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Matthew D’Amato: “Listen without judgment to their experiences”

Along the same vein, isolation has brought people closer than expected, in different ways. All it takes is a quick scroll through social media to see the clever means of connecting at a distance people have come up with. There were the lighthearted examples of playing tic-tac-toe on retirement home windows with markers, but also […]


Along the same vein, isolation has brought people closer than expected, in different ways. All it takes is a quick scroll through social media to see the clever means of connecting at a distance people have come up with. There were the lighthearted examples of playing tic-tac-toe on retirement home windows with markers, but also signs given to elderly neighbors they could flash through their windows if they needed help. People are inventive and caring in times of crisis.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew D’Amato Co-Founder/Executive Producer, Valiant Pictures.

Matthew D’Amato is a Founding Partner and Executive Producer at Valiant Pictures, fusing over a decade of production experience and a passion for empowering new voices to craft memorable stories that connect and inspire. His award-winning projects have screened at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the DGA, NBC Universal, The New York Times, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and at leading film festivals around the world including SXSW and Tribeca. His top-tier commercial clients include Pepsi, Little Caesars, Mountain Dew, Spectrum, Labatt Blue, Google, and Gatorade, among many others.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I was born and raised in Brooklyn and educated in fine arts from an early age, as I was extremely interested in the moving image in all its forms. I studied at New York City’s LaGuardia High School and School of Visual Arts, hosting my first gallery exhibition at the age of 17. After studying traditional arts and hand-drawn animation, I started to explore 3D and digital media, ultimately earning a degree in film. I landed my first industry job with production company Smuggler in New York.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay resonated with me because it dealt with the search for self, the need for escapism, and the importance of art in dealing with human identity and emotions. With my background in traditional art and love for animation and film, it proved that art can be powerfully uplifting, educational, and transformative, no matter the medium.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective, can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I’m hopeful that people will celebrate the creature comforts they’ve taken for granted — on the large scale, that means everything from their community services to the environment at large. I can’t wait to go back to strolling through parks, seeing shows and movies, and just being outside for long stretches of time. We took privileges like these to be rights, I think, and I think we’ll return to these pastimes with a lot more gratitude as a society.

Even working in a creative industry normally, I’m finding hope in the creativity I’ve seen people express when they have more time to their own devices. And in that respect, I think it’s encouraging to see people return to a stronger work-life balance imposed by isolation. Hopefully, that trend will remain when we return to the new normal.

Along the same vein, isolation has brought people closer than expected, in different ways. All it takes is a quick scroll through social media to see the clever means of connecting at a distance people have come up with. There were the lighthearted examples of playing tic-tac-toe on retirement home windows with markers, but also signs given to elderly neighbors they could flash through their windows if they needed help. People are inventive and caring in times of crisis.

Then in those early days, we saw the environment respond. Los Angeles saw its cleanest springtime air in years, and NYC’s pollution levels dropped by half, outlets reported. Not to mention the countless videos of animals roaming the streets during stay-at-home orders. It might harken to a dark period of time, but it’s still encouraging in a way to see deer wandering city streets and a wild boar strolling down the Cannes Croisette. It shows Mother Nature springs back quickly.

I think the crisis made us realize we’ve been treating workers deemed ‘essential’ very poorly in the past, as a whole. I do my part to stay courteous, but healthcare workers, grocery store clerks, sanitation workers and more have all kept our civilization running smoothly and have flown under the radar of proper appreciation for far too long. There are unfortunately still some bad-apple customers that lack respect, but for the most part, visible celebration of these workers has increased dramatically.

From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  1. Listen without judgment to their experiences. Don’t minimize or dismiss their experience, as this will create more distance between the two of you.
  2. Encourage the person to get enough sleep, be physically active, and eat healthy food.
  3. Discourage the use of alcohol and/or drugs as a way to manage anxiety symptoms.
  4. Provide support and encouragement (not pressure) to stay connected with friends and family members.
  5. Talk openly about what is happening. Feeling ashamed is often what prevents people from seeking professional help and support. It may also cause some people to deny that they are struggling or experiencing anxiety altogether.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

Do a guided meditation that makes you laugh! Research shows that laughter has lots of benefits for our mental health and well-being. Also, more than 500 museums and galleries around the world have partnered with Google Arts & Culture to display their collections online as virtual tours.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” I’ve always been inspired by people who don’t wait for someone else to make their dream a reality. Building Valiant Pictures from the ground up with my partner Vincent Lin came from years of hard work, dedication, and self-sacrifice. We knew we couldn’t wait around and rely on others to bring our ideas and concepts from our dreams into the world around us.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Something that’s important to me is supporting your local community, especially those independently-owned businesses. Buying gift certificates, merchandise, and other goods from the bars and restaurants you love can help those in the hospitality industry. I’ve been ordering pick-up from my favorite restaurants and purchasing pre-made cocktails at my local bars. Once you have your food and drink ready, start up your virtual happy hour and check in on your friends!

What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?

Our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter handles are all @valiantpictures. You can also visit our website: http://valiantpictures.com/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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