From Flinders University to Texas South by Southwest Film Festival, Flinders alumni Matt Vesely (BCreatArts(Screen) ’08) is living his dream career in screen production.
His passion stems from childhood drama projects, to indie shorts, culminating in directing his newest feature film MONOLITH on a shoestring budget. One actor, one location – a sci-fi spectacle!
Earlier this year, Matt visited our current cohort of Screen Production students and gave them insight into the film and how Flinders helped to shape his creative journey thus far.
Matt’s journey in film
Growing up, Matt loved drama and when he hit his early teenage years, acted in a couple of short films. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), he worked on these short films with the guys who would go on to form production company Closer. This taste of the industry gave him the bug to create his own stories and he spent the rest of his high school years making shorts.
“Directing was an area that I had sort of given up on as I forged a career in writing for television, but when the opportunity came up to direct my first feature in MONOLITH I leapt at it – and it really did feel like coming full circle back to a childhood dream.”
After university, he went on to start working as a production manager and script supervisor on local production company Closer Production’s film 52 TUESDAYS. This film ended up winning the Directing prize for Sophie Hyde (also a Flinders alum) at Sundance. He has since worked with the Closer team for over a decade, working on projects for SBS and ABC.
The making of Monolith
MONOLITH was made as part of the South Australian Film Corporation and Adelaide Film Festival’s FilmLab New Voices initiative. The program gives creative teams a small budget to make their first feature film. “For us, it was all about creating a bespoke work to that small budget. Something that wouldn’t be worse for a low budget but in fact would forge its identity around those restrictions.”
Matt, Bettina Hamilton (producer), Lucy Campbell (writer), asked themselves, “can we tell a high-concept alien invasion story, but with one actor and one location?”
The film stars Lily Sullivan (EVIL DEAD RISE) as the unnamed ‘Interviewer’ – a disgraced journalist who retreats to her parents’ palatial home in the Adelaide Hills and attempts to get back on top using a clickbait mystery podcast. When she’s sent an anonymous tip off about a strange – and possibly alien – artifact that is cropping up around the globe, she falls down a rabbit hole of conspiracy and terror that eventually leads back to the lies at the heart of her own story.
There are so many things about the film that Matt is incredibly proud of. Including Lily’s amazing performance, Lucy’s fantastic script, and cinematographer Mike Tessari’s textured visuals. The fact that the film premiered internationally at South by South West in Austin Texas.
“But most of all, I’m proud of the feeling of collaboration and camaraderie we fostered on set. I’m so proud that everyone felt valued and respected on set. I think everyone came away having given their all and feeling proud of the little film we all made together. I hope I can continue that feeling in future work.”
MONOLITH will continue its festival run across this year and then anticipate a cinema release in Australia over the second half of the year.
How Flinders helped Matt’s career
Being ranked No.1 in SA in Creative Arts for learner engagement, skills development, student support and teaching quality* it’s no wonder Matt loved his time at Flinders.
“Studying at Flinders introduced me to the local filmmaking community and industry.” He enjoyed all of the theory and production aspects of the Screen Production course but it was the professional development that was so unique. Also the fact that first-third year students often crew the bigger honours short film projects. “It was always a grand adventure!”
Being able to collaborate with larger teams and networking with industry professionals that set him on his outstanding career path.
Advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Something that Matt believes to be absolutely foundational to his career was finding senior members of the industry to mentor you. “If you can have the humility to start at the bottom and learn from your peers, that will set you on a course for a fulfilling career.”
Also, there’s no need to rush and mental health is so important. “It can be so easy to fall into the trap that this project you’re working on right now is the be all and end all of your life. It isn’t. One step at a time. You’ll be okay!”
His passion for the industry and helping aspiring filmmakers is clear. Matt now mentors final year Screen Production students through the Flinders Student-Alumni Mentoring Program (StAMP).
Interested in a career in Screen Production
Are you interested in connecting with and learning from industry leaders like Matt, joining a legacy of artistic excellence and being mentored by practicing creative artists? Well then now is your time to study Screen, Film and Television at Flinders.
What are you waiting for? Apply Now
* (The Good Universities Guide 2023 (undergraduate), public SA-founded universities only)