Baja Come Down is Matthew’s first feature film, currently in the funding stage, which he will be filming on location on a road trip in Baja, Mexico in January 2015. You can support him by donating a few bucks to his kickstarter campaign to make sure he meets his goal of $15,000 by August 28 which will enable the film to get made. His two actors Caitlin Michael Riley and Michelle Ortiz will play two young women on a road trip in Baja in a relationship that seems to be heading towards some uncertain end. Their trip will extract them from the setting in which they began their relationship such that the mystery of the desert and the coast may isolate and reveal parts of their personalities which may be incompatible.
How did this story come to you?
Growing up, I went into Baja a lot with my dad who’s a pastor. I went down there again last summer with a friend and I had the idea for this story in mind while we were going down there. We discovered this shipwreck off the coast, and there was no one else around, and this beach that has golden sand and was full of sand dollars…I don’t know… Baja’s a really interesting place and I just imagine these characters in this in-between state where they’re not really ready to let go and they go on this trip to kind of deny the truth but also, I think they hope it might work out.
Is there something about Baja that complements your characters or their story?
One of the characters is Mexican American and so she has some familial roots there. The other character’s white and has never been to Mexico and that character’s kind of adventurous, so going on this road trip, it’s a mix of all her dreams and ideas and mysteries she wants to explore. Maybe they’ve talked about going in the past…it had to be somewhere foreign, and the desert landscape. When you’re traveling as an American in Baja you would have little interactions with people here and there but you can go hours without seeing or talking to anyone.
Kind of like a dream.
Yeah you have moments of isolation and moments of intimate connection and I want to explore these characters in those states, explore their relationship in isolation, and their relationship to Baja will complement that.
I know Caitlin’s character isn’t sure she’s a lesbian. What interests you about people not falling under a specific label like gay or straight?
I guess people like to label their performance, how they act, but that limits a lot of honesty and personal exploration. Sometimes you hear people make jokes like “everyone’s bisexual,” and I feel like there’s an amount of truth to that but I don’t have the audacity to claim that on other people’s experience…it’s discussed among friends and people but in the mainstream dialogue its very much about a binary.
The character Caitlin Michael Riley is playing, she’s always been with women. She’s performed a lesbian and some people would call her a lesbian but personally for herself she doesn’t identify that way. Society applies a label to someone because they’re playing a role. There’s a difference between personal identity and the identity society prescribes for us.
Along the same lines for society prescribing roles for us, I was wondering– Is there something that pushed you to write about women? Most people seem to write within their own gender.
Making films for me is a lot about exploring things that are other to me and at the same time very personal to me. I’m very much a proponent of diversity in filmmaking, but it’s not something that’s entirely conscious. It wasn’t a conscious decision, ‘I’m going to make a film about two women’. I just ran with my instinct. My thesis film I did at Chapman was about a black kid in the sixties. Same thing. I didn’t question why I was doing it or think that was something of note until other people started asking my why I was making a film about black people when I’m white. It’s for a lot of reasons, and it’s not just a film about black people – it’s a film about this one boy and his experience, while of course his blackness is intrinsically a part of it.
On your kickstarter page, you wrote, “We want to explore elusive in-between spaces not easily categorized by the mainstream when it comes to art, film, sexuality, religion, politics, etc. approaching that question mark floating over the horizon with passion and humility.” I really liked the inclusion of that last word humility for an approach to art. What interests you about humility and how does that play into filmmaking?
God, maybe just that I don’t even know everything about these characters. I don’t want to prescribe an agenda, it’s about exploring and being open to the unexpected ….Also I grew up in a Christian home and a lot of the values that I was brought up with were very much about what you would expect; love and humility these types of things. But mostly it’s about the gray area, about me not putting a label on someone else. A person can’t even explain exactly who they are, they’ll describe mostly just whatever they’re aware of. You learn new things about yourself and your surroundings every day. If you’re open to it.
Yeah, you could say that it takes a lot of ego to really say you know what you are. Do you feel this film fits with your other films or differs?
I feel that the thing that bridges my films together is the approach of letting the character express itself. Stylistically, my three short films, someone could identity stylistic similarities, but it’s more that I’m approaching it in a certain way. Making my last film Las Gitanas was my first experience experimenting without a script . This film [Baja Come Down] will be kind of similar. I have a script but it intentionally has open spaces for what we’re going to be experiencing on the road. Because were actually going to be going on a road trip. I have things that I know are going to hit throughout the film. But every project I do is definitely exploring and also going with my instincts in doing what I know I need to do.
Being a young director, how many hats are you wearing in order to get this film made on a small budget?
Uh, a lot of the hats. Too many hats. I mean Case Barden is the producer, and I’m co-producer, so, I don’t know, scout, cast…and basically everything.
Tell me about the event Saturday
Yeah a few of my friends who are artists and musicians are going to be there…Miya Folick is like, incredible. I just did a music video for her recently, it hasn’t been released yet, she’s going to perform, we have a DJ with a fantastic taste in music, Darrin Navarro. Caitlin Adams is a dancer or a mover – she’ll do something, and then Olivia and Joann have a cool new video they’ll be installing in the space. It’s at this new space called Second Wave; it’s right next door to Cinefamily. People are going to come and support the film and I’m going to bring some video projection of moments from different films that are akin to Baja Come Down.
Matthew Anderson is a filmmaker living in Angeleno Heights, Los Angeles who works at MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown and as an Assistant Editor. He graduated from Chapman University in 2010 with a B.A in Film Production and a minor in English. His other short films include Albert! or, My Life in the Ocean (2010), Franky, Frankly (2011) and Las Gitanas (2014).