By Joan Amenn
Meg Messmer is an incredibly talented actor best known for “Mr. Mercedes” (2018) and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (2015) but is also gifted behind the camera and we are so lucky to be able to sit down with her and talk about her latest project, “Intersection” (2022), a miniseries now streaming on YouTube. A dark comedy with a very pertinent message, “Intersection” tells the story of the citizens of Atlanta as they face the complexities of gentrification.
Joan: The film community moving into the Atlanta area is certainly partially to blame for the gentrification issues that “Intersection” raises. How aware were you of the impact your own filming was having on the people living in the area?
Meg: Yes you’re absolutely right. The film community and the city’s added tax incentive has added a lot of bodies to Atlanta in a short period of time. It was definitely a stress on the city that I’m pretty sure they weren’t ready for, (just take a look at their road systems and public transit). But I also think that filming has created jobs and opportunities for people and businesses in ATL and an opportunity for artists to stay local as opposed to moving to LA or NYC. So there’s a positive and negative impact. That’s actually what our show is about…how sometimes the answer isn’t Black & White, but shades of gray.
As far as filming goes – we filmed everything in my local neighborhood. We had a small footprint and we weren’t shutting down businesses or streets. For the most part, everyone was happy to have us. I let all of my neighbors know what I was up to and invited locals to be a part of it. We asked my neighbor to film in his house, we used the local café (D café & catering) for our catering everyday, we shot at our local grocery story and we invited people from the community to be actors and extras. They were excited to help us and be a part of it.
But on our last day of filming, I actually got into a sticky situation where I made a decision as a showrunner to do a guerilla style quick shot without thinking of the repercussions. I got in a lot of trouble for parking our production truck at a local business without asking permission. She was Black business owner and it was a horrible feeling to know that even though I had been chasing these issues for years and making a show about them in hopes for change, I was not immune to them. Here I was using my privilege to do what I wanted and it had a negative affect on my community. You can’t just be “done” with the work. It is continuous.
Joan: The real estate agent Mary Margaret played brilliantly by Muretta Moss is obviously hilarious but also gently points out that there are a lot of Mary Margarets in our society who are rather destructive. How do you think we can best counter the actions of these people?
Meg: Mary Margaret is definitely representative of the white women who think they understand the definitions of privilege/racial injustice etc. but don’t understand how they literally play a part in it. And I, myself, have been a Mary Margaret before.
Our goal as creators was to make a show that acted like a mirror, where people could see themselves in it, and hopefully reflect on where they fit into the equation of gentrification and ultimately make better choices. Having continuous, open conversations is an incredible way to make people more aware of their personal impact. But we’re living in a time when conversations are so volatile and polarizing, most shy away from them. The reason our show is wrapped up in a comedy is to make a serious issue more palatable for certain people so they will actually watch it without feeling ostracized and then let it be a starting point for conversation. Agnes Repplier said, “Humor brings tolerance and understanding,” and if we come into a conversation with the intention of understanding, we can get more accomplished. I believe people are good and want to do the right thing. I also believe that gray areas are scary because it takes so much effort to understand each other’s perspectives. We want the show to take on some of that effort.
Joan: You raise important questions about how POC can often be exploited by so-called “allies”. How do you think POC can best be supported now?
Meg: Yes, it’s a tricky thing to be an ally. It takes a lot to be trusted by a community that has constantly been trampled on. I think #1 is giving the BIPOC community a voice. Amplifying their voices, not using theirs for your gain. I think it’s holding space for Black people in conversations and having hard conversations so people are aware of their personal impact. I think it’s going out of our way to support the BIPOC community where we haven’t before. Specifically, I’m talking about buying from Black owned businesses (especially if you’re a gentrifier in their neighborhood), taking part in community initiatives, or simply reading Black authors & scripts. I think it’s doing your own research and understanding why white people are ‘privileged’ even if we are poor, abused and misfortunate. Understanding what cultural appropriation means and being extra conscious day in and day out to respect it. Understanding that structural racism has been going on a LONG LONG time and it’s our responsibility to use our privilege to uplift their voices and make change.
I hope that in some way we accomplished some of this with the show. That’s why we created a diverse writer’s room to tell this story. That’s also why I was determined to have a cast and crew of over 80% female and BIPOC. I know we definitely could have been better but we all learned a lot.
Joan: Will we see an expanded version of “Intersection” and what are you working on next?
Meg: The most recent exciting news is that we are in negotiations to be picked up by a network. It would be the 6 episode short form series that you see now. But of course, I would love to make the expanded version of “Intersection.” We will be pitching it to production companies and executive producers who might be a good fit. I have a vision of a three season limited series. It would expand into the next levels of gentrification like the landlords and developers and then finally the politicians in charge of the zoning and major developments. The issue is so convoluted and I think it’s important for people to understand that when you first see the “signs of gentrification” in your neighborhood i.e., the white woman running, the coffee shop, the bike lanes…that the policies and deals were put in place 5 to 10 years before that.
Next up, I’ll be producing a female-driven, female led film in Serbia. And I have an amazing historical female-driven TV series that I’m pitching as well. If you follow me on socials, I do a lot of preaching to creators about making your own way. I’m a huge advocate of staying in motion and not waiting around for someone else to give you the green light. You can find more about me at my website www.megmessmer.com or on my Instagram @megmessmer.
You can watch “Intersection” here: Intersection the Series – YouTube