In 2018, “An Emmy For Megan” has taken the world by storm… or, at least, the TV Academy. Megan Amram’s self-financed web series used a grassroots marketing campaign to land two Emmy nominations in July, and she’s not stopping there. As the self-proclaimed auteur recently stated on Twitter, “It’s not called ‘Two Nominations For Megan,’ it’s called ‘An Emmy For Megan.’ Because what matters is that trophy.”
“There’s more stuff to come,” Amram told IndieWire about plans for the Phase Two Emmy push. “I have two more billboards going up August 6 in two different locations. One of them says, ‘This time I got two billboards: one for each nomination,’ and the other one says, ‘My other billboard is at Santa Monica Blvd and Gower.’ So they’re really part and parcel. […] Like an escape room.”
That said, the indie web series — about a fictionalized version of Megan Amram’s pursuit for an Emmy (streaming now) — doesn’t have the backing of network behemoths like Netflix or HBO. Amram is handling the FYC efforts herself.
“Billboards are prohibitively expensive,” Amram said. “I looked into a building wrap, which — just for fun — are $25,000. So I could not afford it because, you know, I’m not a Koch brother. I can’t buy a side of a building. They can buy as many sides of buildings as they want, but I’m just one of the people. Which, again, is hopefully why you’ll vote for me.”
Despite her series’ obvious prestige elements — alcoholism, weight loss, weight gain, political issues, our own mortality, and more — other interviews haven’t all given Amram the platform to expound on the relevancy of her artistic accomplishment. So when IndieWire was granted the opportunity to speak with the two-time Emmy nominee and “Good Place” writer, we went down an awards checklist of sorts to make sure this vital piece of
satire American craftsmanship was given its due. Below is a partially edited transcript of our conversation with Ms. Amram.
What were the biggest challenges you faced getting this project off the ground?
The biggest challenge was probably the deadline, since I shot the web series on April 17, in one day, and it had to be up by April 27. You’d think for something that has been my dream for so long I would’ve planned it out a little better, but life just got in the way. So we were really scrambling to get it online in time, and the day of April 27 when all Emmy web series have to be online, we actually couldn’t get the website to load. I was like, “This is going to be an even more incredible story if I made a whole web series that was then ineligible for the Emmys because I couldn’t get my website up.”
Do you think the story would’ve sustained if it had to wait until next year’s Emmys, or was it too timely and had to go up in 2018?
I think it’s so relevant to 2018. It’s clearly very tied to what’s going on in our lives, politics, and topical news, that it really wouldn’t have made any sense in 2019.
That’s hard to dispute. So how much did it cost?
The actual series was a few thousand dollars because we had a very real crew who were all incredibly generous and have incredible credits — other than this incredible credit, which will obviously skyrocket all of them into the stratosphere. But the publicity has far exceeded the cost of the actual series. […] I set myself an amount of money I was willing to spend on a web series campaign, and I already have blown the roof off that. But I didn’t want to do a GoFundMe or a Kickstarter because I wanted to make the experience as relaxing as possible for the audience, and I don’t want them to have to give me their money. I just want the Emmy.
I feel like voters will relate to the self-financed story of this. At least in the indie film world, with the Oscars, that’s a good narrative to have out there.
I’m very altruistic and selfless, I’d say. “An Emmy For Megan” is selfless.
I know the character of Megan talked about her motivation in the series, but what inspired you to write this role for yourself?
It’s a really personal role. Megan, in the series — while fictional, because that was one of the requirements for this category, of course — is really based on a lot of my hopes and fears, namely the hope that I win an Emmy. But I know myself. I know my acting strengths; most of all, probably, my singing range. If someone else had written and directed this, I’m not sure they would’ve known how high I could sing. That’s something I wanted to show to the world, and hopefully that will be capitalized on at a later date in some sort of Broadway role. As I’m technically a writer, and not necessarily an actor most of the time, you might not know that about me, just watching me write.
The writer-actor double billing is a key factor. And then you’re a producer and director on top of it.
I feel like female auteurs are not as encouraged as male auteurs and I want to be the first– [pauses] I’m trying to think of someone like Woody Allen, but without all the stuff. So I guess I want to be the first female Woody Allen without all the stuff.
Getting back to the acting, was there anyone like a historical figure or another performer who inspired you to get into the headspace to play Megan?
That’s a great question. I would say the muse was really me, myself; that I was really inspired by me in my day-to-day life, and I based the character off Megan Amram as a thinker and a feeler, not just a writer. But I think I’ve always respected the way that… like… what’s her name… hold on, I’m going to think of it. [long pause] Meryl Streep — she’s able to fall into all of her roles. Llike in “Mamma Mia” she just wore her overalls so well and was able to act with both her arms, freely, just making a lot of arm gesticulations because she had the freedom of those overalls. I was like, “Yes, that’s the kind of acting I want to do.”
I’ve never thought of Streep’s performance in that light, and now that you put them next to each other, I’ll never be able to separate the two.
And that’s actually the only Meryl Streep performance I’ve ever seen. I know she has a reputation of being a really good actress, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet because I’ve been too busy planning my own career. I saw “Mamma Mia,” so I guess next up would be the sequel, and then I’ll see if she’s in anything else.
Was there a scene throughout these six episodes where you really didn’t know if you could go there, if you could get to the point that you had to, and then you ultimately did?
That is such a good question. Every scene, I was pushing myself so hard, in the day that we shot, I think I lost 13 pounds or something. I weighed myself in the morning and then at night — 13 pounds lighter because I was just so physical with my performance. I mean, D’Arcy Carden, who you know is such a talented actress herself — she’s on “The Good Place,” the show that I write for — in the finale of my series she kills me. And we actually did that in real life. She killed me. We wanted it to be real, like, Tom Cruise does his own stunts, so I wanted to do my stunts. I wanted to show that I’m willing to go there, to die, for my art.
How did you come up with such a diabolical twist?
It was so based in reality because D’Arcy, for all her warmth and kindness, is also incredibly jealous of me, and I think we really brought that to the screen. It’s something that all successful women have had to deal with: other women trying to cut them down. I assume Meryl Streep has done a movie about that at some point, but again, I don’t know. That wasn’t what “Mamma Mia” was about. But D’Arcy and I have been really working on our relationship in the last couple months since the series has come out, and I feel like we’ve moved past the fact that she killed me. We’re better than ever.
— Megan Amram (@meganamram) August 1, 2018
Have you been doing any kind of outreach to make sure the people who need to hear the series’ message can connect with it? Are you going to schools or churches or anything?
It’s funny you said churches because I’m going to start flyer-ing places like Soul Cycle and Dry Bar, which I think for L.A. are kind of like churches. But I’ve made 200 lawn signs, and on Monday, August 6 I’m going to be giving away my lawn signs to civilians. And here’s the thing: I really, really want to reach Emmy voters, but any young person could be a future Emmy voter someday. So the lawn sign giveaway is going to be for the people, not just for the Academy.
What do you have to say about your fellow nominees in the categories?
I take my fellow nominees seriously. If any of them see this, I want them to know how deeply I respect them and how much I’ve learned from them. Personally, I’m a huge Broadway fan and have been a fan of Kelly O’Hara for such a long time. I’ve never met her, and I felt a little tiny pang of regret that we were going to have to meet first as rivals, but they’re all incredible and I just truly apologize that we’re up against each other this year because it is my year. I wish there could be more than one winner, but there can’t, so it does have to be me. But that’s not because I don’t think they’re all so talented. I just hope they’ll try again next year. But even if I win, I might try again next year, so it might be a little fuzzy. But I still hope they get their chance.
What’s the important message you really hope viewers are left with once it’s all said and done and the race is over?
I guess it all really comes down to the fact that I want an Emmy. It’s not much more complicated than that. I said it a lot of times in the show. The name of the show is “An Emmy For Megan.” I really think it’s something that would look good in my house: an Emmy trophy, or even two. I will be completely satisfied if that happens. I’m not someone who wants everything. I really just want an Emmy, and then also possibly an Oscar and a Tony and a Grammy, but, you know, we’ll talk about that later. It’s really just about the award, and if people just remember that, I think they’ll be good. A good mnemonic device for remembering what I want is that the title is “An Emmy For Megan.” So you just remember I’m Megan. What does she want? An Emmy.
“An Emmy For Megan” is streaming now on Vimeo.
[IndieWire’s Consider This series is meant to raise awareness for Emmy nominees our editorial staff and readership find compelling, fascinating, and deserving. Running throughout awards season, Consider This selections may be underdogs, frontrunners, or somewhere in between; more importantly, they’re making damn good television we all should be watching, whether they win or not.]