By Charlie Schulman, Faculty, Writing for TV, Screen, and Stage Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing
Matt Wohl graduated from the Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing program in 2013. He has been teaching at Broward College for the past two years and is on the Executive Board of Film Florida. His new feature film, SCOOTER, will receive its World Premiere in Miami Beach on September 12. I recently asked him a few questions about his experience writing, directing, and producing his first feature film.
CHARLIE SCHULMAN: So your new feature film SCOOTER is receiving its World Premier in Miami Beach on September 12. Congratulations! Can you tell us what it’s about?
MATT WOHL: Sure. The film is about three Youtubers who try to ride scooters from Miami to New Orleans. When they witness a murder, the whole thing turns south, and the journey ends up being a fight for their lives. That’s the plot. At its core, it’s really about three self-absorbed people who aren’t really aware of the consequences of their actions. Eventually, it catches up with them.
CHARLIE: Can you tell us how the production came together?
MATT: I was hired by a director in Miami to write a screenplay. He showed it to Arturo Lorde of Pinnacle Media who read it and liked my writing. Arturo reached out to me and asked if I had anything else because he had a funder who was ready to back a low-budget film.
I’d been working on SCOOTER as a low-budget film I could shoot myself. In fact, Travis Cody (another Spalding alum) and I were looking at raising funds another way. I sent Arturo the script. He really liked it, and his funder backed it.
CHARLIE: It sounds like this all came together fairly quickly.
MATT: I shot a short film MOM in May of last year, so I was already trying out crew to work with on a feature. I brought some of those people back to work on SCOOTER. We got funding in July. We started shooting in September. It was very quick.
CHARLIE: How long was the shoot and what was involved?
MATT: The goal was to have a rough cut to take to AFM the first week of November so we could seek distribution. We shot the film in 11 days. It’s found footage, so every time we said “action” we had between 2 and 4 cameras rolling. So, it allowed us to move quickly. I was writer, director, producer. We used three GoPros, a handicam, a Sony FS700, and a drone.
CHARLIE: What were some of the challenges you encountered with the shoot?
MATT: As a found footage film, we had to break down every scene and determine which cameras we could use, and why. We had to mimic surveillance cameras, cop cams, and also determine what kind of shots the three guys would have set up for their “show.”
As a writer, it was also crucial that the entire script held to the construct. Found footage can be very problematic. So, I spent a lot of time making sure the scenarios were plausible. We planned pretty well, but we definitely had to be fluid.
CHARLIE: How much was your budget?
MATT: We had a production budget of $50,000. We paid everyone involved, and the tight shooting schedule was crucial to the budget. SCOOTER will be in select theatres this fall. It will also be launched on digital platforms (dates coming soon), and we are making educational licenses available for colleges to host screenings.
We did the shoot in September, had a rough cut by the end of October, and bringing that to AFM is what led to us getting distribution.
CHARLIE: Maybe we can look into hosting a screening for SCOOTER. Anything else you want to say about the film?
MATT: Yeah. There is one more thing to add about the film. Race is a big component. In some ways the film is Blair Witch meets Get Out.
Having the film made really is a strong reminder that words matter. We know that as writers, but it was really interesting to see the implications of all the choices I made on the page play out in production. Completely invaluable as a writer and creator.
Charlie Schulman was born and raised in New York City. He writes plays, musicals, screenplays and for television. He is the Book-Writer and Producer of the Off-Broadway musicals GOLDSTEIN (Nominated for Best New Musical 2018 by The Off Broadway Alliance Awards) and THE FARTISTE (Outstanding Musical Fringe/NYC). His plays have been produced Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. Other plays include ANGEL OF DEATH (Charles MacArthur Award for Comedy), THE GREAT MAN (Walton Fellow Arena Stage), THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT (Outer Critics Circle Special Commendation – Young Playwrights Festival), THE GROUND ZERO CLUB (Playwrights Horizons), and CHARACTER ASSASSINS (N.J. Rep). He teaches playwriting and screenwriting at New York University and is on the MFA faculty at Spalding University, teaching writing for TV, screen, and stage. His plays are published by Stage Rights, Dramatists Play Service, Dell/Bantam and Applause Books.