Interview with director Matthew Devlin

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I was really into shooting skateboard videos for my friends and it wasn’t until my junior year that I took a video production class. In Video Production they taught us the basics of storytelling and cinematography. This was when I realized I really enjoyed the narrative form of storytelling, and started to make my own short films.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I don`t think it is essential to being successful. I know a lot of amazing filmmakers that I work with that didn’t go to film school. That being said, I personally chose to attend a film school. I think that film school gave me not only the gear I needed, but the people I needed as well. When starting out in filmmaking its hard to find other people with the same passion, especially in a small town in NH. Film school introduced me to other filmmakers who I continue to work with today on larger films and commercials.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

I would say they are both difficult. Starting out and trying to get your first paid job in film can be difficult. The industry in New York City is all word of mouth. If someone the producer or director trusts recommends you, thats the best resume you can have. I think to “keep going” is a whole other beast, depending on what you want to do. If you want to make your own films, raising the money and convincing people to trust in you is no easy task. To do this everytime until you have a big enough film to prove your worth, might be one of the most mentally draining things you will ever expierence. That being said, its always been worth it to me.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

To always have a backup plan. Filmmaking is all prep. I tried my best to have as fool proof of a schedule as possible, but we had alot of locations, some during the day, and some at night. With only 5 days to shoot, the schedule was really tight. We had a scheduled night exterior to end our 3rd day of shooting and hadn’t been checking the hourly weather. Five minutes into the final scene, it started to down pour. I thought, when are we gonna find time to film this scene now? I was right, we didn’t have time to shoot it that week. I had to eventually do reshoots and pick up the things we had missed. If I had created a backup plan, we could of shot an interior scene while it was raining. Since I didn’t plan for rain, the actors and set pieces I needed for an interior scene were not booked. Unfortunately, I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

There was quite a few locations written into the script that we really wanted to film and fought for. Like a roller rink and areas in the school. In the end, they wanted more money then we had available. This ultimately
forced us to change some of the locations to ones we knew we could get for free. The audience will never know that we had scenes in the school that we had to cut or that we couldn’t afford the roller skating rink I was
dying to shoot. In the end if you can achieve the same thing in the story somewhere else, those are the compromises you have to make.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

By far the hardest artistic choice was to remove some of the Epilepsy based scenes and to pivot more into a “coming of age” film. Due to time, prep, locations, and a ton of other variables. Some of the scenes and
emotions I wanted to convey, just weren’t achievable in 5 days with the budget we had. Letting go of these was really hard, but I told myself if the film resinated well, I would one day have more money and more
resources to do the topic even more justice.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

All of my crewmembers I would consider best friends. I met nearly all of them from being on set. Some of them I met from one introducing me to another. Treat your crew members better then you would treat yourself. Recommend them on other sets, give them jobs and tell them what they are worth. Without them, your production is nothing. Not only that, building a good working relationship with someone on set also builds long time friendships. I’ve made so many friends around the world from working on set. We all stay in touch and make sure to keep up with each others careers. The ultimate goal is to always work with the people you respect and think are talented. When they are your friends, everyone wants to support each other on their ideas and projects.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I think this always depends on the project. In the end, I think the filmmaker should stick to their gut and make what they want. If you enjoy what you are making, it will find an audience that does too. That audience
will then grow with you as you progress and becoming a better filmmaker. I would say in the end, filmmaking is a selfish art. You are not making something for just an audience, but for yourself. If you don`t get to
enjoy it and feel the satisfaction by your own work, then why make it.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Although I haven’t been through a lot of the festival circuit yet, I think film festivals are an amazing place to get your film seen. They also create a great environment for prople to network. When you show your film to family and friends, they tend to have a biased opinion because they know how much work you put into it. Getting an outside perspective from other creaters is always super important for learning what works and what doesn’t in your films.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

If you want to make action movies, do it. If you want to make experimental films, do it. I don`t think there should be a classic or safe style. People should create what they want in the way they want to create it, regardless of whether it finds an audience or not. I think if you create something just to be safe or because you think it’s what the public will like, it’s likely to be the worst thing you’ll ever make.