Meet The Filmmaker: Matthew Lillard (“Fat Kid Rules The World”)

Actor turned director Matthew Lillard’s debut feature, Fat Kid Rules The World, is a heartwarming story for the fat kid in all of us. It’s punk rock, its hilarious, and it’s coming to a rooftop near you this very weekend! The film will play this Friday, June 8 at Open Road Rooftop (doors 8PM). In anticipation of the event, Matt had a chat with us about his experience making the film. He will also be attending the screening, and will answer all of your questions at the Q & A following the screening!

In the spirit of the film, Lillard and co. are taking a DIY approach to distributing the film. Learn more and find ways to help them out on their Kickstarter page. I promise that its is worth your while (and if you don’t believe me, go see the film!).

ROOFTOP FILMS: Fat Kid Rules The World is adapted from a young adult novel by K.L. Going. How did you come across the story, and what made you decide to adapt it for the screen?

MATTHEW LILLARD: I was offered the book on tape out of the blue — I’m still not sure how that happened — 20 pages in I was so emotionally moved I had tears in my eyes. I called my manager and asked her to set up a call to K.L. I just remember on that call telling K.L. “I know I’ve never directed a movie before but I promise you… I will protect your work and make the best film I possibly can”. She said yes and 9 years later we finally got it on the screen.

RF: How did you come to direct the project? You already have quite a bit of experience behind the camera – was directing something that you aspired to in the past?

ML: A friend, Ryan Lewis (shout-out) introduced me to the guys over at Whitewater Films. They liked me and appreciated my plan of how I wanted to release the film. They asked me if I’d be willing to shoot a short film with them. We’d both put in half of the budget and if the experience was successful we’d make the feature. There were 3 objectives to the short — 1. Find out if I could direct. 2. Find out if the story was worth telling. 3. Find out if we liked each other! In terms of aspiring to direct, I’ve always wanted to be more than just an actor. Acting is my passion and I’m very lucky to have made a living doing what I love but there’s not enough of it to keep me satiated. Directing was a very organic road for me to go.

RF: Though Fat Kid Rules the World is definitely in the genre of teen films, the character of Troy Billings is someone that is very relatable. His experience shows the pain of growing up, magnified. Did you have any experiences like Troy’s in your life?

ML: YES! TOTALLY! I think the great thing about K.L.’s book and now the movie to some extent, is that Troy’s experience is completely relatable. Troy is obese but he represents everyone out there who has ever felt out of place. Lost. I’m a fat kid. You’re a fat kid. (you’re doing interviews for a film festival for God’s sake!) WE’RE ALL FAT KIDS!

RF: Jacob Wysocki is excellent as Troy, as well as Matt O’Leary as Marcus, and their characters make a great sort of teen ‘odd couple’. What was your experience working with younger actors?

ML: It was awesome. The boys were awesome. And amazing. I would say they’re awesome and amazing… I love them! As actors, both Matt and Jacob are fearless and have a love for what they do. I think you can feel that when you watch the film. They’re brilliant I think. Sometimes that joy gets lost in older actors. Our entire cast had that an amazing sense of propose and a deep desire to tell this story, I was lucky.

RF: There is a lot of talk about punk music in the film, as well as the soundtrack (some of it a little bit obscure). What was it like to work with Mike McCready (of Pearl Jam)?

He was a God send. I made mistakes as a director and he helped make them go away… or at least sound better as people sit through them. I think Mike is a big part of why the movie works on such an emotional level. (I had an amazing crew all the way around and this is a great opportunity to tell you about a couple. The music was curated by Sandy Wilson of Light in the Attic, I take very little credit for the music aspect of the film. It was him! My editor is waaaay cooler then me by a country mile and she helped shape and tell this story so she gets a ton of credit for her work, Michelle Witten. And then my DP was my Ying to the Yang and without him I don’t know what I would have done, Noah Rosenthal. PLUS… I may be the only director in the world that loves his producer, without him the film isn’t what it is now, Rick Rosenthal.) (shout-outs)

RF: Have you had any experience with Rooftop Films in the past?

I don’t. But I’m excited to see what happens. (I just hope it doesn’t rain. I’ve never been so focused on in my life, it’s become an hourly ritual)

RF: Fat Kid Rules the World has had a successful festival run so far. Do you have any plans for distributing the film?

ML: Do we ever! This festival falls at the end of a HUGE kickstarter campaign that you can check out here… After we hit our goal we’ll be co-sponsors of the VANS WARP TOUR this summer. All summer our street team will travel with around the country, encouraging punk rock kids everywhere to set up their very own screening of FAT KID RULES THE WORLD. How you say? We’re about to announce a deal with TUGG.COM that will allow us to stream the movie into any theatre once the promoter hits a critical mass of tickets. Think of Groupon with movies! Movies on demand in the theatre of your choice! It’s all very exciting. You too can set your own screening at! (Soon. It’s not ready yet…shit)

RF: Something I was curious about… what is with all the hot sauce? Are you a hot sauce enthusiast?

ML: Product placement! Free hot sauce for all my friends! I had a friend in High School Seth Yakatan (Shout out) who was overweight and we’d eat lunch at his house everyday our senior year of high school… he put Hot Sauce on EVERYTHING!