Meghan McDermott is a homeschool graduate and founder of Myristica Studios. As a Christian-owned studio, the goal of Myristica Studios is to honor God through media production. Meghan’s current project, in the early stages of production, is a Christian audio fiction series called “Keep Right.” The main character in her audio drama is a homeschooled teen boy continuing his education at the local college. Listen to the first episode of “Keep Right” on YouTube at http://youtu.be/vyF6DEN1WMI. Also, see Myristica’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel. The website, currently under construction, will be www.MyristicaStudios.com.
Homeschooling Teen is excited to feature this exclusive interview with Meghan McDermott!
Please tell us a little about yourself:
Where did you grow up and what kind of family environment did you live in?
I’ve been living in Missouri for about ten years now but I was born and grew up in Maryland. I enjoyed it. I could do country if I had to but I’m really a city girl at heart (or, well, a suburban girl anyway).
I am the fourth of thirteen children, all of which were homeschooled. So in a fun twist of life my classmates, my siblings and my best friends were all the same people. Circumstances forced both my parents to work outside the house almost from the beginning but they’re both very home-minded. They gave us a loving and spiritually strong upbringing. Of course, no people are perfect so no family is perfect. Notwithstanding, I had a great childhood and have a great family.
How long were you homeschooled and what was your homeschooling experience like?
I was homeschooled from age 6 to 16 and it was great. Very laid back I’d say, compared to the public school experience, but even so to the typical homeschool experience. “Work first then play” was a rule, but beyond that there were no set class times or set class places. We did some but little in the way of tests until a particular class in high school, so as to help prepare for college where tests are common.
My parents stressed reading and math. The reading was especially good as they found giving us good books from the library to be cheaper than buying curriculum and more efficient than preparing lectures. (They both worked and the budget was tight so finding cheaper and more efficient methods was necessary.) They skipped preschool for all of us and kindergarten for all but the first. They introduced new math concepts slowly – 1st grade was only adding, 2nd only subtracting, etc. – but made sure we were well grounded in all the basics, meaning adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing large numbers, fractions, decimals and negative numbers. The calculator was forbidden until high school when we began Algebra. They began our high school at 13 and arranged our “curriculum” so that we could complete it by age 16.
Our Dad will say we were not educated for Harvard, but we were well prepared to do what the vast majority of people will do when it comes to a college education and a job. Plus, graduating early allowed for a jump start on getting a career. I have one brother who had a bachelor’s in computer science at 19, another with a Master’s and a CPA at 22, a third set to graduate with a Master’s at 22, a sister in the nursing program at 19, a sister who forewent college but has written published works, and another sister who was allowed to enter a computer animation course at 16 instead of 18 after passing a 3D modeling test.
So far so good. 🙂
I’d say I had a great homeschooling experience. I highly recommend our slightly unusual way of doing things.
What were your favorite books, subjects, hobbies and/or interests as you were growing up?
The subjects I liked the most were gym and literature. Math was a pain, history a bore, English no fun (unless the assignment was creative writing), science a mixed bag and social studies just sort of… there.
When I was younger I particularly appreciated books about animals and occasionally bugs, providing they had pictures, of course. I figure-skated, played football with my brothers and got a kick out of action figures and playing imaginary stories. As I got older I appreciated fiction novels more and more, as well as Christian autobiographies, and I still got a kick out of action figures and playing imaginary stories. Then came the hobbies of writing and music… and I still got a kick out of action figures and playing imaginary stories.
Don’t judge me.
What educational tools or resources did you find most useful as a homeschooled student?
I think the library was the most useful. Like I said, we had a tight budget. To me curriculum before high school is a tremendous waste of money (except maybe when it comes to math workbooks.. which we never really had).
But perhaps my favorite resource, you may need to sit down homeschool mothers, was the tv. Educational documentaries, Eyewitness, Henry the Lizard, etc. I know TV’s not the favorite for people who think it lacks intellectual stimulation, but we read a lot for our school and it was a great break in the monotony. (Yes, school was a monotony. Kids are what kids are and school is what school is, no matter how well done. Give them a break once in a while.) I also had a tendency to absorb information better that way.
What are some of the things you appreciate the most about being homeschooled?
Freedom from “the bell”, from a life that has to fit in the culture’s box, from all the needless time in class, from an education of secular teachings, and from spending most of my childhood in a spiritually hostile environment away from home and family, in the hands of strangers and surrounded by children of whom many are walking “negative socialization”.
In what ways did homeschooling prepare you for what you are doing now?
It’s hard for me to find something to attribute completely to homeschooling, but homeschooling is a part of the family structure that’s allowing me to do what I’m doing the way I am doing it, and it’s part of the upbringing that God used to make me who I am.
Beyond that, well, *shrug* it taught me to read, write and do math well. (Hey, lots of people graduate high school without those skills well-developed.) I know it didn’t teach me what I need to know for this vocation but cut us some slack – we didn’t know I’d have this interest and Digital Audio Recording wasn’t part of our gen-ed.
Tell us about Myristica Studios:
How did you become interested in writing/directing/producing audio dramas?
Actually, I’m more interested in producing full length films whose plots just so happen to require a multimillion dollar budget.
But I’m a few multimillion dollars short.
Hence the audio drama.
My interest in filmmaking developed slowly. I took an interest in acting at a young age and the interest grew to involve the industry as a whole. As of now, my interest is in the industry as a mission field, both in front of the camera and behind (three cheers for the uncompromising Christians in Hollywood and throughout the world of media production!), and also as a way to provide clean, wholesome fiction to those with more conservative viewing standards but who also enjoy a good story.
I’m also interested in it because, let’s face it, it’s just so cool!
What kind of equipment do you need to produce an audio drama?
Basically: mics, a computer or external recorder to record onto, and a program in which to record and edit the lines.
For my set up, I also use an interface to connect the mics to the computer (all but the most basic of set ups will require this), pop filters for the mics, stands for the mics, stools for the actors, headphones for the techie monitoring the recording, miscellaneous wires, and a power strip in which to plug everything. I also have an external recorder for gathering sound effects and sound effects cds.
And my set up is a basic one.
Because, you see, I only have a basic idea of what I’m doing.
That’s why we use foam mattress comforters with a framework of cardboard boxes to pad the walls in order to eliminate echo. (We’ve moved up in the world. Our last recording session was the first that didn’t include pillows.)
Plus I’m only talking about recording and editing. If you do it all yourself, you’ll have to worry about equipment to do the music as well. (Which, lucky you, needn’t be more than a digital piano, as you’d already have the computer, headphones, interface and editing program. No wait – you might also need a new wire or adapter!)
And that’s how this “cheap” step toward filmmaking turned out to be not so cheap.
Myristica is an interesting name; how did you decide on that as the name of your studio?
The word caught my eye because of how it rolled off the tongue (pardon my mixed metaphors). It just sounds like the name of a studio that could do a gospel-based movie one minute and an epic fantasy the next – which is something I hope for in Myristica’s future.
The longer history of the name involves a frantic search for a meaningful name that is not overused or cliché, the decision to go with something neutral, choosing “Nutmeg” and then discovering another “Nutmeg” that produces audio.
Looking for inspiration, I researched Nutmeg and found that it was a Myristica tree.
End of story.
Where did you come up with the idea for the storyline of your audio drama?
It began with a question of resources. I would’ve considered more unique premises but I didn’t think I could pull it off well. So I considered something a little more… normal.
But aside from that I think it was a combination of things, the main one being that I got a job at a college restaurant around the same time the Myristica set up process was going on. This was my first job outside the home. It was especially interesting and I saw lots of opportunities for story lines there.
How many cast members are there? Who are they?
Thus far, three for one-time characters:
I haven’t done any acting yet. I’m shocked. When I first started looking I thought I wouldn’t be able to find anyone and I’d have to play a main part myself. Who’d ‘a’ thunk?
What makes your “Keep Right” audio drama unique and different?
Aside from the fact that it’s produced by people who don’t know what they’re doing?
I’ll take that as a yes.
Judging “unique and different” by what else I’ve heard in Christian audio: it centers around teenagers instead of children, the main character is a homeschool alumnus and the central location is a college.
How long did it take to make the first episode?
Approximately nine months from the first recording until the uploading on YouTube.
Let’s just say it was a learning experience.
Production on the 2nd episode has been going significantly faster.
Can you briefly outline what happens from the beginning (brainstorming) through the end (uploading to YouTube)?
Brainstorming the plot.
Writing the script.
Having the script edited.
Adjusting the script (you know how editors are).
Recording the lines.
Editing and compiling the recordings.
Adding the sound effects.
Composing the music.
The final editing together of all the components – voice, sound and music.
Exporting it all as a file that YouTube can use.
Designing the title graphic.
Editing together the “video” for YouTube.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
Not at this time. As far as audio goes, I currently intend to finish twelve episodes of Keep Right, enough for an album, then break for either an audio book, a mini-series or something like a 90 minute special. Whether or not I return to Keep Right depends on various factors, including audience reaction, budget, etc.
Please tell us some more:
Are you presently involved in any other activities or jobs? What do you like to do in your spare time?
I create the covers for my sister’s novels and ebooks (check her out on Amazon). Look up www.shannonmcdermott.com. This isn’t just sibling bias, by the way – I can honestly say she’s one of the best authors I’ve ever read. I also work with my parents at SALT Christian Press. See www.saltmagazine.com. (We recently ceased publishing the magazine but we still sell things in the online store, will continue to publish Shannon’s writings and intend to carry Keep Right in the future. Our website needs to be redone.. that’s another job coming up.)
I also work, as I said, at a college restaurant.
In my spare time I enjoy writing speculative fiction, reading fiction novels and Christian autobiographies, playing and listening to music and watching the Green Bay Packers, as well as theological discussion, graphic design and time with family.
What are your future plans and aspirations?
My dream is for Myristica to become a vast media empire that produces high quality films and shows that just reek of awesomeness. (Hey, I called it a dream for a reason.)
I’d like it to be a place where Christians can exercise their film-industry gifts without having to fight the moral fight they do in Hollywood. But if they are called to that mission field I’d like Myristica to be place that can help them get there – give them a resume, a launching pad.
But no matter what level of worldly success is or isn’t reached, my goal is that Myristica always a) operates in a manner pleasing to God to the best of our ability, b) produces media that is free of such things as extreme violence, vulgar language, immorality, etc. and c) produces media that is as high-quality as our circumstances and resources allow.
Yeah, I know, I’ve got my head in the clouds. Makes life interesting.
What are some of the key things you’ve learned along the way that might be helpful to homeschooling teens considering their future course?
I’m still getting my feet wet in the future course I chose, so my best lessons are probably still in the making. What my parents taught, if it’s of any help, is to choose a vocation based on your talents and desires. If you’re stumped, pick something that’s in line with your abilities, even if not in your desires, and go for it. Don’t wait on the decision for years. That way you’ll be thinking on it while you make money, so you can pay bills if need be, fund yourself if you choose something that requires investment, and it helps as a practical preparation for marriage (getting married while broke is acceptable but not preferable).
In a final note I’d suggest: don’t be afraid to buck the culture. Things like rejecting college or being a stay-at-home mom tend to be looked down upon. But the culture shouldn’t be the foremost plotter of our course. Imagine what things would be like for you today if our parents’ generation had been too strapped to the crowd’s ways to begin homeschooling back in the 80s. Now I’m not saying a culture-bucking course is innately better than a non-bucking one. I’m just saying discern between right and wrong and then make up your mind not to be bothered by those who look down on you for something that isn’t wrong.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you have any secrets for developing creativity?
No one-size-fits-all secrets, just my own widely unknown habits. And to be honest I’ll guess that’s how it is for every author.
For me, when writing things like speculative fiction I enjoy picturing my characters and scenes to good soundtracks. Those soundtracks become “their” background music and my mind “watches” them, running with possibilities and plot and/or scene construction. That’s probably my most effective form of creative inspiration.
But for Keep Right soundtracks are of little help. Don’t know why. (Could it be because it’s hard to come up with serious restaurant plots that match epic-proportion music like How to Train Your Dragon’s?) For Keep Right I usually choose the moral lesson first and then build a plot around it. Granted, not all the plots began that way but most have. Specifics are often pulled out of nowhere but are also regularly a combination of real-life experiences and a healthy dose of imagination.
Of course there’s also the sudden, randomly-occurring “lightning strike” form of inspiration but it’s not good to lean on that.
If you could start over, what (if anything) would you do differently?
Be born rich. Easier to make films that way.
Any closing thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Sure. I’d like to make a quick note about dreams. It’s something I’ve done some thinking on, what with my crazy ambitions and all. Here goes:
A dream is a wonderful thing. Dreams can be inspiring and can lead people to do big things that the practical, prudent route will never lead to. But one should always remember that a dream should never be the ultimate ruler and guide of your life. That’s God’s prerogative. Us dreamers need to be careful that our ambitions never come between us and Him or cause us to lose our focus on the things that really matter.
We should also be loose. Take things easy. Work hard but remember that all the results are in God’s hands. Whether that means success or failure (for God doesn’t predestine every dream to worldly success) it’s actually a very freeing thing. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) In the end, our biggest dream should be to be close to Him, to be the people He wants us to be in the place He wants us to be when He wants us to be there.
So, you crazy homeschoolers with ridiculous ambitions and impossible dreams – go forth! Let your heads be in the clouds.
Just so long as your eyes are on the heavens.
Thank you so much, Meghan, for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us! May God watch over you and Myristica Studios, and may He bless your efforts to honor Him through your productions.