This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 264: Writer/Director Matthew Brown On His New Indy Drama, Maine.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #264 of the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screen writer and blogger over at www.sellingyourccreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer-director Matthew Brown who just wrote and directed an indie drama called Maine. I’ll be talking to him about how he got this film produced, so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode viable please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode incase you’d rather read the show or look at something later on.
You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #264. If you want my free guide- How to Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional log line and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing writer-director Matthew Brown. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Matthew to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Matthew: Hey, thanks for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Matthew: Well, I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts and I graduated from there in 2015. In my junior year at school me and a lot of other people that I went to school with from the drama program and the film program got together and made my first feature film called In The Tree Tops. That film sort of propelled me into working in the industry. It premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2016 and then it played a couple other places and came out on VOD I think in the summer of 2016, and then pretty soon after that I was already working on Maine with the producers and…and I think kind of all just… once we played in LA everything kind of snowballed from there very quickly.
Ashley: So let’s talk about that just for a quick second. How did you get In The Tree Tops into the LA Film Festival? Was it just a cold submission or did you have like…
Matthew: Cold submissions. Yeah.
Ashley: Okay. I guess that’s pretty straightforward. And then take us through that process. So, you get a little bit of heat at the LA Film Festival, and how did that snowball for you into your latest film called Maine?
Matthew: Well, I think when I was in LA for the festival I met with several producers and one of them I’d already met with before. We had like a class trip out to LA to meet people and I had met a producer at school that was adjunct, she was an adjunct professor- Summer Shelton. I met her right before the school year ended and she set up a meeting for me when I was out with the school in LA with the guys at Richard who ended up producing the movie and I think I met with him again when I was out for the LA Film Festival. So it was really Summer who I met at school who also is one of the producers on Mane and she worked with the Richard people before on James Strouse movie People Places Things, and she set me up with him.
Then from there I met my agent while I was out there too, who would who would later become my agent, the same trip that I was out there for the film festival and then I went out to New York and met a lot of people and I just… all of a sudden people knew that I existed and wanted to…wanted me to sit and talk to them about the movie.
Ashley: So let’s dig into your new film Maine. Maybe to start out you can give us a quick pitch or logline for that film. What is that film all about?
Matthew: Well, I don’t really have a quick pitch of it anymore. It’s been years since I’ve had to pitch the movie. It’s about two hikers on the Appalachian Trail. One is a young married woman from Spain and she sets out to do the trail by herself and then she encounters a lone American hiker and there they kind of fall into a relationship with each other. That’s sort of where we start things in the movie.
Ashley: And so where did this idea come from? What was sort of the genesis of this project?
Matthew: Well, It was started with the setting. I just wanted to make a movie that took place on the Appalachian Trail. All my movies sort of start with a setting usually, and I’d always wanted to do the trail growing up and I’m not able to because I broke my back when I was 16 in a cliff diving accident, then as I was writing it. As I was writing it I fell in love with it for the first time and then things sort of just… my experiences, sort of while I was writing the script populated the script.
Ashley: Did you grow up on the East Coast near the Appalachian Trail? Like how did you even come to sort of appreciate and know about that?
Matthew: I’d spent time on the trail all my life. I grew up in North Carolina. I think my first trail experience I was in the Boy Scouts and we went up to Roan Mountain in Tennessee and, I think that was the first time I was ever on the trail and then when I was old enough to drive I spent a lot of weekends up there or summers in the area just hiking around.
Ashley: So you have this idea or you have this setting basically for a film? What is the next step? Maybe take us through your development process. Do you come up with some characters, do you come up with some story first? What was the next step? After you had the setting, what were the things that you started to think about and put in place?
Matthew: Sorry. What was the question? You cut out for a second.
Ashley: Sure, no problem. I’m just curious. So you have a setting basically, that you will wanna shoot a film in. What was the next step? Did you come up with the characters first, did you come up with a story? Maybe just go through that process a little bit, your thought process going from a setting to an actual story with, you know, three dimensional characters in it?
Matthew: Well, it was just sort of whatever was going on in my life that I felt was interesting would start to fall into the script and I guess the biggest thing that was going on with my life personally is that I was in love with someone that didn’t love me back and a lot of that became part of the script. Then going through my early 20s and trying to lose myself and find myself at the same time and that sort of struggle and really trying to figure out… just trying to answer a lot of sort of nebulous questions.
Ashley: So let’s talk about your writing process a little bit, just some quick questions. Where do you typically write when you’re when you’re working on your screenplays?
Matthew: I write at this coffee shop in Winston Salem North Carolina called Ardmore Coffee at the second table from the door on the far side of the table.
Ashley: Nice. So when do you typically write? What does your writing schedule look like? Are you someone who writes for 12 hours? Do you write in small bursts? What does that look like for you?
Matthew: Pretty small bursts. I remember for Maine specifically it was I would wake up, walk down to my house in the coffee shop and I’d probably stay till lunch. So I’d be there maybe from like nine in the morning till one or two. But I would probably only write for maybe two to three hours within all that time. It kind of… I don’t know, It has to be like something has to align cosmically for me to actually be able to write something that I like, but I’ll put myself… it was more about putting myself in the situation where if lightning strikes or inspiration that I would be in a place where I could get it out. Because a lot of times I would go there and I wouldn’t do shit the whole day.
Ashley: Yeah. Definitely as writers we’ve all been there. How much time do you spend preparing to write in the outline stage versus actually in final draft writing scene descriptions and dialogue?
Matthew: For that movie it was kind of straight into final draft. But lately I’ve been… I wrote a whole movie… I wrote the entire plot of a movie in sticky notes and I kind of liked that better. I had a whole wall populated with the sticky notes and then that turned into a script. I actually like that process a lot better. I understand the movement of the film a lot better and I can sort of see it. I know that a lot of people use like…[laughs]
Ashley: Index cards
Matthew: What does everybody use? Everybody does the same thing, index cards. Yeah.
Ashley: Yeah. It’s kind of a similar process to what you’re describing.
Matthew: I like to post it.
Ashley: So how do you know… let’s talk about your development…
Matthew: I really wanna…
Ashley: I’m sorry, go ahead.
Ashley: No, I’m sorry. Go ahead.
Matthew: I was gonna say I really will… I’ve always wanted to have one of those like school size dry erase boards. I think that would be amazing. Like not one you could fit in a house, but it’s like a massive one, like one that you would see in a classroom.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s talk about your development process a little bit. How do you know when your script is ready to start showing to other people?
Matthew: I send it to two people. Donald actually the DP of Maine, he reads everything that I write first and he will not… I know I like him to read it first because I know he wants… he’ll destroy it if he… well he kind of always destroys all my first drafts and then… but he also has great playable notes which I think is really important. A lot of people give me notes and I can’t do anything with the notes… there’s nothing that I can do. Like, “I don’t like this part.” Oh, well, okay then [laughs]. But and then I also send it to my friend Liza and she has great notes too, but they’re kind of the two people. It used to just be Donald but now I have two people that are not at all concerned or worried about the way that I feel and will destroy me when need be.
Ashley: And how did you meet those people?
Matthew: And that’s really important.
Ashley: Yeah, I know, absolutely. How did you meet those people? Were those folks that you met in school?
Matthew: Donald I met in school and then Lisa I met when I was living in New York and she works at Unentitled, or one of those management places.
Ashley: Okay. So once you were done with the script, what was the next steps? It sounds like you had through your first film you had met an agent and gotten some contacts in the industry. But what were those steps you have a script and how did you actually turn it into a produced film?
Matthew: Well, by the time it was done we actually… because they… Richard took…they optioned one of the earlier drafts. So they had already optioned the script and I was still workshopping it, but now with their notes involved. And then it changed over time as we were casting. But as far as how it went from script to being bought, there’s not much of a story there. I just like sent them a rough draft of the script and that was it. I don’t think I even did like a proper look book or anything. I think they were just stoked about In The Tree Tops and that was kind of… and I’m sure I guess they liked the scripting too enough to make it. But that was kind of… really, it was very, very easy and I know it won’t always be like that and I know that’s not like the most compelling story but that is what happened.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s great to hear. So what advice would you have for screenwriters that are looking to break into feature films?
Matthew: I would have… so, for me like more so than asking thinking so much about like plot and things like that there’s kind of only two questions that I ever ask myself. And one is, “Why is this my story to tell?” And two is, “Why does it need to be told?” And those are kind of the only two things that I think really matter. So I would just have a really, really good answer to those questions before doing anything at all.
Ashley: And maybe you can answer those questions for Maine.
Matthew: [laughs] So why is that my story to tell? Well because it happened to me and because I know it. And why does it need to be told? I think for me at the time, you know, I’ve obviously changed over the last… I’ve gotten older but for me at the time it was really about love and what I wanted to do with the movie and I thought needed to be done was really strip this idea of ownership from love and that’s what I wanted to do with the movie. It changed over time but when I started writing it that’s really what I wanted to do because I just saw so many relationships around me that felt like two people that didn’t really love each other, they loved what they could be for each other. So I wanted to make a movie stripping that idea of ownership away from relationships in a way, some love and place a lot of respect and attention on the individual and that journey.
Ashley: Perfect. So what is next for you? You’ve done now two feature films. What are you looking to do next?
Matthew: Three feature films. Number three. Yeah, I’m writing this… I just finished my third script, which is called The Apocalypse and that’s what I hope to do next.
Ashley: Okay. Perfect. And what are you putting in place…
Matthew: Well, actually it’s like fourth script.
Ashley: Okay. And what are you doing to get that off the ground? Are you going back to the same production company? Are you working with them talking it up with them?
Matthew: I just finished it so it’s just starting to go out. I mean, I had a great time working with Richard, I would love to work with him again. So we are obviously sending it out to them before anybody else. And even if they don’t… even if it’s not for them, I’d love to have their notes. I really respect everyone that works there. So, it’ll be sending it out to them and then I met a number of people over the last few years that seem to be excited by my work and what I’m doing. So I’ll be sending it out to them and just hoping that someone buys, and if they don’t then I already made one movie by myself I guess I can make another one.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s the attitude. Exactly. So how can people see Maine? Do you know what the release schedule is going to be like for it?
Mathew: Yeah, so it’s gonna come out in limited theaters. Ten cities… actually I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this yet. Well, this will be… this won’t come out until later, right?
Ashley: Correct. Yeah. It’ll be probably over a month before this podcast airs.
Matthew: Oh, ok, then we’re good. Well, then it’ll already be out by then. But, it comes in ten screens on December 13. And then on December 14 it’ll be on VOD platforms.
Ashley: Okay. Perfect. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog, whatever you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up and put in the show notes.
Matthew: Well, I don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter, but I have Instagram that I guess you can call if you really want to. Oh, should I say my thing?
Ashley: Yeah, sure.
Matthew: My handle or whatever?
Matthew: So it’s N-C- Chicken [inaudible 00:21:06].
Ashley: Okay. Perfect. As I said, I’ll round that up for the show notes and just put it so people can click over to it. Well, Matthew I really appreciate your coming on the show with me today and telling your story. I wish you all the luck with this film.
Matthew: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Ashley: Thank you. Will talk to you later.
Ashley: All right, bye.
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