June 5, 2013

“Is that you Matthew Modine? Is this me?”

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 3

By Matthew Modine

I make short films. I’ve made a feature, a pretty good one, and I will make another one soon. So I ask myself now, “why do you continually return to the short form film format, Matthew?” “Well, Matthew” I reply to myself, “I make short films for a number of reasons.”

The first is that I don’t have to answer to anyone else. Which means my films are made “out of pocket.” When I make them it’s not to make money. They’re made for the pleasure and for the art of cinematic storytelling.

The second is because, with short films, I am free to explore the medium of filmmaking — without the sense that I must follow some recipe for making one. None of that three-act-formulaic-boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-back stuff of so many full length feature films. With a short film, the girl can be fed up with the dopey boy and push him off a cliff. End of film.

Third, because it’s difficult. The short film is actually a really tough genre because you have a short amount of time to tell your story effectively. And that’s a fun challenge. For this reason, comedy is often best suited for shorts. Most of Don Rickles’ jokes would make fantastic short films.

Fourth, because it’s a great way to keep busy in-between my day job as an actor. It’s sometimes frustrating to look for or wait for a really good project to come along. Making a short film is a good way to stay productive and creative during these periods of looking.

How did I happen to start making short films you ask? Well, I was inspired to write and direct by two filmmakers. The first was Robert Altman, who I had the pleasure of working with three times. The second was Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick encouraged me to write. He encouraged me to write with abandon and to avoid the formats and structure that were taught in schools. We worked together for nearly two years on Full Metal Jacket and during that time I saw his struggle for simplicity and directness as a director which was inspiring to witness. Altman taught me how to work with actors. He often said that 90% of his job was casting the right actor for a role. Which is not an easy task. At all. But actors knew that if Bob picked you, you were going to have a great experience and an opportunity to be your best.

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