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Matt Wilkins: Director, MARROW

February 18, 2013

3266_65323679646_7504622_n1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of MARROW, from concept to financing.

I try to think of stories that I would tell if I was on my death bed and I had only time for one last story.  What would I tell someone I loved?  What story would I leave them with to remember me by?

I also feel compelled to take on tough material.   What am I most afraid of?  What am I most embarrassed by?  What would conventional, socially-disciplined people sweep under the rug and never talk about?  I think the artist’s job is to lift up the rug and expose the deepest darkest secrets, regrets, embarrassments– and try to make some sense out them.  I had a son when I was 22 and my father died when I was 30.  When I wrote this script I thought that those two experiences really defined who I was.   The overwhelming sadness I felt after my father’s gruesome death had an adverse affect on my ability to be a good parent.  I saw the world through a veil of grief and it affected how I interpreted the world.  I had trouble being logical because I was in so much pain.  That’s what this film is about.

2Q: I hate to take the focus off your film for a moment, but the public wants to know: You work on Hoarders – What is your most memorable moment working on that show?

I love hoarders and hoarders love me!   It’s such a great show and it’s really fun to be part of a talented team.  When I field produce, it’s like going into battle, so there’s incredible camaraderie. We have an absolute blast.  My personal favorite “Hoarders” episode is Al from Hammond, Indiana.  Dumpster diving Al (“I’m like a squirrel in a bag of nuts!”) was hilarious throughout the show, but then it ended in tragedy when he couldn’t get his kid back.  The Bunny Hoarder and the Rat Hoarder episodes are also really great— you can see all the episodes on A&E’s website.

3Q: Back to your film! What was your best and/or worst experience while making MARROW?

Watching Frances (Hearn) surprise me every day of the shoot. She is such a brave actress and pushed it further than I ever imagined.  She made everyone around her better and she took risks that I don’t think many famous actresses would have had the freedom to take.

It was also a really special experience to get to work with my son Wiley on the film.  A lot of Dad’s and 17 year olds are strangers in the night and don’t talk much, let alone analyze complex behaviors together.  It was really fun to step outside the father/son role and into a role of collaborators.   We rehearsed on weekends for about a year, slowly revising the script to tailor to Frances and Wiley’s skill sets.  You can ask him what he thought, but I felt like during those rehearsals and the shoot, we got along better than ever.  It was a big big risk, but the blend of fact and fiction makes for a really interesting film I think.

Worst thing– 22 years ago, when I was a teenager, a friend and I named the company Sisyphus Productions.  So now whenever anyone gets sick on set, they say, “I got Sisyphus!”  Hilarious.  Plus I’m sick of spelling it for people

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

Even though we had a small budget, I tried to make a brilliant film.  I think the result is a film with some incredible highs, real cinematic surprises, and great emotional payoff.  It’s not a perfect film–   it’s a little rough around the edges, like a garage band.  But if you can look around our small budget, I think you’ll see a few things that will stick with you.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

MARROW was funded with 2 grants from 4Culture, 2 from Artist Trust, and 1 from Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs.  We had a few small investments from really great patrons who believed in the project and understood what kind of film we were going to make.   We just want to play it as much as possible, find the people who like it, have fun, and make back as much money as possible so that I can re-borrow it and make another movie!   Incidentally, the next film I make is going to be super-commercial.


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