Writer/Director Michael Goi talks about
MEGAN IS MISSING
Rage. Frustration. Sorrow. And more emotions that are too complex to describe. Those were the feelings that collided in me, and prompted me to make Megan Is Missing.
As I worked at my job as the director of photography on a network television show, I would return home at night and turn on the television to wind down. The news seemed to be filled with endless reports about abducted and murdered children, and internet predators. The subject seemed to be turning into a sort of twisted reality show.
As I learned more about the details of these cases, I found myself feeling angry and helpless. The more crime scene photos and surveillance videos I saw, the more the point was driven home that it is alarmingly easy to take a child. And it shouldn’t be.
Without knowing it, I was mentally compiling a list of things I considered wrong: the early release of repeat violent sexual offenders for reasons of prison overcrowding, the comparative lack of detailed news coverage for victims who are black or Hispanic, the changing family dynamic that makes it easier for a child to have a computer in their room rather than in a common family area where its use can be supervised. And so many more.
I am against censorship of the internet. I think the World Wide Web is the single most important communications innovation of the late 20th Century. But I also think that many parents have no idea what technology their kids are using to communicate with each other and the world. Or who their kids are talking to. Or what these people are capable of. And kids feel invincible when they’re online.
These thoughts were already brewing when producers Mark Gragnani and Melanie Harrison, who are longtime friends of mine, started asking me to direct a movie for them. They left it entirely open to whatever I wanted to do. I told them I wanted to make a movie about the subject of internet predators and abducted children. They said let’s go.
The script is entirely based on real occurrences. I chose seven cases to cull details from; five of the cases dealt with abducted and murdered children, and two dealt specifically with internet predators. There is not a single incident in the film that I made up entirely out of thin air.
The dialogue in the movie is based on real chats by 13 and 14 year old girls, who are the children of friends. The girls allowed me to listen to their conversations with girlfriends, the things they would never want their parents to hear, their real life when they’re not helping with groceries or saying goodnight to grandma. It shocked the hell out of me.
The shoot was accomplished in eight and a half days, largely thanks to a dedicated young cast who threw themselves completely into their work. Most of them had never been in a movie before. And we insisted that all the parents read the script and be present during filming. I didn’t want a young actor’s enthusiasm for being in a movie to overrule their common sense and propel them to do things they were not comfortable with. The entire family had to be on board.
I was unswerving in my resolve that incidences of violence in the movie would be depicted as realistically as possible, that nothing would be given the “Hollywood treatment” by being artistically glossed over. In other words, no cutaways to shots of leaves blowing in trees to suggest sexual assault. I was going to show what it feels like to go through what the news describes in 5 seconds.
As the film begins to be seen by those not involved in the making of it, there is always one question that comes up: what did I hope to achieve by making such a brutal and realistic movie? I’m not sure I have an answer. I know I’d like the things that happen in the movie to never happen to another child again. I’d like to shake people up and have them look at their child’s world for what it is, as disturbing as it may be.
Ultimately, I guess I’d like to defeat the kind of evil that motivates someone to take the life of a child. Evil thrives in this world if you allow it to. And to defeat evil, you first have to know what evil is. MEGAN IS MISSING is me, and now you, staring evil in the face.