Matthew Dressel is a movie guy - whether it’s writing Coen brothers-style dark comedies, gathering like-minded folks together for meetings of the Duluth Film Collective, or finding a way to get movies like “Videodrome” or “The Big Lebowski” on screen at Zinema 2, where he’s the programming and communication manager.
Dressel, who last lived in Los Angeles, talked to Duluth.com magazine about cinematic deep dives, his muse, and a favorite, albeit complicated, movie snack.
Q: What is the first movie that had an impact on you?
A: I wish it were something profound, but it's definitely when my dad took me to see "Arachnophobia" when I was six. My sister and I begged my dad to take us, and then we were begging him to let us leave about five minutes into the film when a giant tarantula bit and killed what we thought was the main character. If you put a gun to my head, I couldn't tell you anything else about that film, except for the first five minutes. Those five minutes are seared into my brain and probably influence every decision I've made since then.
Q: What is the best bad movie you've ever seen?
A: That's such a hard question to answer, but one movie conquers all: a science fiction/horror film called "Feeders." I was 15 when I was lucky enough to find a copy of "Feeders" at my local Blockbuster. It was about an alien invasion with two paper mache puppets wreaking havoc on two unlikely heroes' camping trip. After I watched it, I couldn't stop. My friends and I ripped a VHS copy and watched it over and over again. We even brought it on a field trip and made our whole senior class sit through it. It's beyond terrible. The acting, the make-up, the special effects - everything. And I have one of the few remaining copies because it's out of print and no one cares to bring it back.
A: I would make my way through the Coen brothers' entire filmography, beginning to end. They're hands-down my favorite writer/directors, and I'm obsessed with their films. Not only are they incredibly versatile, but their style begs for multiple viewings. It would be amazing to be able to watch them evolve as filmmakers and take in all the similarities between their films.
Q: What movie have you most delighted in sharing with your daughter?
A: Believe it or not, I'm holding off on sharing important films with my daughter until she's old enough to thoroughly appreciate them. Don't get me wrong, I have a list of things I want her to see, but most of them would go straight over her head at this point. Especially comedies, because her sense of humor isn't quite developed yet. I do love going to the movies with her, though. Her face lights up when she's watching a film, and I absolutely love sharing the experience with her.
Q: What's the best movie snack?
A: Popcorn and some type of citrus drink. You see, the key is to cram your mouth full of popcorn and then take a big swig of the drink, so the pop melts the popcorn in your mouth and mixes with the butter. You think it'd be disgusting, but it's amazing.
Q: What shapes your own writing?
A: Humiliation. Anything bad that happens to me is just fuel for future screenplays. I'm able to see the humor in most things, so if something awkward or embarrassing happens, I just tuck it away and use it later. Most of my comedies are about average Joes getting in over their head and then a series of unfortunate events (Netflix, please don't sue) unfolding where everything goes wrong for them. It's so much funnier to watch someone fail than to succeed.
Q: Do you spend more time writing or watching?
A: Watching. But I can get away with that because it's all "homework" in my mind. I'm legitimately studying these films, seeing what works and what doesn't. It's how I've been able to learn proper structure and pacing.
Q: What projects do you have going on right now?
For the last six years I've been working to get my first feature film off the ground. It's called "Killing Daniel," and it's in development with Darius Films in Toronto, Canada, and we're oh-so-close to production. It's hands-down the funniest thing I've ever written, and I can't wait for people to see it. If it ever gets made, you better believe we'll screen it at the Zinema.
Duluth.com magazine is a publication of Duluth Media Group.