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Matt Aselton

We shot the majority of the film on longer lenses with the idea that we were spying on these people’s lives. We tried to be less presentational. The influences come from everywhere, but when you’re shooting New York you’re very aware of what has come before you. I’ve always loved Sydney Pollack’s film Three Days of the Condor and I thought about that film a lot.

IONCINEMA.com’s IONCINEPHILE of the Month feature focuses on an emerging filmmaker in American independent film. We dig into their filmmaking background and look at the nuts and bolts of that person’s upcoming feature film release. This month we feature: Gigantic’s Matt Aselton. (Stay tuned for Matt’s Top ten films list — coming soon!)

Gigantic Matt Asleton Interview

Eric Lavallee: During your childhood…what films were important to you?
Matt Aselton: I watched movies with my father. We watched a lot of masculine American films, westerns and a lot of war movies, Howard Hawks and John Wayne featured pretty prominently in my house. Rio Bravo, Patton, The Great Escape, The Outlaw Josie Wales, Green Berets, Bullitt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, — we would watch these films over and over again, and that’s something I do to this day. There’s something to be said for repetition.

EL: During your formative years what films and filmmakers inspired you?
MA: Same as everyone, I started watching more interpretive films from different voices Stanley Kubrick, Bergman, Bunuel, Godard, Kurosawa, Truffaut, Melville, Sidney Lumet, Roman Polanski, Antonioni, Bertolucci.

Gigantic Matt Asleton Interview

EL: At what point did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
MA: We made movies with my parent’s Super 8 camera with no film in it. We just liked the idea that we were doing it. That, and my Uncle was a swordfisherman in Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard and they filmed Jaws in the harbor where he had his boat slip. I remember seeing the movie and Robert Shaw’s boat leaving the harbor and being very excited. I think I’m still that way about films. I had no formal training, I was an English Literature major in college.

EL: What was the genesis behind Gigantic? How did you develop the screenplay?
MA: I wrote the screenplay with Adam Nagata. It started with adoption, family and divorce and moved into something a little more surreal. We both wanted the film to be a little off center.

EL: What kind of characteristics/features were you looking for your main characters/during the casting process?
MA: Hard to say, I think it’s best to not have preconceived ideas of what you want the actors to be like before you shoot the film. I just picked actors that I liked a lot and let them bring what they had to the roles. Which isn’t to say I wasn’t after something in particular, I just think ultimately you pick the smartest, nimblest people and you let them help you tell your story.

Gigantic Matt Asleton Interview

EL: How did you prep for the performances (was there a rehearsal process?). How did you prep for each scene (was there storyboarding involved?) 
MA: We rehearsed a little bit with Paul and Zooey as their chemistry was vital, but nothing exhaustive, they’re both quick and funny and I was anxious to not dilute the process with a bunch of repetition. No storyboards but a ton of location scouting, we really scoured Manhattan and the surrounding areas to find everything.

EL: What ideas did you have for the style of the film? What inspirations (other films, location, paintings etc…) did you draw upon for the look/style, aesthetics of the film?
MA: We shot the majority of the film on longer lenses with the idea that we were spying on these people’s lives. We tried to be less presentational. The influences come from everywhere, but when you’re shooting New York you’re very aware of what has come before you. I’ve always loved Sydney Pollack’s film Three Days of the Condor and I thought about that film a lot. While thematically it’s not the same, there was a way in which he made New York feel big and small at the same time and I like that. 

Gigantic Matt Asleton Interview

EL: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with Peter Donahue?
MA: I’ve been working with the DP Peter Donahue for several years and it’s a collaboration I’m very thankful for. We discussed the film at length and scouted for a few months together before the production. He’s got a pretty soft and subtle approach to the photography portion of it, but almost more importantly he thinks like a storyteller. We have a mutual aesthetic which favors more naturalism and isn’t too precious. It’s almost harder as a DP to make something feel beautiful but not so much so that it’s straining and contrived. He strikes the perfect balance in my opinion.

EL: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with Beatrice Sisul?
MA: My editor Beatrice Sisul and I cut the film in Los Angeles over several months. It was our first time working together. We met before the film and discussed the script and her take on it was really sharp. She understood the dynamics of the characters, the pacing, and style immediately. Like all good editors she’s fastidious and insanely focused. Your editor is the only other person that has the whole film in their head and thankfully we were making the same film all along.

EL: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with Roddy Bottum?
MA: Roddy Bottum is the composer for the movie and also a first time collaboration. I had known Roddy personally for a few years before the film but we had never done anything together. He’s a person that can play any instrument and play them well and those types of people are generally scary. He’s not. He’s got great taste and a real point of view.

First Independent Pictures presents Gigantic, in New York theatres April 3rd, Los Angeles theatres April 17th. For dates in your city click here.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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