In June 2006, I had the privilege of seeing Matt DeCample at work during a weekend of the 48 Hour Film Project.
I was allowed to tag along to take photos and document the experience of the 48 Hour Film Project process. (Photos which I cannot seem to find, but are tucked away somewhere on a disc to be found in time.)
We were gathered at the Public Theatre space for a brief pep talk before Matt and Drake Mann went to the drawing. It was there that the team would learn its Genre, the character’s name, the prop, and the line of dialogue that had to be included in the film.
In their absence, someone had cracked, “I don’t care what genre we get, as long as it isn’t Action. I mean how do you shoot and edit an action film in 48 hours?” So of course when Matt and Drake walked in — the genre was Action.
Matt was so clearly in his element. Just a look at him and one could tell that the wheels were turning in his mind. He led the group through brainstorming. I don’t remember who actually came up with the final idea, but I suspect it was Matt.
The Action genre was to be played out in an office. A worker had only a few minutes to get a fax sent (remember it was 2006) and had to dodge a number of obstacles along the way in order to get it done.
And we were off!
Matt was the screenwriter — and to play one of the distractions, an impatient boyfriend who kept calling the office worker as she was trying to finish her task. Chris Cranford was the director, cinematographer, and editor. Seeing Matt and Chris, two guys who loved films, talk in a kind of short-hand was entertaining. The opening credits stripped across books in a law library in a manner similar to the opening of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest – something that Matt and Chris thought not only would be fun to create but would also add a layer to the movie evoking a Hitchcokian tone.
We broke around 1 in the morning. Matt went to work on the script.
A few hours later we gathered in a downtown law firm. Matt had about half the script written and the rest outlined. It was enough that Chris could map out the shots and start the filming.
As is the case with any film, there are always adjustments that need to be made. Matt was unfazed. When not needed for a scene, he was often set up in an office typing away at the script. Or he was helping the camera crew. Or he was entertaining everyone with a wry observation about something.
Throughout the 48 Hours Matt was very much the man with the plan for the project. He did not lead from the front or the top, however, He led from the center of the pack in a collaborative and encouraging manner — because that was Matt.
I don’t think he slept any the weekend. He did not intrude on the editing or scoring processes (Buddy Habig created an original score which added immensely to the film), he contributed insight and was a sounding board. And quite frankly, he just reveled in the entire process and the somewhat absurdity of what was being undertaken. He loved every second of it.
I cannot remember everyone who was in the film. (I tried to find it on YouTube, but the earliest films from Little Rock were 2007.) I do remember the late, great Fran Austin played the overbearing boss whose demand set the scenario in motion. Ruth Shepherd played the overeager office manager trying to get everyone to sign a greeting card. She popped up several times as an obstacle. Once she handed the card to me in an uncredited cameo of my right hand.
But the person who pops up in my mind the most is Mattie D. I am sure when I find those photos again I will see him in many of them. He seemed to be everywhere.
And just like with everything he undertook whether in his professional career or as an avocation – he was always completely Mattie D.