“I like stories that take an unorthodox point of view on controversial issues,” says Meg Smaker. From the first documentary she made as an undergraduate at Mills through her graduate film studies at Stanford University, Meg has told unorthodox stories—and she’s found appreciative audiences. In 2015, she won both a Student Academy Award and a SXSW Film Festival Jury Award for Boxeadora, her documentary about the struggles of Cuba’s only female boxer.
Meg arrived at Mills with a strong desire to “tell stories that expand people’s understanding of the world”—a desire born of an adventurous life. After high school in California, she became a firefighter, took courses at a state college, travelled to Afghanistan and Colombia, and worked in Yemen as a fire academy instructor. At the age of 30, she decided to finish her college degree; her high school English teacher recommended enrolling at Mills. “I sat in on a class there, and the diversity of the students and their passion really impressed me,” Meg recalls.
Meg knew what she wanted to learn at college: to conduct research as a foundation for filmmaking and to begin making documentaries. She says, “The student-centric culture at Mills meant I could go to my professors and say, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and they would help me.” With faculty support, her first two documentaries focused on sex workers, drug dealers, and Somali pirates. “My video professor gave me the confidence to take risks in my films and the courage to stand up for my creative vision,” she says.
Meanwhile, Meg joined the College’s track and field, volleyball, and swim teams. “I knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest person on the team, but I could contribute my knowledge and experience,” she says. “It was about being part of a community.” She also took up competitive boxing off campus—which eventually led her to the subject of Boxeadora. “I got so much more out of Mills than I ever imagined I would.”