“The mehhh inside is what will inspire you. Listen to it.” Just the other day I was experiencing a lot of mehhh inside me (you know, that stuff inside you can’t quite label but is holding you back, causing pressure, resistance, and lack of motivation) and called a mentor to ask why it just wouldn’t dissipate. She wisely retorted with, “Meredith, that is the energy inside you. It won’t go away. Listen to it. Let it morph.” And I have been ruminating that advice the past few days as I jump on conference calls and otherwise tend to the professional and personal parts of my day. In the end, I don’t always feel great, but if I listen, it tells me what to do.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Meredith Grace Dabney, a 16-year-old actor, writer, and storyteller on a mission to “tell stories that need to be told.” As an actor equally in love with stage and screen, Meredith is best known for energetic performances and depth of character portrayals. A young actor with a large body of work, she has participated in an array of independent films and new media projects, and recently returned from the west coast where she shot 2 pilots. Committed to always exploring ways to make her acting more truthful, she trains regularly at Catapult Acting Studios (GA), Young Actors Workshop (CA), and Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop (AMAW). Meredith originally wrote “Here Today” when she was 14. When seasoned industry professional Erica Arvold expressed interest in a collaboration to showcase her own directing debut, Meredith began the film adaptation at age 15. Inspired by events in her own life and an over-riding feeling that she (and all of us) “relate to parts of both Katie and Abby,” the film has particular personal meaning. Often providing a sympathetic ear for friends in need, Meredith hopes to use her filmmaking to continue to address topics that need to be brought to light and discussed openly, and in the case of “Here Today,” her goal is to make a difference by reminding us all that our words and actions do indeed matter. Meredith has a number of original projects currently in development including a few shorts, a feature, an anthology, and a series. In addition to acting and creating content, items in the works include establishing her own production company (Astrabeta Creations, which will make its debut with the release of “Here Today”) and launching a non-profit which supports her creative mission. www.meredithgracedabney.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Happy to! Until the age of 12, I lived with my two brothers (Benjamin and Noah), mom, and dad in Radford, a small college town in Southwest, VA. I participated in all the sports and was in love with musical theatre! I loved connecting with my friends and playing outside was our favorite game! We lived in a rural town so roaming around the woods was always an adventure. When I was 13, my world changed when my dad got sick and passed away from pancreatic cancer. Shortly after, my brothers moved out and journeyed to college. Then it was just my mom and me and we decided to literally sell everything and go on an adventure. We moved to Atlanta for me to pursue my acting and filmmaking dreams and I have been making movies and sharing as many stories I can find that need to be brought to light ever since. Thanks, Mom!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yes! I find most of my artistic endeavors originate in, and are motivated by, the world around me. In fact, I was just talking with a friend yesterday about how important it is to share the truthful moments we feel as they are so essential to our growth and connection. My story is really one of observation and response… Over time, I began to notice that many people, friends and mere acquaintances tended to reach out to me to talk about difficult experiences. I seemed to naturally connect to them for many reasons. I soon began to realize that a common thread among the folks seeking out my input was their notion that they were the only one in that dark place, that no one really cared, and that certainly no one would want to hear their story. Bottom line is that this observation, which seemed to become a theme and definitely an unavoidable pattern, inspired me to find a way to begin sharing some of these important (and actually quite universal) stories through writing, acting, and filmmaking. Thus, with a goal of exploring stories from all walks of life and spreading the realness and truth as much as possible, I eventually started my production company, ASTRABETA CREATIONS, with a mission to “tell stories that need to be told.” We are in this life and are stronger, together!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your entertainment career?
Hmmm. Great question! I was on set this last summer in rural Arizona. We were filming a pilot inspired by a real-life story and I had the privilege of shooting on location at a truly one-of-a-kind homestead where an eccentric inventor had raised his family. It was pretty cool since some of his grown family were there as well and I was actually able to meet the character I was to portray (she was grown up of course and I was playing her as a young girl). Due to the location, we had to be very careful every day of rattlesnakes and tarantulas and I even learned the importance of shaking out my shoes before putting them on in order to avoid finding a scorpion the hard way! As if this were not enough of a story, one day we were hiking through the dry spiky desert (actually really walking to set from our distant housing) and some sort of mysterious insects began attacking us. In the course of this attack, I felt something (still unknown to this day!) sting my eyelid, which immediately began to swell! Fortunately, there were some cool ice blocks around to relieve the pain and eventually all was well — but it certainly will be a time I will never forget!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Hahah. Love this question. One of my first mistakes with screenwriting was writing the very first draft of HERE TODAY in theatre “play format” rather than as a screenplay. I was so proud of my story, and handed it to my oh-so-supportive acting instructor, Erik Lingvall (Catapult Acting) who (in what I later learned was a moment of tough love) glanced at my script, and then proceeded to toss it nonchalantly aside stating, “Never hand a script to someone in the wrong format.” To be honest, I almost didn’t continue after that. Fortunately, my mom was there to support and encourage me to take the seemingly harsh feedback and make my script even better. And well, as they say, the rest is history since he came back with incredible feedback and HERE TODAY is now an award-winning film gaining acclaim, and making an important impact worldwide with its message of hope and vulnerability!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? And how do you think they might help people?
I’m working on an animation project right now! It’s such a neat experience. Interestingly, I started this project as a live action film to star one actor from the mind’s eye view perspective. I am really fascinated by what goes on in our brain and how it impacts all that we do and say. Also, I firmly believe that to some degree we feel burdened, attacked, and overwhelmed at times by the stories we generate in our own minds. With this in mind (pun intended!), I’m working with a fantastic animator to portray and communicate this story of internal struggle vividly contrasted with the more positive side of brain energy, which I believe is also inside all of us and propels us to share beauty with the world. In addition to this project, I am also in production on a film trilogy (more info to come!)
Most young people your age don’t have to balance work and school. Can you tell us how you manage to balance your schoolwork, auditions, and time on set?
With hard work and a fantastic support system! I have to budget my time very carefully to make sure I’m giving the energy needed to each portion of my life. School, work, auditions, time on set are very important, but I also need to be sure I schedule a time for creating, resting, exercising, and my overall physical and mental health. I try to make sure I have priorities both short and long term and continue with all else after that. However, none of this would be possible without a supportive and helpful team and gracious mentors — we need each other!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother! Without her, I most likely would have given up hundreds of times! Fortunately, she helps to keep me going by reminding me that I have a voice that needs to be heard and even though I may not feel like it in the moment, I will likely have renewed energy tomorrow. She doesn’t push me though, and we regularly re-evaluate things together to make sure this challenging path is the one I want to go down. Interestingly, the point we usually come to after those discussions is that I (with all my being) HAVE to create and that the worst thing ever would be if I didn’t try to share my light (inspired by all around me) with the world.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s jump to the main part of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- “You will want to give up. Don’t.” As I mentioned previously, when I first began writing HERE TODAY, I almost gave up. My supporters convinced me not to. I am forever grateful for them and for that advice and encouragement.
- “The mehhh inside is what will inspire you. Listen to it.” Just the other day I was experiencing a lot of mehhh inside me (you know, that stuff inside you can’t quite label but is holding you back, causing pressure, resistance, and lack of motivation) and called a mentor to ask why it just wouldn’t dissipate. She wisely retorted with, “Meredith, that is the energy inside you. It won’t go away. Listen to it. Let it morph.” And I have been ruminating that advice the past few days as I jump on conference calls and otherwise tend to the professional and personal parts of my day. In the end, I don’t always feel great, but if I listen, it tells me what to do.
- “Don’t be afraid to not be liked.” Real talk, I’ve always had a hard time with people not liking me. Which is, of course, arbitrary because everyone can’t be everyone else’s cup of tea, because then we would all be the same (can you imagine how boring that would be!). So, I am in the process of learning that it’s okay to not be someone’s favorite person, and I believe that mutual respect is key. Also, remember that being able to take value from an experience and loving everything about the situation is not the same. In other words, we can learn from both good and bad experiences if we take the time to observe and reflect on them. Most importantly, no one person defines me. That is yours, keep it.
- “Be kind to everyone around you. Never be a jerk on purpose.” I think this one speaks for itself, but I relearn over and over that we all have baggage and it is so much lighter on the soul to speak compassion than not.
- “Say thank you!” Thank you!
You are a person of enormous influence. How do you think you can use social media as a platform to be a positive influence to your fans, and for society at large?
This one is hard for me. I don’t love social media. I think the mindset you’re in can greatly determine what you get out of any situation. I have learned that it is best to be honest and real rather than try to be something I’m not. I have hard days. I don’t know everything. But that is what I think we all need. More ‘real’ people, working through the gunk and connecting with the other humans here on this planet with us. So, my goal is to share truth in as many ways as I can (including social media) and to keep connecting, because without it, as a wise friend once spoke “We are only as strong as those we surround ourselves with!” Imagine what could happen if we all built each other up and worked to strengthen our fellow humans? Magic.
If you had the ability to choose to work on any TV show or film, or work alongside any co-star, or with any director, what or who would that be, and why? You never know who might see this article, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Love this (and I’ve actually thought about it before)! Meryl Streep is my number one. She has had such a broad and varied career. From staring at a young age to building a family to inspiring everyone who sees her in such a range of roles. Most importantly, she is a sincere light when so much tries to darken our view. I would love to meet her. Working with her would be monumental. Sharing truth with someone who gives so much to the world would be a once in a lifetime experience. So much gratitude for her work and the parts of herself she has shared through them! P.S. I’m currently “studying with Meryl Streep” by watching all of her many films starting from the very first, and I am in awe of her more every day!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Yes! Of course! Follow me on Instagram: @meredith.grace.dabney and HERE TODAY (releasing May 29!) @heretodaymovie or on Facebook: Meredith Grace Dabney and Here Today Movie.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
Likewise! I so appreciate this platform! Stay safe everyone! Xoxo