How Hannah Macpherson Became the Director of a Can’t-Miss Teen TV Show
Hannah MacPherson always knew she wanted to make movies. Figuring out how to make it happen was a little less clear-cut. She studied film production in college, did a TV writing stint at UCLA, and basically willed her dreams to come true. Today she's the director of T@gged, one of the coolest teen TV series around while also working on an exciting new feature for Lionsgate (the same people who made The Hunger Games movies a reality). How did a girl from Albuquerque, New Mexico end up with one of the coolest jobs in Hollywood, California? We asked her that very question.
What were you like as a teen, and what do you wish you could tell your teenage self?
I didn't really fit into any category in high school. I played soccer, hung out with theater thespians, and had a tight knit group of friends that made up the student council. I studied hard and became the valedictorian. I fell in love for the first time; I laughed; I cried; I thought my parents were unfair. I wish I could tell my teen self to relax a little more and not worry so much about what every single person thought about me.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally? What was the step by step process?
I was lucky because I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do from a very young age; I always wanted to make movies. I enjoyed going to college for film production in Los Angeles. There is no one path in the film industry, whether it's acting, directing, writing, or producing. But for me, my path was about trying many different jobs, and saying yes to opportunities that came my way instead of saying no if they weren't exactly what I wanted to be doing. That way I met a lot of people and gained a lot of expertise. And I never stopped doing the work. When it comes to filmmaking, doing the work is the only thing you can control. So I wrote and directed as often as I could, getting friends together on the weekends, paying out of pocket for art department and wardrobe, begging my parents and friends to cook dinner for the crew (who weren't getting paid). I developed my style and my voice, so that I was ready when the combination of luck, hard work and timing brought my first paid writing/directing job opportunity to my door.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now about having a career?
I wish I had started writing earlier. Not just occasionally writing, but writing like my life depended on it. A director I admire (who became a mentor) thought I had talent as a writer. He told me when I was in my early twenties that I should be writing every day, that I should write several feature films a year. It took me almost 10 years to start taking his advice. Once I started writing every day, my writing got me noticed.
What advice about work do you have for teens or for people just starting out?
Don't be afraid to try a lot of things, and don't get stuck doing something you don't love. Be an excited student of the job you want to get; read everything you can on the profession. Watch clips online or movies about the gig and journal about what you want to do. Then, come up with several tasks that are realistic to take baby steps towards obtaining the job you want NOW.
What are you excited about right now?
I am very excited to wake up every day doing what I love—telling stories to an audience that loves the same characters and subject matter that I do. I am excited to explore the human experience and hopefully will have the opportunity to make a difference.
Any last words?
Love yourself. The journey towards any career, and especially a career in the arts, is often a lonely road that has many hills but many more valleys. You must be your own biggest fan. It's not easy—I'm also my own worst critic—but you have to take a moment to enjoy it. Be proud of yourself. Daring to dream is very scary, but the scary things in life are the most important things.