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Introducing The Shadow & Act Filmmaker Diary Series (With Matthew Cherry)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 13, 2011 at 8:25AM

As the site grows, I'm always looking for ways to both entertain and inform our readers - a diverse group of people, whether they are in the industry (or working towards that goal), or they are film enthusiasts, or just curious folks, and everything else between.
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As the site grows, I'm always looking for ways to both entertain and inform our readers - a diverse group of people, whether they are in the industry (or working towards that goal), or they are film enthusiasts, or just curious folks, and everything else between.

And this felt like a good idea to incorporate into the site's content - what I'm calling our Filmmaker Diary Series. Essentially, filmmakers who are about to embark on projects (in this case, feature film projects specifically) will be given space on this site to document their journey, from script to screen, diary/journal style. That's about it, in brief. But I think you get the overall picture.

It'll be a weekly series, and, to start, Matthew Cherry, who was 1 of several filmmakers on our 2011/2012 Black Filmmakers To Watch list (HERE if you missed it), has agreed to be our "guinea pig" on this new feature of the site. Matthew (whose resume includes directing music videos for the likes of Kindred The Family Soul, Common, Bilal and others, plus a short film titled This Time, starring Reagan Gomez, which played successfully on the film festival circuit) is currently in pre-production for his feature film debut, titled, The Last Fall.

But instead of me talking about Matthew and his upcoming project, I'll just go ahead and post his first journal entry here. As I said, this will be a weekly series; every Friday, Matthew will send me his entry for the week, and I'll post it here for you all to read. The entries may come in a variety of formats, and may not always be written. There might be video sometimes, or audio, which should keep it all engaging and hopefully enlightening, as you essentially get into the mind of a filmmaker as he goes through the process, in this case, really for the first time, since it's his first feature, even though he's made shorts and music videos before.

So, without further ado, here's the first of many entries in this inaugural Filmmaker Diary series from Matthew Cherry, in his own words:

PRE-PRE PRODUCTION

My name is Matthew A. Cherry and I just started pre-production on my first feature film "The Last Fall". I thought it would be fun to do a diary documenting the process of a independent filmmaker putting together a film from script to screen. Who am I? I am a former NFL wide receiver turned director from Chicago who moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to pursue my dreams as a filmmaker. I didn't go to film school rather I attended the University Of Akron on a football scholarship but I learned on set by being a production assistant. I started directing in 2008 and since then I have directed over 10 music videos for soul artists such as Bilal, The Foreign Exchange, Kindred The Family Soul and Jazmine Sullivan. Last year I directed a short film called "This Time" that starred Reagan Gomez-Preston, Terri J. Vaughn and Michael Moss that did well in the film festival circuit. A feature film is what I felt like was the natural progression so here I am starting pre-production and eager to share my journey. This first entry is going to be a little longer and more general than the other entries will be as I am going to be summarizing how we even got to the point to where we could make a movie.

My film is titled "The Last Fall". It is a personal story that is based on my past life as a professional athlete, rather my life after. Here's the synopsis. Recently released from his fourth team in three years twenty five year old Kyle Bishops life is in disarray. Pursuing his dreams and living life as a journeyman professional athlete has lead to friction within his family as he has not been back home since he was a freshman in college. Broke and retired at 25, Kyle is now forced to return home and figure out the next steps in his life. Kyle attempts to reconnect with his broken family, the former love of his life who now has a seven year old son and begins to transition to his life outside of sports.

The current NFL lockout situation really inspired me to tell this story as I have found huge misconceptions about what life as a typical NFL football player is like. Everyone thinks that the average player makes a million dollars and is set for life and nothing could be further than the truth. The NFL is unique from all other sports in the high risk nature of it all. There are no guaranteed contacts and their is extreme physical contact happening at all times thus players are more likely to get injured. They typical NFL career is only for three years so most people that play in the NFL are retired at 25. This was my experience. I can't explain to you guys how frustrating it is to work your whole life to reach a goal and to get there and to have it taken away from you three years out of college. I was one of the lucky ones, I always knew that I was going to have a life outside of sports but for the vast majority of professional atheltes in general, this is not the case.

Like most filmmakers, when it's time to make their first movie, this film was born from the frustration from waiting on funding from investors for another film. I just turned 29 last year and I was hungry and I just wanted to shoot something that I could raise the money myself for and just make a damn movie. I tried a kickstarter campaign before with another movie "Married And Dating" but we had an outlandish fundraising goal 100K so we had to cancel it and go back to the drawing board. Websites like Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com have made the ability to raise money that much easier but you still have to be realistic. My producing partner for my production company Transparent Filmworks Scott Hebert and I started our Indiegogo campaign on April 19th and we tried to raise $16,329 for our movie. Why such a low amount? Of course we could have used more, way more actually, but I wanted to set a realistic goal and no one wants to feel like they are fudning your whole film. Personally I feel like each day a new person discovers crowdfunding it gets harder and harder to raise money because really, how many strangers are you gonna give $20 to help fund their dreams. But I am pretty adept at social media and have over 10K followers on twitter and everyone thought it would be a no brainer so I thought that I might be worth a shot.

The first few days of fundraising were pretty solid as we raised over $500 bucks but it still was a tall mountain to climb. I wanted to start shooting by the summer so we set the campaign for 45 days. But four days into the campaign the strangest things started happening. I had a few of my followers hit me up about putting up the entire budget for the film. It's crazy the things that happen sometimes when you put yourself out there sometimes. Now I'm not sure if it was because the amount was so low or if it was because they really connected to the material but this presented a new dilemma. If an investor was to put in 16K into a film then obviously they would want a return on their investment. I don't know too many people willing to give a total stranger 16 thousand for a credit in the film. And the type of film I was gonna shoot for the budget we were trying to raise was gonna be like one of those mumblecore movies where we shot it on a Canon 5D or 7D and used friends. Filmmakers Barry Jenkins and Ava Duvernay are a big part of the reason why I felt like I could shoot a professional quality movie this way. And this way if the response was bad at least we wouldn't owe anyone any money. The potential for investors means that we had to go back to the drawing board and see what was a realistic budget that we could shoot this film for and still have high production values and possibly put a couple "names" in it as well. Then to use names or not to use names is another debate that I'll get into in a later entry.

We decided to go back and ask for more than the 16K we tried to raise on Indiegogo. I was nervous as hell going back to our initial investors with a higher figure but sometimes you have to do these things when it comes down to the business of the film making. I talked to them about it and I could tell there was some tension and I hope that I didn't blow it by asking for a higher amount. But I think I did a good job of making it make sense. The good thing about it all is that they still seem down to do it no matter which way we decide to go, but now all we can do is wait and see what type of movie it is that we are going to make.

-Matthew A. Cherry
Transparent Filmworks

Follow me on twitter @MatthewACherry
Follow the film on twitter @TheLastFallFilm
Add us on Facebook http://facebook.com/thelastfallmovie

This article is related to: Filmmaker Diary Series


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