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Shadow and Act Filmmaker Diary Series w/ Matthew Cherry: “Film Festival Preparation”

Shadow and Act Filmmaker Diary Series w/ Matthew Cherry: "Film Festival Preparation"

Here’s the latest in our still ongoing filmmaker diary series with The Last Fall writer/director Matthew Cherry. Last time we posted an entry was in November of last year, when Cherry was seeking distribution for the film. You should know by now that the The Last Fall was accepted to the line-up of the SXSW Film Festival next month, an event Tambay and I will be covering.

Read the details below regarding his new Kickstarter campaign, an effort to help cover film crew trip expenses to the festival and post-production costs.

Hey guys, it’s been a minute since I took the time out to write a filmmaker diary post and I thought now would be as good a time as any. To rewind for a second, last summer I went into production on my first feature film called “The Last Fall”. It is a sports drama about the difficulties that most professional athletes have when transitioning into a life after the game has passed them by. I myself was a NFL player from 2004-2006 (Jaguars, Bengals, Panthers and Ravens) and I moved to LA in 2007 and started as production assistant and eventually worked my way into music video directing to now my first feature film.

The past few months have been quiet and hectic at the same time. There are so many times when you feel like you have an edit of the film that you love and then you show it to a few friends and family members and they point out one or two things here and there and it makes you question yourself and then you end up working on a new cut. As of right now me and my editor Michael Norville have done 24 different cuts of our film. It’s crazy how changing one scene can alter the whole tone of the film. We started shooting “The Last Fall” July 11th and had a cut finished by October 11th in time for us to submit to The Sundance Film Festival.
Can’t even lie, I was a little disappointed when I heard word that we were not accepted to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, but now looking back I can understand why it happened. That festival get’s thousands of feature films submitted every year and only 16 make the cut for dramatic competition. It’s really hard to get into that festival and sometimes they simply have more good films than there are spots for them. I have been told by more than a few festival programmers that our film is “conventional” so that may have had something to do with it as well, who knows.  I was beyond hyped to see that my writer/director friend Ava Duvernay’s film “Middle Of Nowhere” was accepted along with other great filmmakers of color like Sheldon Candis, Terrence Nance, Byron Hurt and Michel D. Olmos.  I had a chance to go to the Sundance for the first time this year and it was awesome to see how everybody supported each other and their moviements. The Blackhouse was the place to be. Shout out to them and their whole movement. 
I can honestly say that there really hasn’t been a better time than now to be a black independent filmmaker and it’s amazing to see everyone coming into their own at the same time. I guess that’s why they are calling this “The New Black Wave Of Cinema.” 
In December I hit a major milestone in my life and turned 30 years old. It was great because when I first moved to LA I was 25 and fresh out of the league. I wrote out a five year plan and I told myself that I wanted to shoot my first feature by the time I turned 30 so I guess it is mission accomplished. I have found that it is extremely important to write down your goals and not just think about them. Somehow putting paper to pen gives things that much more of a sense of urgency. This was my first birthday without my mom being here. It was hard, I don’t know how I am going to get through speaking at our premiere at SXSW about her. Gonna have to find a way.
I have been lucky to be able to continue directing in the time that our film has been in post production. I am also a music video director and I shot videos for Maysa, Dwele, Najee, Phil Perry, K’jon and Take 6 since we started post. It helps keeps me busy and allows me to get paid as I practice my craft and use different techniques and try out different cameras. I have also started to think about what my next film is going to be about. I would like to start shooting by the summer. I have a few ideas, I guess I have to see where the spirt moves me. My goal is to shoot a feature film a year like Woody Allen does. To me the second film a director does is more important than the first, especially if your first is a personal story. You almost have to prove that you’re not a one hit wonder and can’t only tell a story about your own life, especially as a writer/director. 
January was pretty amazing. A few weeks back I was doing ADR for the film with my two leads, Lance Gross and Nicole Beharie and that same night I had to leave LA to go to Sundance (I was shooting behind the scenes footage for Ava’s movie Middle Of Nowhere). On January 18th, as I was on my way to the train station I got an email from Janet Pierson who is the head of SXSW letting us know that we were accepted into the festival. I can honestly say that it was one of the best days and biggest accomplishments of my life. I never thought I would ever be successful in anything outside of sports and that one email told me, if only for that moment, that I was good at something outside of football. The number one thing that I hoped to accomplish with this film was to be able to use it as a vehicle to honor my mom on the biggest stage possible. Janet Pierson granted me that opportunity. She gave me my shot. 20 years from now I’ll be able to look back at this moment and say that it was a turning point in my professional career. For those of you that don’t know SXSW has quickly grown into one of the biggest mainstream film festivals in the country, arguably right behind Sundance. A few years back brother Barry Jenkins premiered his classic “Medicine For Melancholy” at that festival and last year Aaron Burns and Victoria Mahoney premiered their films there and we are honored to be carrying the torch for filmmakers of color this year.
The SXSW news came at us like a whirlwind and we had to get our stuff together real quick. We were still in the finishing stages of doing our score, music and sound mix and now we had a concrete deadline by when we had to have it all done by. I really didn’t realize how expensive it was going to be to be apart of a major film festival outside of my home state. You have to get a publicist, try to get a producer rep or a sales agent to represent the film, you have to pay for travel and lodging for select crew and cast that have that in their contracts, you have to pay for the marketing materials (post cards, posters, key chains, buttons, etc.) I mean there is a lot to do. 
Kickstarter was something that I always had in the back of my mind to do if we got into SXSW or Sundance to help us finish our film and last week I pulled the trigger on a campaign to try to raise 15k in 30 days. It’s crazy how wide the perception of crowd funding is right now. Some people look at it like begging or it being a bad look and some people see it as a necessary thing to do when you have a deadline and you have to get things done by any means necessary. I look at is as an opportunity to create more awareness about the project and it gives me a reason to talk about it organically everyday as well as reaching a goal. Crowd Funding is helpful for a filmmaker like myself who enjoys involving people in my process and is very active in social media. I want you to feel like you are apart of my movie because you really are. You guys experienced the passing of my mother with me and you’ve been there with me in good and bad times so why not include you in the closing credits for my film? It’s been so far so good. We have raised over $2,500 in the past four days and we are on pace to hit our goal if we can continue to reach new people who are interested in being apart of our film. I feel good about it. If it’s in God’s will it will happen.

Well that has been what’s been going on for the past few months. This week I travel to Beaverton, Oregon to speak to some young athletes who are interested in filmmaking for Black History Month. We get the actual dates that our film is screening for SXSW this Wednesday, and we have to start locking in our final song choices and get deeper into the scoring of the film. I am going to resume this diary series now and give you all some insight into the film festival portion of independent filmmaking straight from someone is currently going through it. I am very proud of my team and any crew and cast and I am so happy that all of their hard work paid off and they get to world premiere at a major festival. Stay tuned for next weeks entry and I’ll talk you all very soon. Support The Last Fall On Kickstarter!!! 

~ Matthew A. Cherry

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