We've launched our own production company! After years of traveling, teaching, degree consuming, and most of all, shooting film and video, we've decided to work for ourselves. I (Matt) will be doing most of the postings and updates between our events page and our documentary domain. Which brings me to my first point: why present ourselves as both a documentary and event production company? Why not just docs? The work we do for events (a) really does help pave the way for documentary projects by supplementing costs. Also (b) we love shooting events. I've shot weddings for the last six years, and I always find them an adventure each time. And Leah loves concerts. Plus, by shooting events to offset small documentary budgets, we don't have to adhere to the influence of grants or investors that may fund documentaries. We're able to make decisions for ourselves and distance ourselves from potential conflict of interest.
But yes, as I've just alluded to, I'm primarily working with my friend, colleague, and roommate, Leah. Leah and I have been friends since we did undergrad together eight years ago. We were the big awkward dorkuses in the film & video department - myself concentrating in directing and herself in cinematography. Since undergrad we both lived in the same apartment with the same friends in Chicago at different times (our location sound friend Scott and his makeup professional girlfriend Violet). Leah then migrated to New York shortly after, and I wrestled with going into Peace Corps service.
I lived, taught, and shot plenty of video in South America during Peace Corps. One of my favorite things about Guyana was the available produce which was relatively affordable (rice being the most affordable). But usually a good mango can be pulled directly from a tree in your backyard, and that to me was always astounding. You mean I can eat directly from a tree? Seems like such a normal concept, but if you grew up in suburban Chicago and you think of mangos as gross and mealy because they've traveled so far to get to your nearest grocer, the idea of seeing a mango directly on the tree is magical. It made me appreciate mangos in a way that would've only been possible because I chose an unusual path towards filmmaking and landed up in South America. And mangos directly from the tree are so much better than from your Chicago grocer.
I met up with Leah directly after Peace Corps, and she helped me move into a Brooklyn apartment with her, and we've been roommates ever since. I love New York. I love the variance, the struggle, and the plethora of stories hidden around every corner. Most of all, working in New York has many options: television, studio film, independent film, commercial, documentary, journalism, music video, events, fashion, theatre, etc. For someone who loves to absorb information by shifting perspective, New York seems like the place to be.
Graduate school was no easy feat in New York. I worked full time hours to attend the most expensive school in the most expensive US city. I worked to purchase new video equipment, and came up with an arsenal of gear in anticipation of launching this company. I then used my grad school loans to pay rent and buy food to make ends meet.
And now we have a production company! I now have the freedom to pick and choose projects, and the flexibility to subcontract myself out to other NYC companies in the fields I listed above and work on projects I really believe in, that I think are important. And hopefully our cashflow will continue to remain steady so we don't have to sell out.
I wrestled for a long time if my way into the film industry is the correct way. Now I take pride in my unusual path towards a career that I find technically interesting, and that has extreme cultural significance that fulfills my soul. I love making movies, but I also find the need to work and volunteer on important causes. Mango Tree Productions helps me do both. It's important to me that I volunteer my time to documentary projects for worthy causes each year, and if anyone has ideas, we'd love to hear about them. If I can use my skills, experience, and camera to amplify the voice of a disenfranchised community or individual, with an important story, or vital cause, I'll gladly volunteer my time.
So here's to you, New York City! A couple of Midwesterners out to make some movies!