Cover Image courtesy Surviving Confession Happy Sisyphus Productions, Island Bridge Productions. Still Photographer: Giny Thompson
Welcome back to our Featured Interview series where we converse with emerging talent from a variety of fields who are shaking things up in entertainment globally.
Our next interview is with British-American writer and director, Matthew Tibbenham. Currently based in London, where he is developing his next feature films with Island Bridge Productions and Silent D Films, Tibbenham has been making movies for almost a decade.
Following college and living overseas for a few years, he moved to New York City to actively pursue a career in film directing. There he worked on the Blumhouse horror film, SINISTER (dir. Scott Derrickson, starring Ethan Hawke) as the Director’s Assistant and Second Unit Director.
We first had the opportunity to talk with Matthew during his time in Los Angeles following the release of interactive comedy web series, THE WRONG GUYS FOR THE JOB. We were excited to catch up with Matthew again just before the release of his first feature film, SURVIVING CONFESSION, which is currently streaming on major digital platforms.
TYHB: Can you tell us more about what drives you as a director and writer?
MT: That’s a question I ask myself a lot! It’s not an easy life to pursue and to be honest, I’m always questioning myself and wonder whether I should have done absolutely anything else in my life!
But there’s something about making films that drives me and even when I get depressed and doubt myself, I keep making movies and keep writing, because there’s just nothing else like it in the world. When I complete a project and show people my work, there’s a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I don’t get from other pursuits.
And apart from the personal fulfillment … I want to change the world and leave some kind of legacy behind. I know these are lofty goals, but I want to make movies that change people and society. Most people say movies shouldn’t have a message, but to me, movies are the best way to communicate a message and view on life. They bypass people’s prejudices through entertainment and make people consider a viewpoint they might not have considered normally. The movies I strive to make are the ones where people leave the theater questioning their personal lives and the world around them.
TYHB: Speaking of which, you made a drama about a priest for your first feature. Why did you choose Surviving Confession for your first feature film project?
MT: (I chose to make Surviving Confession), (b)ecause the script was brilliant and the budget was right! The writer, Nathan Shane Miller, and I ha(d) been trying to get another horror and semi-fantastical movie made for the past few years, but no one in Hollywood wanted to take a chance on two no-names. So even though Surviving Confession wasn’t a ‘genre’ film, it still relates to why I make movies – to change people’s lives – and it was something he and I could do right (away).
TYHB: What advice would you offer a new filmmaker choosing their first project?
MT: I think it’s important for filmmakers not to wait for people to give them permission to make a movie. Do what you can with what you have and just make something. I’d still be waiting for someone to finance our first two bigger budget features if I didn’t make Surviving Confession.
One thing … that I would caution first time filmmakers about is: try to make something a little more commercial and figure out your audience beforehand. While I love Surviving Confession and most people I know who have seen it, love it, it (can be a) hard sell …
Plus with a small indie film, your marketing budget is going to be minimal so you need something with a built-in audience or viral marketing potential. There’s no built-in audience for Surviving Confession, because it’s not religious movie – (nor) quite an anti-religious movie either. It’s also not quite a comedy, but perhaps too funny for a … drama. If we had made a horror film (for example), we would have known right away whom to market it to and (might) have found a bigger audience.
TYHB: Yes, hindsight seems to be 20-20! But these challenges also seem to be part of the trade-off of independent film-making. Can you talk to us a little about the pressures of making your first feature?
MT: Absolutely! As the director, everyone either blames you for everything or praises you for everything. There’s so much more to it and the director only has so much control. People think that directors dictate every single thing on a set – and while it’s true that they get the most say creatively, it’s everyone else who is doing most of the hard work and should get praised for it.
Thankfully, a lot of people seem to like the movie and we’ve gotten some amazing reviews, but it does hurt when we get a negative one. Surviving Confession is something I’ve worked on for over five years and poured so much into it (that) when someone doesn’t get it or doesn’t even give it a chance, it really hurts.
And … indifference is (even) worse! It’s not a movie for everyone and I get that, but it’s really difficult to spread the word for an indie movie like this and we really rely on word of mouth marketing and doing interviews with publications like yours. So thank you. It means a lot.
TYHB: It’s a pleasure! So, what is up next for you?
MT: Working on tons right now:
I’m attached to direct a horror film with Island Bridge Productions … a comedy film with Silent D Films, (and I’m) finishing the final draft of a horror script the screenwriter of Surviving Confession, (Nathan Shane Miller) … that Silent D Films will also be producing.
In addition, I have another half a dozen scripts I’m developing including a low budget, sci-fi film I’m really excited about. So we’ll see… it’s just about having a lot of irons in the fire, as they say, and see which one happens next.
“Most people say movies shouldn’t have a message, but to me, movies are the best way to communicate a message and view on life. They bypass people’s prejudices through entertainment and make people consider a viewpoint they might not have considered normally.”Matthew Tibbenham, Tweetable
We want to thank, Matthew again for making time to talk with us!
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