SXSW 2021: Alison Rich talks The Other Morgan

Mary Holland and Alison Rich in The Other Morgan. Photo credit: Allie Schultz.

Alison Rich spoke with Solzy at the Movies about her first short film, The Other Morgan, following the world premiere at SXSW.

In the film, a young exterminator (Alison Rich) learns that there’s another version of her (Mary Holland) out in the world. She begins questioning all of her life choices upon learning this information. In addition to Rich, The Other Morgan stars Mary Holland, Jim O’Heir, and Chloe Wepper. This is her first short film.

How thrilled are you to have The Other Morgan selected to premiere during SXSW?

Alison Rich: So thrilled! SXSW has always been my dream festival, so I was over the moon when I found out we got in.

I loved this film and the whole absurdity of the plot—it’s my type of comedy! What was the genesis behind the script?

Alison Rich: The genesis was two fold. First I’ve always been interested in the theme of comparing yourself to another person. It’s a trap I fall into all the time, even though I know it’s toxic and useless. And second, I’m drawn to stories that explore absurd scenarios, so I always had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to make something about a secret second family. So I ended up marrying the theme with this ridiculous set up to create the film.

How did the cast come together?

Alison Rich: I’ve been working in comedy for awhile, so I know a ton of stellar comedic actors. I knew Mary and Chloe from the UCB world and then a friend of mine had put Jim in a project, so I asked him for his contact and Jim responded right away. The actors barely needed any direction. They just had perfect instincts and were really generous with their time and talent.

What was the most challenging part of the production?

Alison Rich: Getting everything shot in just three days. We jammed a lot of pages and locations into a very small shooting window, but everyone hustled and brought their A game.

Is this an idea that you can see expanded into a feature film?

Alison Rich: Definitely! I think the characters are rich and there’s a lot of fun to be had with the set up. In fact, I think it should be a whole franchise, with a theme park and everything.

How did you decide it was time to direct your first short film?

Alison Rich: I had directed some web series and sketches and it just seemed like the logical next step.

Were there any films you had in mind as an inspiration as far as the look of the film?

Alison Rich: I definitely tried to take some stylistic cues from Coen Brothers movies. They do off-kilter really well, but then of course my DP Allie Schultz and my production designer Rick Mader brought their own style to it as well.

With SXSW taking place entirely online, how are you learning about the reactions from people after they watched the film?

Alison Rich: I’ve been receiving messages on the SXSW online platform as well as getting a bunch of DMs and emails. People are coming at me from all sides and I love it!!

You’ve written for SNL, The Goldbergs, and Billy on the Street among others. When did you decide you wanted to be a comedy writer?

Alison Rich: I initially pursued acting and I found that a ton of the comedic performers I admired were also writers. So I started writing as a way of following in their footsteps, and I ended up developing all my own love for writing, in addition to acting.

Was there an improv instructor that had a meaningful impact on your career in comedy?

Alison Rich: Oh there were many. Let’s see: Shann O’Neill, Rebecca Drysdale, Eliza Skinner, Jeff Hiller, Will Hines, Anthony Atamanuik.

How have you kept yourself busy during the pandemic?

Alison Rich: I’ve been doing a bunch of writing and also taking a lot of classes. I never went to film school so I took this period as an opportunity to fill in the gaps in my film knowledge and it’s been delightful.

The Other Morgan holds its world premiere during the 2021 SXSW Film Festival in the Narrative Shorts Competition.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.