We talk to MATT STEELE about “Not-Doing-Enough-Ness“, his inspiration of female characters with masculine twists, why now is an amazing time to be a filmmaker and of course, crowdfunding for his new movie “DIVOS!”.
Matt Steele is a total “Jack-of-all-trades”. Not only is he a musical theatre actor, a multi-published playwright, an alum of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a YouTube hit (his show the “Doomsday Diaries” having been featured on The Huffington Post and his other show “Two Gay Matts” having over 8,000 subscribers), but he is also currently crowdfunding for his latest production “DIVOS!”.
You can check out the crowdfunding campaign “Divos! The Movie”s here.
We were first introduced to Matt, when he auditioned for a part on our own web series “Dirty Talk”. Not only did he blow our socks off with his comedic timing and insanely wonderful improvisational skills, but we ended up changing a whole character (gender included), just to have him in our production. And this was after only one audition. Trust us, this talented “Divo” is going far!
Let’s introduce you, shall we?
Mr Matt Steele, we’re impressed! You have such a diverse array of talents. What is your secret (aside maybe caffeine)? And what inspires you to continuously create with various different mediums and styles?
There’s so much that inspires me but, to be blunt, nothing motivates me more than the crippling fear that I’m not doing enough. You can compliment me over and over again that I’m “doing so much,” but I’m constantly worried that I’m not as pro-active as I can be. A lot of my friends who are artists complain about this feeling too, so that at least makes me feel like I’m not alone.
(Side Note Matt Steele – You are totally not alone. We’re right there with you!)
Tell us a bit about DIVOS! The Movie. What’s it about and where did the story originate?
DIVOS! is all about the rivalries between teenage boys in their high school musical—Think High School Musical-meets-Mean Girls… but with boys! The film focuses on Ricky Redmond, a self-proclaimed future Broadway legend, whose world is turned upside down when Josh Kelly, the school’s star athlete, auditions for the musical and steals his spotlight. All the backstabbing and blackmail that ensues proves that when it comes to the school play, it’s all about the drama!
The idea for a movie centered around the crazy antics of boys in their high school musical came to me all the way back in 2011. This was back when Glee was very popular, and it seemed like all stories that featured teenage performers were very polished. We all know, however, that school plays rarely look professional. They’re often a mess… a huge, hilarious, super fun mess! So I knew I wanted a movie that was more realistic and portrayed them as real kids, not the glamorous prodigies you always see on tv.
I wrote the first draft for DIVOS! five years ago, but wasn’t happy with it. I found that, besides a few fun moments, there really wasn’t much of a plot. I felt like the audience needed a reason to be invested in the story. I put the script down for a few years to work on other projects and decided to pick the script up again in 2014. I was watching the classic film, All About Eve, which, if you don’t know, is all about the catty and superficial backstage drama between divas of the stage. It suddenly clicked that this is what I needed. I needed to go full-out with the campy drama, make all the characters the biggest divas (or divos!) imaginable, and make the bitter politics of high school theatre the focus of the story.
What are your aspirations for Divos!?
Well, the number one goal, first and foremost, is always to entertain. I want to give the audience of both theatre lovers AND non-theatre lovers a hilarious comedy that they can laugh and relate to.
In terms of my more “artistic” aspirations for the film, I want to take a plotline and style that’s often associated with women characters and add a masculine twist to it. I really drew inspiration from female-driven comedies like Mean Girls, All About Eve, and The Women – comedies where the conflicts are dealt with in a more underhanded, subtle way. I wanted to make a film that features the male characters throwing the shade and stabbing their frenemies in their backs because I feel like male characters in film are rarely shown in that light. That kind of aggression is often found backstage in the theatre, and it’s quite devilishly entertaining.
The story takes place in New Jersey, so I’m working with a mostly east coast-based production team. We’re looking to start filming in early 2017. Once it’s complete, it’s off to the film festival circuit we go!
You currently have a campaign for “Divos!” on Indiegogo. What made you decide to crowdfund?
Crowdfunding is such a great way to build and audience for your project before it even goes into production. Getting the word out there is, by far, the most important thing. Proving that there’s an enthusiastic fan base before you even put anything on film is a great way to spark the interest of potential larger investors. Crowdfunding is also appealing because it makes audiences feel like they’re an active part of the movie-making process. Even if a person donates just five dollars, he or she gains an emotional connection to the project because his or her donation helped to make it happen.
My main reason for doing a crowdfunding campaign was that it really put the control in my hands. When you go a more traditional route like selling the screenplay to a production company you’re not a part of, you sometimes give up the power you have over your own story. I spent so much time investing in this story I created and have a very clear idea of what I want the movie to be. Call me selfish (better yet, call me a divo!), but I didn’t want to lose the vision I had. Crowdfunding allows me to produce this film through my own production company, In The Basement Entertainment, and to choose my collaborators because they also share the same vision, and not just because they forked over the big bucks. This is an AMAZING time to be an artist because we’re able to have so much control over our own work. Things like YouTube, social media, editing software, and even simple “How to…” Google searches are at our fingertips.
Why did you choose Indiegogo, opposed to the other platforms?
I chose Indiegogo because I’ve had a number of friends have great experiences with the site for their projects. The site is very easy to navigate, and gives first time visitors a clear idea of what crowdfunding is and what their money is going toward.
Are we right in thinking this is your first Crowdfunding campaign? What struggles/hurdles have you hit thus far that you maybe didn’t know about going into this?
You’re right! This is the first time I’ve ever done any sort of crowdfunding for any of my projects, and it’s definitely been an adventure. The biggest hurdle that I didn’t fully anticipate was the details in making sure everything was completed before the campaign began. Making sure the film’s website, crowdfunding page, press release, and many social media outlets looked polished definitely added a bit of stress before launching the campaign. It’s important to be nit-picky when it comes to those aspects of your promotion. People who consider contributing to crowdfunding campaigns understand that the project is an independent production, but the more professional your content looks, the more willing they’ll be to donate.
What would you say to someone who was debating whether or not to Crowdfund?
Make sure you have content. It’s not quite enough to simply write down in the body of your Indiegogo page what the project is about and why everyone should believe in it. Potential backers want to see that you know what you’re doing.
With DIVOS!, I made a concept trailer that gives an idea of what the film could be like if I had the funds to make it. Sure, it cost money to hire a professional crew for the sole purpose of creating a three-minute fake trailer, but creating content for people to see is worth the investment.
So get creative with your marketing! Include behind-the-scenes videos! Create logos! Make funny memes connected to the project and post them on Instagram! Months ago, before the trailer was even finished, I created an Instagram account for the movie’s main character, Ricky Redmond. The account was @broadwaydiva, and “Ricky” posts a collection of memes highlighting the successes and competitiveness of famous Broadway actresses. The account gained thousands of followers within a few months. When the time came for crowdfunding to start, “Ricky” announced that his life was being made into a film and directed all of his followers to the film’s website.
Ideas for promotion are really limitless.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other filmmakers or actors at the beginning of their careers?
BE. NICE. TO. EVERYONE.
Seriously. I’m pretty sure this goes along with any profession, but it can’t be reiterated enough. In a career like this, your friends are your next job. So enjoy yourself, and enjoy the people you meet along the way.
This doesn’t mean everything has to be constant sunshine and rainbows. There are definitely going to be moments with difficult people and difficult circumstances. There will even be moments where you disagree with others or have to stand up for yourself a little bit. It’s important to keep yourself level-headed and to acknowledge when you’re in a bad situation, but it’s important to do all of that while remaining kind and professional. As much as I love writing and hearing about divas and divos, nobody likes working with them. Basically, all the antics you’ll see in DIVOS!… don’t do any of that.
What is one tool or resource you’d like to share with our readers that you have found invaluable?
Social Media. All forms. Put your work out there.
Where else are you going to connect with people who come from completely different backgrounds and have very different opinions from each other? Reading discussions people have on outlets like Twitter and Facebook are a jackpot for character studies, especially when those discussions are heated. So much of the characters and dialogue for DIVOS! was inspired by passionate Twitter wars between fans of pop, film, and stage divas. They would hurl hysterical insults at each other just to defend their personal queens. “Stan” culture (avid fandom of a certain celebrity or artist) found on social media gave me a lot of insight for a number of my characters in this film.
Let us know where can people find you next (as well as Divos!)?
Right after crowdfunding is over, you’ll be able to find me in bed, taking a much-needed nap!
(You can check out the crowdfunding campaign for “Divos! The Movie” here.)
Are you a filmmaker? Got a production you’re working on? Do you have a unique story you think people will want to hear about? Get in touch here and we may very well interview you!