We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Gall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, what inspires you?
To put it in a single word: Resourcefulness. My heroes are the people who make brilliance out of nothing. The filmmakers who pooled their resources and made magic on a nothing budget; Writers, actors, directors, and designers who can create a lived-in world and a compelling story in a run-down theatre with a few lights and a good script. When I’m leading a project (a film or theatre collaboration), I’ve always worked under the assumption that I’ll have next to nothing to work with, so my drive and creative spark usually comes from figuring out how to use what I have, rather than pining for what I don’t have. The greatest films and theatre works usually weren’t born of big budgets; they came from their creators reimagining what was possible with what they already had.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been working in theatre for 12 years, mostly acting in a wide range of plays, including a lot of Classics (Shakespeare, Shaw, Coward, Wilde, etc.), storefront theatre in Chicago, and a little bit of regional theatre in L.A. Despite the pandemic slowing the theatre scene down, I don’t plan to stop any time soon. Theatre is an artform that is never complete, so that hunger has never really gone away for me.
But my first love was always film. And despite a few small roles here and there acting in commercials and shorts, I’ve only recently decided to aggressively pursue filmmaking. Over the last few years, I’ve been writing and developing scripts that I’ll be able to direct myself. I worked on a recent feature as an associate producer and 2nd assistant director. And in the last year, I finally stepped up and made two shorts. These films were made with minimal budget and resources, fewer than five people on each, and each telling a personal, cerebral, “street-level” story. And until a studio decides to hand me a few million dollars to make something for them, my movies are going to stay that way.
It has never been my intention to be known for a “style” or a certain genre or “appeal.” And I wouldn’t dare call myself an “accomplished filmmaker.” I’m not. I’m still getting started. The one thing I’ve been trying to focus on is making sure any script I write, any role I perform, or any film I finish has my voice and point of view in it. When I walk away from a project, I want to know that a piece of me will be in it forever. A question, a solution, or even just a shared window into a curiosity I had at the time.
It’s hard to say what kind of opportunities will be open for me on the other side of the pandemic. So for now, I’m going to keep costs low and output high.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, if you’re going to come visit Chicago, you’ve got to get the “tourist” stuff out of the way first. Not because it’s dull or cliché, but because you’ll want to level up quickly so you can do the REAL Chicago stuff.
Your first 2 days should include some strolling downtown, where you’ll visit Grant and Millennium Parks, get a glance at Navy Pier, have some deep dish (preferably from Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s), spend a few hours in the Art Institute, and take an architecture tour on the Chicago River, where you’ll be able to engage with Chicago’s history and get a sense of why it’s such a beautiful, storied city.
Now you’re ready for some culture. You’ll want to take in a play, and you have plenty of options. You could go to the Loop to see a Broadway touring show, but you should probably check out some local theatre. Goodman, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, and Victory Gardens are among the best regional theatres in the country, and any of them will give you a memorable show. But I think the real magic happens in the small storefronts all over town, where talented, eager theatre artists are earning their stripes, usually with little more than a few sticks to rub together. The Den Theatre, a multi-venue complex in the heart of Wicker Park, hosts half-a-dozen shows on any given Friday night, and will give you a taste of the passion, angst, wisdom, cleverness, and genuine human curiosity that Chicago theatre is known for.
With whatever energy you’ve got left, you’ll want to see the quieter sides of the neighborhoods. Rent a bike and take a ride up the North Shore Channel trail which leads to the beautiful Bahá’í Temple in Wilmette. Take a walk around Logan Square and enjoy the coffee and Mexican bakeries, or stop for a beer pretty much anywhere.
And finally, you MUST get yourself a few good cocktails. For a busy, bar-hopping night in an up-and-coming area, go to Fulton Market and get a burger at Au Cheval, followed by drinks at Bandit or Lone Wolf. For some lower-key revelry in the dimly-lit, impeccably DJ’d bars of the low-income intellectuals, head back to Logan Square and stop into Slippery Slope, Lost Lake, or Best Intentions.
The rest will present itself to you! Whether you’re following your stomach, your eyes, or just the sidewalk, you’ll end up somewhere with plenty to offer.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Everyone who ever gave me a job, or even just worked with me on an audition or asked for my input on their project is directly responsible for where I am now. My greatest strength is collaboration, and I am only the creator I am now because of the actors, directors, writers, designers, and technicians I’ve worked with over the years.
More specifically, I have been working at a theatre company outside Chicago since 2014, Oak Park Festival Theatre, which gives me opportunity after opportunity to experiment and grow. The company and every member there has been a family that welcomes me AND pushes me.
I’ve had many mentors over the years. My high school literature teacher, Tom Murphy, gave me my first theatre lessons and a director in my hometown, Keith Weirich, gave me my first acting lessons. My professors at Ithaca College gave me the tools not just to perform, but to develop a craft over a lifetime. And the late Robert Scogin at ShawChicago used to tell me “I’m going to make a star out of you, whether you want it or not.”
And of course, my mother, Jeanne, has been my biggest fan my whole life.
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Photos by Craig Schwartz, Savanna Rae, Ken Ozuna, Tyler Core, Alex Krasser, and Tim Fuchs