Alum Wins Film Festival Award

Posted on: December 10, 2013

Complex-poster-mainIndependent filmmaker and freelance videographer Curtis Matzke recently won the award for best narrative feature at the 5th Annual Made-in-Michigan Film Festival.

Matzke directed and produced the award-winning film "Complex" as his thesis project while earning his master's degree from the Department of Media and Informationin the College of Communication Arts & Sciences in 2012.

"Complex" follows main character Jeremy, a 20-something who moves into his first apartment after being kicked out of his parent's house. He struggles with independence through relationships and finds that a girl he knew and was secretly in love with in high school, Anna, lives in the same apartment complex. While coping with these feelings, his eccentric neighbor Ben convinces him to help build a device for the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

"I wanted to make a film that would be different than those I had previously done, both stylistically and in terms of scale," Matzke said. "The goal was to make something that felt more real and intimate as opposed to imitating a big-budget feature, which is something that just isn't feasible. So I was directly inspired by independent film and embraced that independence in the story."

Matzke also is a CAS undergraduate alumnus, earning his B.A. in media arts and technology in 2010.

"The sum of the material I learned from all the courses I took, along with courses through the English department, helped me understand the fundamentals of filmmaking," Matzke said. "The technical aspects become second nature, which makes it possible to focus on the story."

Curtis-MatzkeMatzke credits Bob Albers, Senior Video Specialist, and Jeff Wray, Associate Professor in the English department, for their support. He also credits Distinguished Senior Academic Specialist and WDBM-FM Station Manager Gary Reid for teaching him about sound and Brian Kusch, Broadcast and Systems Information Engineer, for teaching him about lighting.

"They taught me a lot about the process, which greatly influenced how I wanted to film 'COMPLEX.' Jeff (Wray) also is credited as an executive producer on the film," Matzke said. "Having access to the resources at DMAT was a great help. The film is a stripped-down production, but the technical courses helped me know what I really needed and what I didn't. I was able to use various pieces of equipment from the department during production, especially for lighting and audio."

Some advice Matzke said he would give to those seeking a career in film includes don't wait for a class project to make something you care about; put the effort in yourself; learn the rules, perfect them, and then break them; there's a reason why things are done a certain way because they usually tend to work; and lastly don't take criticism personally or be defensive.

"Constantly critiquing and analyzing your own work throughout the process will make you a better filmmaker," Matzke said. "The willingness to collaborate with others is important but also be ready to fight for your vision when you have to. And you should always have projects and ideas in the queue."

The Made-in-Michigan Film Festival celebrates and promotes independent films exclusively from the state of Michigan through an annual film festival. This year's festival took place in October at the Bronner Performing Arts Center in Frankenmuth, Mich.

"COMPLEX" also was screened at the East Lansing Film Festival and the Flint Film Festival. Matzke plans to submit the film to other festivals and is considering options to distribute the film on Netflix or iTunes.

Matzke currently is in post-production for a feature-length documentary, titled "First Feature," about an MSU alum who is wrapping up his own film. He also is working on a short film, titled "Splinter," about an ailing vampire that he hopes to shoot in January.

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