Matthew Mishory [Interview]

Matthew MishoryIn the film industry, there are many folks out there working their asses off for what some people mind consider, nothing.  If a filmmaker isn’t either Woody Allen-esque lo-fi films with huge names attached to it, or 9 figure action/comic book adaptation, so many people are quick to deny them credibility.  Of course most of us know this is crap, but sadly, we probably aren’t most people.  And filmmaker Matthew Mishory is not like most filmmakers.  This is a man who has been compared to Fellini, which is obviously a very bold statement, but one I don’t believe is too far off.  Mishory has developed films that are (as he states) director-driven and actor-centered.  And these are the films that intrigue me the most!

And we were fortunate enough to steal some time with Matthew to discuss his past works, what is next for him, my personal favorite city of Portland, Oregon, and so much more.  Enjoy!

In the early days of your career, you were actually an Assistant Producer on Da Ali G Show, which quite different from your work today.  An chance of seeing you work in the comedy world again?

I would love to direct a comedy, but first I would have to learn to be funny.  Comedy is hard; I am envious of those who do it well.  Of course, nobody does it better than Sascha Baron Cohen.  I was very fortunate to be hired as an assistant on that shoot and to have the opportunity to watch him work.  The “Ali G” set was a masterclass.  I’m a great fan of comedy.  I love the Marx Brothers.  And if I had to take one film along to a desert island it would probably be Woody Allen’s Manhattan.  I would love to make a comedy one day.  I’d like to think I’m waiting for the right script to come along.

How did your rising star of a company, Iconoclastic Features, come about?  How did you come up with the name?

In 2007/2008, an actor friend introduced me to an actor friend, Edward Singletary.  Eddie had just started producing movies, and it turned out we had some of the same ideas about what an independent film could be: director-driven, actor-centered, stylistically bold, and privately financed.  We had matching sets of skills and personal networks and decided to try making some films together, films I would direct featuring Eddie as an actor.  The company was born our of that very simple and humble premise.  The name refers to the sorts of films that matter to us, the ground-breaking films of the European High Art and American Independent film movements.  Those sorts of films had sadly all but disappeared by 2008.  In our own small way, we’re doing our best to revive them.

Have you always been a fan of the legendary actor James Dean?  What inspired you to create Joshua Tree, 1951?

Photo by Ziyan Zang

Photo by Ziyan Zang

Each of my films are very personal.  I grew up haunted by images of James Dean.  Probably the first feature film I ever saw as a very little boy was East of Eden.  My father had come to American as a sixteen-year-old Julliard violin student and learned to speak English by going to the movies.  He saw the Dean films in first run and later showed them to me.  James Dean was quite unlike any other actor who come before (or after).  And while several very traditional biopics had been made about his life, I felt there was room for a non-traditional exploration of the very non-traditional philosophy (and experiences) that made him so extraordinary.

You’re critically acclaimed film Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman is a true stylized piece of genius to say the very least.  What was it about Jarman that interested you enough to create a film about him?

I discovered his films as a student, and they have always been very, very special to me.  A few years later, I received Tony Peak’s Jarman biography as a gift.  I had read most of Derek’s published journals, but the Peak biography somehow reiterated to me that there was a fascinating story to tell in Jarman’s childhood.  I have always been interested in the way childhood (and particularly childhood trauma) shapes a life; it has been a theme in each of my films.  With Delphinium, we tried to find the antecedents of Derek’s art, his life, his activism, and his legacy.  That his surviving muse, Keith Collins, gave us permission to shoot at Prospect Cottage in Dungeness made the project all the more special.

I know it’s a bit in the future?  But, can you tell us a bit about Disappear Here?  How did the idea for this project come to life?

The film is a star vehicle for the young actor James Duke Mason, grandson of the great James Mason, star of Lolita.  Duke had seen Joshua Tree and approached me about a collaboration.  He had a sense of what sort of film he wanted for his first project, and this is what we came up with.  The film is a political thriller that deals with notions of privacy in a digital age.  We were inspired by the commercial thrillers of the 1980s and the paranoia films of the 70s.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film Portland?

We’ve been trying to make Portland for years.  Hopefully we’ll get it done in 2013/14.  As you know, the word conveys both a city and an idea.  I thought it might make a simple, evocative title.

Matthew Mishory3So, what else does the future hold Matthew Mishory?  Are there any untouched grounds you are looking to sweep?

Tomorrow I’m off to Istanbul, Belgrade, and Transilvania to direct a promo trailer for the South East European Film Festival.  Filmmaking is a terrible way to earn a living but a great way to see the world.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The latest Jens Lekman album.  It was playing as I opened this email.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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