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Matt Morris: Documentary Filmmaker and Photographer Interview

Matt Morris is an award-winning filmmaker, his short films have been Emmy® nominated and have been selected for dozens of international film Festivals. We caught up with Matt regarding his latest endeavor, take a look after the jump for more.

We first wrote about Matt when we found his video about Mr. Happy online. The feelgood vibe as well as the great scenes and photographic direction in the short film really garnered our attention. Now Matt is back with his latest short, American Tintype, being released today! We caught up with Matt and asked him a couple of questions about his work. Check out the video and his answers below.

Please tell the community a little bit about yourself

I got interested in filmmaking when I was 17 and saw the movie Annie Hall. I’d never given much thought to filmmaking before, but while watching that movie, I instantly realized what a director did and that I wanted to be one. I stumbled into documentary filmmaking after college, when I found out about a barbershop in rural North Carolina where the barbers had been cutting hair for six decades and bluegrass musicians jammed in the back room. It sounded really interesting, so despite the fact that I had never made a documentary before, I went up to the barbershop and made a film about them. I had a great experience and I continue to happen upon new subjects, through articles or recommendations from friends, and love the fact that these people have spent their whole lives essentially writing a script. I get to come in and do my best to capture it.

How did you get started with photography and documentary film making?

For the longest time I envied those who still took film photos, but every photographer I would ask discouraged me from doing anything but digital. Too difficult, too expensive, not as much control. I rummaged around my parents house and found a Nikkormat FTN from the 70’s. I put a roll through it and fell in love. A cinematographer friend of mine had an old Mamiya C3 TLR that he gave to me when he saw me shooting on film, and I’ve been using that for quite some time, though it recently broke. I think film photography is great for creativity and makes you a better digital photographer. Locking yourself into constraints (such as a fixed lens, or black and white film) can force creative decisions that you never would have come to if you had all the possibilities and control of digital post-processing. It also makes me a more deliberate photographer, when you know you have only so many shots on a roll, and each shot is costing you money.

How do you select the subjects of your documentaries?

I found out about Harry Taylor when putting my first short Pickin’ & Trimmin’ online. Harry lives in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, and I had just gotten engaged, so my fiancée and I decided to have Harry take our engagement photos. In an age of instagram feeds and thousands upon thousands of images on your computer that almost never get printed off, I loved the idea of each photo being a one-of-a-kind, physical object. You can scan it, sure, but it doesn’t have the same feel or patina. These are truly heirlooms to be passed down generations.

Photo of Harry and Matt made after the interview

How long does a project like this take to complete from idea to final cut?

The process of filming was rather quick. I shot it in an afternoon with two cameras, the first film I’ve shot entirely on my own. A buddy of mine came in and ran audio for the interview. I had a cut of a film within a week. What took longer was post-production, which lasted a few months mostly because I was able to work with amazing folks like Skywalker Sound, EFilm, and Method Design, but to do so meant I had to work around their schedules. The film is infinitely better as a result, so it was worth the wait.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Right now I’m trying to focus on writing a feature film, but in the meantime I still want to be active in fun little short projects like American Tintype.

Check out more of Matt’s work on his website

written by gabysalas

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