Wednesday 18 June 2014

Interview with Matt Treacy

Matt Treacy is an Australian screenwriter, script analyst, actor, and event manager, who lives in Melbourne. He handled the logistics of Pilar Alessandra's recent visit to Victoria. 
    I met Matt on Julie Gray's Facebook page, in a discussion about the decline of traditional Aussie slang. Cooee cobber!

What is your favourite Australian expression, Matt?

You can’t make strawberry jam out of dog shit.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I grew up in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
I’m a fifth generation Australian on my father’s side. We came out as free settlers in the 1850s and made our mark in a small town in North Western Victoria. My mother’s side came out earlier on one of the convict ships.

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

Three brothers and a sister. You had to be the loudest to get your point across at the dinner table. We have a fairly large extended family, who are fiercely loyal, friendly and abundantly generous. That has rubbed off on me.

Where did you go to school?

After completing Year 11 at Aquinas College, I spent a year studying art at Box Hill TAFE.

When did you first take an interest in movies?

I grew up on a healthy diet of Saturday Morning cartoons, Sunday Night Disney and Countdown. The first movie I recall seeing in the cinema was Benji (1974) at the Balwyn Cinema.

What was your first paying job (in any field)?

I delivered junk mail to earn pocket money as a kid and have held down jobs of all descriptions since.

What was your first paying job as a filmmaker?

I was a featured customer in a Coles TVC.

You came to screenwriting in a novel way. Tell us what happened.

Screenwriting wasn’t on my radar at all, until about ten years ago. My background in art led me down a lot of dead-end paths, as I tried to figure out where my destiny lay.
    In 2004, while watching Big Brother, I was amazed how badly the show was doing, given the amount of potential it had. I contacted the Executive Producer and gave him a list of suggestions to help lift the quality of the show and improve their flagging ratings. Strangely enough, they did not follow my advice and the show was eventually cancelled.

    I was left with all these brilliant ideas, so I decided to write a movie script. I bought a copy of Screenwriting For Dummies®, with a view to finding out how to correctly format my story. Somewhere in there, they give a broad description of the personality and traits of a screenwriter. That was a defining moment in my life. I’d finally found my calling. Not a bad thing for a 35 year old. That opened the door to a very prolific period of my life.

You spent time in Los Angeles, back in 2008, pitching your work to a group of agents, managers, and executives. What are some of the lessons you learned from the experience?

I attended one of the pitch festivals in L.A.—my first time there and well before social media had really kicked in. As much as I felt that I was prepared, I was going in blind. I knew nobody in the industry—here or there. I had three books to learn from and one completed script.
    I discovered within the first ten seconds of my first pitch that I was nowhere near ready. My script was nowhere near ready and I had two days of pitching ahead of me. It was a character-building couple of days. The positives were that I gained a lot of experience and met some really nice people. I also pitched some other stories I was working on, which were also well received.
    Unless I was pitching concepts in a meeting, I would avoid pitching anything that I didn’t have written and polished ever again. If somebody asks for a copy of the script or the first 30 pages, you want to be able to deliver promptly.  Today, I put as much effort into preparing my pitches as I do on my story.

The other highlights of that trip were the studio tours. Sony was good, because I met Tom Hanks, when he was on a break during filming for Angels and Demons (2009). I took the V.I.P. tour at Warner Bros. Sitting in the commissary, eating lunch among some of the industry’s heavy hitters, gives you a major buzz. I knew for sure, then, that I wanted to live and work in Hollywood.

You had an involvement in Pilar Alessandra’s most recent visit to Melbourne. How did you get that gig?

I’ve been listening to Pilar’s podcasts for years—since the Drunk & Naked episodes. I’ve consulted with Pilar on my work and developed a friendship over that time. When I found out that she was planning to come to Australia, I insisted on being involved in whatever way I could. In the end, I pretty much took care of the Melbourne leg.
    I was fortunately able to arrange an interview for Pilar with Richard Stubbs on his ABC radio show. They hit it off and ended up exchanging books that they’d written afterwards. It was a really enjoyable experience to spend time with someone I consider to be both a mentor and friend. We were able to talk in-depth about the industry, my plans, her plans, and life in general. She loved Australia and would love to come out again sometime.

Shane Black says that all writers should gain some knowledge of acting. What lessons did you learn from your acting experiences?

You get a much clearer insight into the village required to pull it all together. Many writers lose sight of that, due to the solitary nature of screenwriting. Spending time on set gives you perspective.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about screenwriting when you were starting out?
* Your first script is rubbish.
* Networking is EVERYTHING.
* Be incredibly self-confident, but leave your ego at the door.
If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book to a newbie writer in Adelaide, which one would it be?

I have an entire library of books on screenwriting now. Each has their own particular gems within—but the stand out will always be Save The Cat! Blake left us with an incredible legacy. God bless him.

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?

I have over 400 favourite DVDs in my collection. I see at least one new release movie at the cinema every week. Choosing ten is not easy, but... (in no particular order):
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Mad Max II: The Road Warrior (1981)
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
The Gauntlet (1977)
True Lies (1994)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The Apartment (1960)
Toy Story (1995)

What’s next for Matt Treacy?

For personal reasons, I have been unable to fly internationally for the past few years. That will no longer be the case in March 2015, when I hope to attend a friend’s event in San Francisco. All going well, I’ll spend a few days in L.A. as well.
    I’ll be going back to L.A. in June 2015 to catch up with everyone in my social and professional networks. I also hope to arrange some meetings as well as attending a couple of events. The aim is to go in with my top four production-ready scripts under my wing.
    I have also arranged to shadow a local director when he commences filming on his next project.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow, 4 scripts and watching a director at work! You really means business. Good luck to you, Matt.