At The Film Sprites we have the great pleasure of working with filmmakers and creatives who inspire us massively. One of the people who has been a huge inspiration is actor Matt Gras. Matt has (and continues to) work tirelessly on his dreams. His determination is an inspiration to everyone around him and it is definitely paying off- he has an ardent fandom, known as #Grasters, and will be seen in his feature film debut, Rough Cut, in October. With a schedule that is growing more hectic by the day in the lead up to the big premiere in London on October 13, we managed to snaffle up some time with Matt to talk about his journey as an actor. May you be as inspired as we are.
One of the things I’ve noticed since first being introduced to you is that you are passionate about independent film and giving a helping hand to independent projects and creatives. Why is that?
I don’t consider myself solely an actor. I am also a contributor and producer to-be. My heart belongs to films, acting, talent, ambition and artistry. It’s a big pleasure of mine to support emerging talent to reach their audience and to contribute to their journey if I can... The indie industry is an outstanding area for creatives to grow into professionals, to explore unique ways of telling stories, to develop their craft and to master their voice, talent and techniques. To meet and develop your audience and to contribute to what film and cinema will be in the near future is exciting. I love this dynamic, it totally thrills me.
What inspired you to become an actor?
It’s a very open question, and I could give you a hundred of different inspirations! I think the purest of them all come from my childhood.
As a child I was a little reclusive in my imagination. Being a kid from the 80’s (one of these geeks-to-be), I was re-enacting scenes from Star Wars, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones (a big fan of Indy!) and was re-creating the adventures of my favorite heroes with a piece of string and cardboard board in my backyard. My birthday presents were the VHS tapes of Jurassic Park and Gremlins... I knew all the catchlines of the films of my generation from the Goonies to Home Alone… and I even spent a night in a inflatable boat in the middle of my room only to experiment the feeling Dr. Jones had when he was riding down the river in the Temple of Doom and decided to take a nap - It’s wasn’t comfortable - no one can nap in that kind of boat. I always enjoyed acknowledging fantasy and to live intensely in fictious circumstances - It’s only by writing these words that I realise to what extent! It could have been a little catastrophic after the screening of Casper as I thought being a ghost was the next cool thing to be and thought I could hold my breath long enough to become one. My mum turned back to me and asked why I was tuning all red - would you call that going ‘method’?
Tell us a little bit about what it takes for you to embody a character. What’s involved in your creative process?
It takes all your creative, instinctive, sensitve, intellectual and physical resources to portray a character truthfully. Also, acting can appear as a very playful and easy job to do (we do have a lot of fun - that’s true), but it’s also an incredibly technical and demanding one. We work hard at it, no one is a ‘natural’ performer and we need composure with challenging working conditions or communication problems from time to time.
My approach is now very structured, controlled and efficient thanks to the contribution of Miss Natalie Bray - my coach extraordinaire. I learned how to channel my creativity via the use of strong techniques for the benefit of a more textured and performance with impact. Working with her I realised talent and creativity are pointless without technique and control. You need to be able to deliver and to ensure the quality of your work in all circumstances at all times.
This work and years of experience will be extremely benificial to my characters in Imprisoned (by director Timothy Fielding) and Virtue (by RADA actress/director Cara Bamford). Both of these films will take me on a journey that will require all a real sense of expertise, craft, and methodolgy at all points of the process.
Looking back at your journey, is there anything you wished you’d done different?
No, all journeys are made of trials, failures and successes of their own. It takes falling a few times to learn and to become better in order to eventually excel. I’ve learned to appreciate every single one of these moments for what they are… I have no regrets, it’s a beautiful ride!
Who is on your ultimate wish list to work with, either in terms of other actors or directors?
If you are asking for a Christmas list here it is: Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Kenneth Brannagh, Luc Besson, Jim Jarmusch, Gaspar Noe, Woody Allen, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg and Danny Boyle. They are some of my favorite directors and all embody a specific facet of cinema I really love and connect with…send my regards if you know any of them!
As for the performers, I think very spontaneously of Christopher Walken, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jared Leto, Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Hiddleston, Matthew Mcconaughey, Gary Oldman…
Sharing the screen with Jennifer Laurence, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Charlize Theron, Julian Moore and Juliette Binoche would be a fantastic honour!
Philip Seymour Hoffman was and will remain as one of my greatest inspirations. I think he was one, if not the best performer of his generation… I am still grieving his loss.
Your feature film debut, Rough Cut, screens in October. What did you find different about the feature film experience as opposed to, say, working in television?
As an actor you want to feel confident with your choices, to prepare, meet and explore your character and his surroundings, to have the time to rehearse in order to explore all the creative possibilities of the moment of that specific scene- that’s where the magic happens really. On TV, it’s usual to have the script only a couple of days before so you need to have a very strong technique and method in order to ensure the quality of your performance. You need to access your resources quickly and efficiently and be capable to change all your plans at the last minute. You need to adapt and to be prepared for absolutely everything. It’s both very demanding, challenging and stimulating - you need to be well prepared for it though!
With Rough Cut we had the chance to explore the characters, story and scenes a few months prior the shooting. It that sense we came confident, relaxed and raring to go. Practising yoga on the beach of Port Grimaud with a fruit cocktail was all part of the process - as you can imagine!
What creative legacy do you want to leave behind?
That a big question to my ‘why’s! I would be happy to leave a bit of inspiration behind me - to show the world you can achieve anything if you really want it. That the underdogs can rise by the power of their ambition, tenacity, hard work and perseverance. I grew "faith abs" over the last five years, developed my craft, shaped my career, trained my resilience and determination, I’ve been coached by amazing tutors, studied others working and even assisted them in their own training and fights... I feel ready for my own… let’s ring that bell!
Rough Cut screens in select UK cinemas from October 16.