Matt Perdie is a Millennial who is passionate about making quality films focused on conservative ideas. His past projects include filming or editing conservative videos, interviews, and films. These include Justen Charters’ music video “Six Trillion Dollar Man,” Smart Girl Politics videos, Romans XIII (a conservative web series), Tea Party News Network CPAC interviews, Tea Party: The Documentary, Runaway Slave, Stand Down Benghazi, and Perdie Across America. You can view a summary of his work here.
Matt brings a fresh perspective to the conservative movement on film. He understands we can only best present our ideas to the American people by making them visually appealing and engaging. In fact, he wrote a blog post on his website about how conservatives can become better filmmakers, which is a great read.
I recently interviewed Matt to discuss why he got involved in politics and how he anticipates to make a difference in the conservative movement through filmmaking.
AMH: How did you get started in politics? What drew you to improving film in politics?
MP: After graduating from the Art Institute of Philadelphia for film, I felt that I needed to learn more about filmmaking, so when I was living in Philadelphia or NYC, I would go to Barnes and Noble everyday and read any filmmaking book I could get my hands on. In the process, I realized that I didn’t have any strong themes, moral convictions, or questions to raise in my films to give them purpose beyond pure entertainment. I wanted my films to do good in the world and have a positive impact on people, but what beliefs would systemically have a positive impact aside from the very obvious forms of common grace-inspired basic morality? (don’t kill, don’t steal, etc.)
This inspired an interest in politics and trying to understand everything. I quickly became a conservative libertarian and immediately felt the urgency to protect the posterity of this country. I got completely distracted from my original filmmaking goal, and in 2009, I ended up walking across the United States to “bring awareness to the dangers of massive government expansion and spending by both the previous and current administrations.”
As a video editor/cinematographer, I was hired on several video production gigs after the walk by various conservatives. I immediately saw a serious demand for exciting, thought-provoking and quality filmmaking that reflected the values and the questions that people with conservative or libertarian values had. As a filmmaker and as someone who was aware of many of the fiscal and tyrannical threats to this country, I felt a responsibility to contribute any filmmaking skills I had.
AMH: Tell me more about your past film projects. Which aspect of filmmaking do you enjoy the most? What have been your favorite projects? What are your working on right now?
MP: Ever since I begun the walk, much of my work has been on documentaries. During the walk, I took a four-week break in Atlanta, GA to help out Luke Livingston at Ground Floor Video with a documentary he was producing about the Tea Party–appropriately titled, Tea Party: The Documentary Film. I did the introduction along with a couple of the trailers. In the process, I had the pleasure of working with Pritchett Cotton, Jessica Levai, Joel Aaron, and other solid conservative filmmakers and writers.
About a year after the walk, I spent almost six months working with Luke and Pritchett on Runaway Slave, which was really a great experience. Pritchett is a wonderful director/editor with high skill and a great vision. Editing Runaway Slave with him was an absolute blast. It was also very rewarding experience to create a film that exposed the true source of tyrannical threats to the black community. That and I loved imitating C.L. Bryant’s epic voice. Still do if I get bored enough.
I spent another six months also putting together a self-produced DVD series about my walk across the United States entitled Perdie Across America: Chapter 1. It covers about the first 500 miles or so of my journey and compresses it into 4 episodes. I’m currently in the process of making a full length feature version of the walk entitled “377 1/4 days” and a book with the same title. I am seeking a writer or two to sit through all of the footage I captured from across the country and help me build the structure of the film (I can only remain so objective artistically), so if anyone reading this is interested, email me at email@example.com.
As much as I love making documentaries, there is nothing I enjoy more than working with actors and crew to tell a story in the narrative, fictional format. Shooting, directing, and editing in that medium is always the most entertaining for me. That being said, Romans XIII—a 13-part narrative fictional web series–is a project which fulfills that passion of mine. Romans XIII is mainly about an agnostic investigative journalist and a Christian historian who have to work together to combat a radical political organization that is targeting them and their credibility in order to advance a false and harmful narrative. Amanda Read is the talented writer behind the scenes.
AMH: What are the biggest problems you see in the conservative movement with film? How can conservatives become better filmmakers? What types of film projects do conservatives need to improve upon the most?
MP: Our work in film is too incestuous. We rarely go outside the audience of our own echo chamber, and many of us use our films to ridicule the very people who we’re trying to court into better ways of thinking. Luke 6:27-28 tells us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I’m not certain if this verse is applicable to every situation, but I do think this is a verse to keep in mind when we all have the urge to punish those with whom we disagree with on such an entertaining format, rather than more subtly inspiring questions within the more potentially disagreeable audience members that could produce better ways of thinking, acting, and being if they didn’t feel so ridiculed. Don’t forget there are many people in this world who do not even know that they are supposed to care about certain issues that affect them, issues which we just happen to commit our lives to combatting. If you want to reach larger audiences, show people outside of the conservative echo-chamber whatever content it is that you made. This is the best way to get a feel for what will resonate with people outside of your immediate circles. Do not be overly sensitive to criticisms. The audience’s reactions are your best teacher.
The conservative movement also suffers from a lack of technical production quality in comparison to those who produce content with generally far left-leaning messages. Much of it can be allotted to the fact that the very thing that attracts people to the interest in the art of filmmaking also happens to attract the same people to the left side of the political spectrum: emotion. Because of that, both the Left and Hollywood profit from creating emotionally provocative content, regardless of whether that content is honest or accurate. The right side of the aisle doesn’t attract the same type of people naturally that most filmmaking does; however, if Christians culturally began to embrace more quick and emotionally compelling arguments, this could change in the future (as independent Christian filmmaking is really beginning to become more of a profitable business than ever lately).
Conservatives getting into filmmaking for the first time should take a lot of time to figure out what role they want to play in the filmmaking process, then study HARD. If you want to be a cinematographer, take some training courses or apprentice under someone who makes a living as a director of photography. If you want to be a director, study composition/color theory, learn how to work with actors, and make some small experimental films until you get to the point where the quality of your content is on par with the professional field. Whatever you decide to do, DON’T EVER jump right in and just start making films intended for wide viewing without a fair amount of training. It will cost you a ton of money, the message of the film will suffer greatly, and it will not do much to help people.
AMH: What is some advice you can give to aspiring conservative filmmakers?
MP: Here are a few tips:
- Find out what you care about most and make a film based on that theme. A great film often is surrounded by a central question critical to the overall story. Rocky: “Can you achieve your dreams while combatting the doubts of yourself and others?” Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious and the hit show 24 have two different answers to the theme: “What comes first? The people you love or the duty you have to your country?” You will increase your chances for success by making films whose themes you are obsessed with.
- Persistence is the most important factor to becoming better in filmmaking. You will sometimes feel like everything you are doing is getting nowhere. Don’t give up! The pain you go through in the learning process is the kind of long-suffering needed to humbly create a great film. Failure is good and should be welcomed rather than ignored.
- Collaborate. Work with people whose company you enjoy and who are as interested in making the film as you are. The synergy that comes from working on a film makes the process not only more fun, but more productive.
AMH: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
MP: It’s hard to say. Ten years ago, I would never have believed that I would be making films as a conservative, become a Christian, or did that whole walking across the country thing. God-willing, by the time 5-10 years are up, I will have expanded my production company and created films that entertained, inspired, and provoked new ways of thinking for millions of people. Also, if the Lord sees it fit, I would love for Him to put me through the necessary long-suffering to further humble myself and produce content that is even more emotionally captivating than what I currently produce. Hopefully, I’ll get around to marrying and having kids at some point, as I’m approaching the three-decade mark that every young person dreads, but all in God’s time.
I hope you enjoyed this interview! If you’d like to get more involved in filmmaking in the conservative movement or would like to hire Matt for any video production or editing projects, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.