Meredith Grace Dabney is a 16-year-old actor, writer and filmmaker. Her mission is to “tell stories that need to be told.” She has written her own short film, called Here Today. Meredith originally wrote the film Here Today when she was 14. Then, seasoned industry professional Erica Arvold expressed interest in a collaboration to showcase her own directing debut. That’s when Meredith began the film adaptation at age 15.
Inspired by events in her own life, the film has particular personal meaning for Meredith. She hopes to use her filmmaking to continue addressing topics that need to be brought to light and discussed openly. In the case of Here Today, her goal is to make a difference by reminding us all that our words and actions do indeed matter. For the future, Meredith is working to start her own non-profit to support both her creative and societal missions. She also has her own production company, Astrabeta Creations, which made its debut with Here Today. YEM spoke to Meredith Grace Dabney about her new movie, out today!
Young Entertainment Mag: Your newest short film is called Here Today. And you not only star in it, but you also wrote it! Can you tell us a bit about the movie?
Meredith Grace Dabney: Would love to! Here Today follows a high school girl as she struggles to find her own identity with a new group of friends. In the process, they discover that together, their choices have an impact beyond what they ever imagined. This universally autobiographical tale is a reminder of vulnerability and life’s connections. And most importantly that words and actions, however small, affect everyone and everything.
Here Today to me (and hopefully to others as well!) speaks as a voice of encouragement and love. And to educate on the topics of suicide, anxiety, depression, mental health, and self-worth. The film, which was written by me and directed by industry professional, Erica Arvold, serves as a reminder that wherever you may be on your journey in life, YOU are valid and important.
YEM: Where did the inspiration for Here Today come from? Was there anything that prompted you to write this film?
Meredith Grace Dabney: Oh, definitely! So many influences! Overall, I believe that every experience, every interaction, and every circumstance throughout my life has impacted me and brought me to the place where I could create and tell this incredible story. To share some of my personal journey, I have had many friends approach me with thoughts of suicide, depression, self-harm, and the feeling that no one cares. My response is instinctively, “I care. You are valued and loved.”
As a result of these experiences, I felt a strong urge that someone needed to be a voice for these groups of people so others could learn to respond in a positive manner, rather than negatively affecting those that are already in a dark place. I’m hoping that after watching Here Today, people will think about the message that every single action, word, and encounter you have, as part of your life’s journey, has an everlasting impact and truly does matter.
YEM: You wrote Here Today at a young age. Was the film based on personal experiences?
Meredith Grace Dabney: As I mentioned above, all of my life experience has definitely come together to motivate me to write this story that spreads so much truth about internal struggles and mental health awareness. I also have been in that dark place myself. And it really energizes me to lift up as many people as possible who are in, or have experienced, the pain of suffering. Connecting on a baseline of humanity by realizing that we all feel, struggle, and journey through battles is another theme I hope to share. We are here in this life together, why not connect and be made stronger through our similar emotions and experiences?
YEM: Did you always envision this story as a short film? What made you decide on the short film format?
Meredith Grace Dabney: Good question! To be honest, since this was the first screenplay I’d ever written, I hadn’t really given much thought to the difference between the short film and feature formats. I simply wrote the script as a means to spread the truth of feelings and emotions. And as a way to shed and share a positive light on some of these topics that no one seemed to want to talk about.
The short film format came about as we considered the most effective vehicle for communicating the film’s message. And the short film format was determined to be the best means to an end to share this story with the world. Fortunately, we were able to attract an incredible cast and crew to the project. And together we realized something beautiful and impactful.
YEM: How did your experience writing the film differ from acting in the film?
Meredith Grace Dabney: Hmm, love this question! As a writer, actor, and filmmaker, I feel like I have a unique opportunity to use the remarkably powerful and varied aspects of the film process and medium to my advantage as I strive to create works that can truly make a difference, especially in the areas of mental health awareness, family dynamics, and self-worth.
At the core, I am a storyteller. And my heartfelt desire is to share powerful stories and real truth that have the potential to make a significant difference in both individuals and society. So, whether I am writing a script or bringing it to life in the role of actor or filmmaker, my hope is to be able to change the world through a unified effort to spread compassion, kindness, and connectedness, since together, and only together can we change the world!
Sometimes on set I was challenged by having to jump back and forth from actor to writer mode. And fully immersing and transitioning to each as needed was difficult. But mostly I find that the integration of the roles helps me to be a more comprehensively creative force. And to fulfill my mission to remain a truthful storyteller!
Photo Credit: Viviana Chavez
YEM: Here Today has a lot to do with self-identity and finding one’s self. What do you want viewers to take away from watching this film?
Meredith Grace Dabney: I sincerely hope that viewers will realize that they are not alone in what they feel. And that their PRESENCE so deeply matters. Personally, I know that there have been many instances where I have felt very alone and depressed. Thinking that I was the only one who screwed up, or felt like I knew nothing, or questioned my self-worth. Until someone I trusted reminded me that we all feel crappy and unsure sometimes.
We are human. And part of being human is ups and downs, and learning and growing. In fact, we are radically changing people, who are meant to grow! All the trials, good times, and tumultuous rollercoaster moments will definitely hurt. But they will also force you to dig deeper roots. I hope I can encourage people to remember that every day (no matter how bad or uncertain it seems), there will likely be a tomorrow filled with new opportunities.
In the bigger picture, this sort of emotional energy is also a very good thing. And it will help you to fulfill every aspect of the dynamic experience of being human, if you allow it. Please, if you are in a state to climb a little higher, allow the energy to fill you. Learn to harness it. Learn to trust it. You have it. We all do. You’ve got this.
YEM: Finally, in the future, do you want to be an actress or a writer? Or do you plan on continuing both?
Meredith Grace Dabney: Both! In fact, I want to be a triple threat: Actor, Writer, Filmmaker. My creative objective is to “share stories that need to be told.” Which is also the stated mission of my production company, ASTRABETA CREATIONS. I believe that the arts are an excellent platform to make a positive difference. And I hope to impact both the people around me and society as a whole in this way.
There is in fact a great deal of research that supports the idea that the media we consume directly impacts our thoughts, view of the world, and overall state of being. With this in mind, I believe there is a tremendous opportunity to impact the world in a positive way by playing a role in producing and disseminating uplifting artistic and media-driven messages.
As a writer, actor, and filmmaker, I feel like I have an opportunity to share impactful stories and real truths that have the potential to make us all a little stronger and more interconnected, and a whole lot kinder and more compassionate to both ourselves and each other.
Here Today is out now! Watch the short film on Youtube below:
Tune in to YEM’s Instagram today as Meredith Grace Dabney takes over our account! For more info on Here Today and Meredith’s work, visit: