Matt Charrouf's short film Acid Rain is the most recent Open Projector Night Peoples' Choice Award Winner. We spoke with Matt to learn more about his work, inspiration, and future projects.
For those who don’t know Matt Charrouf. Tell us about yourself - give us a short bio.
I don’t know. This one is hard for me. I can be a bit of a workaholic and I really like to spend a lot of money on clothes and shoes. I almost never watch movies anymore (relative to your typical film person). I love politics but I can't handle it most of the time. I keep about 75-100 tabs open on my computer at any given time. What else is there?
What is your favorite film(s) and why?
My number one is The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) by Victor Erice. I've only ever actually watched it once and it just struck a chord with me. Something about the endless landscapes, allegorical references and the charisma of the two young actors. I've also always loved that Victor Erice basically made arguably the greatest Spanish film ever made and just called it then and there. Beyond that, I love near future sci-fi films like Her, Arrival, and Ex-Machina. I love Richard Linklater too. He was like a huge reason I moved to Austin for awhile and School of Rock defined me.
Who and what inspires you?
My biggest inspirations always start with music. I'm a recovering Kanye hater but I got my 4 years clean chip recently actually so he's been huge for me. That's like the worst answer but whatever. Besides that, my inspirations can be pretty fleeting. I'm super ADHD so stuff will catch my interest and I have to try and capture whatever it was about it quickly in that moment or its gone forever. I also get really inspired in the car usually. Something about it just makes the good ideas come out.
For those who haven’t seen Acid Rain; Tell us about it. What’s the overall narrative?
Acid Rain is about this dude Benjamin who has been locked in his basement by his overprotective mother since she almost lost him in child birth. #freebenjamin
Can you tell us a little bit about the evolution of Acid Rain and how the film came about? Why did you want to tell this specific story?
I didn't write Acid Rain, another GVSU student Chad Flaska did, but I did collaborate in its evolution. Initially, upon hearing the pitch, I gravitated towards the eeriness of the setting. A dude just trapped in a room, in the first version, he was mostly blind and it's set in the ‘90s. There were a ton of options there. I love stuff like that. I love to make stuff like that. The story changed the most in my pursuit of cramming as much of the '90s as we logically could into it. I was determined to make a kid with an overprotective mother still viably be in love with Kurt Cobain.
Another big change came in that Chad is not that into music, and I am, so the second I got a chance to go into it and insert those elements, I was all over it. My friend Sam and I made this unreal playlist of sick ‘90s bands. Everything from Oasis to Slint and back again.
Acid Rain has a strong theme of the ‘90s whether it’s the Nirvana/Kurt Cobain references, Twin Peaks t-shirt, VHS collections, etc. Why the ‘90s? What made you want to choose this decade?
So the '90s is just generally dope. I don't really give a shit about any of that nostalgia stuff that people get into but Kurt Cobain's legacy is one of the greatest. 2pac too (sadly, I chose to leave rap out of this one). Like the fast rise and short lived tenure they both had is so incredible.
I love production design too and I knew the challenge of creating something that would require us to build stuff and go find items was gonna be way more fun than just using all the stuff we already have and my "band" is so talented but young that I knew I could push them out of their comfort zone. It was cool to expose them to a bunch of music that they had clearly never even heard of before.
Tell us about your first related film experience, what hit you and made you want to pursue the world of film?
I grew up in a family that has always really cared about film so I've been seeing them my whole life. The earliest and most important experiences were the first time I saw Star Wars when I was maybe 5 or 6 in '98 and then seeing The Matrix in '99. The Matrix was a film that scared the shit out of me when I was that young. I barely understood it at its most basic level but the thing is just pure bliss from start to finish. To me, that was what films were about. Also, it’s punk as shit and I have just always had an issue with authority.
I didn't really consider pursuing film until I was about 20 though. I wanted to be a musician (a pipe dream).
What’s your next project?
I don't want to give away too much because I like to work in secrecy to some extent, but it's another short. We are shooting it on 35mm and it's going to be dope. I'll say it's loosely based on some music from an older Grand Rapids metal band but I don't want to give even that away yet. I wrote this one too so its going to be different tonally even though Chad and I do actually have similar taste.
If you were granted a large budget and could make your dream film, what would it be?
A massive sci-fi blockbuster but only if I had absolutely total final cut. I'm not interested if someone else gets to say what it becomes. Probably something with aliens.
Can you provide any advice to aspiring filmmakers?
I'm probably not the person to ask but work harder than you think you have to and surround yourself with people who genuinely push you creatively. It’s gotta be hard.
Any words about Open Projector Night?
Open Projector Night is dope. We are very fortunate to have something like the UICA that is genuinely supporting film because it's becoming increasingly rare and the internet is cool and all but movie theaters are still the way to experience films.
For more information on Open Projector Night and how to submit please visit: https://www.uica.org/open-projector-night