Sarah Megan Thomas ’97 Leaps Forward with Backwards
Backwards debuts in the following cities on September 21:
New York, NY
Beverly Hills, CA
Bryn Mawr, PA
On September 28, the film will show in:
Bala Cynwyd, PA
Oklahoma City, OK
New Haven, CT
West Newton, MA
San Francisco, CA
Get more information about the film and where it's playing at www.backwardsthefilm.com.
—By Kristina M. Jenkins
Sarah Megan Thomas ’97 may look familiar. The Shipley alumna, actress, writer, and producer has appeared on screen alongside such personalities as Sigourney Weaver, Kate Bosworth and, most recently, James Van Der Beek of Dawson’s Creek fame. Now on the verge of releasing her first feature film—which Thomas not only stars in, but also wrote and produced—the multitalented filmmaker is poised to become a household name herself.
Opening in five cities nationwide (including the Philadelphia area) on September 21, Backwards delves into the not often-explored world of women’s rowing, with Thomas playing a midlife professional rower and Olympic hopeful opposite Van Der Beek, a high-school athletic director and ex-boyfriend. An inspirational sports film, Thomas’ screenplay tackles big questions of passion and dreams, professionalism and commitment, success and happiness.
The film showcases Thomas as both an athlete and a creative force, a combination of talents she says were first fostered at Shipley. “Shipley inspired me to explore everything,” she says, “I don’t know if that’s the case at every school.” By allowing for an adaptable schedule where she could excel in academic, athletic and theater programs, Thomas was able to cultivate a wide variety of interests. “For me, having that balance was so important.”
A lifelong athlete, the rowing focus was a natural choice for Thomas, who joined the Shipley crew team in the eighth grade and continued rowing through college. “My love for the sport definitely started at Shipley,” she says, and though the characters and plot of the film are fictional, Thomas drew on her personal experiences, recalling her former Shipley coach Kate Gerhard’s encouragement to take oars home and bring them to bed—a memory which became a scene in the film.
In addition to inspiring a scene in the movie, Shipley served as a key filming location for Backwards, an experience Thomas says she couldn’t have been happier with, though it was a bit like déjà vu to be back on the campus. “It was surreal being back at Shipley, but the School looks gorgeous in the film,” she says.
Thomas credits Shipley with much more than just the observable connections. “If I hadn’t gone to Shipley, this film wouldn’t exist,” she says. The themes at the heart of her film tie right into lessons taught at Shipley. “Everybody wants to win, and sometimes you don’t win that race,” she says. “At Shipley, they really want you to excel, but it’s not about winning at all costs. They understand the value of the process.”
While Thomas also has a New York-based theater company, Thirteenth Night Theatre, she promises her next project will be another film. “It’s top secret,” she says of her next movie idea. For now, though, Thomas is entirely focused on propelling Backwards forward.