THE SHORT CUT: An Interview With Director Matt Kazman

The Short Cut is a new column on Under The Gun that showcases the careers of short film directors. Shorts are often overlooked when it comes to the entire spectrum of film, and by including interviews with the directors themselves and information about their creative efforts, this column will highlight the work of some of the category’s dignitaries that we feel deserve your attention.

If you’re a director of short films or know someone who is that would like to be featured in The Short Cut, please send an inquiry with your information to

As juvenile as it may be, I must admit that Matt Kazman’s work originally caught my eye and piqued my interest with the simple effectiveness of a single tagline; “A serious short film about boners and salami nipples.” Upon discovering this, I immediately watched Flagpole in its 21-minute entirety, loved it, and clicked my way to Letterboxd to make it a page and record it. I then proceeded to share the short with my friends which they willingly watched once reading the tagline and immediately loved as well. You can enjoy Flagpole after the interview below and inevitably join us in appreciation for Kazman’s contributions to the short film world.

Flagpole isn’t the only work Matt has under his belt, however. Turns out he’s quite the explorer in the world of film and television which he explained to me during our recent interview along with how he got started in the business and what his family thinks of his creative outlets, so read on and get familiar with the talented Matt Kazman!

First off, for those that may not be familiar with your work, can you explain what it is that you do?
I’m a Writer/Director and an Editor. I separate those because I work professionally mostly as an Editor – I’ve worked on tons of short films, documentaries, fashion videos, etc. Most recently, I edited a season of a crazy documentary series called The Unexplained that aired on the BIO channel. But I’m much more interested in comedy – which is what I primarily write and direct. I’ve made a few short films so far, which I’ve been really happy with, and I direct some comedic web-series stuff whenever it comes my way.

What originally inspired you to get involved with filmmaking and how did you get your start?
As clichéd as this sounds, it’s honestly something I’ve wanted to do since I can remember. I don’t know why or how, but I just started devouring films from an early age. At a certain point, I had to start making my own, and I bought a Handycam and Adobe Premiere when I was 13 and went to town. I always liked putting stuff together as a kid and building little things (like Legos, model cars, Roman Empires, etc.), and nothing felt more rewarding than putting together this visual thing that people sat down and watched and laughed at and were entertained by. It was just so fun and fulfilling that I kept doing it, and I haven’t stopped since.

What did you do before you starting working on films?
Seeing as how I’m only 24, not much. I guess typical kid stuff? Like causing trouble and trying to be good at sports and then failing at sports and trying to kiss girls and then failing at kissing girls? I did all that. I also had a habit of ripping off pieces of wallpaper and eating it when I was two years old. That was a thing I did. This answer just got weird, I’m sorry.

Any desire to work on feature full lengths?
Oh, of course. That’s what I’d like to build towards. As soon as I have a script I feel really good about, I’m pretty much going to devote everything I got to making it.

Any ideas as to what you’d make a full-length film about? Who would play the lead?
I’ve got a few ideas that I’m writing, that are still brewing, so we’ll see what they turn into. All I can say for now is that after making a film about 13 year olds and the beginning stages of adolescence, my ideas now are mostly focused around characters in high school. I’m interested in exploring that aspect of adolescence, where people think they’re much wiser and more confident than they were a few years ago, except they’re really not.

Which of your short films is the most relatable to you?
Definitely Flagpole. I wanted to make it to show the fear, excitement and embarrassment that I felt so much around that age. I feel like I was putting a part of myself out there with the film. I also just pulled from a lot of experiences and observations I made about my own life at that age that seem so entertaining in retrospect.

Oh, how I remember the “things I’m definitely not and never will be” pants.

I’ve seen Flagpole most recently, which I think is pretty familiar for any teenage boy, or girl. First of all, where the hell do you get inflatable couches these days, and secondly, what are your personal thoughts on salami nipples?
Getting those inflatable couches was a bitch! But so worth it. I looked up so many companies that were apparently selling them, only to find out that they obviously weren’t selling them because it wasn’t the 90s anymore. It took a lot of calls, but I finally found a company that had some. I feel like I bought the last two inflatable couches on the planet.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say in terms of my personal thoughts on salami nipples. It’s funny how that ended up becoming such a big part of the film. Originally, I felt it was this ridiculous thing guys talked about when I was younger, like it was something they made fun of girls about, which is immature, so I had his friends talk about it. Then I obviously included it in Zack’s thoughts, because all of his thoughts were influenced by what his friends were talking about. But that was it in the script. And during a rehearsal, the actress who played Maddy Cohen asked me what “salami nipples” were, because she had no idea. So I had her ask the lead, David, while we were doing a run through of the scene, without telling him beforehand, and his response was so awkward and technical, I had to put it in the script. And then when I filmed the scene in the principal’s office, which my parents acted in, my mom asked to do an improvised take, and just fucking let loose and screamed “SALAMI NIPPLES!” She screamed a lot of other crazy stuff that I couldn’t use, but I used that.

UTG’s on the hunt for inflatable furniture!

Does your family enjoy your films?
Oh yeah. They’re the best. They’ve always been super supportive of everything I do. My dad is kind of a classic film buff, and he’s easily the harshest film critic I know. I know when he’s not into something we’re watching, he doesn’t hide it at all. He’ll just say out loud, “Matt, this is SHIT.” He’s always loved watching my films though, like he wants to watch rough cuts, scenes, whatever I’m working on. He gets so excited whenever I show him something, I’m assuming that means he enjoys them. Though I’ve shown him stuff before where he just looks at me for a while and says, “…It’s definitely not your best work.”

What can you tell me about Love’s A Bitch and its Kickstarter?
Love’s a Bitch was a “pilot” project I worked on with some good friends of mine. My friend had an idea for a web series, and he told a few of us. We all hadn’t really worked together creatively before and wanted to, so we just went for it. The idea is basically about a couple who breaks up and all the terrible things they do to each other afterwards. And when we sat down to write a bunch of episodes, the first one just kept getting bigger and bigger and it turned into this 23-page script that we really liked, so we decided, “Let’s just make THAT,” and we raised the money to make it on Kickstarter and shot it around a year ago and had a blast.

It screened at the New York Television Festival in October, which was an amazing experience, because it got seen by network executives, and since then, we’ve been developing it into an actual web-series with 3-minute episodes instead of 17-minutes, because there’s a market for that and we just have a lot of great ideas for it. We actually just put the pilot online for anyone to watch because we felt there was no need to hide it from the world. It was a lot of fun for me because all of the “short films” I’ve done have been very personal projects, and this was just an opportunity to have fun with my friends. We even had a great time making the Kickstarter, which is more of a funny sketch in itself rather than 3 minutes of sincere pandering. We felt that if we could make people laugh for a few minutes for free, they’d give us money to make them laugh some more.

It also looks like you’re working on something called Laying Over? Can you indulge us with any information regarding that?
Yeah! That’s a feature that I’m editing. It’s a film by a very good buddy of mine, Jacob Halpren, who I went to school with. Jake’s been really inspired by a lot of independent filmmakers who go out there and make intimate, personal films with micro-budgets, so he made one himself. It’s actually really inspiring – there are a lot of people, especially in Brooklyn, doing that, and it’s cool to be a part of a project like this. The film is about a guy who has a lay-over (obviously) in New York overnight, so he reaches out to his girlfriend from high school, who he hasn’t spoken to in years, because he doesn’t know anyone else in New York. And they meet up and end up spending the weekend together, as they get a view into what each other’s lives are like now. It’s about seeing how people you were so close with when you were younger change over time. It’s pretty cool – we’re right in the midst of editing now. And it’s the first feature I’ve worked on in such a creative capacity. I’m learning a lot. In film school, I edited a lot of peoples’ short films, and I always learned so much from doing that, in terms of visualizing scenes and figuring out structure. So it’s cool to be working on a much larger scale, and to be putting together all these scenes and watching them all together and figuring out how to make it all work. Working on this is going to be a huge help for when I make my own feature.

Who are some of your favorite directors that influence your work?
Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, Jason Reitman, Todd Solondz, the Duplass Brothers, Lynn Shelton. Oh, and Louis C.K. (because of Louie, not Pootie Tang).

Who are some actors that you’d love to work with?
Such a tough question! I don’t even know where to begin with that one. For some reason, the first person that comes to mind is John C. Reilly, but that’s probably because I was just talking with someone about all the different roles he’s played so well. Same thing with Julianne Moore. Now I’m just diving into actors from P.T. Anderson movies. I’ve got a one track mind right now.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a filmmaker?
Honestly? Finding the right people to collaborate with. I’m always looking for people to work with who I admire and who will inspire me to do better. It’s tough, but I feel like the more films I make, the more I put myself out there, the more people I meet who I want to work on something with. I’ve also always been a bit of a control freak, because I have that editor’s mentality where I can just do it all myself, so letting that go and being more open to others creatively is another big challenge, but I think the two are very intertwined.

If you were to quit tomorrow, what would you regret that you never accomplished?
A lot. I’ve barely gotten started.

What is your ultimate goal as a filmmaker?
My ultimate goal is to make all different kinds of films. I find that right now I’m inspired by such a variety of work, and while my cinematic interests right now are rooted in a lot of similar themes and tones, I’m sure that once I make something that covers that ground, I’ll find my interests drifting into other genres and styles. But my SUPREME ultimate goal is to make films that feel real. That sounds incredibly vague, but I mean films that don’t feel constructed when you watch them, where you really connect to the characters, no matter how crazy the situation is that they’re in.

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?
I have no idea yet! Hopefully by the time you post this, I’ll have figured it out. My girlfriend and I just spent a week in New Orleans dodging people’s puke on Bourbon Street and eating buckets of gumbo, so we’re still recovering from that right now.

Written and conducted by: Brian Lion — Follow him on Twitter!

Brian Leak
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.