|SxSW 2016 Interview: FROM NOWHERE director Matthew Newton
by Jason Whyte
FROM NOWHERE - At SxSW 2016
"FROM NOWHERE is about three undocumented Bronx teenagers as they finish high school and work with a lawyer to try to get their papers to stay in the US. It deals with the conflict these young people face, having to live in secret right at the time when they are finding their own voices and coping with their raging hormones. These are kids who are forced to be adults way before their time." Director Matthew Newton on FROM NOWHERE which screens at the 2016 South By Southwest Film Festival.
I hear you are back at SxSW this year! Tell me about what you have had here in the past, and your favorite aspects of the city.
My first feature film THREE BLIND MICE made its US premiere at SXSW in 2009. It was an incredible experience, both screening the film for the first time in America and also just being at the festival with a group of amazing young independent filmmakers. I was invited into their little band of merry men and women and we roamed the streets of Austin, seeing and talking movies. I absolutely fell in love with the place.
Talk to me a bit about how you got your start in the industry and your previous work!
I trained as an actor at the National Institute Of Dramatic Art in Sydney, which had been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, and after I graduated I was very lucky to have a good career and play a lot of wonderful roles on stage and on screen. Throughout this time I worked with, and learned from, some incredible actors, writers and directors, and I eventually wrote and directed my first feature film.
Welcome back to SxSW! So how did this movie come together from your perspective?
This story started its life as a play that I directed for the New York Fringe Festival at the end of 2014. It was based on my co-writer Kate Ballen's experiences working as a teacher in the Bronx. Kate has a huge heart and is wonderfully committed to the young people who inspired the story. I thought the play contained the bare bones of what could be a very compelling film and during rehearsals I formed a pretty clear idea of how I'd like to approach it as a story on screen.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
Staying in the moment is the most important thing for me, but I don't mean that in a flippant, quasi spiritual way. I mean it very literally; working with the actors find the truth of the moment they are experiencing in the scene. I really love shaking things up and improvising, and I think there's always something more to be found in a scene, a deeper truth in the way the people interact with each other and the world. In my experience what you find always informs other moments that you're yet to shoot, and discovering this real human behavior between the characters is what drives me on. It truly keeps the love alive.
What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
We had a ridiculously small budget and a very small crew so this meant we had to be on our toes and find extremely creative solutions to many limitations, and of course this was a huge challenge and at the same time the biggest gift. In terms of knowing that the film was special, I tend to keep my head down when I'm shooting and not take stock of how things are going; it's that staying in the moment thing, but I do remember filming a pivotal scene with Julianne Nicholson about five days into the shoot and literally leaping in the air with excitement as I realized just how extraordinary an actress she is. It suddenly struck me that I could go much further with her character's journey in the film and I was flooded with ideas. Anything I asked Julianne to do in a scene she would always give back to me full of grace, truth and invention of her own. It was thrilling.
I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie.
We shot the film on two Sony F-55s. I wanted it to feel like you're just looking through a window at a real school, with real kids, so the challenge was to make all of the technical work, and all of our creative choices, totally invisible. My cinematographer Jay Keitel and I were always responding organically to what was happening to the actors in each specific scene, maneuvering in different ways every time. I also improvise a lot with the actors on the set too, so myself, Jay and the other camera operator Michael, who are both incredible craftsmen, were virtually 'inside' the scene with the characters, invisibly moving and breathing with them as the scene played out.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
Seeing and hearing the audience interact with the characters and the story. I'm really excited about starting that conversation.
After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?
I only finished the film recently just in time to deliver it to the festival to screen it, so I haven't really thought beyond SXSW yet!
If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you show it?
As it's a very New York film, shot on location there, I'm looking forward to screening it in the city. But given the immediacy of the subject matter I'd also love to screen it in Washington, maybe even for congress! Maybe even at the White House! Do you think I'm being too ambitious?
What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?
I would tell them to stop looking at their tiny screen and look up at this big screen; they might enjoy themselves and maybe even experience something larger than their own little world!
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
I don't feel qualified to give anyone advice but I would say the most important thing is to make the film your way, and to tell the story the way you want to tell it. Basically make a film that you'd want to see yourself; that's the best chance I think anyone has of making something fresh and original.
And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
I went to the 2000 Berlin Film Festival with a film I acted in and I saw a late night screening of Paul Thomas Anderson's MAGNOLIA. A phenomenal experience.
Be sure to follow more on FROM NOWHERE by visiting www.fromnowherefilm.com!
We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our interview series for our site. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 11-19. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte
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originally posted: 03/10/16 11:01:48
last updated: 03/10/16 11:02:36