Meet Matt MacDonald

September 18, 2020

MPI filmmaker Matt MacDonald was introduced to our network through the 2020 MPI Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab where he developed his script for the forthcoming MPI Original short film Melons. Melons is a delightful comedy about a jolly, but meek, grocery store manager who learns to stand up for himself after a misunderstanding brands him as public enemy #1.

Matt received his MFA from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts in the Film & Television Production Program and has since worked as a film director and editor. Collectively, his films and projects have played in more than 40 film festivals worldwide, have been featured by the likes of Mashable, Kotaku, io9, Bloody Disgusting, and Rolling Stone, and have amassed nearly 16 million views. In 2017, he created the viral sensation Not Normal, a 12-minute animated short film created entirely with the video game Grand Theft Auto V, for which he was later nominated for a 2018 Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award.

MPI recently caught up with Matt to discuss his film career and how his involvement with MPI is impacting his filmmaking:

Q: What inspired you to apply to the MPI Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab?

MPI has an incredible track record of supporting exciting and thought-provoking stories, so when the Lab application opened up…well, it was a no-brainer for me. The chance to make a film is, of course, always appealing, but especially so when you get to collaborate with a team that’s proven to have good taste. Sure, I could go and shoot a short film all on my own, but where’s the fun in that? Film is a collaborative medium, and I prefer to work with people who aren’t afraid to tell me when my jokes aren’t funny.

Q: How does your project embody the Lab’s 2020 theme: “Standing Up for What You Believe In Even When It’s Unpopular”?

Melons follows a guy who gets swept up in the current of public opinion and suddenly finds himself fighting to stay above water. Standing up for yourself is hard enough, but when it’s the entire world against you? Yikes! I wanted to tell a story that showed the dangers of internet echo chambers. Too often, we gas each other up to a frothing rage and then go on the attack, canceling anything and everything deemed unfit. The character of Nigel has to learn that surviving means fighting for himself—no matter how unpopular his perspective might be.

Q: What was the most important thing you learned through your experience in the Lab? How will you apply that lesson as you transition into the directing stage?

The most critical thing I’ve learned throughout the process has been the importance of rewriting. Because development occurred over many months, it truly allowed  time to be spent on rereading and re-evaluating the script. Can this moment be clearer? Can this character go deeper? Can this joke be sharper? Writing is rewriting, as they say, and as we move into the production phase, I hope to keep that same mentality. Don’t settle for what’s there if another idea better supports the film. “Good enough” isn’t good enough. Complacency is the enemy of progress. I can think of all kinds of phrases that would go well on a motivational poster.

Q: “Melons” will be your first MPI Original Film and also your first time working to produce a film with MPI in general! What are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to the collaborative relationship. In film (and life), the more minds working together to make magic, the more likely it is to happen. Frankly, the best thing anyone can do is surround themselves with people who are smarter than them so they can steal every great idea. Not only does it ultimately make the film better, but then people also assume you’re equally smart—it’s a win-win!

Q: We’ve recently announced the theme for the 2021 MPI Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab. What advice would you give to a filmmaker who’s considering applying?

The best advice I could give is for filmmakers to always keep the theme in mind when submitting their ideas. Not only will it show you know how to follow directions (an underrated trait!), but it’ll also make for a better story. I’m a big believer in films having a point of view. If you approach your writing through a specific lens, the decisions become that much easier. Every scene, every character, every moment is dictated by what it is you hope to say. To me, boring films are ones with no such defining thesis. And boring sucks. Don’t be that.

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