BPS 352: From DIY Filmmaking to Directing Studio Films with Matt Stawski

Matt Stawski is a Grammy-nominated filmmaker and director of Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Big City Adventure, an original feature-length Blue’s Clues & You! movie, premiering Nov. 18 exclusively on Paramount+. Marking Stawski’s first feature film, Blue’s Big City Adventure is a sing-and-dance-along musical spectacular for the whole family, featuring all-new songs and choreography with the show’s beloved hosts–Josh (Josh Dela Cruz), Steve (Steve Burns) and Joe (Donovan Patton)—and fan-favorite animated characters. The movie also features BD Wong, Ali Stroker, Taboo, Alex Winter, Phillipa Soo, and Steven Pasquale’s special star appearances.

On A trip to New York City, Josh and Blue get help from Steve and Joe, but a greedy man plots to make the Big Apple his own and he hasn’t learned to share, With Blue on the trail, She must go on an adventure and save her friends and NYC before it’s too late.

Born and raised in Detroit, Mich., Stawski began his career “borrowing” truckloads of gear from his local TV station and filming punk bands with his friends.  After attending Columbia College Chicago, he immediately moved to Los Angeles, where he began directing music videos full-time. From 2006-2019, he directed videos for a wide array of artists, including CeeLo Green’s epic video “F**K You,” which garnered Stawski a Grammy Award nomination; “Hey, Soul Sister” for Train, as well as Fall Out Boy, The Wanted, Ne-Yo, Paramore, Fifth Harmony, Snoop Dogg and more. During that time, Stawski also began working in television, filming pilots for Awesomeness and Nickelodeon.

Stawski is currently in development on an original horror film titled Monster Mash with Universal Pictures. In his free time, he gets lost in the Sierra mountains, practices close-up magic, and hosts a secret horror movie drive-in at an undisclosed location.

Enjoy my conversation with Matt Stawski.

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Matt Stawski 0:00
Like we had all the dance figured out with, with the dancers. And this thing happened when we were playing the song on set and like people were like snapping their fingers and bobbing their heads and we're like, yo, let's just, let's really lean into the Little Shop of Horrors of it all. And even the background, you know, all the background actors that were sitting in the seats like they just like kept BB in their heads, almost like Betty Boop, you know, everyone's like moving to the beat.

Alex Ferrari 0:22
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show, Matt Stawski. How you doin, Matt?

Matt Stawski 0:36
Good. Thanks for having me. Alex, good to meet you.

Alex Ferrari 0:38
Thank you for thank you for coming on the show. Brother. I really appreciate it. You know, I was I get pitched on the show all the time for people to come on. And I heard your story of the DIY beginning of your career, just kind of like hustling it out, grinding it, doing these crazy music videos to get started and then all the way to where you're now where you directed your first feature for a studio. The Blue's Clues Spider Man far from a far from home? Or yeah, no way home version, which will get

Matt Stawski 1:09
Treatment oh my god, people. The internet is a great place sometimes, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:14
You know, sometimes sometimes it's a beautiful place sometimes. Every once in a while. It's it was well, so my first question is how and why God's green earth? Did you want to get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Matt Stawski 1:26
Oh, man. i Wow. Why did I want it? That's that's a question I've probably never been asked. I think I was just I was into it. Because like a lot of people, I was just making stupid short films with my friends, you know, were young, you know, running around the woods making horror movies, one wasn't called hacker was was like my first stupid or movie, I made my friend Mark. And then another reason was because I just had access to equipment. You know, my, my high school was a cousin on Warren, Michigan, and we had a radio station TV station. And we would, you know, the second half of your day, you know, your fourth, fifth and sixth hour, you just go to the radio station, it was like this red place where there's like stickers on all the walls and like my teacher and green hair. And we just got records from all the record labels, they would send to all the radio stations first. And we were like a high school station. We weren't even a college station. But we had access to all this red music. And that's where I learned how to edit by doing like radio dramas. So I did a lot of like audio editing. And I learned how to shoot local bands, because we would be able to rent out cameras, and we would just go shoot bands. So that's kind of how the music video thing started was was at my local like radio TV station. So I guess that yeah, that's beginning.

Alex Ferrari 2:44
That's how you got started in and put, I gotta imagine that the second you decided to go to being a filmmaker, that all the money came in, and you were living large and life was good. And it was everything was easy. You got yeses all the time. Right.

Matt Stawski 2:57
Oh, yeah. The I have to I'm trying to sell my fifth yacht because, you know, I gotta I gotta for the

Alex Ferrari 3:05
For tax reasons for tax purposes. I understand. I understand. I two souls my seven last week. It's fantastic.

Matt Stawski 3:13
Too many, you know,

Alex Ferrari 3:16
Too many Exactly. But when you got started, I gotta imagine during those early years, there was a lot of rejection. And a lot of just like not, you know, you're talking about doing music videos, which I'm assuming a lot were free at the beginning just to get your reel up. What did you do to keep going when that door just kept getting slammed in your face?

Matt Stawski 3:37
Yeah, that was I mean, I think when, when you're young, as long as like, I had Final Cut Pro. And I had my parents computer, you know, and friends and I we throw our money together. I mean, yeah, we borrowed gear from the school, you know, to shoot stuff. But we also bought like VX 1000s and VX 2000s. Like those skate video cameras. And as long as we had a camera and editing gear, we were able to, you know, I mean, yeah, the band and the label would be like, Hey, we got 500 bucks for a music video. I'm like, Cool. That's the guest to get to New York, you know, and that happened multiple times. But like, you know, at the time, like, I don't know, everything was cheaper. We were all I mean, high school, we're living at home, so I don't have any bills to pay. But when I got to college, you know, we were able to really stretch $1 You know, so we would shoot tons of stuff on like 500 or $1,000 budgets. I remember we got like our $7,000 budget and our mind was blown. For this video for this band called Evergreen terrorists. They're like this hardcore band from Florida. I'm still good friends with Josh James Susan that then he's actually getting into videography now and I'm kind of helping them with that but but we got 7000 bucks to shoot that in Detroit and we use all the money to get like a real Chapman dolly and like 16 millimeter, you know, camera, good lenses, some real lights and it was me and like two other guys and a makeup person and Hold it all up to the roof to this rooftop like 10 stores like literally at Chapman Dolly, a champion Dolly. And yeah, we had, we had like no no pas or grips or electricians or anything, we just did it all ourselves. And so it was, it was like, up until the point where I was like, actually doing music videos and record labels, I was still like wrapping up all the chords and putting all the lights away, you know, like everything you could do on a non union shoe. We're just used to it, you know, so we had tons of situations where, even though we were we, you know, you write a lot of treatments, and you get rejected a lot. But those treatments, those times, we did get the opportunities, even if the label had 500 bucks, you know, like, we just had to be creative. You know, we just had to learn how to shop in a fabric district and learn how to go to a party supply store and get confetti poppers, you know, and just like weird things to add production value to a video when you can't build sets and, and really like, you know, the city of Detroit, like just scout the city and find the cool alleys to shoot in and find the picturesque areas and shoot when the lighting is good. And all that stuff that you know the guerrilla filmmaking stuff, you just kind of learn on the fly, you know,

Alex Ferrari 6:08
I'll blow your mind because I'm I'm a bit older than you. So in the 90s and the 90s. I remember working on $300,000 budget music videos. With which low and third third string artists, not even the top. That's not That's not top level. That's not the Taylor Swift of their day. It was third string, they were the backup singers of the real people who were the label was trying to get out. I remember specifically, and I'm like, Dude, seriously, there was so much money. Yeah. Then Miami, no less in Miami. Now even in New York or LA in Miami.

Matt Stawski 6:44
Yeah. Where where you don't have access to like multiple rental houses and stuff. And that was I mean, I was I think that was the biggest budget I ever. I mean, I did a commercial that was bigger. But music video wise, like the Disney videos, videos, I did like the kid videos. Those were that was the budget and that was considered big like, well, it well, we could shoot two days instead of one, you know. But but but I mean, I yeah, I got into the game, right when I was just doing this, but a lot of the, you know, I heard a lot of stories from you know, a lot of Aedes and kind of lectures I worked with, you know, being on the set, like the Michael Jackson set where he didn't show up, and it was a foreign issue, and everyone got paid full rates. And they just said that, you know, kind of a thing. And now, so,

Alex Ferrari 7:27
So much money, it's so much money was coming on, right. It was insane. Well, I mean, also to be fair, I mean, everyone was still selling, you know, $20 CDs. Yeah. Yeah, there wasn't. It was a whole other different business model back then.

Matt Stawski 7:42
The checks where you get five cents, you know, residuals on Spotify and stuff, you know, like,

Alex Ferrari 7:49
It costs more to send the check than the check is worth. Yeah, yeah. So just send me a stamp. Send me a free stamp. Would you do that that are valuable? Yeah. So so when you were so you did a bunch of stuff, like, you know, like, and I did a bunch of that stuff, too, coming up as well, like doing these commercials and stuff like that, that wasn't getting paid? Well, when you first had a real client. And it was a big budget. When you walked on set. You had a real crew? Yeah. You know, and that was you're not wrapping cable anymore. Yeah. What did that feel like? Like, when you were in the first time you were in $100,000 Plus budget? You're like, Oh, God, this is real. Like, pressure. How did you deal with how do you feel on that day?

Matt Stawski 8:31
Yeah, you know, I can remember it too. It was it was like a follow up boy video in 2008. That I did. And, and that one was I think, like Pete once was dating Ashley Simpson. And I remember, there was like, paparazzi on set and like, you know, people doing a bat. Like, I think she had a reality TV show that was filming. There was like, all these cameras. And like, I don't know, you know, there was the MTV people and the BH one people and then our cameras. And so it was, it was intimidating, but but I do remember, like, Pete ones had my back, you know, he saw I did this Anthony green video that was really trippy with lots of animation. And that's the reason I was able to do follow up boy, because he he vouched for me, he's like, I want that I want that weird trippy animation style. And so you know, when the artists kind of, you know, has your back like that, all it takes is to sort of get a couple shots in the can and show the band, you know, and like, show them what it's going to look like. And when they sort of like how it looks, you just get that confidence boost. And then like the artist is going to they act a little wacky or on set, you know, and then they, you know, kind of give it their all and everyone sort of trusts you. So it's just, I think, I think early on though in that stage that I'm not gonna say fake it till you make it. But that sensibility does make sense. Like, you may feel like you, you know, there's some impostor syndrome for sure. But the I think the main thing about their acting that, that I've realized, like, in the last, I mean, I don't know pretty recently, maybe in the last five years is you just have to be the person in the room that knows the most about the thing you're doing. You know, if you're going to, you know, make a music video about whatever Detroit you just got to do your history and be able to tell all the executives all the, you know, record label people, artists like yo, Detroit, this isn't this, the spots are great. This is awesome. You know, you just have to, you know, do your research and know the most, you know, kind of a thing. So with music videos, it was all about pre production, just having insane storyboards, and references, and film clips and all this stuff. So when you're on set, you're showing the artists all this stuff, you know, I guess we didn't have iPads back then. But just flipping through via your laptop computer, and just showing the record label like, Okay, this guy knows he's got a vision. And he thought about this a lot. You know, I hated living. I think I had nightmares about, like, coming up with shots on the spot, you know? So, yes, it's intimidating. But if you just like, have tons of references with you, and like, really tell all your department heads exactly what you're going for. And then it's been that confidence kind of, you know, swells inside you.

Alex Ferrari 11:00
It's funny, the like, literally last week, my daughters were listening to a song. And they're like, what's the song? And there's like, then I don't get the data. I'm like, that's, that's CeeLo Green. And this is like, am I can we see the video? Like, I've never actually seen the video of this video. So I literally watched the CeeLo Green video, forget, like for four or five days ago. Not knowing that you directed it? Yeah. Oh, cool. Not knowing that you directed it. I just it just it was a happenstance. The universe has brought that to it. So now it's like it's fresh. In my mind. I just saw it like literally four days ago. And then I'm doing research and you're like, son of a heat directly. What was that CeeLo Green, because that was such a massive hit. First of all a green. I mean, so massive. Was that the thing that just took your career to another level?

Matt Stawski 11:55
It was for sure. I mean, that's the thing that got me representation. It got me an agent and a manager. You know that. You know, Eric Garfinkel and Britain Vizio and they're the ones that taught me the and the narrative industry, the film industry and got me reading scripts and all that so that that video was a big, a big help for me, for sure. And we didn't you know, it was the whole story behind that's really interesting, because I was working at refus TV, which is, you know, this woman, Kathy pelo runs that she also has a record label called Sargent house. And she's this like incredible, just punk rock woman that knows everyone she's like, knows the New York party scene. And she hung around with all these, I think she was a model back in the day, and she hung around with all these legends and she knew people in the theater and the Broadway world. And she was a commissioner for Atlantic Records as well. So when that track was, was kind of sent out, the song was called fuck you. And a lot of big name directors passed on it. Like I don't quote me, but I think like Mark Romanek and Spike Jones and Chris Cunningham, like all pass on that artsy room, you know? And she was like, well, we got like, a 60k budget, and we got to do this and one day and so I got to like write on it. And I just wrote that like Motown do copy treatment. And he loved it. So you know, enter, enter 16 hour day, you know, try to shoot this thing a candlelight Jack's up in the valley. And, and that's what like, kicked it all off. So it was a really good, like, I have to think Kathy pelo for that because, you know, a lot of people don't know, everyone's break is always a weird story like that, like it was right place at the right time, you know, kind of a thing because she happened to be the commissioner for that right for that video. And a lot of people happen to pass on it just because the song was obscene, you know, the title

Alex Ferrari 13:44
At the time until they did forget you which we need some radio play guys.

Matt Stawski 13:48
Yeah. And it just it had that viral thing because it was like an obscene title. But it was such a happy going do I? Like, like, you know, it sort of, you know, made fu this popular Mimi viral thing, you know, and so it's, it's, I always thought that was kind of fun. How that, that, that? That whole thing happened. It was it was quite the clip interest.

Alex Ferrari 14:11
It was it was what year was that? Was that? I mean, it was 2010. Exactly, because it still had a vibe. Because I remember the 90s when you had the MC G's of the world and the Michael Bay's of the world, were they using the cross processing and really vibrant colors. You had really vibrant colors in that I remember it wasn't gone like MC G Smash Mouth video was the day but it looked beautiful. And then you mixed in this whole like musical aspect to it, which was like, which is which was the sign of like, where you're going? Because this way you love musicals, and we'll talk about the musical side of you in a minute. But it was really, it didn't look complex in the sense of the budget. It wasn't it was one location essentially, and fluently. Wasn't that crazy? But it wasn't it wasn't expensive. budget it wasn't it was you did a lot with the money you had, and made it look really good. And one located basically one big look, or whatever.

Matt Stawski 15:08
Yeah, and we just like, it was one of those things where you just use the look, use the advantage of that location and neon lights and the colorful walls, and we just like saturated all the lights. And there was also something that happened to like, that was the first job I ever did with Lindsay incred. My choreographers and they did the blues movie too. And every music video in between, and we sort of like we had all the dance figured out with with the dancers. And this thing happened when we were playing the song on set, and like people were like snapping their fingers and bobbing their heads, and we're like, yo, let's just, let's really lean into the Little Shop of Horrors of it all. And even the background, you know, all the background actors that were sitting in the seats, like they just like kept bobbing their heads, almost like Betty Boop, you know, everyone's like moving to the beat. And that just added this, like, kind of funny, nostalgic touch to the whole thing. And I think everyone just loosened up and all the you know, all the people that were playing all the roles in the film and the different Seelos like, we're just real loose, and I think people were just vibing because it was a good song. You know, you don't always get like, a good song to times you have to do you know, I've done every kind of video, but that was just a great song. And I really loved it. So everyone was just bobbing their head the whole time. And it just we capture that energy, you know?

Alex Ferrari 16:17
And how did the town treat you after that? After that video? belle of the ball,

Matt Stawski 16:24
I booked I booked it good. You know, I kind of stepped up as far as music videos go. You know, and I was able to book a lot of jobs, and I was really riding that momentum. I think if I could go back in time, you know, I mean, I guess I, I would, I can't say I'd like change anything about my life. But I probably would try to use that momentum to push myself more towards narrative earlier, you know, because I, you know, I'm 37 now and, and I probably could have gotten into the narrative world a little bit earlier, but I just I just kept booking music videos for years. And that's kind of why I stalled on the narrative thing, because I was just working and Yeah, exactly. And you

Alex Ferrari 17:02
You got you got five yachts, brother, you gotta I mean, that's a lot to support.

Matt Stawski 17:06
Yeah, yeah. After the second yatch, I just had to keep doing the music videos, because the budgets got by yachts. I'm talking like the paper ones you fold up, you know? And, obviously, sir. So but yeah, I was I was booking some work after that. And it was cool. You know, it's a good feeling to do like eight music videos a year. I mean, I know some people like turnout 20 a year. But with all the post effects that I do, you know, I always do. It's like editing my own stuff. So eight was like keeping me really busy. And, and yeah, I was really busy after that, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 17:35
That's awesome. And now, we all as directors, there's always that day on set, that the entire worlds come crashing down around you. And you don't think you're going to make it you're not going to make it and arguably that's every day. But there's generally that one event that really stands out on a project. If you don't want to say the project, you don't have to say the project. But if it's a project, you could say say it, and what was that event? And how did you overcome it as a director?

Matt Stawski 17:59
Um, I have to say that that's only happened. I mean, yeah, we have tough days. And yeah, we have to like, you know, kill setups and weather happens and things like that. But like the toughest day it was this video I did for me it for me to the friend like me, it's a it was a Disney video, he was doing a cover of Bill and song. And it was just one of those days where the the setup for everything, we just didn't have enough money and enough people to light this location. And there was this big pole in the middle of our location. And it was so hard to move the camera around there and really tried to like, I mean, we at the end of the day, we pulled it off. But it was one of those days where we really ran out of time. And I had to like, kill half the shots, like literally half the shots. But, but they were the narrative shots and, and something and I mean, this is this is an interesting thing that happened. And this legitimately happened, we shot we shot nail against a wall for the performance stuff, you know, let them pretty just put like a blue color on the wall and let them all orange. And we shot a white medium close up. And that was like the performance coverage. He's an incredible performer. So it was like we had great stuff. And all that footage got corrupted in the cards or whatever. So the insurance for the production actually covered us they have another day of shooting. So we were able to get him on the stage and light him even better and getting better performances out and and no one was stressed out. So all that time that we didn't, you know, all the shots that we didn't get were able to get on the second day because a card was corrupted. And insurance actually covers that somehow, you know, I don't I don't know how that all works. But we got another day. So that was the most like that was one of the days where I realized like, wow, we're not gonna get it, you know, and the video looks cool, you know, his performance was incredible. It's all about him. So but I've never had I mean, I've heard those stories you know from you know, some Some more like season, you know, guys and gals that have worked with have, you know, the hurricane comes through and blows the, you know, the flags over and he stands flying and somebody got injured and there's like, you know, like, you know, people suing people and all that, like I've heard of that, you know before. I've never had like a nightmare day like that and I don't know maybe it's, it's a little bit of luck and a little just being prepared kind of a thing you know. But

Alex Ferrari 20:26
Listen, when I was putting my demo reel together, I shot 35. And I sent it up to do art, because I'll say it out loud. In New York, and they, the machine broke and burned out all my neg. For two of my spots for two of my out of the three spots. I did two of my spots gone. It was 20 25 grand out of my pocket, gone. And they're like, we'll do the new rolls again, for free. I'm like, Oh, really. And I was so young. I could have sued them. I should have done. I mean, I should have easily gotten because come on. So I had to go back and that's why my demo reel cost 50 grand but I lost it and I was better actually got back I got a better set of DPS. I did it. Same thing is you got to do it again. figured things out differently. It was an expensive lesson, but it was a lesson nevertheless. Imagine that.

Matt Stawski 21:13
Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's, that's I mean, I can remember back times like heart like like hard drives have gotten corrupted and things like that. Turned are like the weather my generation, your generation. We've turned into like command safe people like I'm always hitting Command save commands, making double backups and triple backups and like sending a hard drive to my parents just so I know. In Michigan, there's a hard drive with the thing in case my house burns down, you know. So when that happens, you turn into a worrywart for sure, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 21:42
No, it's in I came up with when the first habits were coming up, and those things crashed all the time. So I became an opposite, opposite, opposite opposite. Constantly. It's it's a habit. Now I'm used to the new stuff that just kind of saves in the background constantly for

Matt Stawski 21:56
Everything, it's a whole different thing. So but oh my gosh, I still have all those hard drives. Do they just like every time I do big creative stuff, and it's like, I don't even think the power outlets work anymore. You know, like, but I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 22:11
I just, I just moved from LA to Austin last a year ago. And I did that had a box of FireWire. 400. Yeah, yeah. And I and it all worked. They all revved up and I just downloaded them all into a solid state drive and just started dumping them like I don't need this. I don't need that. And then just put nice drills in the holes.

Matt Stawski 22:33
Yeah. Just recycle them. Yeah, I drove home recently. My like, I had like some sixteenths and 35 I can't get rid of mine. Yes. And

Alex Ferrari 22:43
I couldn't get rid of it. Yeah, my closet right now. I can't 35 I got 35 16 Super Eight, and a kick in pockets of them buckets of these 35

Matt Stawski 22:53
Prop someday you need it to like, you know, the other

Alex Ferrari 22:56
day did the day I actually I just retransfer them all to 4k or 6k actually, because I did everything to standard def before. Because I was like, You know what, let me go back and take a look at some of that stuff. And I did I transferred. So but eventually I'm gonna have to go to have to.

Matt Stawski 23:12
Yeah. Because because, you know, our mansions don't have the space for them anymore. You know,

Alex Ferrari 23:18
Obviously, I mean, we have to say that that's in my West Palm Beach,

Matt Stawski 23:22

Alex Ferrari 23:25
So another thing a lot of people don't talk about, especially filmmakers don't understand is the politics of a set. And musically, I I came up later in my life I was I joined a music video crew. And I did a lot of big music videos in the post side. And I was on set and you know, Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, you know, ludicrous. All these kinds of people are coming up. And I saw the insanity. Yeah, it's insane, like insane on set with a music video set. But when you started getting onto these other sets that weren't, they were more professional, quote, unquote. And you had these older crew members who saw this kid? I gotta imagine you got some pushback. Did you deal? How did you deal with that?

Matt Stawski 24:13
Yeah, I mean, I My personality is I'm very passive. You know, I'm, I can say, if I'm, if I'm confrontational, it's as kind as I can possibly be. I know. I mean, I had to, I always knew I was the young guy on set, you know, and I think anyone's gonna deal with that if you're directing because, you know, you're always going to get crew guys that are, you know, little little older than you. But, you know, I can't think there's ever been any like conflict. Like I know, there were probably people. I mean, obviously, we'd had like our 18 hour days where you're pushing people to art and stuff. And I learned from really good producers not to do that early on because someone gets an accent on the way home that's You know, I only had I had a very short lived career as far as pushing people too hard and having long days. And I luckily I worked with some really good like, I worked with this guy, Mark Russell chef is his nickname. I don't know if you've ever read, he's an incredible ad. And he was big in the music video seemed like he worked with Hype Williams and Mark Lobeck Yeah, he was like Hope's guy for a while. And when I got to that, like budget range where I could afford them, you know, he was my ad, and he had my back. And he was one of the, you know, like, the best Aedes are the ones that can like, you know, kind of yell and get everyone to listen to him, but like, kill you with kindness at the same time, you know, like, kind of, like, when it's time to, like, get the shot, like, let's go. He's that guy. And he, he sort of taught me a lot that I know, and he always had my back on set. And I think that helped a lot with those situations, because he was a veteran. And so just like the directing department being sort of, like supportive like that, like, he was able to push back at any of that, you know, like, any credit smirks or anything that came from some of the older people on set. And, and I also, you know, like, if you can remember someone's name and shake their hands on, look him in the eye and compliment them, if some let you know of some lighting looks incredible. It's not just the DPS, the gaffer, you know, it's like, so it takes a village every time and, and as long as you, you know, really make sure everyone sees that their craft is, is seen and respected and that they're doing a good job. I think that that's like the key, you know, to, to sort of getting that respect even being younger, but I don't know, if there was anyone that was a little bit better, just because I was young, like, whatever, I don't care, you know, I'm too focused on this insane, where there's so many shots you gotta get, and you have this amount of time and the clients like looking over your shoulder, like there's too much other stuff to worry about, you know, so

Alex Ferrari 26:56
Gotcha. Yeah. So I mean, if you have a good if you have a good first ad, or do good DP to to kind of Yeah, to help you with that stuff. That's helpful. But sometimes you I mean, I had guys who literally just like, literally try to chop my legs off underneath from underneath me. While on set, it's a different certain things you just have to figure out. I mean, at what point at some someone I walked on center that I thought it was a PA UPM hadn't met me yet. And they're like, Alright, you go get the service go. And I'm like, Dude, I'm the director.

Matt Stawski 27:29
Yeah, that's happened to me recently, actually, because, like, I had a couple, like, like, our second ad was like, like, because I just, like T shirt and jeans because I'm there to work. You know, I'll be on my knees like, and I'll get my hands dirty. And all you know, it's like, he's like normally the directors I work with, like, show up like with a suit and tie and makeup and their crazy hair and all this and I'm like, yeah, man, I'm just like your to work. You know, it's the same mentality. Like, it doesn't matter if you're sitting like and I also like don't like to sit like I'm always trying to stand because that was like it musically a world it was like, you see a shot, you're gonna run over and talk to somebody and then like, you just can't be on your on your butt. You know, I haven't had that luxury yet, you know, so maybe in a commercial I sat because that's like the bottle.

Alex Ferrari 28:12
Oh, yeah. It's all about like, four hours on live in the frickin bottle. I mean, yeah. And the clients, they're like, you're like, just do just just do let me know when you want me to yell action.

Matt Stawski 28:22
Yeah. But when you got like, a million setups in, you know, no time to do it. Like you're just, you're running. And I think as long as I mean, in a lot of people see that too. They see how physical the job can be, too. So it's like, back from that too, you know? So

Alex Ferrari 28:40
That's, that is true, though. If this crew sees you busting ass, yeah. But if you're sitting on a recliner, with your coffee latte, you know, in their button. They're like, Hey, guys, I need you to lift that crane up. 10 stories amici up. They're not that you need to do it. But they just need to see that you're. You're a general man. You're a general running, running the unit. And yeah, and they got to see you moving and they got to see that you're into it. But if if there's pretension Oh man, it's hard. You lose. You lose your crew you lose everything.

Matt Stawski 29:13
Yeah, yeah. And that's like, that was a big part of do like I never like I was never like posing for photos or like, you know, like, oh, yeah, I'm doing the whole the whole thing like look at this set we built you know, like, you know, like now you just like, you get a shot you go you talk to the actors or artists first then you talk to your DP then you talk to your ad and then you you know, you make sure they know what to communicate to their team. And and you just you just go in order and whenever the you know, the record labels talking to you, everyone else needs to like, you know, their first obviously but but yeah, it's just it's just making sure if you communicate that I think you get that respect. Like if you're very clear, and there's no like question marks or people are confused as to what they're doing. You know, and even if people say you make if they see you make decisions like You know what we're running out of time we gotta cut this shot. Like, if you do stuff like that, too, they're like, Okay, he's not gonna, like run us into the ground like we're gonna get through the day, you know? So, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 30:11
So if there was a statement, if you can go back in time and tell your younger self at the beginning of this journey, one thing, what would that one thing be?

Matt Stawski 30:19
It would be shoot a short film way earlier. Because my agent and manager were like, were always telling me shoot a short film, do a short film, you know, you don't? Yeah. Yeah. And, and I was, I don't know, I think I wasn't like cocky when I was younger, but I definitely was like, Oh, I can just go straight from music videos to features, you know, like, did it Fincher did it? Exactly. Yeah. And, you know, my first short film I did was, like, you know, with with, that looked good was like, 2016 2017. And I should have done that way earlier. Because, and just like learning narrative, you know, like, I think, you know, I learned a great deal in school, I actually really liked college. But you learn the most from just watching movies, just putting on the criterion channel and watching old shit, you know, like, and that's, and that's sort of the best film school. So I think, I mean, I do like to watch a lot now. And I did watch a lot in college and stuff, but I think I would have I mean, I have friends that you know, 400 they watch four movies a year, you know, it's like, like, every night they watch the movie. And I think that's the best because that the influences from all those films is going to like, consciously or subconsciously make its way into your film. I think taking taking your references and style from old stuff is the best way to go. Because if you take it from new stuff, it's obvious like, Oh, they're ripping off euphoria. They're ripping off, you know, you know, whatever new, you know, Tarantino movie or whatever. But if you take for a while, Tarantino kicks from oil. So that's a big circle.

Alex Ferrari 31:48
It's a vicious. It's a vicious circle. Yeah. No, you're absolutely absolutely right. That's why like, you know, PT Anderson, stole a shot from Boogie Nights from I am Cuba, that no one had ever heard of, unless you had a criterion, LaserDisc of it, or your Martin Scorsese or friends or for Coppola, who produced it or released that. And everyone was like, this shots amazing. And I'm like, wait a minute, that's from I am Cuba. But it's such a great shot. And it's so beautiful.

Matt Stawski 32:14
You know, I saw that for the first time just recently, because I had never heard of it. and Cuba. Yeah. I saw that one shot and I was this like, what is this? Like it? Just how did they do it?

Alex Ferrari 32:28
Yeah, no. And the thing that they did was how they did the stuff we're talking about? 1950s Yeah. Technology. These Yeah. Tank of 35 millimeter cameras. I mean, the tanks weighing a ton. Yeah, they're flying them around. Like they're like an iPhone on a gimbal. Like, it's not I mean, just insane. And then from the seal from a rooftop down an elevator walking around into the water, like, mind blowing mind blown.

Matt Stawski 33:01
And that's why that's why the whole practical way is always the best like and I think people even people that swear by CGI, you're not just gonna good CGI for sure. And I I like certain amounts, but you subconsciously know it's not real. You know? But when you put that real practical thing there or the camera really, you know, like what in your auto does and what they did in what's top good? Oh, yeah. Even talking Yeah. So that three times in the theater because I was just like, I noticed really happening and kind and

Alex Ferrari 33:33
Can you imagine if that would have been CG? Can you imagine if that was just wouldn't have made the money? It wouldn't people will be like,

Matt Stawski 33:39
Alright, yeah, that's a really good example of something that everyone's gonna hear before they see that that it was all real, you know, so there's like a good I think I think films should definitely have campaigns behind them if they do pull off crazy practical things, you know, like, like, even what was that film that came out? Victoria the one shot was a film you know? They said like, yes, this actually is a one shot film. It's not like a Hitchcock floor ground pass that we're doing like we shot this. I think they did it three times. And the second time was the one they used or something like that, but that was a full they started at 2am and or 3am and the film ended at 5am and it's an actual one shot thing and I don't care who you are if you know that information before you see the film it's going to make the experience that like when the guy plays the piano or he catches the thing or they have the squibs and the guy gets shot like you just know like wow, this was all planned out you know and it's

Alex Ferrari 34:35
It's another experience like seeing the the 18 Wheeler flipping dark night you're just like yep, you can tell that's real like that's there's no seeds you can't CGI the way it looks the motion the things that cook it just too complicated. For it to look real the way they

Matt Stawski 34:53
Did they did they do a Jackie Chan on that and show the show it multiple times. I can't remember if it was like

Alex Ferrari 34:58
Oh you mean like what I I'm sure they did. I'm sure the edit was like that. But it once it left, it was there. And then I think they probably cheated a little bit as far as just the edits, but nothing was. And then I think boom, boom, boom, I think they probably dam the dam like three times, like the Jackie Chan style. But

Matt Stawski 35:17
Yeah, you think in the edit, they were like, oh my god we have 18 Incredible angles of this but we can only show like three you know like because they pride so many. I also, I mean, I can't remember this, but I thought I saw a viral video. Where did they shoot that during the day and they just colored it to be nice. I

Alex Ferrari 35:33
know. I think that wasn't the behind the scenes. At least the behind the scenes that I saw was done. Yeah. Yeah. So it was yeah, that would be too difficult. Day for Night is tough in general. Like yeah, to do something like that with the light. No.

Matt Stawski 35:47
I think maybe it's because like, I remember seeing somebody filming from their apartment. And it's like daytime, you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:51
Maybe it was the preppers I don't know, because they had you know, it wasn't I don't think it was a one or I think they I think they could do it more than once. But who knows. But now we're getting it now we're getting into some geeky film stuff. Yeah. So yeah, you want to filmmakers get together we started going down that road. Yeah, I am. Cuba turns into Chris Nolan real quick. Yeah. So so your your feature film debut? Is the new film blues big city adventure. Yes. How did the guy who directed fuck you? The Blue's Clues. You know, you know a big Paramount release? You know? How did that happen? How did you get involved in this movie, man?

Matt Stawski 36:38
I have to say it's it's i i worked with Brian Robins back in 2013. Brian Robins Sure. You know was head of Nickelodeon had Awesomeness TV he when when he was at Awesomeness TV. I did like a sort of Team musical thing with him called side effects. And I just stayed in touch with him over the years. He then eventually got me like an Aquafina commercial. And then I did like a pilot for Nickelodeon with them. And I think the the script was kind of sitting around for a while with Blue's Clues, you know, like they had always wanted to do it. And the timing was right, because, you know, Steve went viral last year. And as far as the CO viewing ship, a lot of the adults that grew up with Steve now have kids that are growing up with Josh. So I think from a just, like, promote, like a free promotion standpoint, like, like, if the parents are gonna watch it, the kids are gonna watch it, because you're gonna watch it, you know, just it worked out, the timing worked out. And Brian just called me and he was like, Hey, man, like, we got this thing. And it's a musical. And I was kind of in that musical because he gave me a lot of creative freedom. Like, obviously, I don't forever want to be in the kids space. I don't want to be in the preschool space. But I want to show like, hey, I can take something with a you know, like an indie budget, and stretch every dollar and make it look like three to four times more than what we really had. Because that's what we had to do in the music video world. And, you know, fingers crossed, I hope like, like, I know that like our movies coming out the same day as disenchanted. You know, the big Disney tentpole, whatever, you know, they pride 100 million bucks on that. And if we compete in the smallest degree with that on streaming, like to the smallest degree, we put a dent in that. And that's cool, because we did have, you know, yeah, it was it was like an indie budget, but it was still a lot of the ways and the techniques we used were, you know, ragtag DIY ways of doing things. And so I was, I was kind of like, I liked the challenge of it, I knew the brand was important and existed and I just had this, this, you know, the fact that I was going to be able to make colorful, beautiful musicals. And with the musical genre, it's fantasy, so you can break so many rules. And so we're gonna do a lot of fun stuff. As far as the fantasy of it all. I was I was game. And also like, I'm not rich. So I'm going to take every job I can get. Like, literally, that's part of it, too, like I was, I've never been able to pick and choose my jobs, you know, so it was on top of the fact that it's an incredible opportunity. Like, you gotta keep working. Because in this industry, if you become irrelevant, it's a hard Pat back. You always have to have something like cooking in the oven. You know,

Alex Ferrari 39:17
There's 400 there's 400 guys or gals right behind you waiting in the wings to take over? Yeah, what you left, whatever you left behind. Oh, look, what when you were coming up as a little bit different. It wasn't as much competition. Definitely. When I was coming up. It wasn't as much competition but now.

Matt Stawski 39:34
Yeah. Yeah. Because you can use I mean, the, you know, the, this camera looks incredible. Now, you can even do that fake depth of field thing too. So it's like, man,

Alex Ferrari 39:46
It's insane. It's you imagine if we had this cup technology? Well, we're coming up as kids.

Matt Stawski 39:53
It was especially music videos to you know.

Alex Ferrari 39:56
500 That's an extravagant budget.

Matt Stawski 39:58
Yeah, yeah. that it's funny that this kind of like, this has been a problem sometimes because, like, my choreographers will film dance. And they'll, they, they're also directors too. And they like to kind of test out what kind of camera moves could work with the dance, but they're using this. And when we get on set, I'm like, well, we can't move that fast. This is big Steadicam or it's a dolly or you know, whatever. So it's like, a lot of times, you know, you have to, like slow down when you're when you're rehearsing things, but, but yeah, it was, you know, it was also just like, what a big opportunity and I just couldn't pass it up. You know, and I love and I love Brian and Nickelodeon is great to my, my partner Nikki Lopez works for Nickelodeon, too. We just happen to both have projects in Nickelodeon, so it's definitely a good family there. For sure.

Alex Ferrari 40:47
Listen, one of my first jobs was working in Orlando, Florida, Nickelodeon studios. You're at the OG I was the Oh, I saw Brian many times walking behind on set. Yeah, cuz he was producing stuff back then using all that and yeah, I serve for a a for trivia that no one cares about. One of my first pa gigs was global guts. Oh, I was on I was a Spanish translator in global in global gusts. So they would bring in like the Spaniards and the South American kids and I would be the ones translating for them. And I was on set there. And it's Oh, it was it was amazing.

Matt Stawski 41:24
Correct. Yeah. The global guts was the glowing democratic, right. It was like,

Alex Ferrari 41:28
Right. Yeah, it was it was a little bit different. I never did. I never did guts. I did global guts. So it was just always the international kids coming in. And man, it was so much. I mean, that was we're talking what 96? Yeah, yeah, in the hayday. So I remember seeing Brian and I remember seeing Brian, you know, on head of a class when he was, ya know, back, back back back in the day. No, I I've watched his career man. And he's pretty, he's a pretty remarkable dude. Like, he really hustled up to the point where now he's running the studio gotta give it to,

Matt Stawski 41:59
And, and everything Nickelodeon did in the 90s was so cool. I mean, it's still it still is like a really cool, like, company that takes a lot of chances. But I was defined by that, you know, this the Ren and Stimpy slime, like Nick magazine, like all that it was so different than Disney, you know, because there was there was Disney and there was Nick. And as Nick kids grew up a little weird, you know, and

Alex Ferrari 42:22
I would agree with you on that, that. They would do that.

Matt Stawski 42:25
Yeah. Yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 42:28
So when you This is something I've always I love asking the director who does musical and I've never done a musical scene. I mean, I've done music videos, but that's different. You're talking like a musical scene? Hey, I'm just gonna bust out into song. We're gonna start dancing in the middle of Central Park. How the hell do you approach something like that? And let alone with CG characters on top of it?

Matt Stawski 42:50
Yeah, yeah. I mean, like, the, the, the mentality of the music video is still there. You know, like, there is still but I think the most important thing that the biggest difference is transitioning into it, you know, because you, I mean, obviously, the old MGM musicals, they would just be talking and then boom, and then they start singing. But I think like, nowadays, you kind of have to justify, you know, like, the MGM musicals. It was always there putting on a show, you know, so that's where the musicals came from. And then, you know, but but some musicals like, like, the umbrellas of show was that sherbert I can never say that word. They were just singing the whole time, kind of for no reason. You know, it just was a musical. You know. So our, this film was kind of that same thing where Josh was auditioning Broadway is the flavor. But our justification of the musical was always the sounds of New York, the things happening around you that sort of create a soundtrack if you really listen. So the build up to all the numbers was really important on this one. So that's why that transition into the first musical number he's like, it's all chaos. And there's cars honking and people you know, car squealing and people yelling out hotdogs, pretzels and all this stuff. And then he kind of slows down and closes his eyes and his hairs heartbeat you start hearing like, oh, like the taxi cabs are honking and rhythm and the bucket drummers are playing in rhythm. So using the sounds of New York, that was how we got in and out of these musical numbers. And that was the thing. Yeah. Yeah. Because he can't you know, if you just start singing, dancing, like that's fine, but it's so much cooler, if you like kind of transition into sort of justify what you're seeing on screen. Is is a story element that Yeah, yeah, exactly. So and the other the other differences kind of, you know, when you kind of cut the dialogue to and the timing of everything, and I mean, it's that that's an interesting thing, too, because you have to like have a metronome going. You know, and like practice the dialogue because if you're recording dialogue, like you can't have playback going so you have to really rehearse all the dialogue that is in between two sections, and we were doing a lot like the songs that we that we did play back on set or not I think like the songs we ended up with, and I remember like we we shot this one section twice that Josh did. And we liked him so much we just doubled up the chorus in post production and just like made it longer because he danced really good from these two different angles, you know, so there was a lot of frankensteining and post to and that like drove you know, Steph thank my incredible she produced all the music and wrote one of the songs happiness is magic. And I mean, our post production was insane and I definitely drove her crazy but she was such a trooper and we change the song so many times after the fact but you know, it's it's a lot of you know, you fall in love with shots and you just got to use them all so you change the song I think the transitions is the biggest difference because in a music video just starting song plays on the left so

Alex Ferrari 45:50
Now there's another aspect to this film that was really interesting. It's the Spider Man No Way Home effect, where all of the hosts from all generations came in through the multiverse no I'm joking, but all come in. That was probably a big of a deal to Blue's Clues fans as watching Spider Man, no way home for you. And I when we saw that were like, Oh my God, that's Toby. Yeah, that's Andrew. And they're all together. And I'm like, I get chills when I talk about this. Because it's such a geek. You just like, you start like tearing up. You're like, oh my god, I remember when I saw Toby a spider man. So I imagine the same thing happened with the Blue's Clues people, like, I'm sure the parents were like, Oh, my God, there is a shot. And there's this. So how, what was when you guys when you read the script, and all that was that whole thing, bringing that all together as a director.

Matt Stawski 46:45
I mean, I thought it was cool when I first read the script, but I didn't I didn't realize the impact because I didn't grow up with Steve I was you know, Steve came out and I was a little bit too old. So it was more like one of those things when, after the fact, you know, like not, not after we were shooting, but after I got on the project. And he did the whole viral thing and talk to the camera. I realized like it actually makes sense. He was such a I mean Blue's Clues the first time, you know, the character, looked at the camera, talk to it gave the kids time to react and talk back. This is interactive TV show thing was pretty revolutionary. And he meant a lot to a lot of kids, you know, and they're all 2530 now. And, you know, just when you look online, and all the comments that whenever you post something, I mean, people were like, Yo, you helped me get through this, you helped me deal with anxiety, you know, you just like you shaped my life when I was like when I was an outcast. And I just went watch Blue's Clues and felt like somebody was listening to me. And it's, I didn't realize how much of responsibility was to both myself and even him performing in the movie. You know, how many people love that guy and putting them all together? I mean, I by the time we were shooting, I was like, Yeah, this is important, because there's all the rules of Blue's Clues, you know, like, you have to make sure you talk to the camera at eye level, you don't look down at a kid you don't look up at a kid, you know, you're talking on their level. And Steve was teaching me a lot of that stuff, too. You know, before we were shooting because he directed a bunch of Blue's Clues as well. And you know, seeing them all together. It's it's it is that thing, you know, because I mean, in the theater when Spider Man happened and people were throwing popcorn in the air stream, couldn't even hear seen, because people were screaming, you know, and everyone knew it was coming. You know, it had to guide my girlfriend. I wanted miles miles to be in there somehow too. But maybe that'll happen.

Alex Ferrari 48:31
Next time next time, we don't get greedy. Don't get greedy. I know. We got the spider but it's a spider verse. Okay, come on.

Matt Stawski 48:39
But but you know, like with this one, too, you know, it's coming. But we really paid attention to like, building up their intros. And when the first time you see them and even like the comedy because they're also they're also different. Yeah, they all were hosts, but their, their sense of humor is and the fact that like, you know, Joe is still wearing a stupid purple pink shirt, you know, and he runs a presence store, but the rent is high. And it makes a joke about that, you know, and the fact that Steve is this bumbling detective that has this great heart, but you know, he needs a piece of a bar of soap to help them you know, find clothes and stuff. Like it's, it's just so funny and, and ridiculous. You know, and, and it's so heartwarming. I mean, these guys are incredible, the show is incredible. And it was great to be a part of that and see it all happen. And again, it was something where I read the script, I was like, this is cool, but then once you sit down and work with them, and see them all on set, you're like this is this is a big deal. It's like 25 years in the making. So I was glad to sort of lend, you know, my my point of view, you know, to that whole process.

Alex Ferrari 49:37
Now when is it coming out? And where can people see it?

Matt Stawski 49:41
It's November 18 on Paramount plus, and you know, I don't know if there's gonna be rocky or you know, Midnight showings of it, but I think a lot of fingers crossed that happens because there's a lot of silly stuff in the movie that you could you could throw a pretzel at the screen or you could like you know, toss salt over your shoulder or whatever. I I feel like there's a lot of that fun stuff, but, but yeah, it's November 18. And I think internationally, it's like November 19. And then it's gonna come out at some other some other countries in December but yeah, Paramount plus,

Alex Ferrari 50:11
I mean, if the whole thing goes to hell, man with your career, at least, you know, and 20 years you'll go to a convention. It's just this little sign some autographs. Yeah. So I mean, I mean, you're good. You're setting.

Matt Stawski 50:21
Yes, I will, I will get those residual autograph, whatever, you know, sounding a little Funko doll that Steve came out with and

Alex Ferrari 50:30
Now I'm gonna ask you a few I'm gonna ask you a few questions ask all my guests What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Matt Stawski 50:37
I'd say write and conceptualize what you know. You know just if you if you're obsessed with Christmas make a Christmas movie if you grew up in if you grew up in Chicago make a movie about Chicago if you know a certain neighborhood there write about that if it's your cultural background and you're and you're really invested in that just write what you know because when you pitch in a room and you know more than the executives about something, you know, they will genuinely want to hear that story. You know, if you make a movie about something you know about you know, it shows you know so if you know something from back like you can be the get you have to be the only person that can make that movie.

Alex Ferrari 51:14
Good. That's actually really good advice. What lesson would what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Matt Stawski 51:22
Oh, gosh, more hours left on this now it's it's never worth it. I think I think on set it's never worth it to do anything that isn't safe. You know, there's always those awkward, there's all those there's those moments where like, obviously an A like there's so many people on set that don't want to do unsafe stuff, but you can sense when you're pushing something a little too much when a crew member is pushed a little too much when an actor's push too much. It's just never worth it like find a different solution because you don't want someone being too tired when the drive and home you don't want an actor to lose your respect. You don't want someone getting hurt. It's like it's just not worth it. Don't take chances with safety.

Alex Ferrari 52:02
Yeah, and I've had too many stunt guys come up to me and like I could I could be on fire like I don't need Yeah, you're right. You need to you need to you need to. Have you ever met a stunt guy who didn't do that? All of them do it

Matt Stawski 52:13
Every single day because it's like, Hey, we're just suspending this guy from wires but they want the explosions, you know? So it's always like, oh,

Alex Ferrari 52:19
I need you to jump 10 feet. I could do it. 60 feet, and I could be on fire. Yeah, while there's a tiger chasing me. I'm like, Dude, I don't need no You need to relax. Every single suck I've ever met.

Matt Stawski 52:31
Oh, yeah. Oh my god. I live

Alex Ferrari 52:35
There the craziest day of the craziest carnies in our carnival. I mean, they are nuts. They are endless, best wonderful, wonderful, loving way. They are absolutely nuts and they make our films so much better. And last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Matt Stawski 52:53
Okay, number one is going to be eight and a half Fellini, I'm obsessed with it, the whole thing feels like a dream. And it feels like looking at my own childhood even though it's a totally different culture. You know? Number two would be Natural Born Killers that thing just broke so many rules and all the all the formats they shot and how they shot it. And it's this like, awesome. Like Badlands love story, but updating and so 90s and it's I love that movie. And then man number three has got to be Clockwork Orange. It's just the I mean, I mean Kubrick I mean, every one of his movies can be in anyone's top 10 He was a director that made like the best horror movie all done the best warfare of all time. I mean, arguably, you know, the best drama of all time the best comedy, but Clockwork Orange is just I mean, it was my it has roots in my punk rock like high school upbringing. And that's just the movie we watched on repeat a million times.

Alex Ferrari 53:50
And you imagine releasing the first 20 minutes of Clockwork Orange in today's world?

Matt Stawski 53:57
I mean,

Alex Ferrari 54:00
How they how could they even do it then? And I'm watching I just watched it recently again, I'm like, his stuff is still so far gone so far out. Yeah, you could not release it. Can you imagine if a major studio released this?

Matt Stawski 54:16
Yeah, it's crazy too. Because everything that's like based off is really obscene and dirty and profane. You know books are always the dirtiest thing ever. You know? It doesn't matter how old it is like you could like you read it all Henry mo birthday like whoa, you know but you know that's where all the good movies come from is great books you know a lot of them do and so it's the the obscene will always be there. And let's hope the studios keep releasing it because they're the fun

Alex Ferrari 54:43
Matt man. It's been a pleasure talking to you, man. Continued success and congratulations on all the success you had and and thank you for bringing Blue's Clues to the new generation bringing all of them together, man. It's it's a lot of fun, man. So I appreciate you my friend.

Matt Stawski 54:56
Thank you for having me. Nice to meet you, Alex for sure.

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