Q&A with ‘Franky, Frankly’ writer-director Matthew Anderson
Instead of seeing any new films at the Santa Cruz Film Festival on Monday, I spent part of the day chatting with Santa Cruz native Matthew Anderson, writer-director of the short film Franky, Frankly, which appeared in the Only in Santa Cruz shorts program on Saturday. The film remains, for me, the highlight of the festival so far. Our conversation follows:
Good Times: What was it like screening your film in Santa Cruz?
Matthew Anderson: I had a film in Santa Cruz last year as well, a short, so I had experienced it once before and I kind of knew what to expect. … Besides being a little nervous for it, it was fine.
GT: Your film appeared in the Only in Santa Cruz shorts program. Could you describe your relationship to Santa Cruz? You grew up here, right?
MA: Yeah, I grew up in Santa Cruz, and then I went to school down in Orange County, and then after graduating from Chapman University, I moved up to L.A. That’s where I’m living right now, but Santa Cruz is definitely very close to my heart and I love going back.
GT: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker and what was the process of achieving that goal?
MA: I think I started to realize what film could be when I was in my junior or senior year of high school, and then I kind of started making my own things. Then from there I went to Cabrillo for my first year out of high school, and during that time I started to look around at different film schools and found Chapman. … I’ve always had the idea since I got into film that I definitely wanted to tell stories as a director and as a writer—I guess a lot of kids who go to film school think they want to be a director, and then they end up realizing they’re better at editing or cinematography or whatever. But I always wanted to be a director, and I was fortunate enough for that to be the thing that stuck.
GT: You touched upon this briefly in the post-screening Q&A, but could you reiterate the inspiration and conception of the film?
MA: It was originally a short story, and it kind of went through a couple different steps, from originally just a conversation that I wrote between two people, and then later I developed it into a full-fledged short story. When I was looking through different stories of mine to find which character I felt that Mikandrew [Perdaris], the lead actor, could play, I came across this story, and I thought that we could probably do something with it, but something in the story needed to change. And so it definitely evolved another step for me to adapt it into a screenplay.
GT: What influences, either cinematic or not, does your film draw upon?
MA: I didn’t really have any specific films or anything that I was jumping off from or that I could say I was particularly influenced by, but when I wrote the original conversation that happened between the two characters, I was reading a lot of Salinger at the time, so when passing the script around to different people to be involved in the production, I did get a few people commenting that it reminded them of Salinger. And then when I was creating the project, when we were in pre-production and developing the script with my actor, my craze at the time was Michelangelo Antonioni. I watched his film, L’eclisse, when I was in the middle or towards the end of working on the script, and the way that film cinematically tells the story of this woman—I think it’s the last great film that I’ve seen, and it’s been like two years since I saw the film, but it had a profound effect upon my perception of cinema.
GT: Was there a particular inspiration behind the styling of the credits sequence?
MA: I’ve done title design for quite a few shorts and some other projects and that’s something I really enjoy doing. I think with this one, the credits sequence is loosely inspired by the opening of The 400 Blows, not so much aesthetically, but the idea of showing snapshots of these characters in the town—the opening of The 400 Blows is just random shots of Paris. But as far as the text goes, I think I just stumbled upon this font and I felt like it fit this sort of aesthetic so I went with it. A lot of people say it does have an older feel, and I watch a lot of films from the ’50s and ’60s, so I guess that rubs off on me; I don’t really care for title designs of the modern era.
GT: Can you give a sense of the scale of the production? How many people were on set?
MA: There were actually quite a few people, to the point that there might have been a couple too many, but we had a good 16 to 20 people on set. We shot over a period of two nights in Santa Cruz. Our key crew and our actors came up from L.A. and then most of the rest of the team were just people I knew here in Santa Cruz. We shot over two nights—basically 12-, 13-hour nights— at the three different locations downtown: on the street, at Bookshop Santa Cruz, and at Caffe Pergolesi. … Also, music was something that was really exciting for me on this project. I’ve been lucky enough on my last three films to have original music, and in this film working with my composer John Snyder was really cool, because we actually got a whole string quintet and a really great pianist and live percussion and everything. We recorded over two days in this studio in Santa Monica and it was really exciting to create these three songs that play throughout the film, and that use vocalists—three different great friends of mine who are just amazing singers. The girl in the title track is actually going to Juilliard right now for opera.
GT: Were you at all concerned that people watching the film might find it overly precious?
MA: Well I’m not entirely sure about the word “precious,” but I guess going into the film we knew what we were making, and we knew that probably not everybody was going to respond to it because of a level of ambiguity that surrounds the piece. … I mean we had a very clear idea of what we wanted to portray and convey, in a way that we aware that probably not everyone would react to it upon first viewing in the way that we might want them to, but I think that the film has something about it that demands an audience’s attention, and at least gets them to think about something, or at least think about “maybe there was something more there, that I should see it a second time,” and consider it more.
GT: Earlier you brought up L’eclisse, and like that film, one of my favorite elements of yours is how open-ended it is. So, there’s no need to be too literal or specific, but were there any themes you had in mind while making the film, especially when it comes to the film’s ending?
MA: A lot, so much so that some people might be thrown off by it all. I think the ultimate thesis of the film is about this guy and it studies these different relationships that he has, and it follows him only for a night, but you get a good sense of character. And ultimately, the female reveals to him who he is in a sense, that he may be in his twenties, but he is kind of a child. It’s interesting because a lot of filmmakers today, I think they try and achieve films as objective as possible, and that’s just simply not realistic, that’s not possible. So when I go into writing something I want to leave films up to the audience’s perspective as much as possible, but be very intentional about what I’m making. So the female character shows him in a very gentle way—she kind of judges him actually, she makes a judgment upon his character. She’s says “you’re a child”—but she does it in such a sincere and loving way that hopefully will enable him to grow and start over and try again. So I guess that’s the ultimate thesis of the film, but as far as the different themes I played with throughout, there’s so much that my actor and I talked about in regards to his childhood and his perception of society and sexuality, and how society forces a dichotomy of one or the other, straight or gay, upon a person’s sense of sexuality.
GT: So what’s next for the film? Is it continuing a festival run?
MA: God willing, yes. We’re still sending it out to festivals; I mean we’ve already gotten a great reaction from the people we care about, but we definitely want to share it with as many people as possible. So we’ll see where it goes, we have a couple of things potentially lined up, but nothing I’m going to say for sake of them not happening.
GT: And what’s next for you? Are you working on anything currently?
MA: There’s a music video I produced for this electronic artist called Monolith which will be premiering I think in the next week or so, and I also shot some photography on set, so I’m excited because I made a photo book I think we’re going to be releasing when the video releases. But what I’m focusing on right now, I have a feature-length film—my intention is to shoot it in Santa Cruz actually. … This film follows a female lead and I really want to get Xavier Dolan to play a part in the film as one of the co-stars; that’s what I’m going for there but we’ll see what happens.
For the complete Santa Cruz Film Festival schedule, visit santacruzfilmfestival.org.