Interview with Filmmaker, Matthew Ross

Photo by Shannon Wolf

Photo by Shannon Wolf

Field Notes Interview #90: Matthew Ross, Filmmaker

In this special installment of our Field Notes Interview series, we're featuring both the filmmaker and musician's perspective in the film Book of Matches, directed by filmmaker, Matthew Ross, and scored by musician, Kyle Morton (of Typhoon). We interview both Ross and Morton about their experience and how they flipped the process of creating a music video by using footage first.


10 vignettes. 10 songs. 10 memories.

Book of Matches is more than a film -- it's an evolving dialogue. The film starts with a quote: "Each match, I am told, will recall a single moment of my life. Watch carefully, she tells me, and strikes the first," and everything beautifully unfolds from there. The film is a series of vignettes, snapshots and conversations between Ross and Morton. What's witnessed within this piece is not only a dialogue between two artists, but a larger narrative of their lives that surround this film. Watch below and see what transpired.

In January 2015, Ross recalls Morton calling him, "with an idea for him to get back into the songwriting groove," Ross says. "Kyle had gotten sick on tour the previous year and took a break from it all to get better." Morton's idea was to record some demos and then hand the songs off to Ross to make mini movies to each song. However, a few weeks passed and Morton still hadn't recorded a song. In an effort to spark something, the two decided that Ross would film something first, and then send the footage Morton's way to then write a song. 

And, it worked. Not long after, they went for a drive up a forest road with Morton's Volvo. That night, Ross found the minute of footage he liked best, sent it to Morton and a day later, he had a finished song. The process continued from there.

To get to the filmmaker's perspective of this project, we chatted with Ross about their collaborative process in creating this unique film and narrative. Enjoy.

Marmoset: Have you ever created a film like this before? 

Matthew Ross: I have not. I've always done music videos, so it's always been the opposite of what we made. Usually the songs inspire the video, but this time the videos inspired the songs. So, it was something new for both of us. Plus we both took a DIY approach on this project. Kyle plays all the instruments and recorded it himself, while I shot every video by myself -- except for videos 9-10, which my friend Hasan shot with me on his Steadicam rig.

M: When you started the project, did you have an idea of the direction you wanted to take it? 

MR: Yes. But, when we first started talking about this project, it was more of an experiment, so which way we wanted to take it was kind of up in the air. After we finished the first couple of videos though, the direction became very clear.

M: How do you feel the film evolved once you began the filming process?

MR: I had to constantly think of new ways to shoot my ideas and have them be not the same thing. Every video only has one human subject, and you never clearly see them. They're all kind of anonymous characters (unless you know who some of the actors are).

Photo by Shannon Wolf

Photo by Shannon Wolf

M: Have you ever worked with a musician to create original music for picture before? 

MR: Kind of. A few years back, I made a teaser video for a movie I had written, to be part of a proof of concept. Kyle wrote something for it and it was perfect! I ended up shelving the project, but am dusting the script off this year. 

M: What did you learn from this collaboration?  

MR: That Kyle and I work so damn well together. Sometimes it's like we finish each others' sandwiches. 

M: Did you provide any direction for the music? 

MR: Nope, that was one of the rules we set up for each other. The only direction I provided for the music was the images. I didn't even tell him what the characters were feeling or what story I was telling. 

M: Why did you choose to do it that way? 

MR: I think it was Kyle's idea for him to go into it blind, without any influence from me beyond what I filmed. It made it more of a collaborative project this way, too.

M: How do you feel music can alter a viewer’s perception of a film? 

MR: Dramatically. It can make or break a movie for me. My favorite example is Johnny Greenwood's soundtrack for There Will Be Blood. My god, that soundtrack sets the tone for the movie perfectly. Imagine if John Williams had made the soundtrack? It'd be a completely different movie!  

M: After hearing the music for the first time, do you feel your perception of the film changed? If so, how? 

MR: It changed, but not in any negative way. When I'd be filming a video, in my head I'd think, "Oh this would be so perfect if strings came in here, then drop out there," but then I'd get Kyle's song and it'd be perfect! He was pretty damn good at matching the tone I had in my mind.

M: What’s up next for you? 

MR: I'm currently submitting my first short film, Two Ships, to film festivals. Kyle did the score and wrote original music for it. I've got some music videos this year, too, for Kyle's solo project, Typhoon, Sallie Ford and I am finishing the script for my feature film. 

Posted on June 13, 2016 and filed under Field Notes, Filmmaking.