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Gavin's Underground

Tower Theater's Open Mic Winner: Matthew Pool

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-04-03 -

Back on a new schedule, the Open Mic Night series returns to the Tower Theater for another year. A few weeks ago the first of these mini-film festivals kicked off to many new entries. At the end of the evening prior winner Tsuyoshi Ishida walked out with the Audience Award, while the Critic's Award went to Matthew Pool for his film “The Life & Death Of Burt”. I got a chance to chat with Matthew about his film, winning the Open Mic, thoughts on local filmmaking and a few other topics.

Matthew Pool
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Gavin: Hey Matt.  First off, tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into filmmaking.

Matthew:
My name is Matthew Pool, I am a film student at the University of Utah. I have been making short film since i was a kid, and have always loved making films. For as long as i can remember I have only ever wanted to be a director of films.

Gavin: I understand you're currently at the U. How's the film program up there?

Matthew:
The film program at the U is a very nice, and fun program. I love the teachers, and most of my fellow students have amazing talent.

Gavin: Do you think of yourself as more of an independent filmmaker or do you prefer to work with a group?

Matthew:
So far I have mostly worked by myself, or my best friend/filming partner Stephen Simmons. I actually think the largest group we ever had on one single shoot was about eight people. I would love to work with a group, but I am a perfectionist when it comes to films so its hard to work with other people who want to voice their opinion, but I don't agree with them.

Gavin: How did the concept for “The Life & Death Of Burt” come about?

Matthew:
"The Life & Death Of Burt" came about when I heard about a short film competition for USU. They had requirements for the films, like: you had to have an alarm, and had to show red shoes. They also gave you a list of about 15 other props, and you had to choose three of those. Stephen and I just decided to have every single prop on the list in the film, and tried to show all of them in under four minutes, while also trying to make the short funny and entertaining.
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Gavin: How long did it take you to film and then edit it up?

Matthew:
It took Stephen and I all of about 45 minutes to write the entire short, and we actually filmed it all in one day. The shoot took about maybe eight hours, and the editing took about four. It was probably one of the best filming experiences either of us have had.

Gavin: Any difficulties come up along the way or was it pretty smooth going?

Matthew:
We really didn't have any difficulties filming. The biggest difficulty was we decided to shoot the entire film in order, so we had to run all over to different locations before the sun went down. Other than that, the filming went very smoothly.

Gavin: When you finished the film, did you do a private showing or did it go straight to the USU competition? And what was the general reaction to it at first?

Matthew:
The first time anyone saw our film was at the Tower Theater after hours, we showed it to a couple friends to get their honest reaction, and see if it were good enough for the competition or even Open Mic Night. Everyone said they liked it, but I always find it hard getting the truth from people closest to you. I always think they are trying to spare feelings by not telling me what they really think. We wanted to see what other people would think, so we put it in Open Mic.

Gavin: How did you hear about Tower's Open Mic Night?

Matthew:
I've known about Open Mic Night for a long time now, but I only have put in my own films the last couple times. I never really thought of my work being good enough to show at the tower in front of a hundred people.
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Gavin: What was your reaction to seeing it there and hearing the audience reaction?

Matthew:
Stephen actually called me the day of Open Mic and said that he had entered the movie in for me, and I was terrified people weren't going to laugh and hate the short, so when I got to the Tower I hung out at the top row, so I could hide from everyone in case they hated it. But when it started playing and people were laughing it made me much more confident in the short. That it might actually have a chance of winning not only Open Mic, but the actual USU film competition as well.

Gavin: At the end you won Critic’s Selection award.  How did it feel knowing you had won?

Matthew:
I actually didn't hear that we had won Critics choice until the following day when Stephen called me with the news. I was amazed that people had enjoyed it as much as they did. It was a great feeling that out of 15 or so films, ours was chosen by the guest critic as the best.

Gavin: Going local, what’s your opinion of the local film scene, both good and bad?

Matthew:
I think that Utah has an amazing underground film scene. I think we have some of the most talented young filmmakers in the country. I just wish that more people would participate in Open Mic, or there were more events like Open Mic so people could get their films out there for others to see. The scene could be bigger, and I think that over the next few years it will become one of the biggest and best scenes in the country.

Gavin: Anything you think could be done to make it bigger or better?

Matthew:
I think more events like Open Mic Night would help make the local film scene much bigger and better. More press about these events.
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Gavin: Any local directors you feel are at the top of their game?

Matthew:
First of all I think Stephen Simmons is an amazing director. He is my friend, but I think his work he does without me is the best stuff he has done. There are a few filmmakers at the U that I actually envy because of their talent, like Yoshi, who won the Audience Choice at the most recent Open Mic Night. His films are shot beautifully and his ideas are so unique. I am jealous of his talent.

Gavin: Putting you on the spot, what would you say are the top films that have had an influence on you?

Matthew:
Oh wow. My most influential films? That is a very hard question. I'm not sure how to answer that without being judged harshly by anyone who reads this. I have been a huge fan of Danny Boyle, and Darren Aronofsky for the longest time. I think Boyles' "Millions", and Aronofsky's "The Fountain" have influenced me immensely. I know that “The Fountain” is hated by everyone, but in my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. But that is just me.

Gavin: If you had to pick one, what director would you say was most influential on you?

Matthew:
I think the one director I'm going to have to go with is Danny Boyle. Every movie he has done I have loved. His style is amazing, and he is only getting better with each new film. But again, just my opinion.

Gavin: Do you know what you’re doing for your next film, and what can we expect from you going into next year?

Matthew:
I do have a few ideas of some shorts i am going to do by myself, and I have a few that I'm doing with my friend Stephen. I think you can expect a lot of different types of films from me this year. There are many competitions coming up that I want to be a part of, like the 48 Hour Film Festival in May, or the October Evening in October. Its going to be a great year.

Gavin: Anything you’d like to plug or any final thoughts you wanna voice?

Matthew:
I really cant think of anything else to say.

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