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MATT CASCELLA

Interveiw with Katie Bonadies


Photo description: Matt Cascella (third from left) with his wife, Jen Cordery and actors on the set of Hangdog.

Matt is a documentary and narrative filmmaker working in both short and long form. He has been at RWS since November 2022.

He ended up at RWS because he was looking for a space to work out of for his day job that wasn’t an office and not his couch. Matt has worked in office settings for production companies before and from home and wanted a happy medium between dreary and too much freedom. He wanted to work in a space that felt creative, “RWS is clearly not an office, but it’s a communal space where a lot of different people have artistic ideas. Everyone has a similar spirit.” Matt is frequently hired as an editor and occasionally as a director of documentary films for outfits like the MoMA and National Geographic, among other recognizable names. He appreciates the accountability that comes with working within someone else’s deadlines because the restriction can inspire interesting ideas that may not otherwise arise. For an example of Matt's directorial and editorial work, watch Talking Dog; as the story producer and editor, watch The Unconditional.


A still from the film Talking Dog, a short that acts as a love letter from Mainers to their canine companions.

A still from the film The Unconditional, a documentary short that examines the lives of a family seeking answers for their two undiagnosed special needs kids.

A still from the film Long Shot, a documentary on Netflix that aims to exonerate a man arrested for murder with help from Larry David.

He’s disciplined with his personal projects as well without someone else setting a hard and fast deadline, but tends to give himself too much room to roam, “Letting things fall out of the sky and hit me over the head is really fun, but there’s a benefit to having someone breathing down your neck. Most ‘doc’ work is just a schedule.” He would love to live in a world where hanging out in his pajamas waiting for inspiration to strike would be plausible, but he doesn’t have that luxury. Sometimes Matt feels conflicted about making documentaries. He says it can feel like hiding behind someone else’s story and subject, and he disavows the idea of the ‘selfless documentarian’. He says a lot of people insert too much of themselves into the process and into the filmmaking, which can cause the storytelling to get murky. He does, however, believe it’s a bold act to tell stories that hold your truths. When he was an adolescent, Matt was searching for a method of expression that felt right to him. He has always enjoyed drawing as a means of communication and early on his drawings leaned toward looking like Shel Silverstein illustrations. He tried sports, acting in plays, and playing in bands with friends. Music is still an outlet for Matt, which he came to concurrently with filmmaking around the age of twelve. Filmmaking has given Matt a sense of purpose and a means to make sense of the human (and sometimes canine) experience. Now he struggles to recapture those ‘kid sensations’ when his headspace was free and fully present to capture those moments of pure creation. He’s trying to recapture the charged up excitement children have before they fully enter the world and have things like bills and dog food to worry about, “It’s so hard when creating is affiliated with getting a check and dealing with clients who have different ideas.” He points out that those different ideas can be a great thing, too.


A still from the feature film Hangdog.


A still from the feature film Hangdog.

Matt is drawn to overlooked people and to the small details in life, “The stories often told are super hero tales and grand epic scale stories, but I think small domestic life is really interesting.” Matt has been juggling documentary work with his own passion projects in which he is moving away from documentary toward narrative, like the feature film he shot last April and made with his wife, Jen Cordery. The couple met while working at a documentary company; Jen is a writer and development producer and wrote the screenplay for their film. Matt and Jen recently relocated to Portland from New York City where they would go on weekend trips and he would wander around with his camera. Matt is inspired by Portland’s geographic layout and the different personalities within the city. The feature, called Hangdog, follows a character named Walt around the Portland area after he loses his girlfriend’s dog. Read more about the film and its collaborators in the Portland Press Herald article, “Filmmaking couple who moved to Portland from New York City is shooting a movie with a similar plot” (April, 2022). The film is a project they have been wanting to make for a while and they look forward to putting it out into the world. They hired a lot of local crew and cast members and are looking for local venues to host hometown screenings of the film this summer.


https://youtu.be/mX80JIl6vFs Pictured: the New York Times opinion video, "He Was the N.R.A.'s 'Pointman.' An Unlikely Friendship Made Him Think Twice."


The National Geographic documentary project Matt has been editing, a series about people who go on adventures called Explorer, comes out later this spring. See more of Matt’s editorial work in the New York Times opinion video, “He Was the N.R.A.’s ‘Pointman.’ An Unlikely Friendship Made Him Think Twice.” (Above.)


Email bigshins@gmail.com or visit Matt's website to get in touch.

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