Akumal Comedy Festival Interview: Portrait of An Artist: The People of The Akumal Comedy Festival: Profile Interview: Director Matt Olson

As some of you may know I’ll be in Akumal, Mexico all next week for the First Annual Akumal Comedy Festival and youngnotions.com will be the official blog of the festival because nobody else has staked that claim yet! Do you need approval of the festival to be the official blog? Whatever.

As the so far undisputed official blog of the Akumal Comedy Festival, we’ll be interviewing some of the performers and producers that are making this happen and are responding to my emails asking for the interview. I’m excited that our first artist interview will be with director Matt Olson!

Director Matt Olson near a camera either about to direct something or just finished directing something.

Matt Olson cut his teeth in the Minneapolis comedy scene directing for sketch comedy groups The Label and The Other Side Project. After winning the 2008 and 2009 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Festivals with his shorts “Birthmarked For Death” and “The Grave Review”, Matt moved to Los Angeles. Since then, he’s written and directed an Emmy and Telly award winnning PSA, written a half hour comedy show for FX and is currently developing a web series for MTV. With the experience of directing over 100 live multimedia shows over the years, Matt is coming down to Akumal to not only film the festival but direct several original comedy sketches. The sketches, written and performed by the comedians of the festival, will all be shot in the the few days leading up to the fest. Youngnotions.com sits down with Matt to discuss the unique challenge of producing comedy under tight deadlines.

Bill: Given your experience with the 48 Hour Film Challenge, you’re no stranger to filming sketch comedy under tight time restrictions. For the Akumal Fest you’re going to shoot and edit several short sketches in the matter of a few days. How would you say working under such pressure changes the process? Does it help?

Matt: I think that working under tight time constraints can yield really good stuff. It pushes you to work at the top of your abilities and makes it nearly impossible to second guess your ideas. This helps make the work more honest and instinctual. Of course the good ideas couldn’t come to life or be done justice without a really solid crew. We had around 25 folks working on our first 48 hour and over 40 on the Grave Review. We have a great bunch working the Akumal shoot. Really an accomplished set of filmmakers. One of the added challenges is that there’s only four of us, so pushing that boulder’s going to take a lot effort.

Bill: You’ve only got a few people working with you on the production end this time around while you have over a dozen comedians writing for you. It’s almost a reverse of your 48 experiences with just a few writers and a large production crew. Is that going to change your process much?

Matt: Yes, I think the large amount of talent ensures I’ll be working even harder on the writing/directing side of things.
We want to include everyone who’s into this but because of our limitations it’s going to be hard to feature everyone equally.
We also don’t want to do something that’s just an extended role call. No final episode of Seinfeld for me please.
We’re still going to be pushing to make work that at actually features some character development and has a cinematic look and feel to it.
I think the key to this lies in finding thematic, comedic and ironic connections between a bunch of diverse folks playing heightened versions of themselves.

Ok maybe diverse isn’t the right word. They’re mostly a bunch of white male comedians. With this crew I guess you could find diversity in “beard/no beard” or wimpy and skinny vs. fat hairy.

Bill:Hey, way off topic but do you remember the time we were at the Nomad with Denson and you totally nerded out on that hot waitress?

Matt: Remind me.

Bill: Okay. We were all on the patio and ordered from this waitress. She came back with our drinks really fast, like a minute later. I said “Wow, that was super fast” and she said “I know, I’m just like Flash Gordon!”

Matt: Doesn’t ring a bell.

Bill: So she says “Just like Flash Gordon” and then you respond by saying “Uhhh, I think you mean ‘The Flash’”. You might have said “Uhh, I think you mean DC Comics’ ‘The Flash’” but I can’t remember.

Either way, the waitress scrunched up her face and said something to the effect of “Whatever” and left. Did you get her number after that? I can’t remember. She really seemed into being corrected on comic book trivia. Girls like that stuff.

Matt: She was obviously not my type.

Bill: Maybe you just weren’t specific enough. She probably would’ve hopped on your jock right then and there if you were just more pedantic about it. Follow it up with something like “And even then there aren’t any female Flashes so call yourself ‘Jessie Quick’ next time”.

Matt:Go fuck yourself, Bill.

Bill: Good interview.

If you’d like to see more of Matt Olson, you can find him at a comic book shop on Wednesday (that’s when the new releases come out).