SATURDAY, SEGMENT 6 at 9:45 pm
When an emotionally self-destructive rock star starts to lose his hearing, his personal and professional lives begin to unravel.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York — Matthew Gentile recently graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in Film and English, and a Certificate in Arts & Technology. His award-winning computer-animated/live-action film HEART TO HEART was screened at festivals around the U.S. During a semester abroad at FAMU in Prague, he adapted Hemingway’s “Cat in the Rain.” Throughout college, he interned for Scott Rudin, Charlie Rose and Jennie Livingston. Upon graduating, Gentile began working at William Morris Endeavor in New York and was promoted from the mailroom to the motion picture talent department. While at WME, Gentile wrote and directed another short, NEW PLAN A, which premiered at New Filmmakers NY and the Crown Heights Film Festival. After completing three shorts during his first year at AFI, Matthew is very excited to bring FRONTMAN to the big screen.
A year ago, I finished my first year at AFI. I made three short films and experienced tremendous growth. I was succeeding in my environment. My professors, friends, family, were proud of me. I loved where I was, learning lessons about filmmaking that were changing and influencing the way I saw the world. I was pushing myself to move past the clichés that were obstructing something deeper within my psyche. In that process, I found creative instincts I didn’t even knew existed. There’s no one sentence or phrase to describe what a director or a writer really does. However, if there’s one phrase that says it best: I would say it’s the director’s job to photograph the subtext.
At that moment in time, I did not understand my own subtext. On one hand, I was truly happy with the way I was developing as a filmmaker. On the other hand, I felt restless, lost, and unsure. When a project was in front of me I knew what to do but when the dust settled and things got quiet – anxiety would rear its ugly head. As I reflected on my life, I realized that ambition had kicked in for me at an early age. Everyone I knew would describe me as a “go-getter”; every summer since I was in high school – I always had a job or an internship – all of which were invaluable. Yet what I needed at this moment was time to take two things: 1) a breath and 2) a deep, brave look inward. I needed to process it all: to be less results-oriented and more in the moment. Fortunately, with no summer classes, the schedule permitted me to go back home to New York from June through August.
My mother picked me up from the airport. Usually every time I got off the airplane, she would cry in happiness that I was home. But she didn’t cry this time. As she hugged me, she was silent. I asked what was wrong. She responded by saying: “I’m not happy if my boy isn’t happy.” The power of unconditional love in that moment hit me hard. I spent a beautiful summer in Brooklyn with my family and close friends, in my home. I wrote. I devoured good movies and books. But more importantly: I ate dinner with my family or close friends almost every night. I celebrated birthdays, went on walks and spent quality time with people. To put it simply, I enjoyed life. Being around people I loved and who really knew me, enabled me to connect to my true self. It also made me realize that in life, we have these big moments. What we remember looking back on it all are those little moments in between.
I came back from that summer to LA. And with an extremely smart, talented, and hard-working team, I began making my thesis film. Having this realization enabled me to understand what my script FRONTMAN was really about. On one hand, it’s a film about deafness and self-destruction; an analysis of celebrity and our culture’s fascination with fame, the tendency to build superstars into heroes only to break them back down. Jodie King has the simple goal to play music for his fans and enjoy the high life. But what matters most to him is the relationship he has with his daughter. Going deaf not only means not being able to perform himself, but not being able to hear his daughter. My hope with this film is that the filmmakers, the audience, and we as well, can understand the extremely challenging but ultimately rewarding journey that comes with pursuing your passion. To me, filmmaking is a boxing match. It requires a great persistence and an ability to work around obstacles. Our collaborators, our families, our closest friends, they are the trainer, the manager, the people cheering. These are the kinds of relationships you cannot force or manufacture. They are the people who help us stay true to ourselves, who inspire us to re-charge, who help lift us through the physical and emotional turmoil.