Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Q&A: UT alum speaks on personal experience, film ‘Petting Zoo’

Monique Walton

Micah Magee spent 20 years in Europe creating films after graduating from UT in 2001. After recently returning to the states as a professor at Temple University, Magee screened her 2015 film “Petting Zoo” and participated in a Q&A for young filmmakers at UT on Friday. The film follows a pregnant teen living in San Antonio, Magee’s hometown. Before her screening, The Daily Texan spoke with Magee about her teaching experience and film inspirations.

The Daily Texan: When you were a student at UT, did you have an interest in teaching?

Micah Magee: When you teach (the) arts, you’re in touch with the next generation of artists, and when you make films, you are in touch with the current generation of artists. It’s very fluid. As a kid, I helped my mom teach dance because my mom’s a professional dancer, and I danced professionally until I was about 15 … So, I’ve been teaching most of my life.

DT: Knowing there is an interest in seeing your film revolve around the topic of body autonomy, what do you hope to bring to that conversation by talking to students about the film?

MM: I am always very open when I go into my screenings. I hope a diverse group of people will come, and I hope that the film can be an opportunity for people to come together and talk in a positive environment about things that matter to them … I’m hoping that it will provide a place for positive discussion, understanding, empathy and love.

DT: Why was it important for the film to take place in San Antonio?

MM: I had the opportunity to make the film in Germany at probably a higher funding level, but it’s important for me to tell stories that are authentic to myself and the places I come from. Some of it is based on my own experiences growing up in San Antonio, but it’s also the story of a lot of other young women in San Antonio … Making sure that people can see that story and that young women might see themselves reflected in that and not feel shame about their own situation and feel included and understood is really important to me.

DT: Was there any specific experience at UT that prepared you to make this kind of film?

MM: At UT at the time, we had a festival called Cinema Texas that ran out of the (radio-television film) office. That festival did amazing things with very little money, and the community and (its) love for film and excitement that developed around an idea proved to me that if you have a vision for something and you have good friends to do it with, you can get anything done you want to.

DT: How has your time in Europe helped you?

MM: I had a lot of support for being a parent who was in school and being an active artist in Berlin because they have parental leave from school, childcare subsidies and things like that, that made it easier for me to get through graduate school as a mother of two kids. The international network and exposure to different kinds of storytelling (also helped), but I had that in Austin as well.

DT: What draws you to telling stories about young people going through big life changes?

MM: There’s a point in life where you haven’t decided to conform to society yet; you haven’t committed to what you are going to do or be, (and) you are hyper-critical and hyper-aware. It’s a wonderful thing to explore big ideas because young people are so sharp and uncompromised ethically in some ways older people are not.

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