Macoproject V.S. Stephanie Drake

You know her from Mad Men, Deep Murder, Fear, Inc. & much more. Read below as we learn more about Stephanie and her new film, After Meredith.

Stephanie, you've been tremendously successful in your career so far, working on Mad Men, Jimmy Kimmel, and now writing & starring in your own film. Could you tell us what inspired you to work in the entertainment industry?

When I was 6 years old, my Dad took me to see The Phantom of the Opera in New York City. As cliche as it sounds, I fell in love with the theatre right then and there. I remember watching the show and thinking “I want to do that.” From there I started doing plays and musicals and attended a performing arts High School in Baltimore, Maryland. During those years I became very aware that my singing and dancing skills were not up to Broadway standards, so I decided to focus solely on acting. I loved the idea of being on television and thought why not go to college in Los Angeles? Luckily, I was accepted to the University of Southern California, where I majored in Theatre. It took me many years post graduation to figure things out, and I still am every day!

After Meredith, a film that pays tribute to the aftermath of a show's finale, seen through the eyes of a cast member. Why did you feel the need to tell this story?

I felt the need to tell this story because I desperately needed to create something for myself, to feel like I had some kind of control over my career. People have been telling me for years to create my own content, but I never listened. And then on a bored, summer day, this idea popped into my head, I wrote it in 2 days, and we shot it 6 months later. It’s a very realistic look at what happens to the actors after a show ends who don’t have the next job lined up. It’s a scary feeling and then once you do figure things out, that can end as well and you’re right back where you started. 

Could you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the crew, including Director Evelina Stampa?

I worked with Evelina and the crew on another short a few years ago. I loved working with all of them and I couldn’t wait to hire them for my project. Evelina has a wonderful way of talking to actors to get the best performance out of them. And Luke Im, our DP, is quite a talent. I luckily got to hire him in his last year of film school...he’s probably too expensive now.

The film has a deep nostalgia for Mad Men, a show some would call one of the best written drama’s of all time. For someone who may not know the experience, could you take us through the feeling of working on such a highly regarded show?

Having only done a handful of commercials before this, I feel like I learned everything about being on a set from the best of the best. I mean, Jon Hamm taught me how to find my light and Matt Weiner directed me in two episodes! To play such a funny, well written character over the span of 3 seasons, I still pinch myself. The show was a well oiled machine and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. 

Could you take us through the experience a little bit of being nominated in 2015 by the Screen Actors Guild?

I was flying to Florida to see my Grandma for her 94th birthday, and when I landed and turned on my phone, I had a flood of texts. It was such a great feeling to be included with the rest of the cast! The actual show was fun, but not the “best night of my life” like I was expecting. I felt a bit like an outsider, everyone seemed to know everyone else and I was a newbie. And I wore the most uncomfortable shoes ever! 

Are there any particular filmmakers or films that have inspired you throughout your career thus far?

Having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s, I am still inspired by the movies I watched with strong female leads. Geena Davis in A League of Their Own (my all time favorite movie), Diane Keaton in Baby Boom, Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, I could go on and on...

Is After Meredith the first film you produced, wrote, and starred in? If so was there any difficulty in your transition from acting to writing?

Yes, first time filmmaker here! Once I had the idea for After Meredith, the writing poured out. Everything after that was a little harder. Luckily, I had a wonderful co-producer, Kimberly Kottwitz. The two of us, along with Evelina, started pre-production a few months prior to shooting. Even though we were extremely organized, there were a few hiccups during the shoot, including running around the UCLA campus trying to find a new location for one of the big scenes, only to end up right where we started. Post production was extremely difficult. As an actor, I am never involved in Post, so that was quite the learning experience. I called on a lot of friends who have done this before. It was stressful wearing all of the hats, but it’s the only way to get things done. 

Something unique about your career is that you’ve been able to see both the film and television industry. Being that you’ve worked on both, do you prefer one over the other?

Honestly, I love them both and would happily work in either medium if given the opportunity.

Some of our submitters are filmmakers and writers who have just began their journey into the industry. If you had to give a little bit of advice on the first steps, what would they be?

Surround yourself with other creative people. Once you have a network, it makes it that much easier and more fun to make things. Also, if you are working with a small budget like I was, hire good people who are either still in school or just graduated. They are usually really eager to work with good people and start their careers. And one more thing, don’t be afraid to ask your friends for help. You can put their names in the credits! 

Following After Meredith, do you plan on writing and producing more films?

Yes, definitely. And I’m surprised I just wrote that because if you had asked me that a year ago, I would have said “NO!” But I think enough time has passed that I’m ready to do this again!