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Monday, 20 October 2014

Interview with producer Matt Medisch and actress Kate Alden from The Device (2014) - Part 2

So here we are with my 3rd and final part in a collection of articles related to my recent viewing of the excellent alien abduction story, The Device, made by the Seattle-based film production company, The October People. I must say that so far I've been on something of a roll in regard to the marvellous folks that I've had the pleasure of dealing with in the company; Both John Portanova (writer, producer, director and sweeper of floors) and Jeremy Berg (writer, director and maker of coffee) have been the personification of professionalism itself. Not only that, but I'va had the pleasure to talk with actors who have appeared within the October People's films, such as  Angela Di Marco and David S. Hogan (both of whom I know via twitter and are a gracious and talented couple of performers - as well as being as mad as a box of frogs). If that wasn't enough, my previous article featured actress Kate Alden, who is both talented, very lovely (and I meant that in a very respectful way, your honour) as well as being the champion of all things bubble baths. As I said, so far so good.

So I though I would chance my luck once last time and interview the man, who by all accounts, acts as the focal point for making sure the job gets done - on and off set. I couldn't possibly comment as to whether Matt Medisch is an actual tyrant or not (for obvious libellous reasons) - but he isn't know as Mr Laser-focused for nothing.

Well OK - maybe that's a term I've heard about him only the once so maybe I'm just vastly exaggerating when concerning his overall approach to professionalism. I 'll let you decide for yourself by reading the following interview I managed to get with Matt earlier this week - but first, a little of background information about Mr Laser-focused Medisch, some of which I've slightly paraphrased from his IMDB page and web page.

Matt is a founding member of The October People LLC and is  responsible for heading, legal, financial and acquisitions. He is also responsible for website management marketing elements and support film development, pre-production and budgeting. On set he takes the role of Line Producer, and also oversee all contracted and non contracted support departments. As a producer and writer, he is known for The Invoking (2013), The Device (2014) and Valley of The Sasquatch (2015).

First of all, many thanks Matt for taking the time to answer a few of my questions – it’s much appreciated.

Q) I first became aware of your name from your work as producer and co-writer of the wonderful The Invoking (2013). First of all, how did you get into the business of film producing? 

MM) It came directly from a love of film making.  Me and Jeremy Berg, the film’s director, had been friends and had collaborated on creative projects all the way back to our high school days in Red Bluff, CA.  Jeremy had later moved to Seattle and attended film school.  Starting the process of building his experience with short films, feature work, and a web series with John Portanova who he had met early in his film making career.  We talked off an on over creative projects but one late night on the phone he brought up an idea we had toyed with for years: shooting a feature film at the country home I had grown up at.  I had had a lot of business and management experience over the years as well as a comfort for collaboration and story design with Jeremy.  We decided it was simply time to make a full length feature film and let nothing stop us.  John soon joined us in the development phase and we appeared to have the team that could get this “long shot” done.  That was the beginning of my “film school” and my crash course in producing independent feature films.


Q) Who have been your major influences?

MM) I’m a life long horror fan with a love of rich, thoughtful cinematography and character driven stories.  Kubrick, Carpenter, and Neil Marshall jump to mind.  Carpenter surely helped cement my love of horror and in later years I found great respect in Marshall’s ability to craft horror around believable and well thought out characters.  Lovecraft and Stephen King also inspired me to imagine worlds of horror beyond just the surface and also gave me a respect for the twisted and bizarre.


The Invoking cast once again try to wake Matt
after another night of partying....
Q) One of the notable elements of The Invoking was the subtle & measured build up of tension – almost old-fashioned in approach. How important was it to you to approach the storytelling in this way?

MM) It was fundamental for us all.  We knew to shoot a feature film so quickly and for such a compact budget we could not rely on anything flashy.  We had to attempt to do the story justice with our cast and minimal location and sets.  Jeremy has a love for classic styles of film making that synced well with my likes.  Also what I think all three of us missed in modern horror was the atmosphere that great horror films of the past (The Thing, The Changeling, Rosemary’s Baby, Shining and countless more) seemed to have in spades.  We knew we could not take every viewer with us but we wanted to make sure the film had a pace and atmosphere that would capture the imagination and feel real once you were isolated with the cast.


Q) I’m trying not give too much away for those haven’t seen it – but The Invoking leaves room for a potential sequel. Any such plans?

MM) There have been a few talks in the group about a follow up.  Jeremy has a kernel for an idea that could absolutely work but at this time it’s just that, an idea.  Needless to say, it's very hard to truly “bury” your past, or your crimes.


Q) The newest film from The October People, The Device,  is a wonderfully atmospheric tale of Alien abduction. It shares some of the same qualities of measured build up as The Invoking. Would you regard this as a trademark of your work?

MM) Thank you, and absolutely.  I almost feel like the term gets tossed around far too often, but “character driven” and “slow burn” is something we all respect at TOP and in film making the two truly go hand in hand.  It’s fundamental that the characters matter, you can relate to them, and their choices are defined by who they are.  While all three of us have different things we love in horror, and film making in general, that is one of the fundamentals we all agree on.  Jeremy’s classic style as a director and cinematographer work so well in that way and we are constantly doing our best to let it shine through.


Q) The Device has a nicely distinctive ‘X-Files’ feel to it in parts. Was this intentional?

MM) It was.  We’re all fans and when it comes to “alien” stories we were all raised with shows like Unsolved Mysteries and the X-files to inform our nightmares.  Me and Jeremy used to sit up at night looking though old Time Life books on abductions and the supernatural and scaring each other with ideas of what slender, tentacled creature might be looking in at us from the pitch black windows.  The Device script was penned by Jeremy and John and more than anyone John’s love of what I like to call "believable horror" (Alien abductions, cryptozoology) is always on the surface in his writing.


Q) Did the end product of The Device match your initial thoughts & expectations?

MM) Much like our first film, time and funding were not in abundance and so the film changes from idea, to script to execution.  In this case the editing process created something new and added to what was on the page.  Our fantastic cast also breathed life into the characters in their own ways and that offered unexpected pleasant surprises. 


Q) Once again – sequel?

MM) Films dealing with Alien abductions are something we are very interested in.  I like to think that we tease a bit of our own alien “mythos” in the Device that will later be revealed in greater detail. 

Matt Medisch (right) mocks John Portanova for
forgetting his big camera on the annual October People
Twitching weekend
Q) I’m sure that I read somewhere Jeremy Berg (Director of The Invoking and The Device) described you as “laser-focused” in your approach. What does that mean?! ;-)

MM) Making a feature film at any budget level is a challenge that’s hard to compare.  Especially to take it from the very start to the absolute finish line of distribution.  My strong suit with the team I suppose is that I do help focus the creative energy into an actual business and production strategy that’s effective and gets the job done.  It requires an intensity and focus on the end goal that starts at day one and goes through to the end.  I love making films and working with Jeremy and John so I suppose my intensity to get the job done could be described in that way.  I just try not to burn anyone with that laser along the way.  Lucky for me John, Jeremy, and I seem to work very well together.


Q) I know that you’re currently in post-production of an upcoming movie called ‘Valley of the Sasquatch’. Apart from the obvious, what can you tell us about this film?


MM) The title does say a lot.  As mentioned a bit above, cryptozoology went hand in hand with aliens in inspiring our life long fear and fascination with the unexplained.  John Portanova, being a Northwestern native and diehard fan of everyone’s favorite cryptid, Bigfoot, had been working on his dream “Sasquatch” script for years.  After two films that dealt so much with the unseen and the mental state of the characters we were all excited to work on a “creature feature” that was truly inspired by the great legends and monster movies of the 70s and 80s.  Valley of the Sasquatch was written and directed by Portanova so audiences will get a new and different feel from our previous features, but with the same desire to have characters that matter, as well as a consistent tone and atmosphere.  We are very excited to take audiences and fans of our previous work deep into the dark Northwestern woods with us to find out what horrors truly live just out of sight of everyday life.  Valley of the Sasquatch will start a festival run in 2015.  We keep up to date information on all of our projects on our website www.theoctoberpeople.net


Once again I'd like to than Matt for being gracious enough to take time out of what I know is a busy schedule. If you wish to contact Matt, or any others from the October People production team, then you can do that through the website address that Matt mentioned or via their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheOctoberPeople?fref=ts.

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