We had the opportunity of catching up with Mr. Jenkins and talk about his work, challenges faced by the indie filmmakers and how he deals with them.
Filmtage : What inspired you to become an independent filmmaker, and how has your journey been so far in this challenging industry?
Matt : To paraphrase the Misfits of Film mission statement, I have always loved watching movies in the theater, at the drive-in or on TV. I love talking about movies and picking through the five-dollar bin at the box store for them. I rummage through stacks of DVD's at flea markets for the best deals, and I love making movies. Telling stories visually is highly fulfilling.
I agree the industry is challenging. It can be hard to have our movies taken seriously but I know the audience for our work exists and embraces it.
I am fortunate to work with the same core group of people, Charles Stanley - director, Dan Perrin -actor/producer, Fred Ressel - actor/producer, Randy and Erica Traxler - director of photography and assistant director. Other people work with us on one or two projects and then go their own way. It can be tough to see people walk away after a project is finished, but this core group of people believe in what we are doing and making a movie with them is better than attending summer camp!
Filmtage : Independent filmmaking often comes with limited resources and funding. How do you approach the creative process to maximize the impact of your storytelling within these constraints?
Matt : As an independent producer I love having creative control over the movies we make. I do not have to answer to someone else because of financial contributions nor do I face the possibility of the movie being shelved by someone else because of their decision-making control over the movie. As a result, the movie’s success or failure rests on my shoulders but I am fine with this. We made the movie I envisioned on paper and it will stand or fall based on its merits.
When writing the script, I remember concepts of small budget productions; keep the number of actors and the number of locations small. Since I do not have large financial resources available, or unlimited time to work with people or be on location, I endeavor to spend more time polishing the script. A well written script exciting to cast and crew serves as an essential roadmap to a successful production.
Filmtage : The film you submitted has received critical acclaim for its unique style and narrative. Can you share the creative decisions and influences that contributed to the film's success?
Matt : In “Static in the Ether,” the main character, Ava Grant, well portrayed by actress Heather Gilbert was based on two ideas. First, I’ve witnessed many people staying in toxic relationships because they were “afraid to be alone” or out of some other necessity. I wanted to show a character who was strong enough overcome adversity.
Second, being a big fan of early 1920’s Hollywood, I was excited to watch “Babylon,” a film regarding this era of moving making. I was extremely disappointed to see Brad Pitt’s character, Jack Conrad, commit suicide when he realizes his film career is over. I believe it’s easy to kill off the main character as a way to end the story. It’s much harder to write a plot where the character shows change as a result of conflict. Also, depending on what you read, the Jack Conrad character was based on silent star John Gilbert or the silent star Douglas Fairbanks. While John Gilbert died at 38, his death was attributed to heart attacks brought on by excessive drinking. Douglas Fairbanks died at 56 also from a heart attack. In “Static in the Ether” I wanted to show through Ava, a person can leave a bad situation and start over strengthened by a little faith.
Not only does the Ava Grant character end a toxic relationship and walk away from a faltering career, she inspires the other main character, Benson Powell, played by Dan Perrin, to reinvent himself. Powell couldn’t face his own career ending, turning to such desperate measures as bank robbery and kidnapping, failing at both.
Filmtage : Independent filmmakers often face challenges in distribution and reaching a wider audience. What strategies have you employed to promote and share your work with a broader community?
Matt : I know the audience for minimalist, constrained budget productions containing interesting storylines and acting exist and this audience appreciates the work we create. The hard part is sometimes finding a platform to provide this audience with the opportunity to view our specific type of movie. International audiences tend to embrace our movies. This is a great compliment to us. So, I actively seek out international film festivals and streaming platforms to submit our work.
Our path to distribution starts with entering film festivals. Next, we try to secure a spot on a streaming platform. Finally, we provide the opportunity for people to experience our work on archive.org.
Filmtage : As an independent filmmaker, you have the freedom to explore diverse and unconventional subjects. Could you tell us about a particular project that was close to your heart and the importance of bringing that story to the screen.
Matt : It’s easy to say each movie I write, produce, edit and possibly direct is close to my heart and important to bring to the screen. But this is really the answer. I look back over our catalogue of titles and think about the impact these visual stories had on an audience.
I have the freedom to explore unique topics often not contained in mainstream “Hollywood” movies. I love the audience response to these topics.
The Macoproject Film Festival recently provided a review of “Static in the Ether.” Their conclusion neatly sums up my efforts in movie making. They write:
“Static in the Ether” stands as a commendable testament to Matt Jenkins’ ability to craft compelling stories within the constraints of a micro-budget. The film’s exploration of fame, betrayal, and redemption resonates deeply, making it a noteworthy addition to the realm of independent cinema, where its impact reverberates long after the credits roll.”
We wish Matt Jenkins a wonderful creative year ahead.