My name is Matt. In high school I was a geek but wasn’t yet proud of it. I didn’t have many friends until my senior year, when I joined the theater department. They didn’t mind I was a geek. I later found out this was because they were too (for example, they got mad when you didn’t spell theater “theatre”), and that this was a compliment. My first show was Little Shop of Horrors. I only auditioned for it because I heard they were doing Cyrano de Bergerac next and I wanted to learn how to audition for plays.
Ever since, I’ve been close to the theater. I’ve become a good actor. I’ve both directed and produced a regional outdoor Shakespeare festival. I did plays all through college, and still pick one up from time to time. I don’t like much of the theater around here anymore; my standards have skyrocketed. Since I live in Virginia Beach, Virginia, I’m a big fish in a small pond. But I love the community here and made Auditionline for them, a free website listing all the auditions in one place.
Back to high school. Two of my best friends and I wrote a sappy “goodbye” song for our Senior Year Variety Show and knocked the place out. People were crying, we got a long standing ovation (surprised the shit out of us) by about a thousand people, and were invited by the school to play it at graduation in front of 5 or 6 thousand. We were so stoked we forgot the words. I’m still friends with both of them.
I learned how to play guitar after being in Big River a few months later, because the guys playing Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer used to play Indigo Girls songs in the dressing room every day and I was envious. I became a guitarist, and was in an acoustic duo and a band in college, and wrote lots of bad songs. Plus a couple of good ones, and one great one.
Then I went to college at UVA, getting in as a Physics major, then switching later to English after I realized I could breeze through that major without working too hard, leaving me free to take loads of classes in other areas, like music theory and philosophy and acting and chemistry and art and economics. I was in a few plays, got naked in Hair, ran concert crew for Dave Matthews (the DMB played our first-year “welcome picnic” — they were just breaking out in Charlottesville and their first studio album came out while I was in my last year there) and Morrissey and Indigo Girls and whoever else came through town, and was such a dipshit I didn’t have a single girlfriend the entire time I was there.
While I was finishing up at UVA, my older brother discovered the manuscript of Conversations with God sitting on our Dad’s desk at his publishing company, helped convince them to publish it, and in between classes in my last year at school I designed the cover (with art my brother commissioned, with exact instructions, and for which the artist later became quite rich) and typeset the interior and did all the promotional graphics for the book. So that’s when I became a graphic designer and designed my first New York Times bestseller.
My brother, who was a year older than I was (and still was, the last time I checked) called me up one day and said “I want to be a filmmaker. Want to be one too?” and I said “Sure.” Until then, I was planning to be a musician—a John Mayer type—plus an occasional fiction writer and perhaps an actor. His idea was as good as any. He took a short story I wrote, adapted it into a short screenplay, and we made our first movie as the Friedman Brothers, “Scattering Ashes,” about a guy and his parrot. Click the thumbnail to read a review we got, despite only showing it to about 50 people. Then he wrote ten pages of a movie about a guy whose house gets stolen. (Yeah, the whole thing.) We spent the next seven years making it.
Making that movie took forever. In the meantime, I did a bunch more plays, learned how to be a recording-studio engineer and cut a demo CD for a friend back when it was hard to do, learned to edit video and music, worked at UPS, became a Teamster (really), became an EMT and joined the volunteer rescue squad, had my first real relationship, then had a second, and did some other stuff I forget. Plus, every year around Thanksgiving we play a tackle football game with the gang from high school. To keep afloat, my brother and I did graphic design with the company we started when I graduated UVA. We’re really quite good at it. If you need world-class print design done at family prices, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need a website, email email@example.com. I also took on the role of editor for my friend Rob the Fantasy Scribbler, and designed and typeset his book Luthiel’s Song: Dreams of the Ringed Vale. He’s doing very well and I’m proud of him. His blog is a hit, please visit it. (I designed that too!) I do publicity and speaking tours with him; it is part of my traveling.
So, I love filmmaking and I love science, so I wrote a screenplay called All of Creation and got accepted to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. I had my work critiqued by A-list screenwriters (Academy Award winners and nominees) and spent time at the Festival as well. I met a beautiful woman who worked for Pixar and was there to scout for writing talent, and I asked her to a movie. She accepted, we hit it off, I fell in love, and a few minutes later I found out she had a boyfriend already. Long story short, I forgot to ask whether I could please work at Pixar.
I kept revising the screenplay, but realized it would cost at least $15 million to make and started another one instead. I wrote about 2 pages of the new screenplay, got shot down by my brother, who refused to consider directing it, and started another one instead. That’s what I’m working on now. When it’s done, we’re going to shoot it on 16mm for cheap, with brilliant actors and very few locations. It will be a big success and then maybe we’ll be able to make All of Creation, and then the one we really want to make: Another Fine Myth. But that’s another story.