Production still from 'First-Contact' by Matt Richards, 2011

MIFF guest post: writer/director Matt Richards

Alumnus Matt Richards’ masters film, ‘First Contact’, will debut at the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival. Ahead of tomorrow’s festival launch, we ask Matt to reflect on his film education at the VCA.

About Matt Richards

Alumnus Matt Richards (Master of Film & TV, 2011) was born in Perth, Western Australia. He began putting on 50c plays in his garage at the age of 10, skateboarding, filming and going to punk shows at 15. He produced his first skateboarding video with a hi-8 camera, VCR, Tandy mixer and portable tape deck in 1990.

He completed a three-year Advanced Diploma in Film and Television at the Western Australian School of Art and Design in 2000. This culminated in the award winning 16mm short drama Growing Jacobs Gold.

He soon began a collaborative project with the SymbioticA art and science group that saw him spend a month working and exhibiting in Austria. This project was then exhibited in Australia, Germany, Russia, Spain and the USA.

In 2004 he moved to the Melbourne and formed his own production company Trainwreck 20/20. Here he produced, directed and edited 14 music videos, completed a 4 year music document on the underground Australian rock/punk community The Super8 Diaries, directed his first television commercial and self-funded three short films, Hombres Hablando, Automata and Shackle.

In 2011 he was accepted into the Victorian College of the Arts to do his masters of directing narrative. First Contact is the product of this.

He is currently developing his debut feature film.

Matt’s reflection

I completed an advanced diploma in Film and Television in Perth back in 2000. After working freelance as a director, editor, gaffer and camera operator within the film industry I decided I wanted to focus on directing my own passionate narrative projects.  I decided to apply for the VCA to do the masters course. I knew others that had been to the VCA and all spoke very highly of it. It was a gamble as I would be trying to get in on industry experience only, without an undergraduate degree.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I got the acceptance letter and prepared myself for a challenging, exciting and highly rewarding year.

The first thing I noticed at the VCA was how professionally the course was run and how dedicated all of the students were that were attending. There was a strong feeling that everyone was there to get down to business as soon as possible and there was an immediate sense of community. The environment was nurturing and incredibly supportive.  The school has a great reputation, lecturers who work in the field with industry connections and a really supportive alumni.

Matt Richards
VCA alumnus Matt Richards

By doing my masters at the VCA I was able to spend a year just concentrating on honing my directing craft and preparing to tell a story without the interference of the demands of a freelance lifestyle. Somehow it all worked. I was able to juggle things around. I managed to successfully raise the funds needed to make my film the best way possible and finished the year with four cash awards from the VCA.

The VCA name, with its good reputation, meant that my film immediately had interest directed at it by festivals overseas not to mention the proactive approach by the marketing department with the film in the six months since I finished. I’ve just come back from a two month tour that has seen me take the film to festivals and screenings in Georgia (EU), Israel, New York and Palm Springs. It will screen at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival and will also make its Latin American premiere in Mexico in November.

I know the connections formed at the VCA will serve me well into the future as I develop my debut feature film and seek out further professional development.

A version of this article originally appeared on Channel, the Faculty’s previous publishing platform.