June 6, 2014

Miramax loves Medal of Victory!

I'm breaking this sad, blog-fatigue-induced radio silence to throw up a link to something super neato: Miramax's Emerging Filmmakers blog, which now features a huge article and behind-the-scenes video about MEDAL OF VICTORY.

Right Here!

I spent about 8 weeks in Madison (plus a few months of soft prep over the phone with the Director, Josh Moïse) working on this film as the Production Designer.

Production involved many, many filmmaking challenges that I'd never had the opportunity to achieve before, while the script and the team have been fun as hell, and an honor to work with. I can't wait to see the thing when it's done.

December 4, 2013

New Work: "Until The Real Thing Comes Along"

Below is a short film I made for no particular reason, and it's about 5 minutes long. I'd suggest wearing headphones.

At one point it was going to be submitted to one of those "make a short film, and use these weird constraints" contests, but in the end I didn't want to rush it through an arbitrary deadline. If nothing else, this is a good example of what happens when I try to write a love story. It also continues my ongoing obsession with The Ink Spots.


I hope you enjoy it. 

If you do, feel free to say so on twitter, facebook, or wherever. I'd be very grateful. If you don't enjoy it, well, shush.

August 20, 2013

R.I.P. Elmore Leonard.

Elmore Leonard was a champion of genre writing, a champion of Detroit, and a paragon of the artist-as-workhorse. I was a student at a tiny film program in Detroit when I met him in 2001, and he shared some incredibly wise words about writing, work habits, creativity, and the film industry in general.

I haven't even read the majority of his books, but I think about him all the time when I wrestle with my own creative problems. Rest in Peace, sir.

August 5, 2013

VC Dreams of Movie Theatres with Lights, Wi-Fi, and Outlets...

 ...and I dream of a place where this guy can go fuck himself.

Currently after seed funding/angel investors.

June 22, 2013

matthylanddesign.com has been unleashed!

Without further ado, behold the new home of my Production Design related ventures:


"oneonetwothree.net" was intended to be the clearing house for all my endeavors... but designing an uncluttered, professional space for any number of assorted things (much less niches within those things) has proven to be a bit unwieldy, and keeping the site (much less this blog) updated was taking too much time and energy. Production Design is the thing I do most these days, and thus it's been granted its own domain.


I set up a relatively simple portfolio site over at Square Space, which has been awesome thus far. I may eventually migrate my whole operation to them, but I'll cross that bridge when it's time to direct my first feature.

June 5, 2013

2013 In Progress.

Finally wrapped principle photography for OPEN TABLES, a film I've been Producing and Production Designing since last December.

It was something that Jack C. Newell (Director), Stephanie Dufford (Director of Photography) and myself have been scheduling in small chunks for the better part of 6 months. The script is heavily improv-oriented, told in chapters, and particularly suited to modular production. Jack and I talked extensively about how to maximize our meager resources, without costing the film integrity or production value, and I think we managed to adapt to (what proved to be) an interesting production model.

At times we were as minimal as a documentary crew, and other times had grown to a full 15+ crew with as many (or more) cast. We had many of the limitations you'd expect from an indie production. Still, the ability to scale our crew size and resources according to the day itself, rather than planning for a behemoth 20+ day marathon shoot, was ultimately liberating. If not for our flexibility, the film could still be in development or looking for financing. It feels good to have 95% of it in the can.


I should have screen shots and more info soon. Also, there's an additional chunk of dates that I'll have to monitor from a distance, as they involve filming in Paris.

Needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to seeing this one at picture lock.

March 25, 2013

Spring Breakers.

I really, really don't want to see SPRING BREAKERS. I know I'm going to, because there's nothing more boorish than a critic who hasn't bothered to see the thing they're criticizing. Still...

Get a drink or two in me and I'll spend a few minutes talking about why Harmony Korine is a childish hack. Yet in the cold light of day it all boils down to: I'm just not interested in his films. He makes garbage on purpose, and as artistic and fascinating as that may to some, I just don't like garbage.

Shlock? Sure, I'm there. Camp? Golden. But deliberately making bad shit, just because it's weird and provocative? No thanks.

An article in SLATE today claims the film is racist. From my armchair I doubt that's an accurate judgement of Korine himself, but I can say he's irresponsible enough to make lazy, uninformed choices in his quest for "hyper-reality" without stopping to consider whether he's made something truly abhorrent. This quote touches on the kind of thing that sent up red flags for me after watching the trailer: 
Brit and Candy don quasi-blackface thanks to a blacklight. Korine shoots the scene as if it were a video game with zero consequence: As Brit and Candy dodge in slow motion around the compound of Alien’s nemesis Archie (played by rapper Gucci Mane), toting guns to seek revenge for an earlier incident, the black characters fall instantly and with little fanfare. The bikini-wearing duo emerges unscathed.
After a brief threatening exchange with Alien, who is uncharacteristically scared—proving he’s still not as “hard” as his black former ally—Archie drives off as the woman shoots at their car and hits Cotty in the arm. If only for a moment, the violence is utterly palpable and unfiltered by fantastical camera tricks. Later we watch Alien remove the bullet from her arm as she cries.
In this way, Spring Breakers is a mirror image of Django Unchained, in which the deaths of white slave holders in the Old South are treated with frivolity, while the deaths of their slaves are brutal and difficult to watch. Of course, the whole point of that movie is that slave owners deserved to die. What is the point of Spring Breakers?
I’m still not sure.
All provocation, and with nothing to show for it once it has your attention. Sounds about right to me.

March 23, 2013

Production Design Updates.

One of the less glamorous parts of working as a Production Designer is that you have to wait a long, long time to see the fruits of your labor. I'm only just now getting clips from films that I worked on over two years ago, for example. In an effort to stay a bit more organized, I've uploaded a few scenes from both MUNGER ROAD (2011) and LIGHT YEARS (TBR, but completed in 2012).

Hopefully soon I'll have some more design-oriented clips from LIGHT YEARS, as well as footage from the film I worked on over the summer in Los Angeles, called MEDEAS.


Production Design - Munger Road
from Matt Hyland on Vimeo.

[I've redacted the Light Years clip for the time being, apologies!]
Production Design - Light Years
from Matt Hyland on Vimeo.



January 26, 2013

2012.

The thing is, I'm not a film critic or scholar (thank god), so I'm not especially concerned if my List fails to mirror that of The Academy's or your favorite backseat driver. Still, as a filmmaker I think there's merit in adding to the discussion. These films are made by people I want to work with, in contexts that I want to explore, and represent thresholds I'll spend my life trying to reach (or, in my arrogance and folly, attempt to exceed).

Favorites of 2012:
1.  The Master
2.  Holy Motors
3.  Amour
4.  Django Unchained
5.  Beyond The Black Rainbow
6.  Samsara
7.  Killing Them Softly
8.  Searching For Sugarman
9.  Lincoln
10.  The Imposter
11.  Moonrise Kingdom
12.  Headhunters
13.  Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
14.  Alps
15.  Cabin In The Woods
16.  Looper
17.  Ruby Sparks 
18.  Chasing Ice 
19.  Zero Dark Thirty 
20.  The Raid: Redemption
Thinking back, I think this was a great year for film. A number of masters operating at their best, a few great surprises, and a dose of glorious (and in retrospect, predictable) disappointments.

I'll step on my soapbox for a moment to mention that this year finds a number of critics and fans collectively losing their mind over a handful of fairly average films. I suppose there's always a hoopla made over the young, the flashy, and the pretentious, but I think this year it's especially cacophonous. Maybe I just don't understand this industry's obsession with elevating precocious youngsters, any more than I do its need to venerate aging train-wrecks (I'm talking about Directors here, of course).

I had to amend my 2011 list extensively after I posted it, so as a caveat, here are films I haven't seen yet, but probably should:
*Elena
*Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
*Queen of Versailles
*Wuthering Heights
*Life of Pi 
*It's Such A Beautiful Day
*Rust & Bone
*West Of Memphis
*Quartet
*The Central Park Five
*V/H/S
*Turin Horse
*Oslo, August 31
*This is Not A Film
*The Intouchables
*Magic Mike 
*The Loneliest Planet 

See you next year, List. 

December 6, 2012

More Flower Beds, Fewer Strip Mines.

Designed as short-term relief for ailing local economies, and now the standard operating procedure for huge swaths of the industry, Film Production Subsidies have become a burden.

They are a superficial solution to the brain-melting problem of stability and profitability in a post-internet world. They provide no incentive for a studio to make a better film, they don't empower the industry with tools to survive the internet age, and they hamstring non-Hollywood oriented production from gaining a foothold in an ever changing marketplace. Studios are beholden to no one when the decision to chase better incentives presents itself, and that makes for an unhealthy balance of priorities for our industry. Oh, also, subsidies don't work.

The argument centers around the infrastructure these subsidies help create, which can be an essential resource for future non-Studio productions. But what comes bundled with that infrastructure, and that shiny new production of The Dark Knight? You certainly don't get to shoot the sequel in your city next year (sorry, better incentives in Pittsburgh), but you can keep the draconian copyright law, Union busting, and three-strikes internet policies that your tax relief helped buy.

Also, for good measure, your taxpayers can keep weathering an ever-increasing portion of the risk associated with production in order to keep the handful of TV or small-scale films still present. If those shows get canceled, or fail to turn a profit, well, much of that risk is yours to weather as well. You then have the same specialized, unemployed workforce you had before it all started, only with fewer tools to innovate a localized solution. Everyone remains dependent on whether the Circus comes to town.

Just look at the sorts of things demanded of the New Zealand government in order to keep production of The Hobbit on their own soil. To keep their studio happy after the huge success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Zealand changed the nature of their entertainment and copyright law, not to mention preemptively limiting Union bargaining powers in the process. All this in exchange for the carrot-on-a-stick promise of a few hundred industry jobs, and with any luck, an increase in tourism.

As Karaganis states in his article:
"The worst part is that, for most of the wannabe Hollywoods, it’s bad economic policy on every level. The productions bring in mostly low-end, temporary jobs, while the high-end jobs remain in Hollywood or New York."
Extrapolate that to Chicago (as above), New Orleans, Charleston, Albuquerque, or whatever city comes next. Hell, look at Detroit, which has unfortunately fallen for this ruse before at the hands of the then-powerful, now-ailing Auto Industry.

It takes more than infrastructure to get a film off the ground, after all. Studios have power because they have money, and the means to create something from nothing (which comes with risk, and the urge to minimize that risk by any means possible). When studios leave a given city, exactly how much of that content-creating power remains for the local economy? The claim is that future, non-studio films will grow from this now-fertile soil. Though having grown up in the Detroit area, I've seen this claim before. My local government only managed to keep the Auto industry happy in Detroit (temporarily) by selling out Unions, neighborhoods, and tax-payers in turn.The Auto industry left anyway.

Toothless, industry-wide subsidies don't lead to flower gardens, they lead to strip mines. I can tell you how this ends: the industry bleeds the village dry, and moves on.

Luckily, there is reason to believe that the subsidy-craze has peaked, but where things go next is difficult to glean. Unless we think our industry will succeed where the Auto and Music industries failed, Studios must ween themselves off subsidies sooner than later by adopting a better model. I'd like to believe that somewhere out there is a healthy model, with a unilateral interest in workers, content creators, consumers, and distributors alike, rather than another short term bait-and-switch.

October 30, 2012

Verified.

I don't know what it means precisely, but this website is now verified at Pinterest. I get a fancy checkmark next to my profile information!


Awkward segway: I currently have 505 followers on Pinterest, which is nearly triple the number I have on Twitter (and I'd say the vast majority of those are marketing bots). What gives?

Am I that bad at Twitter that I can't muster over 100 flesh-and-blood followers? Or is my Pinterest-fu simply superior to the average midwestern housewife, who comprises the bulk of Pinterst users?

Neither? Ok, fine. Just asking.
 ::walks away whistling::

October 21, 2012

New Work Soon.

It's been awhile since I put on my Director hat. Barring any cataclysmic force of nature, tonight will be Day 1 of 3 on a short film I wrote recently. I had intended the whole thing to be submitted for a film contest, but scheduling and logistics may make the deadline impossible to hit.

Still, I figure it's better to make a film than not make a film, right?

Tonight is a scene in an upscale restaurant. More to come soon.

September 3, 2012

It Seems I Had No Choice.

Much hay was made over Sight & Sound's most recent "Greatest Films Of All Time" list, as I'm sure happens every 10 years when critics are asked to consider their favorites. Something great to come of all that hubbub is this collection of 1-star reviews for each of the films in their top 10. My favorite line from the Citizen Kane review:
"Never have I left a comment on movies before, but after watching this movie it seems I had no choice."
I'm not sure if he watched the same Citizen Kane that I did, but his copy was apparently so bad that he had no choice but to leave negative feedback. A gem from the Vertigo review:
"This movie goes on forever and never stops ever until it ends."
 That is almost profound. Almost.

August 31, 2012

And The Award Goes To...?

For whatever reason, very few people outside the industry (and shamefully, plenty within it) understand that films need art departments. Not just overblown Tim Burton monstrosities, but all films.

In my short career, there have been few things more frustrating than explaining to a Producer that a Lead Man is an actual, professional job title, much less that the film we're working on together requires one. To be fair: art departments are historically esoteric. They didn't exist in their fullest glory until well after the birth of cinema (after Gone With The Wind, as the story goes), and their shape and size can fluctuate wildly between any given film.

As an example: at the Academy Awards, exceptional Production Designers are awarded Oscars for Art Direction, despite Art Director being a completely different job (although they often share the award). It sounds like a simple thing, but things like that snowball into a general lack of understanding about who does what, when, and why it's important.

Fortunately, that one small issue is about to change. In revising rules that govern eligibility for "Best Song," the Academy also revised it's award aimed at the art department. According to the press release:
Upon the recommendation from the Designers Branch (formerly the Art Directors Branch), the Art Direction award will be known as the Production Design award.
It's an incredibly simple change, but it's one that I already relish.

As a PD, the very beginning to the very end of a film is a struggle for creative influence. You show up to work each day over-worked and covered in paint, carrying boxes of seemingly random crap (tape, glue, paper bags full of distressed junk, etc.), and when shit hits the fan you somehow expect to be taken as seriously as a Cinematographer whose gearset requires a million dollar insurance policy. The Cinematographer comes across like a scientist on safari, with an array of battle-hardened minions, and you look like a Kindergarten teacher.

You fight against an improperly proportioned budget, a punishing schedule, sometimes open hostility towards the finer details of your artistic goals, and an overall misunderstanding about the defining characteristics of your department. It's even worse when inexperienced Producers or Directors hire PD's so close to production that your capacity for creative input is hamstrung by ever mounting logistical concerns.

Hell, I think it's appallingly obvious and disappointing when Directors (even supposedly great ones) fail to incorporate a skilled art department... but admittedly I'm biased. So while this change from the Academy isn't much in practice, I hope the new nomenclature signals a greater awareness of the department as a whole. Films will be made better if filmmakers know what Art Departments can and should provide. There are plenty of PD's out there who can't wait for the chance to prove it.

August 17, 2012

The Master, and 70mm.

Last night I had the chance to see Paul Thomas Anderson's newest, THE MASTER, several months ahead of it's scheduled release. It was presented by The Music Box in Chicago from a 70mm film print, all as a charitable benefit for The Film Foundation.


First, the print: It was beyond gorgeous. I've not seen anything like it before, and that saddens me, because it made me want to see everything in 70mm. Unlike IMAX, 3D, and possibly even the new 48 FPS technology (all of which are turning film exhibition into a bit of an arms race), this "enhancement" over standard 35mm or digital projection was subtle enough to help the visual language of the story without reading like a gimmick. It added clarity, texture, and detail to every composition, and this film warranted the added scrutiny.

It's really a damn shame that the Music Box is one of the few places in the country capable of showing this film, or any film for that matter, in 70mm. In the short term, there's potential for a followup screening this coming winter in Chicago, but I don't know where the issue goes from here. I typically embrace a forward-facing, march-of-progress kind of attitude about film as a medium, but I have to admit this screening converted me. Color me a preservationist, after all. I've just never seen something digital, not even in a 4k color correction suite, match what I saw in that theatre. Not by a long shot.


Second, the film: It was really quite special, and I loved it. There, I'm glad I got that out of the way.

But really: THE MASTER is a hugely ambitious, emotional inquisition. Anderson's choice to use a post-war America (coupled with a quasi-Scientology-based religion) as a backdrop is incredibly effective. I loved the questions it raised (motherhood, authority, self control, religion, sexuality....lots of heady subjects), and I loved that for every scene spent revealing something new about the characters, it managed to raise even more questions about who they are and where they were going. It felt larger-than-life, but in a way that was very true to life.


I suspect audiences will be turned off by a number of things, not the least of which is the episodic nature of the plot. It's more of a journey through time, as opposed to the more traditional, Joseph Campbell-style "hero's quest." I can't see how the film would work any other way, though. As strange as it sounds: I wouldn't trade the confusion I felt at the end of this film for anything.


Also, the characters are exceptionally intense, for lack of a better word, in a manner that should be familiar to anyone that's already seen THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Having said that, the film is also hilarious. While these characters do feel like real people, they yell, lie, scheme, and make mistakes at a rapid clip.

There's a pervading sense of violence and animalistic sexuality that travels wherever Freddie Sutton (Joaquin Phoenix) goes, and watching Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) try to understand and contain him is just utterly fascinating.


Finally,  I don't think the impact of this film will be encapsulated by a Rotten Tomatoe's score, a weekend box office draw, or a batch of Academy nominations. There's something timeless and powerful at work in THE MASTER, and while it doesn't have a signature "I Drink Your Milkshake!" scene, I think it'll manage to get under a lot of our skins in the long run.

I hope it does, anyway. It certainly got under mine.


August 12, 2012

Notable Quotables.

Charlie Kaufman:
‘That’s two hours I’ll never get back,’ is a favorite thing for an angry person to say about a movie he hates. But the thing is, every two hours are two hours he’ll never get back. You cannot hoard your two hours.

Found Object: "This Is My Home"

Real life is stranger than fiction, and I loved this little movie.

This Is My Home from Mark on Vimeo.

August 8, 2012

Home.

I'm back in Chicago after 9 weeks in LA for Medeas.

I ate amazing food, contracted a poisonous rash from a rare plant, and found a tarantula in my bag, among other things. Early indicators are indicating that the movie will become something brilliant. I loved every member of the cast, I met some amazingly talented LA movie folks, and finally got to see the friends of mine who were smart enough to move out there years ago.

For now I just want to sleep in my bed. Is there anything better in the world? One's own bed. It's the best place on earth, sometimes.

July 4, 2012

Medeas: Day Zero

Today is the last day of prep for Medeas. I've been working about four weeks so far (easily the longest prep time I've ever enjoyed on a movie), and I'm on the precipice of a four week shoot.

Call time is a brisk 4:30am on July 5th, and the location is 45 minutes away. It's true: I'm jealous of my friends back in Pilsen (the best neighborhood in the world), celebrating the Fourth of July like normal Americans with food, beer, and explosions. Meanwhile I have a cold and a mountain of paperwork to finish before I can go to sleep. Though to be fair, I'm in LA (the weather here really is incredible), working on a film I love dearly, and awaiting tomorrow like a toddler on Christmas eve.

Thusly, the adventure continues. See you in August, world.

June 2, 2012

MEDEAS.

I've been quiet around here, but for a good reason. Besides chipping away at some feature script ideas, I've been locked in as Production Designer on an upcoming film called "Medeas." It's shooting about 3 weeks from now in the LA area.

This will mark my first time ever in LA, so it's pretty exciting that I get to show up with a job instead of a beggar's bowl. The shoot runs a few weeks longer than the average indie (I'll be out there for about two months, much to the chagrin of my cat and house plants). I'll be posting photos and anecdotes as often as possible, though Producers tend to be fairly protective of creative content before a movie is released so they're sure to be free of spoiler-ish details.

The project will be directed by Andrea Pallaoro, a very nice Italian dude, who's been making me watch all sorts of movies during our research that I'd normally never watch. I also get to reunite with Caity Birmingham, who designed the film I worked on earlier this year for Stephen Cone (Black Box).

More soon.