Friday, February 3, 2017

Matthew Salton: Creating Richard Twice Slamdance 2017

Richard Twice - Teaser from Matthew Salton on Vimeo.

I discovered RICHARD TWICE when it’s director Matthew Salton emailed me about it. The film had played at Slamdance and since Unseen had covered some films he was wondering would I be interested in taking a look at the film? I said of course and the rest is history

For those who haven’t read my review of the film RICHARD TWICE is a biography of Richard Atkins, one half of the duo Richard Twice. Recording an album with some the greatest musicians in the world the duo seemed to heading toward greatness then something happened and Atkins more or less disappeared off the face of the earth. The film is the story of what happened. 

Not to put to fine a point on it -it is one of the best rock documentaries I’ve ever seen.

When I finished the film, before doing anything else I emailed Matthew to thank him for sending the film my way and also to throw bunch of questions at him. Since I did not see the film at Slamdance I didn’t have a chance to tell him how much I liked the film and to ask him a lot of questions. Basically I hoping that  he would humor the crazy person who had just fallen in love with his film. Matthew took pity on me and was kind enough to email me back with answers to all my questions.

What follows is is the whirlwind interview that we did. Yes the interview is specifically about the film and answers the questions I had. However I think Matthew's answers will give you enough of a taste that it will make you want to chase down the film (at least that was the reaction to the two people I showed it to)

 As of right now RICHARD TWICE is heading off on the festival circuit. Personally I’m hoping that when the film gets to New York I can sit down with Matthew and do a more detailed interview because as anyone who has seen RICHARD TWICE or his earlier feature DWARVES KINGDOM  know, his films leave you wanting to talk about them and find out more.

(And do yourself a favor and bookmark this interview because trust me you're going to want to reread this when you finally see RICHARD TWICE)

A huge thank you to Matthew Salton for taking the time to answer my questions (and for sending me his film)

STEVE: How did you meet Richard Atkins?

MATTHEW: My dad, who's a musician in Seattle met Richard at an open mic night in the Seattle area. They became friends and my dad approached me, telling me about this man, Richard, he had met who made an amazing album in the 60s recorded by the best musicians of the era. He encouraged me to listen to the album and meet with Richard so I could tell his story in some way, primarily to introduce an audience to this album. As a fan of 60s rock and psychedelic music in general, the album blew me away. Meeting Richard for the first time, I was really impressed with how eloquent he spoke and the poetic way he described his life and experiences. I definitely knew there was potential for a film. He had so many beautiful stories, but it took awhile to decide on what stories to tell and the how to tell them.

STEVE: When did you start to put the film together?

MATTHEW: I first met Richard in the summer of 2014. That's when my dad introduced me to him. We did an interview in his home that lasted a couple hours. I was thinking we would use the footage so we lit it and shot the interview as if it would be in the film. I brought it to my friend, Andy, an editor and asked if he wanted to help edit it.

There were a lot of threads to Richard's story, famous names and some crazy unexplainable things that happened after the record came out. There was a lot of discussion between us on what this film would ultimately be about. There are several versions of the film we edited. Ultimately, I decided the centerpiece of the film would be the music from the album and the dramatic question fueling the narrative would be "what happened that one night?".

I really only intended it for it to be something we worked on for a few months, but as we started editing we realized there was a lot there and we would need to go back and do more interviews. We did this off and on for a couple years, edit for a bit and then do another interview to fill in more of the story, take a break and then give it another shot. I wanted to set some boundaries for the project, so the first rule we created was that we weren't using any video footage from the interviews, it would all be recreated. We maybe had a total of about 6ish hours of audio. The aim was always to tell the story in 10 minutes.

In the winter of 2016 we had a solid radio pieces that needed images. That's when I started to draw, putting in storyboards and learning to animate myself. Luckily some other animators agreed to contribute to the film. The visual side of the movie took about 8 months.

STEVE: Why did you decide to animate most of the story?

MATTHEW: There's no footage of his recording the album or his performance, I only had 1 photo, the publicity shot that appears in the film. I was not interested in using a talking head of Richard's interview so I knew we had to be creative. I set some rules for the film and decided we wouldn't use any footage from the interviews and it would all either be animated or filmed recreations with mixed media. The editor, Andy and I spent a couple years going back and forth editing hours of audio and using the music from the Richard Twice album to propel the narrative forward. After a few years we had a fairly tight radio piece, but we still needed images.

I was interested in using animation for the film, but had never animated before and it seemed daunting. I've always loved drawing so making them move seemed like a logical next step as a filmmaker. I started by doing character sketches, starting with the cover of the album which is the very first thing I drew, and just started drawing out different scenes and creating the fonts and the style of the text used in the movie. The more I drew and started asking around for help, the more things started to come together. I thankfully found really talented collaborators who contributed segments and taught me how to animate.

STEVE: What is Richard's relationship to music now? Does he perform?

MATTHEW: Richard has started writing on some new songs - he's hoping to get up on stage more frequently and share the music he's written. He's performed a few gigs in the Seattle area, but's looking for more opportunities to share his music now. A huge period of his life passed where he skipped out on music, but I think right now he's eager to write more and share the songs with an audience.

STEVE: How can some one seen the film?

MATTHEW: The film will play more festivals over the following year and then debut online.. Not sure when that will be yet.

Since showing the film, I'm surprised by the amount of people asking if it will be a feature. I'm kind of shocked. There are no plans at the moment, but if we were able to find the right angle to expand the story into something larger and there was the right opportunity, I'd be open

STEVE: What's next for you?

MATTHEW:I'm working on a live action film and hope to continue with another animation soon, perhaps something episodic. I had just finished a feature documentary, DWARVES KINGDOM in 2015 before I started working on RICHARD TWICE. That film, about a strange Chinese theme park that employs 100 little people in a fantasy village, is available on VOD and some streaming services. I post new work and updates on my instagram, vimeo and website.

For more information On Matthew Salton's previous film, DWARVES KINGDOM  follow these links:
Dwarves Kingdom

To keep track of what he's doing next follow him here:

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