20 Questions With Matt Z

1. What’s your name?

My name is Matthew Zboyovski. No, it’s not a spelling error that is actually my last name. It is pronounced many ways, the most common/correct is “Zib-E-O-ski”. My friends and colleagues call me ‘Matt’ or ‘Z’.

2. What do you do?

I am an artist. I take creativity seriously. For the purpose of this article and by learned trade, I am a Motion Picture Producer. My career has always been driven towards making movies. I have had to do a lot of different types of work along the way. Most of the work has been entertainment industry related, spent seasons behind the scenes on a variety of television programs, labored on sets of studio films and many independent ones, and the cliché odd jobs in-between, all experiences to help shape my style as a person and a Producer.

3. How would you describe the duties of your job?

I’m basically the Head Camp Counselor.

4. How did you get your start in the business?

I have been obsessed with movies for a long time, but it all really comes from being a kid and the total experience of joy and wonder I would get from being lost in other worlds. It didn’t matter where the stimulation was from: music, reading, writing, watching, dreaming, all of it would ignite a spark in me. I mention it because it is a dream I have followed well before business mattered to me, and it was the opportunity to participate in the dream that drove me to my start. I was a freshman in high school in 1993 in Asheville, NC, and there was an extras casting call for a movie being filmed near my hometown. I wanted to go just to see anything that had to do with a movie production. When I realized I fit the description of what they needed and I could fill out an application I showed up early and waited all day. The movie was Disney’s Heavyweights starring Ben Stiller and produced by Judd Apatow. I was hired as a core extra and was on location with the movie for a couple of months. I was hooked, a live-action movie set was the needle to my vein. I may have only been a teenager but there is no question Heavyweights was my true start in the business.

5. What is the best advice you have ever received about the film business?

I have heard profound words of wisdom from many influential people. With the ones I consider true mentors I always apply their guidance to both business and life. Sometimes the advice is not in the form of words, but through action. Seeing how people do things is often more informative than them telling you what they do. Sticking to the subject of Producing, the best advice I have ever received was from Jerry Bruckheimer, a powerhouse of a Producer at the top of the industry, who awarded me with an Internship with his company in 1999. To paraphrase, he said, “No one is going to do it for you.”

The lengthier version of that conversation we had is that it doesn’t matter who you know or what you have to work with, you can have everything you need in the world to do it, the money, the talent, the locations, but at the end of the day no one is going to put it together and do it for you. That’s our job. You have to show your passion through actions and make things happen yourself. You have to learn to enjoy the responsibility. Don’t be afraid to touch the ball first, and figure out how to manage the intensity to play the complete game to achieve victory.

6. What are your thoughts on film-school versus on-set training?

They are both viable avenues. There are invaluable real world experiences you get from in-the-moment-on-the-job situations. To have a foundation of knowledge is equally invaluable. I believe this applies to all industries. Everyone’s path is different, ultimately your development as a filmmaker will require respect and dedication of the craft.

7. What three things are essential part of your “kit”?

  • Laptop.
  • Coffee.
  • Lady Luck.

8. What are three tricks of your trade?

  • Be pleasant. People are much more responsive to kindness.
  • Listen. This is how I learn everything I need to know.
  • Anticipate. You have to help weave multiple visions into a unified front.

9. What’s the most misunderstood aspect of your job?

There are so, so many! You would be surprised at how many people there are, including industry professionals, who totally misunderstand what Producers do. I think what people fail to realize is the overall breadth of the position. The producer is around from start to finish, let’s say on average 18-24 months. So there is the length of time dedicated to projects, the enormity of planning, the amount of abstract thinking required, the relationship building, all of these things create a very personal investment in the work. The stereotype is producers only care about the bottom line and star treatment. Those are important factors, but literally everything about the movie, big and small, is meaningful to the producer.

10. In your position, what are a few of the key considerations when shooting on film vs. digital?

The first and only real consideration is whatever the story calls for. The medium you choose is another texture to your story. My preference is to have discussions with the Director and Director of Photography, hear their pitch on how they want to make the movie, and then find a way to accommodate. Both formats take time and specialists to execute. In most cases the costs are comparable so the question is rarely dictated by the budget, but rather the storytelling. Once you have it narrowed it down to the few options that could work well for the story, locations and art direction would start to become important players in the decision.

11. What do you see as the biggest difference between an Indie set and a Hollywood set?

I light up with a smile when I am around moviemaking. Doesn’t matter if I see kids in high school making short films with cell phones, if I’m on film school sets, independent films, or a Hollywood blockbuster, I always get excited because I can feel the energy, everyone working toward creating special moments, the lightning in a bottle that makes it all worth while. In that sense, at least for me, there is no difference between sets. Movies are magic to me. On a slightly less virtuous, more practical note, the biggest difference is there is simply more of everything on a Hollywood set — more people, more time, more days, more delays, more food, more vehicles, more, more, more. Studio films are great because the artists can take their time to get it exactly right and there is a level of comfort built-in for the talent and crew, and everyone works better when they are as relaxed as possible. Indie films are great because they are raw, adrenaline-fueled experiences. The motivation is much more palpable when a group faces a struggle together. In my experience, there is a fellowship across the board in our industry.

12. Paper or plastic?

Is there a film vs. digital joke I am not getting here? Or is this the one about the amount of waste materials film productions create? …Paper, but I regularly rotate through a couple of the re-usable, recycled bags I keep handy in the trunk.

13. Union or non-union?

I have not produced a full union show, but I think unions are great. I like to work with experienced professionals and have a framework to follow. Non-union can be great also and is sometimes necessary.

14. What was your funniest moment on set?

I laugh a lot everyday so this is a tough question. Plus the things that are funny to me on set probably wouldn’t register as funny to most people. Like the way a certain Director gestures when he likes something, that makes me laugh. Or an actor forgetting lines and making stuff up. I don’t have any laugh-out-loud anecdotes for you, but if any come to me I will send an update.

15. Set safety is a “hot button” these days. What are your thoughts on the subject?

It has to be and is an absolute priority. I know a lot of times the precautions can seem over-the-top, but when you consider the consequences of even one ‘what if’ scenario, there is really no room to argue. I’m certainly not perfect about it and I have taken my fair share of chances. I have experienced the grey area and empathize to a certain degree because calculating risk comes with the territory. With each show I try to include more and more checks and balances in the safety department. Better off safe than sorry.

16. What’s the most memorable location you’ve shot in?

There are special memories attached to every location, and the reasons vary. Universal Studios was the first backlot I was admitted to as a filmmaker, given a badge with my name on the list and all that. You can imagine how Universal’s rich cinematic history added to the significance of it all for me, so that’s my most memorable location.

17. Is there a location you’ve always wanted to work?

Part of the excitement of making movies is visiting exotic locations or creating them. I am a romantic person so I tend to find most places exotic in one way or another. New York City is as alluring to me as the desert in Nevada, a beach on a Hawaiian island, or a cobblestone street in Italy. Hawaii and Europe are on my Producing bucket list.

18. What are three things you want every set newbie to know?

  • There is a method to the madness
  • Listen to the 1st A.D. (and everyone else)
  • It’s going to be a long day

19. What’s the title of your most recent project?

Shifting Gears is a feature we filmed in North Carolina in April, 2015 and is currently in the Edit phase of post-production. Working with the Alderman Company out of High Point, NC gave the project studio resources, and their support efforts on this movie have no rival. Shifting Gears has a wonderful ensemble — Brooke Langton, M.C. Gainey, M. Emmet Walsh, John Ratzenberger, C. Thomas Howell, and R. Keith Harris are some of the cast we were very lucky to acquire. It’s a fun family film and showcases the often looked-over but very popular sport of dirt track racing.

20. What’s next?

I don’t have an official project to announce, but I am happy to say there are plenty of coals in the fire. I currently have two features in post-production, Shifting Gears which I mentioned that we wrapped earlier this year, and Elbow Grease, which was the film I produced on location near Greenville, SC, the year before I started work on Shifting Gears. Elbow Grease is in the middle of its final sound mix in Asheville, NC, and the DCP will be completed at Prehistoric Digital in Santa Monica, CA in a couple of weeks. Elbow Grease stars R. Keith Harris, Whitney Goin, Michael Abbott Jr., Walter Duckworth, and the legendary Burt Reynolds. Very excited to start screening that one soon.

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