Matthew Goodhue of Research Films: “Good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone”

Good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. There’s a balance between following your vision and instincts and being plain stubborn. You, hopefully, have an idea in your head about what your film should look and feel like. If it isn’t working, it can be super frustrating. And it can be overwhelming if you have […]

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Good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. There’s a balance between following your vision and instincts and being plain stubborn. You, hopefully, have an idea in your head about what your film should look and feel like. If it isn’t working, it can be super frustrating. And it can be overwhelming if you have a crew around you waiting for you to make a decision. When you’re on set, or writing, be open to critique and ideas from others. It always stings at first, but once you get over your hurt feelings, you can usually tell if the proposed idea is good or not.

As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Matthew Goodhue.

Matthew is an independent filmmaker from New England. Getting his start in documentary filmmaking, he takes the patience and spontaneity from that medium and applies it to his writing, directing, and editing style. His stories have a consistent thread — characters who try to learn to love themselves. Influenced by the haunting folklore surrounding New England, as well as its blue-collar environment, he aims to blend character-driven performances with engaging stories of the weird and surreal. His feature film debut, Woe, was released on June 15th, 2021 by Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight. It’s available to stream on Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu, Vimeo, & YouTube and soon to be DVD and Blu-ray.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

Thanks so much for having me! I grew up in Massachusetts, a small town about 40 miles south of Boston. It was a pretty idyllic upbringing. Both my parents are from big families, so I grew up with about 20 cousins on either side, along with my three brothers. My parents had a swimming pool, so we were the gathering place each summer for the family to come together and swim and cookout and play sports. There was always lots of family and friends around.

New England has such a rich history, and that’s something that I always admired while growing up there. It also has a lot of folklore and a bit of an eerie, haunting feeling to its surroundings, as you drive by cemeteries from the 1700s or visit the site of the Salem Witch Trials. As I got older, my friends and I began exploring the area more, riding our bikes or trekking through the woods that we’d heard were haunted. These stories about ghosts and the supernatural excited me a lot. Any time I find myself in an old home, or an old hotel or building, my first question is usually, “Do you know if this place is haunted?” I’ve never experienced anything supernatural or ghostly myself, but the possibility intrigues me a whole lot.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

We watched a lot of movies in our house, probably as a way for my parents to stop my brothers and I from beating each other up. Jaws, Matinee and The ‘Burbs by Joe Dante, and Stand by Me stick out as some of my favorites from that time. My mother is an avid reader, and when I was a kid, I remember seeing her read lots of Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark. She loved mysteries and thrillers. She also loved The Silence of the Lambs. I have a pretty strong memory of seeing that VHS cover for the first time, the woman with the moth covering her mouth, and it scared the hell out of me. I don’t think I would’ve seen the movie until I was a little older, but when I did, I learned quickly that I like being scared.

When I went to school at Boston University, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I still loved movies, but never knew it was a career I could pursue. I took an “Understanding Film” course for the hell of it. On the first day of class, we watched Michael Mann’s Manhunter and then the professor went on to take about the film in a way I’d never heard before. He spoke about the intention of the photography, the color, the camera movement, the music. That screening really opened my eyes to what film can be and how you can create emotion beyond just dialogue. Plus, I only knew Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal, so it was quite exciting to see Brian Cox (the original) do something different with the character, but still be unique and frightening.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

I was helping a friend out on a short film. We drove out to the desert, about two and half hours east of Los Angeles. Everything pretty much went wrong — as they do when you are first trying to make your movie. The camera batteries weren’t fully charged, the truck got stuck in the sand, we got there later than anticipated so we didn’t have enough natural light.

We were in the middle of the desert, in the dark, stuck in the sand. You couldn’t see any lights, any homes, any thing from where we were. It was funny at first, then as it got darker, it was scary. And of course, being in the desert off the beaten path, we had no cell service. While we were stranded there, trying to dig out the tires with our hands, we saw headlights coming our way. We figured it was Triple A, maybe a police officer who saw or heard us. As the car got closer, we realized it wasn’t that. It was just a small, beat up car.

Maybe I’ve seen too many horror films, but my mind went to a bad place and I was super freaked out. I thought we were toast. The car pulled up, rolled down its windows. It ended up being two older guys who happened to live out in a trailer a bit further into the desert from where we were. They were able to pull us out of the sand with their car and even gave us cold Coca-Colas. Then, we drove out of there, back to Los Angeles, defeated, freaked out, and very relieved.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve been able to meet some really great people through film, whether it’s crew members, actors, or documentary subjects. I worked on a documentary a few years ago called License to Operate. It follows ex-gang members who now work as gang-interventionists trying to prevent violence throughout Los Angeles. As a field producer and camera operator on the project, I spent a lot of time, upwards of eight months, with our subjects and was lucky enough to get close with some individuals with very different upbringings as myself. I felt super fortunate that they trusted me and the rest of the crew, which doesn’t happen right away. It takes spending time a lot of time together and really listening to their story. Some of my favorite memories from that project are when the cameras weren’t rolling and we were just hanging out eating food or talking about movies, music, or what it was like growing up in LA at that time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When you’re new to a city, and new to a career, it’s super important to find someone, a mentor, a collaborator, someone you can talk to and seek advice from. At one of the agencies I worked at, there was a director there named Matt Luem who really welcomed me as a young filmmaker and made me feel like what I had to say through film was important.

He also always called the projects we worked on “films.” Not videos, not ads. Films. Even if they were little thirty-second branded videos that play on YouTube before you watch the thing you want to watch on YouTube, Matt respected whatever he was working on and had so much passion in making whatever he was tasked with. He spoke about film like it was something you sculpted by hand. He really stressed the idea of trying things and being patient with what you were doing. It’s easy to get caught up in this type of work — there’s never enough time, never enough money, never enough resources to make it happy. Matt always stressed that you have to be present and if you do that, you’ll make great stuff.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be present” seems like such a simple idea. It’s one of the first things I heard when I started taking my mental health seriously, and it’s the one thing I come back to each and every day. Although I still struggle trying to do it, each and every day. For something that sounds so simple, it’s so hard! We’re constantly stressed about the future, or worrying about what we did or said in the past, or what someone somewhere might be thinking of us, that our minds are anywhere but in the present. I used to think that someday I would “figure things out” and that it would all click into place as I got older and made all the right decisions. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there is no “thing” to figure out. You just need to be present every day, as much as you can, and you and your relationships will greatly benefit. You won’t always be successful in doing it, but it’s important to remind yourself throughout your day so you can get back on track.

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

  1. Look around! The world is diverse. The US is diverse. We can’t sit around and watch and listen to the same stories being told by the same people, over and over. We need to be more open minded, and one way of doing that is to actually learn about other people and cultures, and not just assume we know everything by our own experiences.
  2. People’s voices deserve to be heard. And we, the audience, deserve to be introduced to new perspectives, new cultures, new ways of thinking in order to better understand ourselves and our view of the world. What’s so special about film and TV is that it can introduce the audience to different people and cultures and ideas we may not find in our homes or in our neighborhoods.
  3. The more you travel, the less you know. There is a lot more going on in the world than one singular life. It’s important to see and hear other people’s experiences and struggles so we can find a way to relate to one another. We’re all a lot more alike than we think and if we can all accept that as truth, then maybe we can be more compassionate towards one another. Watching or listening to stories that introduce us to the unknown are important ways to continue growing.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My first feature film, Woe, was just released in June by Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight. It’s a psychological horror film that deals with mental illness and what happens when we ignore that over time. I’m currently writing a script for another film, more of a horror-noire, that would bring me back to Massachusetts. I hope to be filming that by next summer. Until then, a few musician friends of mine (Tulips, Mr. Griever) are coming out with new albums later this year and we’re planning to create some music videos for that.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

If someone watches a short film I’ve made or this feature film and says that it connected with them in any way or that it lead to a conversation with a family member or friend, that’s the best. You write these stories and try to persuade people to come together and make them with you because you hope that someone out there will engage with it and walk away thinking about it. It doesn’t need to change your life, but if it gives you that feeling, whether it inspires you to make a film, write a song, a poem, or gets you to give someone a call to talk — that’s what makes it worth it.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t ask for permission. A lot of my first few years of living and working in Los Angeles, I was scared of screwing up. I didn’t want to do things incorrectly, for fear of looking like an idiot. It took me a while to build up enough confidence to allow myself to become a filmmaker. The idea of doing something creative felt strange to me — like it wasn’t “real” work. But, if you love film, or music, or writing, or poetry, and something is nagging at you to pursue it, then listen to yourself. You don’t need to ask someone if you can be a filmmaker or not. You just need to work super hard and push yourself and be open to learning along the way. It doesn’t mean you won’t doubt yourself. I doubt myself every day. But, if you really love the thing, you won’t be able to give it up.
  2. Write! At first, I labeled this one as “write what you know.” But, that might be the second step in this process. Before you can write what you know, you just have to write. I spent a lot of time talking with friends about “cool” movie ideas, telling jokes we thought would be hilarious on the big screen, but nothing was ever written down. Once it’s written, it can be judged, and it’s usually bad (at first). So — just write. Every day. Even if no one sees it or you throw it away, it’s good for you and you’ll feel better after doing it.
  3. Good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. There’s a balance between following your vision and instincts and being plain stubborn. You, hopefully, have an idea in your head about what your film should look and feel like. If it isn’t working, it can be super frustrating. And it can be overwhelming if you have a crew around you waiting for you to make a decision. When you’re on set, or writing, be open to critique and ideas from others. It always stings at first, but once you get over your hurt feelings, you can usually tell if the proposed idea is good or not
  4. Work with people you like. I think why some filmmakers continue to do such great work is because they surround themselves with people they respect and want to spend time with. Making a film requires you to be with a lot of people for long periods of time in super frustrating situations. These situations can go a lot smoother if you like the people you’re working with. Try to find a group of people who push you and inspire you, and hopefully you do that for them, too. Film is collaborative, so find the folks that you want to collaborate with.
  5. Go for a walk. Being connected to the internet and social media at all times, receiving endless information at every moment, sucks. And when you’re trying to work, and it doesn’t feel right, you can procrastinate by going online and seeing how much success everyone around you is enjoying. I don’t recommend doing that! Instead, go for a walk. Whatever it is you are doing, you don’t need to figure it out right now. It can wait. Take a few minutes, go walk around your neighborhood, get away from the computer screen, and you will absolutely feel better when you lock yourself back up in the room to work. Learn to be patient with yourself.

When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?

I think when you’re making a film, the first person you need to serve is yourself. I imagine that is quite different if you’re working in the studio system and have a lot of people to please, but for independent filmmaking, there is something that is driving you to make this project, so you have to listen to whatever it is and stay true to it. If it means a lot to you, someone out there will connect to it. Of course, you want to entertain your audience and never bore them, but in order to do that, you have to make the movie that you want to see and hope others will want to go along for the ride.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This past year has been hard on everyone. And I think that shows something — we’re all connected, we’re all living on this earth together, the things we do and say impact each other. We all have wants and need and dreams, and no one’s is more important than another’s. It goes back to what you learn in the first grade on the first day of school — treat others the way you’d like to be treated. I wish it wasn’t so hard, but we’ve clearly lost sight of that.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I really look up to and admire Paul Thomas Anderson and the work he puts out there. I don’t think there is a better filmmaker right now capturing the kinds of performances that he does. He also just seems like a good dude who loves movies. I’d love to drink coffee with him and ask him all the stories.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I’m on instagram at @mattgoodhue and you can find more info about the film, Woe, by following @woemovie.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much for the opportunity! And thank you to any of the readers checking this out. Please feel free to reach out to me if you see the movie and have any thoughts on it!

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