Q & A With Dallas Native and Oscar Winner Megan Mylan
The Highland Park High School grad—whose film, Smile Pinki, premieres tonight at the Angelika—talks to us about documentaries and resale shops.
Dallas native Megan Mylan won an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary for her film, Smile Pinki, about two children in rural India with cleft palates. The Highland Park High School grad is in town for a screening of her film (7 pm, May 21, at the Angelika). She spoke to D about some of her Dallas favorites and what it’s like to win an Oscar.
What are some of your fondest Dallas memories?
The enthusiasm of Texans is something I miss. Contrary to reputation, I find New Yorkers friendly, but I haven’t found anyone who comes close to having that energy or genuine Texas smile.
My fondest memories are high school football games, long leisurely dinners with my great high school girlfriends, and giant cups of iced tea.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I’ve always been really interested in meeting people who are different from me and learning about their lives. Documentary gives me a great excuse to spend time in realities very different from my own.
I got started working as an assistant for some Brazilian documentary filmmakers I met while I was living in Rio de Janeiro and working for a human rights nonprofit. It was an “a-ha” moment for me where I realized I could combine the social impact of my nonprofit work with the creativity and variety of filmmaking. I can’t imagine a better job and feel so lucky to be able to make a living telling stories.
What did it feel like to win an Academy Award?
An incredible joyful whirl! The award felt like a very collective win, like a celebration of the beautiful relationship of Pinki and her father and the incredible work being done by the Smile Train. It also felt like recognition of my crew and all of the talented people I get to work with who love our craft of documentary so much.
It was also a thrill to have my parents and sister there to share the experience, and then have such a happy reason to hear from friends all around the world, including some wildly enthusiastic Dallas friends who I think I can still hear screaming.
What is next for you?
I’m directing a documentary film about race relations in Brazil.
What do you like to do when you come home to Dallas?
For many years when I visited Dallas, I spent almost all of my time with my Grandma Julia, who passed away a few months ago at 95. She and I made a lot of trips to NorthPark together, and we loved to get Tex-Mex. Of course, I always find time to stop off at my mom’s consignment shop, the Clothes Circuit. No one loves their fashion quite like Dallas ladies.
What is your advice to other kids growing up in Dallas who are interested in this profession?
Good stories are everywhere. I work a lot on international films, but your next-door neighbor might have an incredible story to tell that would make a great film. Also, I’d say see as many different kinds of films as you can. Netflix is great for that. Then find someone whose work you admire and do whatever it takes to work with them, even if it means waiting tables at night.
Smile Pinki is showing at 7 pm, May 21, at the Angelika Film Center. Call 972-450-1075 to get on the list.