Exclusive: Interview with Lee Matthews ("3:00 AM", "The Quiet") of I'm With Them Productions

You may have heard of I'm With Them Productions for their numerous short films available for viewing and purchase online, including "3:00 AM", "COD", "Troy", "Shrove Tuesday" and most recently "The Quiet".

Recently, we reviewed "3:00 AM" right here on the Forest City Short Film Review.  Writer/director/editor Lee Matthews was gracious enough to answer a few burning questions for us.  Check it out!

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FCSFR: Lee, the official www.  lists your influences as primarily 70s and 80s British horror TV shows. In terms of feature films, what are some of your favorites and which filmmakers do you admire?

LEE MATTHEWS: I tend to like films/filmmakers that aren't necessarily popular or held in high-regard. This isn't a deliberate shun of the mainstream, I just prefer more esoteric stories, as I'd say I'm quite an eccentric person and my taste reflects this. One of my favorite films is Repo Man (written and directed by Alex Cox). Cox subsequently didn't go on to make anything of any real worth (in my humble opinion), but this film was a major influence on me and continues to be as I write and direct. I do like some mainstream films (Jaws is my all time favorite, with Aliens being a close second), but I abhor the 'cookie-cutter' style of film making commonly associated with big budgets.

How'd you two get into filmmaking? What made you decide to go the Do-It-Yourself route?

I took the usual route to begin with (University and then working for food on some low-budget films), but I lost interest due to the amount of restrictions at the time (this was the 90s - before the luxury of HDSLRs and Abode Premiere on a laptop). I didn't become interested in creating my own films again until about 15 years later, when decent low budget filmmaking tools became readily available. Jobs in the media are as rare as rocking horse shit, so after a couple years of knocking on doors and being told 'no', I decided to go freelance and now work as a cameraman/video editor. My own indie filmmaking has now become part of this.

How did you meet (producer)Rachael Groom?

I met Rachael when I was volunteering at a music festival. I had no idea she was actually a keen filmmaker in her own right until months after when she casually mentioned a short film she had been involved with. From then on our combined passion for creating stories has been almost feverish, and we've produced over 10 projects in little over a year. 

"3:00 AM" and "Shrove Tuesday" are pretty straight forward horror films, but you've also created some effective comedies, including "Cod" and "Muppet, Muppet". Are there any other genres you'd be interested in pursuing?

Horror is a genre that works well for us because it has such a wide appeal. I would like to try some more drama-based pieces, but it can be difficult to find audiences for more character driven work, so we have to be realistic with which projects we decide to commission.  Sci-Fi is also a genre that appeals, but from a more realistic dystopian perspective.

What are some of the different challenges you face when you try to create a solid independent horror versus a comedy?

Horror is a lot easier to create (at as a rule) than comedy. It's a lot less subjective so the appeal tends to not be affected by trends, nationality, age etc. Comedy is a difficult genre to establish an audience with. My comedy leanings are toward the surreal (The Monty Python movies are a big influence, as is Airplane) so you find yourself narrowing your appeal even more. My rule of thumb when writing funny stories is that if I find it funny it stays. I'm not sure it's a formula that works, but the comedies that we've created have found dedicated followers so it must work to a certain degree.

Tell us a little bit about "The Quiet", your upcoming short. A true story?

Yes, Actually the true story is far more terrifying than what we've managed to create. But it at least gave us something solid to work from. There have been some elaborations for the sake of storytelling, but we've stuck fairly closely to the real-life events. It's our must ambitious project to date.

What scares you? 

The same things as most people...spiders...clowns... the unknown. I think ghosts are more frightening than men with axes. But having said that I'd rather not come across either walking back late at night from the pub.

What is your writing process? Take us from an initial concept through the final draft.

To use '3:00AM' as an example, the idea came to me as a series of events that were linked by a woman on her own in her house late at night. I think it was stirred by a story my sister had told me whilst her husband was working away. She kept hearing noises throughout the night and her imagination was playing tricks on her constantly for about 6 hours. High Tension (the French film) was an inspiration. That film is an exercise in building tension through a series of scenes, and '3:00AM' is based on the same principle. So it was created, initially, as a concept, rather than a story. A way to terrify woman who live on their own basically (I'm cruel).

Besides "The Quiet", what might viewers expect to see in the future from I'm With Them Productions? 

The old cliche really...the feature.  We are currently working on the script for a Sci-Fi Horror called 'They Eat People, Don't They'. 

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We'd like to say a big THANK YOU to Lee Matthews for taking the time to answer our questions!

Keep in touch with I'm With Them Productions!   Check out all their films at their website here and don't forget to "friend" them on Facebook!

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!