What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Ready 4 Whatever?
MATTHEW: I worked with a production company called Resource Base and did odd things from radio documentaries for the BBC to science based film projects, such as the Color Coded Film Project that we did for the Wellcome Trust. Meanwhile I was working on my own scripts because I really just wanted to make films
What was the inspiration for making this short?
MATTHEW: What I wanted to do was start with stories I'm familiar with. I have a criminal background, which, luckily enough, people find entertaining. So I just wanted to take advantage of being able to draw on real experiences while making a connection with my core, target audience.
Then as I gradually step away from drawing exclusively on personal experiences and begin to write more grandiose scripts to make bigger films, like a Lord Of The Rings for instance, then I figure I'll be able to grow that core audience and take them on a journey.
People like Jay-Z and 50 Cent inspire me. How they went from Reasonable Doubt and How To Rob, taking their fans on the journey to where they are today. That's my inspiration mainly for making Ready 4 Whatever. I want people to be able to look back and see how I went from one stage to the next and I want to inspire someone the way the people I looked up to inspired me.
What was your writing process like?
MATTHEW: I had a conversation with my producer and he was like, “Just write a short script with a max of two locations.” I find it very difficult to be succinct, so it took me a while to figure how I was gonna pull that off.
So I spent a lot of time just thinking to begin with. Going for walks and playing music loud until my subconscious pushed something forward that I could work with. Once I had the idea, I just mapped it out and kept mapping it out until my fingers began to write dialogue and basically the story wrote itself after the dialogue hit the page.
How did you go about casting the movie?
MATTHEW: Nicola Duke and Ivan, my producers, were the machine behind making that whole process work. I wrote out the character descriptions and they put the word out through different casting websites and from the responses Nicola emailed me the time slots that she assigned to each auditioner.
I put the word out using my phone -- I did a Blackberry broadcast and Nicola's email address info for people to get their time slots. I had a bit of trouble casting the main character, so that guy who plays the main character is actually my little cousin. He nailed it for me. We almost lost him, literally, because he got stabbed a week before the shoot. He had two major operations and we literally picked him up from the hospital and brought him straight to the shoot. The guy is a soldier.
What camera(s) did you use and what did you love and hate about it?
MATTHEW: To be honest with you, I don’t have any idea about all that technical stuff. What I did was look in the viewfinder and say, "yup, looks good." I worked with the actors; I referred to my storyboard and wherever the storyboard conflicted with the layout of the actual location I visualized how I wanted it shot, then I talked with the camera operators. Gave it a few dummy runs then shot it. I just kept my eye on the viewfinder and just tried concentrate on what the audience would be seeing as opposed to concentrating on what camera was being used.
What was the process for getting the movie in Cannes and what was your reaction when you learned you got in??
MATTHEW: Again, I gotta thank Ivan for that and when I found out I was going to Cannes, I quietly gave myself a pat on the back because I really didn't know if I was going to be able to even see the film at all, never mind going to Cannes.
I just really appreciate being able to live. I can’t explain how it feels. The way my case looked, I really didn’t know if I was gonna be free or in jail on a 10 year sentence. So to be going to Cannes after 16 months of being on bail facing that kind of time, and going with a film I wrote and directed ... there isn't words for that when you think of the worst case scenario.
What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?
MATTHEW: The smartest thing I did was to have a back up for the exterior location. I went to someone I knew for years to ask if we could shoot the exterior. They signed the release form and everything, but then after we shot the interior scenes that morning, I get a call that the exterior pulled out, just as we were loading up to make our way there. So we had a mini crisis. The crew came from all over the country to be apart of the shoot and they would have had to go home right after that first morning.
The dumbest thing ... I was on bail facing crazy time. I wanted to get as much living done in case the worst happened, so any girl that was on location that I liked the look of I was huggin’ up on all of them, smooth talking and acting a damn fool when I was supposed to be 110% focused on directing the damn film. I would be showing off.
Looking back, I was just stupid but I could also understand why. The only thing I can say about that is that you will see the difference between this project and my next project.
Going back to looking at my inspirations, 50 Cent and Jay, I want to be the first to admit that R4W has a mixtape quality. My next project, which I've written already, will have an album quality. It's going to be a LOT more cinematic. The difference is going to be night and day, I promise!
What do you hope audiences will take away from the movie?
MATTHEW: I want audience to take two things away from R4W. Actually one thing, because the circumstances the film was made under with the stabbing and the drugs charge, and the story the film itself tells are basically the same thing. It all blends together to tell a story of a really grimy existence, where people can end up on drugs charges, where you can get stabbed, shot, have misunderstandings that can have you life, safety and freedom hanging in the balance.
So for those who are surrounded by that, if you can get out of that, get out of it. It sounds funny that I keep mentioning Jay and 50, but Jay had that incident where he came very close to never being heard of when the police pulled him over and he had drugs in his car. 50 was almost never heard of when he was shot 9 times. These two guys when on to do great things in their careers and they inspired me.
I know how much that little bit of inspiration meant to me and I want to be that inspiration for someone also. Leave the bulls**t behind and let’s take it to a new level.
What's next for you?
MATTHEW: My next project, I've written the script already. It's going to be a 50-minute piece. It has another 2pac song as its title, Picture me Rollin’. All I can say about that project I'm going to be making a Guinness world record attempt. I can't say what record just yet, but the wheels are in motion on that already. I'm gonna star in it too.
I also have the script for my feature film written already… and that also has a 2pac song as its title but I wont say what that is yet.
I’m not going to rush into my next script, but the new script is where I'm going to begin to break away from stories that come directly from my own experiences or from the experiences of people I know. It's going to be a big one. I want it so that if I don’t have to get hauled off an ICU after it's finished, then I know I didn't work hard enough making it the best project I can make, and that applies to Picture me Rollin’ as well. Hard in the paint until it kills me. 100mph.