Matthew Edwards worked in the VFX Industry for five years at Industrial Light and Magic before returning to school to study directing at USC. Prisoner is his master’s thesis film. He is also an award winning cinematographer. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Cinematographers, the Emmys, and the Tellys.
Edwards’ film, Prisoner, is playing at the 2015 GI Film Festival.
Where are you from and what is your film background?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and while I loved watching movies, I was mostly interested in Visual Effects. So after graduating from Stanford, I went to work at Industrial Light and Magic for five years. Eventually I decided that I wanted to make the jump from post-production to production so I applied to some graduate film programs and started at USC. I currently split my time between Cinematography and Directing.
Who are your biggest influences in film and why?
David Lean and George Lucas. I like character driven movies, but I love character driven epics – you don’t see a lot of those anymore. But sixty years ago, David Lean directed Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago back-to-back-to-back. His command over every aspect of his films was unreal – it had to be to keep the audience glued to their seats for 3-4 hours. It’s really humbling when I think about my twenty minute movie.
And George Lucas’ original Star Wars Trilogy is what gave me the film bug in the first place. I don’t think it’s a reach to say his epic story and magical world-building inspired the imagination of an entire generation.
What was the hardest part about getting this film made?
Everything was so hard it’s tough to choose, but it would probably come down to either casting or Production Design. We didn’t have the lead American cast until two weeks before we started shooting – that was especially harrowing. On the other hand my production design team had to keep building and tearing down the farmhouse set so that classes could occur during the week (we shot interiors on USC stages during the weekends). And for the exteriors, they had to drive some of those flats an hour and a half up a windy road to the top of Angeles National Forest – elevation 5000 feet. And before they could drop those flats into place, they had to cover giant parking lots with pine needles.
What do you want viewers to take away with them after watching your film?
Dehumanizing our enemies is an unavoidable and understandable facet of war. So I wanted to see if a soldier who’s been through the worst of what war has to offer could start to see an enemy as a human being. And it’s confusing and problematic to him – it definitely doesn’t make things easier. So I’d love it the audience could take that confusion to heart. There are no answers here – only more problems and questions.
Prisoner, directed by Matthew Edwards, is playing at Angelika on May 24, 2015. Click here for tickets.