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SxSW ’10 Interview – “The Parking Lot Movie” director Meghan Eckman

The Parking Lot Movie - At SxSW Film
by Jason Whyte

“The Parking Lot Movie is about a very special Parking Lot in Virginia and the select group of Parking Lot Attendants that have worked there over the years. Using both interviews as well as day-to-day footage of the Parking Lot, the documentary details the Parking Lot Attendant’s peculiar sense of Parking Lot justice. Additionally, this documentary explores themes relating to the American Psyche and the American Lifestyle. It is also a celebration of a highly successful and incredibly innovative business model.” Director Meghan Eckman on the film “The Parking Lot Movie” which screens at this year’s South By Southwest Film.

Is this your first film in SxSW? Do you have any other festival experience? Do you plan to be in Austin for the screenings?

This is my first film as SXSW. I have been to Sundance in 2005. I will be in Austin all week for the entire Film Festival.

Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

I graduated from the University of Virginia, worked in New York for 5 years at both NYU and then doing professional video editing. I moved back to Charlottesville, Virginia in late 2005, and began The Parking Lot Movie project.

Everyone has that one film that made them realize they wanted to be a filmmaker. Mine, incidentally, was Twister. I was sitting in the theatre and I started to pay attention to the editing and how it built up the suspense. This might sound silly, but that was the moment for me. I went on to become a video editor and video editing then led me to filmmaking.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please!

…a teacher.

How did this whole project come together?

I went to the Parking Lot just a week after moving back to Virginia because a friend said the Parking Lot where he worked should have a movie made about it. Because my life was open-ended at that point, I had the freedom to just carry a camera to the lot and hit record and stand around all day. As I began recording, then I also started doing interviews. The interviews were absolutely fascinating.

About 3 months into the project – I realized I needed a better camera. I took out a loan and bought one, and some microphones as well. Then I re-filmed the interviews. I began filming even more intensely.
Over the course of 3 years, co-editor Christopher Hlad and I edited together this footage. I knew there was something there right away when I started filming, and I wanted to capture the original excitement I had felt when I first filmed those interviews. It was a process to get it together – luckily – my assistant director Christopher Hlad came on board to become the co-editor. That was a great help – to be able to step back and have someone help me with the editing.

When I was wearing both the hat of director and editor, I felt it was easy to become too close to the subject matter and have trouble being objective. Christopher Hlad was more objective about the pacing and flow, about finding what worked and didn’t work during the editing process.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it the script, principal photography or post-production stage?

The editing….by far.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

I shot on Panasonic DVX 100B. At the time I began, filming in HD was just starting to become popular – but was still expensive. I knew I’d be shooting a lot of footage (I ended up with over 150 hours) and couldn’t afford the hard drives to support that kind of data. I also shot in 4:3, which I think helps to contribute to this claustrophobic feel of being isolated in the tiny Parking Lot booth for eight hour shifts.

Who would you say is “the audience” for this film? Do you want to reach everyone possible or any particular type of filmgoer?

I would like it to have the widest range of appeal possible.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this project in particular?

Specifically for this project, I was influenced by “Clerks” and “Slackers” ideologically. Documentary-wise – I paid particular attention to “Wordplay” and “Spellbound.”

If you weren’t in this profession, what other line of work do think you would be involved with?

I would be in a profession that would involve having my own hours and having a lot of freedom. I’d be traveling more and find work in other countries.

What do you love the most about this business of making movies?

I love the power of the medium, and also being able to see an audience react while watching your movie. It’s very direct.

And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?

“The Wizard of Oz”. I can never tire of watching that movie. It’s a fairy tale, it’s a journey to discovering oneself, it’s a movie that can be enjoyed by all classes, all ages, it has so much meaning, so much myth, and so much truth to it. I find I can relate to it at any point in my life.

This is one of the many films screening at this year’s South By Southwest Film in Austin, Texas between March 12-20. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 03/10/10 03:23:16
last updated: 03/10/10 03:23:54
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