INTERVIEW: 2016 Best Student Film winner MATTHEW C. VELLA
Made in the West Film Festival is now less than two months away! This week we chat to Matthew C. Vella, the multi-talented producer from Vellamatt Films who walked away with the 2016 Best Student Film Award for his fast-paced action flick, Bleeding Backs.
If you haven't yet entered your latest film in this year's Made in the West Film Festival, you still have one month left to get your entries in (though earlybird prices end this week!). We're looking forward to another stellar line-up of locally produced films and would love to add yours to the list. SUBMIT YOUR FILM before 3 November and join us on the red carpet!
Made in the West Film Festival: First of all, let us just say, congratulations on your fantastic short film, Bleeding Backs! What have you been working on since we saw you at last year's festival?
Matthew C. Vella: I've mostly been focusing on getting Bleeding Backs into the festival circuit. Currently, we've got screenings at festivals locked down in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and New York. Recently, I also teamed up with Still Searchin' Productions to shoot a project called Night Owls, which was a cool experience, plus I've co-founded the Western Sydney Filmmakers Hangout with 2016 Best In The West winner Rachael Belle Myers; we had such a blast networking at Made in the West last year and we wanted Western Sydney filmmakers to have the chance to do it more often!
MITWFF: You received a lot of praise for the action sequences you directed in Bleeding Backs. How did you turn your vision into reality?
MCV: Thankfully, I teamed up with an experienced fight choreographer, Samwise Holmes of Action Reaction Entertainment and my lead Franco Flammia had stunt and stage combat experience. I would make walk-through videos of the locations to figure out where the story beats would occur – where the characters start, where they stop to speak, who’s winning at any given point – and then take them to Sam. He worked with his assistant Nic to create the combat sequences, then everyone learned their moves on the day and changes were made based on safety, comfort and tone. My amazing DOP, Luke Walker, would do a camera rehearsal so he could match their movement, then when shooting started we’d capture a master and reverse master in a single handheld take and grab as many close up inserts as possible. The rest was all editing.
MITWFF: How does it feel to have your short film Bleeding Backs soon-to-be screened in Brisbane, Melbourne and New York?
MCV: Amazing! Nothing beats watching your film in a cinema with an audience seeing it for the first time. I hope to take it to as many states and countries as possible! Experiencing people’s reactions is an adrenaline rush I cannot describe; it’s incredibly rewarding.
MITWFF: The end of 2015 saw two stalwarts of Sydney's media landscape close - Metro Screen and Television Sydney. You've spoken before about how both were instrumental training grounds for you, so do you have any reflections coming up to the two year anniversary of their closure?
MCV: I don’t think people understand what crucial resources Metro Screen and TVS were for Western Sydney filmmakers; both were great places for me in terms of gaining experience and networking. When they closed it felt like we were under attack. I was so lucky to be involved with both which led me to where I am now. I’ve come so far since 2015, and many of the people I met there I still collaborate with now. This is why Made in the West is so incredibly important: we need to meet, network, support one another and stick together. I’m in debt to Made in the West for this reason.
MITWFF: What has been the best thing about winning the Best Student Film award at Made In The West 2016?
MCV: I’m so grateful for that award! Honestly, it feels like doors have started to open for me. People want to watch my film more, winning has put me on the radars of other industry representatives, and the best part is fans will bring it up as an icebreaker when we meet.
MITWFF: What is it like to see your project on the big screen?
MCV: I’ve been Made in the West’s biggest fan since 2013, when I entered my first ever film. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing so I kind of guessed my way through it. Looking back, I’m pretty sure no other festival would have been willing to have played a film that bonkers! Made in the West gave me a chance and that inspired me – I’ve never missed a festival since! Having your film screened is both rewarding and educational, because you’re at the mercy of the audience. They offer such honest feedback; you can hear and see what works and what doesn’t.
MITWFF: Which local filmmakers would you be keen to work with next?
MCV: Two filmmakers from out west I’ve been keeping my eye on are Michael Budd and Vonne Patiag. They are both very talented in their own ways and I every time I speak to one of them I feel like I’m becoming a better filmmaker just by standing near them! A lot of people have their eyes on Rah Sharma too, after The Briefcase screened last year, and I’m certainly one of them as well. I’ve also had a chat with 2016 Audience Choice Award winner Scott Sowter about possibly teaming up as well.
MITWFF: What advice do you have for other Western Sydney filmmakers?
MCV: Meet. Network. Collaborate. The Western Sydney Filmmaker’s community is growing: if you want to be a part of it, attend Made in the West and come along to a Western Sydney Filmmakers Hangout event. But most importantly don’t just make films, release films and screen your work!
MITWFF: What is your favourite memory from Made in the West 2016?
MCV: I really enjoyed networking with so many talented people, but if I’m being honest there is a twist in my film and when it screened there was an audible gasp from the audience. That’s how I knew I was successful in making the film I set out to do. I made an impact and it felt great.
MITWFF: What are you looking forward to at this year’s Made in the West Film Festival?
MCV: I’m looking forward to having some drinks and meeting some new filmmakers! The SSP team are great at creating a fun and welcoming atmosphere, which helps motivate me to keep making films. It’s a strong reminder of why I do this and I really cherish it. Made in the West has always been one of my favourite nights of the year.
MITWFF: What’s the best way for people to connect with you?
Awesome! Thanks for chatting with us Matthew. We can't wait to see you on the red carpet on Saturday 25th November!
Entries are now open for Made in the West Film Festival 2017. If you've made a short film featuring cast, crew or locations from Western Sydney, you might be in the running to WIN this year's Best Student Film award! Check out the ENTRY CRITERIA and SUBMIT YOUR FILM now!
Made in the West Film Festival returns to the Paddington RSL (upstairs) on 25 November 2017.