Filmmaker Michael Matzdorff has found his way back home after spending his career in L.A. primarily working as an editor in TV and film industries.
In his first film as a director/writer, Matzdorff returns to Wisconsin to shoot “Feed the Fish,” a dark romantic comedy that follows a children’s book author who travels to the frozen tundra with his best friend for the annual Polar Bear Plunge.
Originally from Green Bay, Matzdorff, 45, has been part of the editorial department for a number of films, including “Meet Joe Black,” “Fight Club,” and “Code Name: The Cleaner.” He also edited TV shows such as “Monk” and “Last Comic Standing.”
During an interview with me, Matzdorff talked about the challenges he faced as a first-time director and what it actually takes for someone to make an independent film.
“Feed the Fish” has been available on DVD since Jan. 25.
You worked as an editor before finding your way to writing and directing. What led you to editing in the first place?
I really gravitated towards editing in part to the general principles of editing – taking things and putting them together so they work. That’s something I’ve always been good at. It’s almost like puppetry. You can make people do what you want to a great extent.
Did you anticipate any challenges as a first-time director?
There was so much going on. We tried to address every possible scenario and challenge in pre-production. I was surrounded by a great team. We tried to foresee all the possible problems. Because I was aware of the environment intimately, it was easy to predict what the weather was going to be like. It was going to be cold. We were going to get a lot of snow.
I know you worked as an editor on the TV show “Monk,” so was Tony Shalhoub one of the first actors you cast?
Tony came on board very early. We were very close. Casting was done primarily through people that we knew. There were a lot of great finds when it came to casting the film.
Even on an independent level, it costs a lot of money to make a film. How does someone like yourself who is passionate about the industry even begin to undertake a project like this?
There are a lot of resources available to filmmakers now. Some of the technology is really amazing. This film was basically edited on a laptop computer. But filmmaking also requires experience and skill in a lot of different areas. The planning that goes into making a film is the most difficult part of the process. That’s the real challenge. There are always questions that need answers.
Did anyone ever ask why you didn’t set the movie in Miami Beach instead?
(Laughs) Well, they all asked if we could do a sequel in Bermuda. I don’t think the Polar Bear Plunge would have worked there for this one.
Now that your first feature is finished, what’s next for you?
Well, I’m writing a couple of things and I’m also reading a couple of scripts. I don’t have any exciting news to report yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to my next project. I’d be open to working on a script someone else wrote. Filmmaking is a collaborative art.