Meet Megan Reneau an artist in Calgary, AB.

Photographer: Rad Alzyoud

1. When did you find your passion in the film industry?

As an artist, I think I always knew that the film industry was something I felt passionate about. Where things really changed is when I met the passionate people in the industry who love what they do, outside of their pay check, or status. The ones that help you grow, give you a chance and don’t safe guard their resources. The reason I say this is because it is a hard truth. I am more of a” build each other up so we all succeed and get better” kind of person. Plus I am wise enough to know that it is more about you fitting the role and what you have to offer to it, versus just your skills set. They all go hand in hand. Every artist makes their art differently with the same resources. Why make things more difficult? We are all trying to create pieces of art. When you have a team work together, the works speaks for itself. That essence is what keeps my soul in this industry.

2. How did you get your first film role?
At the time, I was a student at Company of Rogues on 17th ave, waiting for an opportunity to audition. You get excited with everything you are learning and are usually quite eager to go play with the tools of the trade. My first film job was a local short film produced by Stephen Sander. How I came to it was purely by luck, which I suppose is how it always begins. I remember seeing the audition notices up on the wall, but I had missed the deadline. Hoping for some luck, I emailed Stephen and asked him if they were still auditioning. He got back to me promptly with what was very fortunate news. They had already auditioned, but he had a role come up that he needed to find someone for. He hired me right away without auditioning and said I fit the part he needed. I played the part of Cathy, which he later named because the original title of “girlfriend”; well he thought it was best to give me a name. As much as I love the creative process of auditioning, I can be shy, so this was good news to me. It was a different sort of short film, no scripted words, completely a realm of getting to play with whatever you wanted to as long as it followed the guidelines of the script. Basically the most relaxed first film I could have been in.
3. What is your background?
As a child I loved playing! I was always active, playing dress up, sending my dolls out on wild crazy adventures. I spent the summers travelling around British Columbia with my family, going on adventures, and i was never really afraid of anything. I loved climbing trees and observing my environment from far up. Seeing how fast I could climb fences and run away from the made up villains, epic water balloon fights, playing drunken driver (It sounds awful but that is what we called it back then) which was going down streets with steep hills in a wagon, hoping that there wasn’t a car coming at the bottom. Not really sure if our parents knew what we were up to most the time. We usually had a scout at the bottom of the hill. So, I guess the thrill seeking was always there, when it comes to what started the passion for stunts. In regards to acting, I always played dress up. My sister and I would put on performances in the living room, forcing my mom and her friends to watch us. I’m amazed at how patient they were – patience of saints they were. I’d get a dozen books at a time from the library, get cozy in my room and read them over teapots full of strawberry tea. Then the next day I would play out my dreams and ideas. From there, I started designing clothing. My dad is still disappointed that I did not pursue fashion design, which was my gift.
As I got older, I started to model. My drive behind modelling was that I could dress up as characters and express different emotions, personalities, thoughts etc. This let me test my boundaries. A few years after starting modelling, I had an a series of unfortunate events, from seeing people I love get ill to personal injuries. That is when I decided I was finally going to take the time out of my career and take acting lessons. The training was fun, challenging, emotional, humiliating, and everything you can think of. One day, Company of Rogues decided to offer a stunt work shop with the local stunt coordinator Steven McMichael. Curious about the workshop and what stunt work would entail, I signed up for the class. I was very excited! However about two weeks before the class, a car accident injury acted up terribly and I was unable to walk. By the start date for the workshop I was just starting to become mobile again. Steven was really understanding that I could not participate. Instead, I watched in admiration and learned as much as I could from him. There were two athletes in the class, parkour athletes. I remember Steven taking a high interest in them, Andrea Ross, being one of them was also very friendly. It was through this class, that I knew stunts was the one for me. I then started parkour classes as soon as I became more mobile. Now, as most people don’t understand, I worked through the pain; passion and purpose have that affect. After training for a while, I then found out about the Paddy Crean International Stunt Workshop from my acting coach Aaron Coates. I attended the Paddy workshop later that same year. I found that not only did stunts spark every cell in my being, it actually made my acting better. I do not think I would have ever improved as an actor had stunts not come into play. Aaron had taught us to find a niche, stunts was mine. So as the story goes, I am kinda like the bird who follows the bread crumbs, my background is a mix of many stories and many areas.

4. Share more with us about the roles you have played!
I have to say I think the roles are only just beginning for me. The first role, Waking Up, I played a supporting role as the new girlfriend bombshell. The second role, No Return which was a sci-fi short film, I played the lead protagonist. The third, Wall-to-Wall I played the supporting role as the Angel. With several more upcoming roles on the way in the near future.  I really spent the better of the last four years learning the tools of the trade. I like being in a constant state of learning, there is always something new to learn in this industry. I am constantly learning from all my teachers, mentors and masters around the world in both acting and the stunt field. So far I am enjoying the journey.

5. Training for stunt work, what does that all entail and take to do professionally?
 It’s a lot of work, if I am to be honest. There are so many different avenues. Some say you need to pick one or three things, and become exceptionally good at them and that is all you should focus on. If this interview has said anything about me, it is that I can’t just focus on one to three things. I like to be doing a lot, all the time. I will have some strengths over others but I like to keep things diverse. Maybe that is because I am also an actor, in other words a Stunt-Actor would be my actual title. I do not like to limit my opportunities and it helps drive my passion. It is like they say, you could end up getting a role completely wrong for you and it could be your biggest break through.  Now in saying that, there are different categories of stunt work that I train in.There is Fighting, Falling, Horses and Driving, Water, Agility and Strength, and of course Special Skills. In each of these categories there are a number of different options. The hard part is, that they all want you to be an expert, competition level or a master of these trades. Which is why the advice of narrowing your focus comes in. Now, you could luck out and have stunt coordinators give you jobs and chances to work, while you are perfecting these areas. Do you know how long it can take to be that good in all of these, even one of these? I have only been training in stunts for 4 years! When I was younger I didn’t have the opportunity to start working on these skills for a variety of reasons, so I guess there is something to be said about a late start. But a start is a start and I am finally making progress.
I am usually training one to five hours a day, depending on what i’m training. This is legit. Some days are obvious rest/stretch days. For instance, last week I did a four hour intense strength training session, that’s with only a 30 minute break and giving it 100% effort. My lips were purple at the end of it! The day after that, I had a muscle spasm down the entire left plank of my torso, I almost blacked out instantly. My thoughts, I need to go the gym, my friend “absolutely not”. The reason I still wanted to go to the gym was to do cardio on the bike, because I wanted to increase the blood flow and oxygen to the muscle that spasmed. He won and I rested and took it easy.
An example day of ideal training for me would be an hour of yoga, an hour of strength, an hour of cardio, an hour of martial arts, an hour of weapons training and maybe an hour to sometimes five hours of parkour. Any mix of these and I am having a good day. There is nothing more rewarding then pushing your body to its absolute max, very euphoric and rewarding.The best reward is when you have been working towards something, and then one day all of a sudden you are doing it with ease. You have mastered or conquered the very move you spent so much time working on. Then you mentally and physically become the student again, onto the next skill that you can’t do while keeping up the ones you can. It is a constant battle.
Rest days for me are best spent stretching, getting massages, keeping track of your nutrition, re-evaluating your goals, and reading. Yes, as a performer you should always be reading and learning the bits of information passed along by others and making it your own.

It is a never ending progression and in my opinion one of the most rewarding adventure you can go on. Because in the end, it is not about the size of the job you get. It’s about doing what you love with gratitude. When I am old and sore from injuries, I will still be smiling because I chose to live.