Independent Corner: An Interview with Matt Tory About "We Make Movies"
Since its inception a few years ago, this website has really only focused on big budgeted, wide-release films. Sure, we would cover smaller movies, but only if they were in the race for to perhaps be nominated for an Oscar. But what we have failed to do is to cover the independent films. When I say independent, I mean shoe-string budget, filmed in your backyard kind of movies. Before, I was hesitant to cover these kinds of movies, because they kind of went against what I believed to be the platform of this website. Now, I realize that was a little bit ignorant of me. So I now happily present to you Independent Corner, where we will spotlight independent films, and talk with the creative minds behind these projects.
For the second installment in this series, I will speak with writer, director, and actor Matt Tory about his film We Make Movies, which is now available for free on Amazon. You can watch the trailer for the film below:
One of the elements of the movie that really resonated with me was how the characters had spent their entire youths constantly making films, regardless of how good or bad they were. That is definitely something, as an aspiring filmmaker myself, that I could relate to. And you do play clips of your own homemade videos during the credits. Was the idea for the film simply birthed from that pure love of just making movies?
"In a word, 'yes'! I had always wanted to make a movie about the process of making movies... but not the 'Hollywood' process. There's been enough movies about that. I wanted to tell a story about the 'grab-a-video-camera-and-your-friends-and-shoot-in-the-backyard' phase of making movies that all my budding filmmakers go through before they move to Hollywood.
"Shooting stupid little movies with my friends in our backyards and bedrooms when I was younger were some of the greatest times of my life. I wanted to celebrate that, and tell a story that looked at all the joys and struggles that come with trying to make a movie on your own, with no real resources but your friends."The film features a lot of other movies that the director, Stevphen (Matt Tory), has made in the past. Were those films ones you had done previously before, or were they made specifically for We Make Movies?
"A lot of things in the film are based on real life, but those old movies that Stevphen and his friends made were actually just ideas we came up with for We Make Movies. I wanted to show how inept he was at coming up with ideas for movies and movie titles. The fact that he thinks movies with names like 'Youth in Asia', 'Pirates with Carabiner', and 'Schindler's Lisp' would actually be taken seriously hopefully gives you an idea of how clueless he is. But all the clips at the end of We Make Movies are actually from real movies that my friends and I made as kids!"
Matt Tory as Stevphen
When you set out to make this, was there a shift in how you approached it? Were you coming at it similarly to how you made regular, homemade movies, or was there an attempt from the beginning to bring it to festivals and have it become as big as it has gotten?
"There was somewhat of a shift, because this was the first movie I made with the intention and hope of getting it actually released in a real way. Even thought the story is poking fun of ourselves for making movies with no real resources when we were younger, we still made We Make Movies in much the same way. We [only] used props and costumes we had at our disposal, and used household lamps to light the scenes. This was my first stab at a 'mockumentary', and I purposely wanted it to feel a bit raw and rough, like a couple of cameras were just there, capturing these moments as they unfolded.
"When it came to most of those homemade videos years ago, we were just making them for ourselves and our friends. And even with the few movies we made during some of our high school and college years, we mainly made them just because we thought it would be fun. But there's all sorts of things you have to worry about when you're actually making a 'real' movie-- legal things like clearing the rights for music, drawing up contracts, etc. So we made We Make Movies in much the same spirit, but it was definitely much more work on that front."When making a mockumentary, you are able to get away with a lot of things that you couldn't when making a regular, traditional film. How would you say utilizing the mockumentary genre for We Make Movies helped and hurt the final product?
"Well, I think the fake-documentary setup was the best way to tell this sort of story. I didn't want it to feel like a normal movie. From a logistical stand point, it's also easier to pull off- when you want something to purposely look 'raw', you're not going to spend as much time lighting and blocking scenes. Before we would shoot a scene, I would rendezvous with our camera operator, and go over any important reactions/subtle moments I wanted to make sure he captured, then we would basically just shoot it like he was watching it for the first time, with all the natural instincts of a documentary filmmaker. It also allowed us more freedom for improvisation and spontaneity while filming. So it has that rough behind-the-scenes feel to it that I was hoping for. To some, of course, this could be seen as a negative. There aren't any shots in We Make Movies that are going to win a 'Most Beautiful Cinematography' award, but I think that works in its favor. It helps ground the characters in 'reality' and makes the awkward interactions Stevphen has with others even more cringe-worthy, because it feels like 'real life'."
Zack Slort and Anne Crockett acting in front of a green screen
Were there any funny stories from filming on set that you would like to share?
"Even though most of the crazy things that happen to the group of friends in We Make Movies are based on real things that happened to us in the past, nothing too crazy happened while filming this movie, to be honest! Although, if you watch the Blooper Reel, you'll probably see that we mess up scenes by laughing a lot. And I mean a lot... I'm the director and I'm supposed to be the one making sure we get the thing finished, but I tend to be the first person to laugh and ruin a scene. I just can't help it. It's hard when you're acting alongside genuinely funny people who are saying funny things, and sometimes improvising lines from out of thin air. And it's even harder when they're your lifelong friends! Matt Silver (who plays Curtis) and I have been filming movies and acting in them together for 15 years, and we bust up laughing at each other from something as simple as even making eye contact. Whenever there's a scene where our characters interact, I know it's going to be a long day. But I love it."After you finished making the film, what happened in between you exporting the final product to it being picked up by Amazon?
"So, basically we had a big premiere in our hometown of Sacramento, where we filmed it, at one of my favorite movie theaters (the same one where Zack Slort, who plays Leonard, is a manager- yep, he actually does work at a movie theater in real life too). After that, we submitted it to some film festivals and were lucky enough to get into a few where we won some awards. I always knew this wasn't going to be the type of movie to round the festival circuit- it's not a 'Sundance' or a 'Cannes' movie. It's a silly comedy-- but we wanted to at least give it some exposure. Then we teamed up with a great distribution company called Indie Rights, who believed in the movie, and they brought it to Amazon!"
Zack Slort as Leonard
As a writer, director, and an actor, what would you say were your biggest takeaways from making We Make Movies?
"The process of making this movie really just reinforces my desire to keep making the types of movies I want to watch. You don't need anyone's permission to go make a movie; you just need the will and the drive to do it. You don't need millions of dollars in the bank, or even the newest equipment. I've had a lot of fun talking with people since the movie came out about how we made this thing for such a small budget and such a small crew, and how the response to the movie so far has been really positive. So I think it's a testament to the fact that a good story can still be told with no money and little amount of resources. Nothing is stopping you. If you're an 'aspiring filmmaker', I hope the movie might inspire you to go make a movie yourself. Go make something then you can just call yourself a 'filmmaker'.
"Also, the theme of the movie, of course, is friendship. I had that in mind when writing the script, but actually making it with my friends really brought it home for me. During the course of We Make Movies, Stevphen has the important realization that the friends he's making the movie with are more important than the movie itself. I think we all get so caught up in what we're trying to achieve all the time that we lose sight of the people in our lives, the ones who are often making those dreams possible... I wouldn't be where I am making movies today if it weren't for all my friends who joined in and helped me make my short movies in the backyard when I was growing up. It helped remind me that having a movie you made is great. But the memories of making the movie together are often what I treasure even more... not to sound too cheesy!"Do you currently have your sights on any new projects? Has Amazon picking up your film led to any exciting opportunities?
"I do! I wrote and directed a short film that's coming out this summer called To the Moon, starring most of the same cast from We Make Movies. I also wrote a comedy web series coming out later this year about Bigfoot, and am working on a couple more film scripts right now, but I'm not sure I'm allowed to talk about them yet.
"Thanks for the interview, Nate. I really enjoyed it!"
Matt Tory and Anne Crockett
We Make Movies really is a great, independent film. Any up-and-coming filmmaker, or a veteran in the field, can relate to constantly making movies as a kid, and how that shapes you later in your life. It certainly brought back memories of the many films I have done, especially the ones I would never want to see the light of day. It also has a fun cast of characters, and seeing them end up in all different kinds of situations is entertaining to watch. Congratulations to the cast and crew on the success of their film, and I can't wait to see what you guys all do in the future. We Make Movies stars Matt Tory, Jordan Hopewell, Jonathan Holmes, Zack Slort, and Anne Crockett, and is written and directed by Tory. It is currently available to rent on Amazon, or to purchase at www.WMMFilm.com.
You can follow the movie on Twitter @wmmfilm, as well as Matt personally @MattTory. You can also like them on Facebook.
Jordan Hopewell, Jonathan Holmes, and Matt Tory
What do you think? Did you like the interview with Matt Tory? What do you think about what he had to say? Are you going to be checking out We Make Movies on Amazon? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Written by: Nate
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