Interviewed by Barry John Terblanche
Assassin League tells the story of a society has lost trust in government agencies like the C.I.A, Foreign Intelligence, Special Ops, etc. This has given rise to legalizing private assassin companies to get the job done.
Cult Critic – You are the screenwriter to Assassin League. Story-wise, this could not be too far from a future reality… how did the story come to mind.
Matt – Indeed, we are arriving at a future where technology companies could step in to do many things that the government and institutions used to do. Assassin League is a privatized company that can legally handle the world’s problems through various means including hired assassins. I first thought of how I could create an action thriller concept where we could film guns and maybe even swords. The idea of assassins popped into my head and then the concept of a technology company. Originally, the idea was that anyone could order an assassination with an app just like ordering a Lyft. A lot of people liked that idea and I think that could make a fun movie in and of itself. Ultimately, I found the idea of micro-entrepreneurship more interesting and a character going on an adventure by signing up to become an assassin with an app just like becoming an Uber driver. It also explores the lack of employment opportunities for the main character where he has no choice but to work for a company that turns him into an assassin.
Cult Critic – Would you say Assassin League could be a “blueprint” to such a reality?
Matt – I hope not *laughs. Having Assassin League grounded in some realism allowed the stakes of the film to feel real. It’s interesting to think if this type of work could be legalized for companies rather than state run institutions. I wanted to create a universe where I could deliver action and, most importantly, avoid clichés. What’s happening in reality are that companies, especially tech companies, are changing how the world operates more than any other force. Looks what has happened to taxis, delivery, lodging and now even medicine will be delivered by drones.
Cult Critic – The films premise, plot, and story are unique. It’s a very compact 15-minute film… do you see it as a proof of concept to a feature film. Say, in the lines of something like Mission impossible.
Matt – Yes, I planned on executing a proof of concept in order to later make a feature. I knew that this short film would be different than other short films especially within the film festival circuit. The goal was to set up a universe that people want to go back to. What I love about the Mission Impossible franchise is the simple formula but complicated plot. The audience can count on a story with a difficult mission to carry out as a plot twist at the end. My film also has a twist and if you look carefully, it’s foreshadowed very early on.
Matt – Oh yeah. Omari and I have done several music videos together. Some have even gone on MTV and VH1. He’s great to work with and he has an eye that catches things that I miss. It’s remarkable where he positions the camera.
Cult Critic – Were there any production challenges and or BTS you’d like to share?
Matt – Yes, I originally wrote a scene where it was supposed to rain. Making it rain in film is one of the hardest aspects of production to pull off. I thought that a team of people with water sprayers could provide that illusion, but it didn’t work, and I revised the production.
Cult Critic – As a screenwriter and filmmaker, director. Do you only write what you intend to film?
Matt – For this film I did. I’ve come up with other stories where I’m more free to explore stories that I have no idea how to get onto screen. I needed a concept to pitch to a group of friends, crew and actors that had to be accomplishable. A lot of it for this film was really a stretch. I thought that I’d have to build most of the sets from scratch. I think it’s very cool to write what you know you can film. The limitations can have a way of boosting creativity and add a focus on performances.
Cult Critic – In writing the script you knew you’d be directing, filming it. Was there any vast difference between the script – production script – completed film. If so, any particular scene/s and why?
Matt – The script was pretty consistent throughout filming. But since you asked, there was one scene at the end just when the twist happens. There was meant to be some dialogue among a group of characters. In the completed film, this dialogue inaudible. I did not plan on doing this and I was struck by an idea based on a fantastic piece of opera music. It’s this moment that builds and builds with this music and has this amazing moment at the climax of the music. It’s possibly my favorite scene and was not in the script at all. A eureka moment in the editing room while trying out different ways to make the scene work.
Cult Critic – What is your favorite genre to film, and why?
Matt – Any genre as long as there’s a vision. That said, my favorite scenes to film revolve around characters with chemistry. Watching actors embody their characters and do takes reminds me that it’s almost the same process with music. Getting the right vocal take or drum take is a process but it’s enjoyable to hear all the variations until you spot the perfect one.
Cult Critic – What came first for you, filmmaking or screenwriting. And what inspired you to become the latter?
Matt – Being a producer came first. Lot of my background was from making music videos happen. I wanted to be a director because I love motion pictures and I knew that I could get it done.
Cult Critic – Screenwriting is a visual medium. As both a screenwriter and director what advice can you offer aspiring screenwriters.
Matt – Scripts may be many pages but it’s not like writing a dissertation or an essay for school. In that way once you begin, it’s really easy for the words to flow. There’s something called the Zeigarnik effect that I use as a tool. It’s basically the idea that if you start a task even a little, you’re more likely to finish it compared to if you never started it at all. Even if you just write one page of a script or just put done a temporary title and your name, you’re more likely to finish it.
Cult Critic – How did you come about being a filmmaker, director. And what advice can you give aspiring filmmakers, directors?
Matt – I came about being a director by having a story to film and calling upon a group of friends to help make that vision a reality. My advice is to have perseverance. Make good moves and have a plan. What types of films do you want to make? Are you interested in the festival circuit or selling your films via any type of distribution you can get? Try to do everything you can do and what you can’t do, find the right people. Have momentum with your project and don’t lose it. This is important for getting the team excited for each step along the way. Reward your team by exciting them with cool updates on the project. Be the hardest working person and people will see that.
Cult Critic – What’s next for you… anything you are currently working on?
Matt – Assassin League will return!