by Lorie Lewis Ham
KRL: Please tell us a little about your new film Altar.
Matt: Altar is the story of several college friends who reunite seven years after graduating for an impromptu reunion. They journey to the mountains where they become separated from the rest of the group and have to stay the night with strangers. While exploring that night, they stumble upon something unexpected and after disturbing it, must try to stay alive to get off the mountain. It is a character driven story with twists and turns shot from the perspective of the younger brother of one of the college friends. It was filmed all around the Central Valley and mountain community of Oakhurst. Altar has won 21 awards on the festival circuit.
KRL: As the writer and producer, how and when did you get the idea for this film?
Matt: The idea was something I came up with in 2011 but put on the shelf. After seeing a new wave of found footage films being made, I thought it was time to make Altar. We filmed it in 2015 in the summer and winter months.
KRL: How long did it take for it to come together ready to film?
Matt: The pre-production was a rapid process of several months. We cast out of Fresno and Los Angeles with over 1000 actor submissions coming in for the six main roles. We built props, shot camera tests, got our locations and then started filming.
KRL: Once you started filming how long did it take?
Matt: We shot the main part of the movie in three days and the pickup shots in four days. The entire film was shot in seven days.
KRL: Where did you film? Were they any local locations?
Matt: We filmed all over the place including, Fresno, Madera, Oakhurst, Bass Lake, Tenaya Lodge, and Beasore.
KRL: Are there local actors in the movie?
Matt: Five of our lead actors were cast out of Los Angeles, but one of the leads is a local actor named Jesse Parr. His audition was amazing. A former local actor, Michael Wainwright, was also cast. Many supporting roles are also local actors. Kia Vassiliades, Gregory Tharpe, Cathy Wilcox, Master Dave Johnson, Patrick Nalty are some of those actors.
KRL: Any names we may recognize?
Matt: Tim Parrish who plays Asher in Altar is best known for his role in the movie Lost in the Pacific. Stefanie Estes, who plays Maisy in Altar, has been in many films, the most recent being the horror film Bethany which has just released everywhere. Brittany Falardeau was currently filmed a role in the untitled new movie from Tremendum Pictures (The makers of The Gallows) and was a lead in House of Darkness. Deep Rai has appeared on TV in Outsourced, NCIS, One Mississippi, Hand of God, and will be in Pitch Perfect 3. He was also in my comedy Firefall: An Epic Family Adventure. Gregory Tharpe was in my first feature film, Stricken, and the lead in my comedy Firefall: An Epic Family Adventure.
KRL: I understand there were some unique elements to the script. Can you share?
Matt: Altar is a tight outline but not a word for word script. We cast the best improv actors we could find and gave them freedom to become the characters, creating moments as they got from point to point in the outline. It was a refreshing and organic way to tell a story, and we have seen the results with many acting awards across our film festival run and comments that the acting felt 100% real.
KRL: Would you classify this movie as horror? If so, what sort of horror elements does it contain? Is it graphic violence, jump out of your seat kind of horror, or just creepy?
Matt: I would classify this movie as a Horror/Thriller/Found Footage film that is creepy. Some people who love horror love our movie, but some people who hate horror also love our movie. Altar is about the characters and going on a journey with them.
KRL: What is your favorite thing about this film?
Matt: My favorite thing about the film is absolutely the level of acting demonstrated. As a director, I strive to work with my actors and give them tools and direction to bring the performances the story needs to life. When actors are amazing, it makes me look amazing as a director, and I give that credit to this talented team. Their professionalism in the face of a grueling shoot was remarkable, and their performances were magic.
KRL: How many films have you made?
Matt: I have produced seven feature films and directed three, Altar being the third. Before that, I made many short films.
KRL: I understand Altar has appeared at festivals. What has been the response?
Matt: Altar has dominated at the festivals, winning Audience choice awards, Best Film Awards, Best Horror Awards, Best Actor Awards, Best Director Awards, Best Cast Ensemble awards, and many more. It has generated a buzz wherever it has shown, and we hope this will continue when it is released.
KRL: When and where is the premiere?
Matt: The Epic Red Carpet Premiere is May 13 at the Crest Theatre in downtown Fresno from 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
KRL: Can anyone buy tickets or is it exclusive?
Matt: The Red Carpet Premiere is open to everyone. They can buy general tickets and VIP tickets at www.altartickets.com.
KRL: You tease in your press release that there will be some big Hollywood names at your premiere. Any chance of you sharing who or giving us a hint?
Matt: We have a lot of possibilities on that front that are being finalized, but some examples are actors and crew from large movies, festival directors, well known local celebrities, and local filmmakers. We are working out the final details. All of the Altar lead actors will be at the Premiere as well.
KRL: Do you have any social media pages?
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Matt: We will be selling signed DVDs and Blurays at the Premiere, and there will be opportunities to take your picture on our red carpet. Altar releases everywhere in June.
Don’t miss The Epic Red Carpet Premiere on May 13 at the Crest Theatre in downtown Fresno from 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.