I asked Matthew Paris if I could interview him and the following text is a transcript of our chat conversation.
HC: Hi Matthew, thanks so much for doing this chat interview with me. Let's jump right in with an introduction. Can you tell us what film project you're promoting today and what role you had in the project?
MP: Hi Cherdon, It's my pleasure... It's great to see you. I wrote and directed a short film called "The Last Catch," This was back in 2014, but the film is still generating good buzz, which is always exciting. Bradley Costas our lead actor has been nominated for best actor in the short form at the Madrid International Film Festival and I've been nominated for best original screenplay in the short form. The Film Festival is screening the movie in mid-July. So, hopefully it will continue to play well and have good buzz in Madrid.
In my regular job I'm a coach for the baseball and football programs for Austin Sports Academy and I've been coaching for 7 years. So, I really wanted to write a film about sports, but make it really dramatic. I started thinking about some of my favorite sports movies and the one that really inspired "The Last Catch", was "Field of Dreams", the 1989 movie with Kevin Costner. Although, I pulled a lot from my coaching experience too. During my coaching career, I've dealt with a lot of parents who are pretty tough on their kids. So, the story for "The Last Catch", really came from that. I thought to myself what If the son got a baseball scholarship and left his small Texas town, with the thought of never coming back because he hated his father.
His father really pushed him hard to play baseball, but the main character, Mark, who Bradley Costas plays, does comeback home with his girlfriend, Whitney, played by Marielle Taimanglo and tries to make amends with his father who's dying of cancer.
HC: Wow! That sounds like a great story. Did you experience any major challenges during the process of making it? What kind of obstacles did you face?
MP: Well, it's always a challenge when you’re making any kind of movie, no matter if it's a short or a feature.
Director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator), was quoted as saying, "When you make any kind of film, no matter small or large, by the end of it you are a slightly different person for better or worse. You collapse when you're finally finished". I agree with what he's saying. During the making of "The Last Catch," there were many obstacles.
I originally had the idea in my mind for about a year before I put anything down on paper. I was doing another movie called, "Crisis", and that turned out to be a little success. The day we sold "Crisis" for distribution, I met with the Looknow Production producers and pitched to them the story for "The Last Catch". They liked it enough, to ask me if I had a script. I told them not yet, but give me three weeks. After three weeks I turned in my first draft to them and we were off to the races.
During pre-production for the film, the producers and I were trying to find a director. We had some interest, but ultimately it fell through. We did began the casting process and location scouting with no director. They were talks of me doing it, but nothing serious.
I was out with a friend one night who is also in the film industry and told him about the situation. He said to me, "Matt, why don't you just direct it"? There were some more talks with the producers, but still nothing came to fruition. We had casted most of the parts by this time and began rehearsing with the actors.
Around this time, I was asked along with Carlos Samudio the head of Looknow Productions to talk on a distribution panel for Austin WebFest. We did the panel and at the awards ceremony, I was talking with Carlos and Joy Leigh, who plays Linda Sullivan, the mother in the movie. I said to Carlos, "We need to find a director"? Joy was standing right next to me and said, "Matt, you just do it". Carlos agreed, and in that moment I became the director of "The Last Catch".
For "The Last Catch," I originally wanted a four day shoot. We had locked the locations and during scouting we would go to the locations and I would tell the producers here's how we are going to shoot it. Of course, that changes by the time you are actually starting principal photography, but wanted them to get an idea of what I thought we should be going for.
That four day shoot I wanted turned into only two days for various reasons. So, we all had to work fast and under a tight schedule.
There are always obstacles, but you get through them.
HC: Speaking of obstacles, I find that most projects tend to teach you something about yourself. What did the Last Catch teach you? Or rather, each project forces us to grow a little. How did the Last Catch make you grow as a person? Or just something you leaned in general from your experience with the last catch? Answer any of those questions you like.
MP: From a filmmaking standpoint, The Last Catch was my first directing project. I had written and help produce and even acted in a few projects before it, but The Last Catch taught me a lot about the process of being a director and how to push everything forward. As a director, you have to be the captain of the ship. You can plan as much as possible, but nothing ever really prepares you for it.
HC: Any advice for aspiring directors?
MP: My advice for aspiring directors is to be calm under stressful situations. Make sure you get the shots you need on that day. There will be a lot of brainstorming and a good director listens to the cast and crew, but ultimately you will have to make the final decision about what to shoot. Be very confident in your abilities and you'll get through it with a film that will hopefully make everyone happy and get the point across.
HC: Seems like some pretty sound advice if you ask me. So, what's next for you as a writer and director?
MP: As a writer I've been an active contributor to The Sports Column, an online sports, media, news, blog. I've written 35 articles for them and continuing to write for them. There are a few ideas that I have that I would like to put into screenplay form, but busy writing the treatments to see if there is any interest from Producers.
As far as directing goes, I've been offered a few stuff, but nothing that really catches my eye. I would love to direct a commercial or music video and I have taken meeting about projects, but we'll see.
HC: Maybe something sports relates again? We can hope. =)
MP: LOL. I hope so.
HC: So, I understand you guys did some audience testing with the Last Catch?
MP: We did. I was cutting the film in post-production. I had a certain number of weeks to deliver my first cut to the Looknow executives. I remember getting a call one night from one of the producers and it was bad news. The executives hated the film and thought it was too choppy and too slow pace in certain areas. We had all these notes and we had to do a day of re-shoots. We did the re-shoots and worked on a new cut of the film. During this time, Gary Delgado, our sound guy, was working on the sound mixing for the film and he did a great job. I have a friend who was the general manager at AMC Barton Creek, so once the sound was completed we decided to do a test screening where we bring audiences in. There was about 10 people in there and I was sitting in the back. Once they came out of the auditorium and I looked at the score cards, well it wasn't through the roof. The story scored high, but most of the problems came from a technical standpoint. We actually skipped out on a premier because we thought people were really going to hate it. We finished the film and decided to go the festival route. That's when things began to change.
HC: Change for the better?
MP: Yes. I have a marketing background, so I made a list for myself of festivals I wanted to send the film to. The first festival I sent the film to was the Canada International Film Festival, and about a month later they e-mailed me saying the film had gotten the Royal Reel award for the short form. I thought ‘wow, a surprise’ because I was used to having people tearing the film apart. The next festival I sent it to was Worldfest-Houston and we got the Silver Remi award. I was still surprised. We had then sent the film to the Digitalmation awards and we got nominated with two other shorts for best short film and ended up winning. People really started to take notice. We had a screening of the film in Los Angeles to a sold out crowd. The hype was building for it and decided to take it to the distributor who distributed my other short film I wrote, Crisis. I sent the film to her and the very next day she said she would distribute it. It really went from one extreme to the other... Lol.
HC: I see. That's super exciting! Seems like you really lucked out with your festival circuit. So, how did you go about choosing which festivals to enter and which ones to pass on?
MP: Every time I work on a film or talk with other producers, automatically they all want to take their film to Cannes or Sundance. That's fine and you could certainly try that, but you have to remember they are the two biggest film festivals in the world and every filmmaker would like to take their film there. Why not think in strategy? You basically do research; here is the festival where I think it will play well and here's the festival where we might be accepted and possibly get an award. Why not go to smaller film festivals because you will most likely have the best shot at getting it seen in front of an audience.
Worldfest- Houston is always great. Canada International Film Festival is always great. And there are many others. If you don't get accepted into a festival, it's not the end of the world, it just means it didn't play well there. There is always ways to get the film out there.
HC: Got any tips for getting accepted? That's great advice by the way!
MP: Oh, thank you. So, be very confident in the film you made. I would definitely look at smaller festivals. Look at festivals that accept your genre for which the film is based in. For me it was all about marketing The Last Catch to smaller festivals.
HC: Great tips! So, the Last Catch is about baseball, what used to be America's favorite pastime. These days it seems like practically every movie is about superheroes. Do you think America has forgotten about baseball? Or sports in general? Does America even care anymore? Do you think we need more sports movies? And if so, why? What do sports like baseball have to offer filmmakers and their viewers?
MP: These days no matter if it's a studio film or independent film, it is going to be about box office revenue. A lot of sports films don't make their budget back that's why we don't see a whole lot of them. The reason we have a lot of superhero movies is because they are the ones making the most money right now. It's a different sense of perspective. A lot of artist I meat not just filmmakers, but all kinds are not that into sports, so we don't see sports subjects a lot.
I would love to see more sports movies. Sports can teach you so many different things about life. There have been many successful sports films throughout the years like Hoosiers and Field of Dreams. Even the 1981 Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire was a sports movie. If you can find an interesting way to tell your story the movie, no matter what subject should be successful.
We all had dreams growing up. I played sports and I coach a lot of kids who dream big, I can see it in their eyes. You can tell a great sports story that is motivational, heartbreaking, and just plain fun, the kid audience will have a better understanding and might want to motivate them to achieve a goal.
HC: Awesome! I can certainly agree to that. It would be good to see more sports movies. Not that I'm a huge sports fan, but I feel it's important to have diverse content in film. The more you know. There are so many kinds of stories. We need the all, even the sports stories. Well put, Matthew.
I think we've taken enough of your time Matthew. Just one more question for you. If people want to know more about you or your film project, where can they find you?
MP: They can find me on Facebook and I have an IMDB page. The Last Catch also has a Facebook and IMDB page with all its accomplishments. The Last Catch is also playing on the SHORTSHD network on Directv and AT&T U-VERSE.
HC: Thank you so much Matthew! You've had some great information for our readers and we very much appreciate your time and look forward to your next project. Always great talking with you!
MP: Thank you Cherdon. I had a lot of fun talking to you today. Take care.