Are destiny and gender forever interwoven? Here’s the story of a woman who refuses to accept such a fate:
5th Passenger, the wonderful film that gave a push to Morgan’s epiphany
by Morgan Lariah
“Anatomy is destiny, and you, Morgan, are going to have a very hard time.”
I was freshly 18 and a new student at Hollywood’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts when that statement was directed at me. My acting class instructor’s words didn’t really sink in until years later, when I could fully understand their meaning.
Once I started auditioning, his words rang true like the sound of a slap in the face. There were very few roles for which my body seemed to be suited, and by extension, auditions that I could access.
If anatomy was indeed destiny, then whose destiny did I want to emulate? As a tall brunette, Sigourney Weaver seemed the obvious choice for me—and not just for her look, but also for her work. Diversity had been my draw toward sci-fi in the first place, this mystical genre where I saw intelligent, strong, and capable female characters. Women who were sexual but not sexualized. It was as if these characters could only live in a made-up world even though these characters, in reality, mirrored the strong women I’d known throughout my entire life — though generally with less gun-wielding. They stood proudly in stark contrast to the female characters that amounted to little more than the female arm-candy I saw represented in the media.
Sci-fi’s boundless worlds offer creativity that can’t be found anywhere else, and within those spaces anything is possible, for anyone. And after all, isn’t Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” considered the first sci-fi novel? Women have been pioneers of the fantastic since long before Sigourney’s first callback.
When I was approached with the premise for what would become the sci-fi thriller “5th Passenger,” I saw the movie in my mind immediately. I thought, “This is a film I can create.” After years of working on the script with my co-creator, we got the amazing opportunity to repurpose an existing sci-fi set for our film. We were fortunate, and our crowdfunding campaign’s success had catapulted us into production.
Soon, deals were struck—yet, strangely without anyone consulting me, the co-creator. A team materialized in what seemed like no time at all. Even though I was still relatively green, something about the process felt amiss. But the dream was coming true and I wanted to make movies, not waves. I was — and continue to be to this day — so appreciative for the opportunity, and didn’t want to seem ungrateful.
During our pre-production meetings, I was the only woman in a room of men. We had filled most crew positions without a hitch, but still needed a director of photography. We began brainstorming—and by we, I mean they.
“I know a guy….”
“I remember a guy who…”
“Well, I know this guy…”
“I just worked with a guy who…”
Then something sparked inside of me. I felt it move through me. A voice spoke.
“Don’t you know any women? Are there any women we could interview for the position? You must know some women, or have worked with some women in the past….”