SXSW Weekend continues on Saturday, June 4th with the NY premiere of feature length film No Matter What, a gripping story about two best friends on an epic journey through rural Florida. Their multifaceted friendship has a searing authenticity uncommon in today’s dime-a-dozen goofball buddy comedies. We sat down with filmmaker Cherie Saulter to ask her how she did it.
Rooftop Films: Describe No Matter What for someone who hasn’t seen it.
Cherie Saulter: No Matter What is the story of Nick and Joey, best friends growing up in the crumbling landscape of rural Florida, whose lives and friendship are changed by the journey to find Joey’s mother. Tonally I like to think it’s The 400 Blows meets Stand By Me, or at least I hope so.
RF: This film had a very personal tone to it. What drew you to the subject matter? What made you want to make this movie?
CS: The story stemmed from characters I created based on guys I was friends with as a sixteen year old. So in that way it is very personal. They’re characters that I care very much about and wanted to present to an audience in a way that would make them care too.
RF: Do you relate to any of the characters?
CS: I would say that I empathize with the characters in my film more than I relate to them. All of the characters, even the ones that, on the surface, seem like kind of terrible people.
RF: How did you choose the location?
CS: The film was shot in and around the small town where I grew up in Florida. And the film looks and feels like my memory of living there; like everythings been sitting out in the sun for too long. I wrote the film to be set in this area because when I imagined the story, I knew it could have really happened there. But also because I feel like the landscape is a big part of what leads the characters to a lot of the decisions they make. It truly is a beautiful place, but the vast openness of it all can make it feel very isolated.
The other thing is, when you’re making a movie for no money you kind of have to do it in a place where you have a support system. Our entire crew, which fluctuated between seven and ten people, lived at my parents’ house for the entire month of production. (Half of them were sleeping in an RV in the backyard.) Also, most of our locations came from friends, or friends of friends, or the parents of someone I went to school with in fourth grade. It’s a lot harder to get away with things like that in a place where you have no connections to the community.
RF: What do you want the audience to take away from your film?
CS: I guess I don’t really feel like it’s fair to have an expectation of what people should take away from the film. I think it would be presumptuous to think that anyone would see it exactly the way that I do. But ultimately I hope that they connect with the characters, that they feel something. I think the goal of films, or at least the films I hope to make, is to understand why people are the why that they are.
RF: Where do you draw your inspiration as a filmmaker?
CS: I think, as a filmmaker, I’m most inspired by people. By their stories and their interactions, but also just the minutia of how people function on a day to day basis. I have maybe a bad habit of staring at people. Like sometimes even spacing out when I’m talking to someone because I’m watching the way someone across the room drinks their coffee in a particular way or shuffles their feet while they walk. People are kind of fascinating in the way they’re so similar, but also completely different.
RF: Where do you hope to go from here/What are your future projects? And did No Matter What provide any lessons for these future projects?
CS: Currently I’m still submitting No Matter What to festivals and seeking distribution. I just want as many people as possible to see it. I also have a few projects lined up for the future. I’m producing a movie called This Is Martin Bonner for Chad Hartigan (Luke and Brie Are On A First Date) which we hope to shoot in the fall. And I’ve just finished a new script that I’d love to be able to shoot next year.
RF: What excites you about screening at Rooftop Films?
CS: First of all, who doesn’t want to screen their movie on a rooftop? That alone would be awesome. When I first became aware of Rooftop a few years ago, that was the main appeal. But when I learned more about the organization and the support Rooftop provides for their alumni through grants and other opportunities I was so much more excited. My movie hasn’t even screened yet and already everyone there has been so overwhelmingly supportive. It’s a community that I’m so stoked to be part of.