Travis Mathews, cowriter/director, and Keith Wilson, cowriter/producer, reflect on the early stages of their latest project Oscillate Wildly. Their story follows a hot-headed young gay man with cerebral palsy who is forced to confront the disability he has let define his whole being when his disability check arrives much reduced.
Oscillate Wildly was a Spring 2014 SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant winner.
What was the inspiration for this story?
Travis Mathews (TM): Since childhood, I’ve been interested in telling stories about outsiders, especially outsiders within a community of outsiders. A couple of years ago I received an email out of the blue from a young gay man (Andrew) with cerebral palsy living in Toronto. He’d seen my work and responded to the way in which I approach gay male intimacy and masculinity from a naturalistic lens. He encouraged me to do something with gay men and disability and I was immediately intrigued for a variety of reasons: I’d never seen this story before; I felt the social significance of showing an experience that is mostly unseen in cinema; and it felt like it could be in my wheelhouse. Over the next year or more Andrew, along with several other gay men with CP, became friends and consultants, helping Keith and I to find the nuance in our characters’ everyday lives.
What do you see as the greatest challenges for filmmakers today?
TM: There really is a wild-wild-west mentality to movie-making at the moment, and that’s as challenging as it is liberating. I see everyone, including myself, searching for case studies and models for how to get a movie together in 2014. Because so much has changed and continues to change–driven by technology and a collapse of more traditional models from production to distribution–it seems like anything is possible. But to harness that energy, and to sustain yourself, I think you have to imagine yourself as an entrepreneur as much as an artist. Even at the micro indie level, making a film is like starting a small business.
Keith Wilson (KW): In the past, I would have answered this question with a lengthy complaint about limited resources being the biggest hurdle for my career as a filmmaker. And while I continue to struggle to find funding, exhibition opportunities, viable distribution outlets and appreciative eyeballs, my biggest challenge now cuts deeper. With so many filmmakers and content creators, platforms and apps, C300 cameras and iPhone filters, I often feel drowned out, lost, behind. I spend a significant amount of time trying to hear to my artistic voice amidst and above the clutter and the Kickstarters. I most definitely don’t think that filmmaking is a precious art form belonging in the talented hands of a few chosen people. No way. I wouldn’t have made any films without digital technology and a DIY attitude. But I am often unsure how to go about creating work that is personal, honest and singular in this bizarre, busy, fragmented world we now live in.
TM: It helps to have long-standing collaborators you can trust, and with a shorthand that creates an efficient intimacy. Keith and I are lucky to have met each other when we were both just beginning to make movies more than a decade ago. We continue to grow up as filmmakers together, generally using our shorthand for good and not evil.
What new opportunities are making the biggest difference to your filmmaking process?
KW: Our new and budding relationship with the Film Society is very exciting. Travis and I have both lived in San Francisco since the late ‘90s, but we’ve never felt as connected to the film community as we do now. It’s encouraging to know that opportunities for funding, community, and moral support exist in our own city.
TM: Totally. I echo all of that. Almost all of the opportunities we’ve had can be reduced to relationships that we’ve nurtured. We all want to work with people whom we like and trust, just like anyone, so when we find those people we hang on to them.
Describe what impact SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant has had on your film.
The grant came at a really important time for us. We were feeling good about our latest draft of the script, but also a little overwhelmed by what we needed to do to get the film made. The support for packaging provided critical seed money to help us move forward with getting producing support and a casting director. It felt like we’d been vetted and validated in the best possible way, boosting our confidence while inching the project closer to production.
The Fall 2014 SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant round is currently open to apply!
The SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant program has funded a total of 46 projects since its inception, including such success stories as Kat Candler’s Hellion and Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange, both of which premiered to strong reviews at Sundance 2014; Short Term 12, Destin Cretton’s sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, the Un Certain Regard Avenir Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013; and Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon which won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Cannes’ Camera d’Or in 2012 and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).