Making it big in the film biz

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Matt Crossett is a producer, director and editor with experience in film, TV and commercials. He’s worked on everything from raunchy Mac Miller music videos, to “Mad Men,” to “Celebrity Wife Swap.” He took over the Durango-based production company FASTFORWARD Media in 2013, and has since expanded FFM’s asset Inside Durango TV – Channel 15. Crossett also serves as a board member on the 4 Corners Film office and as a feature juror at the Durango Film Festival. Recently, Crossett completed a documentary called “Ice Cowboys” about the thrilling Western sport known as skijoring. The doc will be made into a TV series, for which Crossett in the process of raising money now. He’s participating in the DFF panel “So You Want to Be in Production?” on Saturday, moderated by Emmy award-winning producer Michael Killen. We spoke with Crossett about how to break into the industry as a young person.

Tell me about the film fest panel you’ll be on this year.

We wanted to do something for locals who want to get into film. Typically, what productions are looking for is production assistants (PAs). So the goal is to give everybody an introduction into what it’s like to work on set, plus some stories about mine and Michael’s time in the film industry. I lived in LA and worked in production for six years before I came here. We’ll help you understand what all the departments are, how they function together as a team, what procedures are on set, what to expect in terms of how a day will run.

You moved to LA after college. How did you find work in the film industry out there? It’s a competitive field.

It’s very difficult if you don’t have a network of people. What you really get out of film school is a network. Nobody really cares about your degree in film. People say “It’s who you know,” and it is. Film is mysterious to those who don’t know about it, but anybody can do this stuff. It’s just learning a trade skill, and getting good at it. But you tend to rehire people that you like to work with and enjoy being around. It’s analogous to a big team sport.

Do you have to choose between getting experience as a producer or an editor or a DP – or is it easy to cross-train and have a variety of film crew roles on different projects?

It depends on who you ask. I went to school to be a director, but no one gives you directing jobs out of college. The first thing I did out of college was AD a movie in New Mexico, and the DP I worked with on the movie said, “you’re an AD.” And I said, “No, I don’t want to be an AD – it’s just the job I had when you met me.” But once you start switching around your roles, it’s hard to progress. I’d be a producer on something, then I wouldn’t work for a while and go back to being a PA for somebody else because I needed a gig – those people knew me as a PA and that’s what they associated me with. Especially if you’re freelance, that’s an issue.

If someone doesn’t go to film school, how can they figure out the ins and outs of the business?

If you’re 18, you can move to LA and start trying to intern on sets. You’ll meet a lot of people and build your own network. It’s really a matter of how much of a go-getter you are. I’ve definitely gotten jobs from, “Oh, my buddy is looking for work – you know him? He’s good, I can speak on his behalf …” When you start and you’re young, you might feel like your work doesn’t matter. I came from a blue-collar background in Indiana, where you just gotta do good work and if you do better work than somebody else, you’ll progress. You can get frustrated; why is this guy the coordinator, and I’m a PA, when I do better work than him? But you have to let that go – eventually, they’ll find out if your work is good. And if you suck, your buddy can only promote you for so long. If you want to work on movies, go where movies are shot: LA. You can go to New York, too, but it’s a lot more expensive and harder since there’s not as much work. There’s a good contingency in Atlanta, too.

Any tips for young people hoping to get into film production, especially if they’re starting out in the Four Corners?

If you want to be in film, contact video production companies in your area, local festivals and TV stations. Communicate with other filmmakers in your town. Call us, the Herald, Rich Fletcher, Michael Killen in Pagosa. There are production companies everywhere. They may not be shooting films, but you want to learn the basics – how to shoot and edit. Most people don’t want to be PAs for life; they usually want to tell stories. But you need the skills first. Film sets are a fun environment to be in because you’re all working toward this big fantasy. It’s basically adults playing pretend.

Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer

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