing up for me, and forming who I was, and what kind of stories I wanted to tell.  I don’t think there is a part of this world that I don’t love. As a life-long nerd, I’ve seen it act as a glue to bring people and ideas together. It’s truly an incredible and powerful genre. 

TC: Where did the idea for Red Summer come from?

VM: Red Summer is based on a dream I had. I had this really vivid dream where I saw my brother Alex in the street, and we waved as we passed each other by. I was happy to see him, because everyone knew the world was ending, and a lot of people were walking around anxiously. I started to turn and walk away when suddenly there was this rumbling and we saw the end was approaching in the distance. I ran to him and hugged him tightly, as the entire world disappeared around us. Months later, the dream stuck with me, and I felt like I really wanted to use it somehow. That’s how I got the idea for Red Summer. A story set in a town where everyone knows that the world is ending, but no one is sure exactly how or when. And then exploring how people react to that.
Filmmaker Vanessa McMeekin

Filmmaker Vanessa McMeekin

I love McMeekin’s story. She started on a different path, but slowly found her passion, which has brought her great success! We could all take note from McMeekin and remember to follow our passion, work hard, and the rest will fall into place.

Big thanks to McMeekin for speaking with me! And of course a huge “Good Luck!” in the festival this weekend.

If you’re in the Seattle area, be sure to check out SFFSFF’s “Encore Screening” (main festival is sold out!).