Matt Jordan Smith, a multitalented movie maker, actor and writer, is the producer of “Spanish Lake” documentary. Earlier as a child artist, Matt was seen in the group “Colors of Love”, singing and performing at events for Nickelodeon, Kenny Loggins, and for Disney films like “Newsies”, to name just a few. He currently works in Marketing at Paramount Pictures.
Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.
Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself.
I am a native Angelino and have been working in Entertainment the bulk of my whole life, doing some child acting, then switched to the other side of the business in my early 20′s and started producing my own content. I currently work in Marketing at Paramount Pictures, where I have worked on the campaigns for Footloose, Paranormal Activity 3, Hugo Mission Impossible 4, Madagascar 3 and several others.
How and why did get into showbiz?
As a kid, film was another world to be created, and I had a very creative mind early on. Being born and raised in LA, the entertainment industry was always around me. I lived amongst the talent of our day, and felt that I had something to contribute to that. For me, it really started with storytelling. After I saw the 1955 film classic “Rebel Without A Cause”, where I connected to a character and a story, not of my own life but so parallel, as a rebellious but sympathetic and misunderstood kid, that was the first moment I realized I had found my calling. I knew I wanted to tell stories that moved people; that struck some kind of real emotion. Passion is not a big enough word to describe my love of film making.
Are you formally trained in acting and film making?
I studied acting for many years in my late teens and early twenties. However, I put that career to rest when I discovered how much I truly loved putting all the pieces of a film together. I am a natural problem solver and tend to be quite resourceful, so it came very easy to me to take a position of leadership.
What is “Fourteenth Colony Films” all about?
Fourteenth Colony was a production company I worked with my business and writing partner Adam JG, for many years producing mostly sports media, particularly golf content. Several full length feature scripts, including a thriller titled “50cc’s” were written by him and me under that banner, and upon completion of SPANISH LAKE, we will continue moving forward with development on those projects.
What is your best gig thus far?
SPANISH LAKE by far has been the most rewarding project I have been a part of. This was my first step into the documentary world, and I could not have asked for a better story to tell and a better group of people to tell it with. The passion I discovered was out there in America was overwhelmingly moving, and powerful, and I am proud to have put all these hours of work into something I think people will find just as captivating. I have worked on some major studio films now in my career, and they have all been exciting and challenging in their own ways, but this project was something we did in between our regular work hours, and used some of our money, because that’s important we feel it is.
So tell us more about the “Spanish Lake” project.
SPANISH LAKE is ground breaking new documentary film of that explores what happened in this former, predominantly white-inhabited suburb of St. Louis — an unincorporated township, whose residents favored no government — after an influx of Section 8 housing and African-Americans that began in the 1970′s, led to an extreme example of what has since been dubbed by social scientists as “white flight”. U.S. Census Bureau statistics reveal an 80% decline in white residents in Spanish Lake since 1990.
Director, Phillip Andrew Morton was born and raised in Spanish Lake, and after a devastating return home in 2007 to find the condition of his former home and hometown in disrepair, this set things in motion on how and why he decided he wanted to tell this story. Bold and confrontational, Spanish Lake is a quintessential American story. But, like so many of these that involve race and class and failures of government, it is a story that is sometimes painful and uncomfortable to tell, where truths don’t emerge and catharsis cannot be found until the raw and real voices of all those affected are heard. Beyond race, the film explores the flawed government programs and corrupt business dealings that ultimately spurred “white flight” from Spanish Lake. The proliferation of Section 8 housing projects in the town, coupled with government-mandated mortgage incentives for low-income home buyers, unscrupulous government employees, and real estate firms, conspired in “scaring” many white families into selling their houses. These houses were then marked up and sold to predominantly minority families for a profit, with the government left holding the bag when owners defaulted. Meanwhile, the exodus of white families resettled in brand new communities just a few miles away.
Spanish Lake is currently in post-production, being mixed at Skywalker Ranch. The film is slated for release in the fall of 2012.