Switchfoot is about to embark on one of the most exciting moments of their career with their new Fading West movie – a film that has been describe as a “mixture of Dumb & Dumber, Rattle & Hum and Endless Summer.” Such an intriguing combination has fans eager for any new tidbits of info about the movie, so we decided to go right to the source and chat with the director of the film himself.
Matt Katsolis, of Interpret Studios, has spent over a year working on the film and he was gracious enough to talk with us about the film, the creative process and what he hopes the final product will accomplish. Read on for all the details and thanks to everyone who submitted questions for Matt!
Land Of Broken Hearts (LOBH): Hi Matt, how are you?
Matt Katsolis: Doing great Jeanna – how about you?
LOBH: Keeping busy! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us today. I had fans submit questions for you about Fading West – they had quite a few! Feel free to be as thorough as you like in your answers.
Matt Katsolis: Gotcha- fire away!!
LOBH: First off… is the movie done?
Matt Katsolis: The movie is close to being done in terms of the actual edit, but there is still a lot of techinical work to be done, such as final scoring, sound mix, color grading and the final mastering.
LOBH: So how did you get involved in the Fading West movie? Were you a part of the conception of the movie or were you brought on board later?
Matt Katsolis: I was approached by my close friend Brian Nevins, a world class photographer, who does a lot of high profile photography in the film, music and action sports industry. He was working with a division of Switchfoot’s management, Red Light Management and Green Light Media and Marketing on a different project. When he heard that Switchfoot was looking to make a film that was comprised of music, international travel, surfing, and adventure, it seemed very fitting for my style of filmmaking and he recommended me to the bands management. That combined with the fact they wanted Brian to be the photographer for Bali and he said I was the only director he’d work with sealed the deal too.. ha ha.. Thanks Brian!
LOBH: HA! (It’s not WHAT you know…) How much say did you have in the planning process of the film? In other words, before filming started, how did you contribute to the “shaping” process?
Matt Katsolis: From the day we officially came on board to Fading West it was a very collaborative effort across the board – from the band’s initial vision, their managment’s concepts, and then interpreting that vision to how it would play out on screen. They had the basic journey in their minds, so we worked together over two and a half months of pre-production addressing the themes, locations, character arc’s and how those would play out at each location and throughout the film. A lot of things that may work on paper don’t translate that well into movies, so while some parts of the journey were clear, others had to be refined to make them speak the “language” of film. Film making is a very collaborative process with a lot of moving parts. Each decision results in a trickle down effect of building crews, schedules, budgets, flights, itineraries, shot lists, camera prep, film orders, and lots more behind the scenes stuff. Even a small decision in pre-production can change so much in the field. Once the band and our crew were on the same page of what the final goal of the film would be and the journey they wanted to take the audience on we were able to finalize the planning although a lot did change during production.
LOBH: Speaking of building crews, how large was your filming crew?
Matt Katsolis: Our film crew consisted of 5 people – in a perfect world it would have been larger to be able to share the work load of keeping up with the band’s very busy schedule, but it just wasn’t possible. To stay on budget, we had to have everyone on the crew wear mutliple hats. Our goal was to have 3 cameras operational everyday, with our specialty cameras for underwater, 16mm, and time-lapse always ready at a moments notice. Nic McLean, our Director of Photography, and our other cinematographer, Russell Brownley, were shooting 24/7. I ran camera almost everyday of principle shooting and even our AD/Editor/DIT Jesse Schluntz shot quite a bit as well. Even our AC/Sound Tech Sefton Tranter wound up shooting some memorable stuff. Daily we wanted 2 cameras up and running everyday, with a dedicated sound tech at the band’s side at all times, along with a speciatly camera and proudcer having the freedom to roam as needed to run timelapses, capture scenics, interview fans, and any other shots we wouldn’t be able to capture otherwise. Everyone our crew was an absolute workhorse, being the first one’s up in the morning to prep gear before the band was up, then starting our day with only a few breaks for food, then after a full day of shooting, staying up downloading footage, repacking our 16mm cameras, having production meetings and then getting to bed late only to wake up and do it all over again. Switchfoot has the energy level of groms, so they can be tough to keep up with at times. They would have a series of radio/tv interviews in the morning, then would head out for a surf until they literally had to leave for sound check, play a live set, maybe an aftershow, hang with fans and get to bed late. We would have to load camera’s, capture the experiences, change cameras for our surf cameras, put on wetsuits, pack waterhousings, get straight of the water, dry off cameras, download, change clothes and rush to sound check and the show. We hit a few kinks in the first international trip, but once we had a meeting figuring out how we could prioritize which content was the most important, things fell into rhythm
LOBH: How many months were you filming?
Matt Katsolis: It’s difficult to say exactly because we had 4 major international trips – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Bali. However there was a lot of supplemenetal content that happened in between those trips that we needed to capture. From the first day we turned on a camera, to our final pick up shots, this past February was right at the year mark.
LOBH: What was it like shooting in so many locations worldwide and which was your favorite?
Matt Katsolis: That is a really tough question and I’m sure everyone in the band, and everyone on our crew, would give you a different answer. I had actually been to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa numerous times so it helped to know the location and conditions while planning the trips, but our crew overall is very traveled and most people on our team had been to all the countries on prior trips for other past film projects. Each country had moments that are unforgettable, but I feel like a parent having to pick their favorite child ha ha.. Having said that I would say that South Africa was my favorite trip just because it has always been such a magical place to me and when you combine that with getting to meet the Kuyasa kids in their township Kayamandi in Stellenbosch it was truly an amazing experience.
LOBH: I can’t wait to see the footage of that. A LOT of fans asked next question… Is the movie scripted in any way, or all just natural Switchfoot?
Matt Katsolis: The movie was scripted in the sense that the locations all served a purpose of their musical journey to create an album inspired by the sea, and the questions we asked the band in each location were very purposeful to address the themes of Fading West. We learned early on that Switchfoot is a grammy award winning band, not award winning actors! Ha ha.. We tried to do a few setup shots and scenarios but it didn’t feel natural. Once our crew had built the trust and repore of the band, the goal was to be vérité in our shooting style, being present but not noticed by the band… with the intent of capturing truthful and meaningul interaction between the guys both on and off stage. A lot of times we’d be a “fly on the wall” – to just get into a corner of a room and fall out of sight and mind with the band, and when they forgot our presence and that they were being documented, we were able to capture some very intimate moments of the band that have not been documented before.
LOBH: What kind of cameras did you shoot with and how many cameras did you use? I understand there was some filming done with an older camera?
Matt Katsolis: Fading West was shot on a range of cameras that spanned 50 years. Cinema is all about the visuals so we wanted to create certain “looks” for different scenes in the film. Aesthetically, we wanted to choose the right tool for the setting, so all in all, we shot on 8 or 9 different kinds of cameras. Going through airports was a bit of a nightmare when the attedant would see us walk in with 12 checked Pelican cases all at the 70lb mark and each crew member wearing a massive backpack crammed full of cameras and lenses. Some flights we would be asked to check our backpacks and have to try and hide lenses in our jackets and cameras in our laptop bags, it wasn’t a pretty site but we managed minimal camera casualties in the end.
In terms of specifics the high speed visuals in the film were shot on the Phantom camera, at 1,500 frames per second and showed Switchfoot performance unlike ever before. Day to day we shot a lot on the Canon 5D Mark III for its lowlight performance and versatility, the RED Epic for a lot of pickup shots, the Panasonic Varicam for Underwater footage, and two old film cameras, a Bolex H16 and a Kodak K100. The band had an idea to capture specific moments through their eyes and in a way that would look unique to their POV so we were able to come up with the solution of shooting on our old film cameras. Glad we didn’t sellt those because it adds some really special moments to the film and I think everyone in Switchfoot actually has 16mm shots in the film.
Oh yeah and GoPro’s! We rigged their boards up, on Chad’s drum kit, and about every place imaginable. One of the coolest shots in the movie is a barell Chad got in Bali holding the caemra behind himself in the barrel.
LOBH: I remember hearing that a gopro was hooked to some guitars too, right?
Matt Katsolis: Yeah we got wierd with those things. Put them anywhere and everywhere trying to capture new angles.
LOBH: You mentioned filming for about a year… How much footage was filmed, compared to what finally ends up on screen? What was your favorite moment that did not make the movie?
Matt Katsolis: In terms of how much footage was captured as to what will actually make the final film it would be safe to say that under 1% of the footage we have will make the final product. You know the saying you got a break a few eggs to make an omlette? Well, you have to fill up about 25TB’s of hard drives to make a film. It’s sad to think of how much hard work went into getting shots that will never see the light of day but there will be tons of amazing bonus features and we will try to find as many avenues as possible to show other really special moments that didn’t make the final cut.
Matt Katsolis: If you step into the edit room you need to put on sunscreen, a bathing suit, and make sure to hydrate. It gets really really warm in their with the mountain of hard drives on.
LOBH: Haha! What were some of the craziest behind-the-scenes things that happened during filming?
Matt Katsolis: One that immediately comes to mind is at SoundWave when Sefton our AC/Sound Tech was helping me get a big jib shot of 30,000 people at the Marilyn Manson show after Switchfoot played. While we trying to carry a 10ft jib through thousands of people, I realized I forgot the lens I needed back in the bands greenroom, so as I turned to tell Sefton I was going back to get it, I got pushed into the crowd and my last glance of him, before he was absorbed into the crowd, was of a random woman who licked the side of his face and he screamed! At the time it was really freaky but in hindsight it’s hilarious.
Another moment that comes to mind was following the band down this super narrow goat trail that leads from the Uluwatu Surf Villas down to Temples – the main wave the band surfed while we were there. As some of our crew was navigating the trail, there is a section that you have to hold onto this tiny little rope and exposed tree roots. As Russ was climbing down the dirt gave way and half our crew was holding onto tree roots hoping they would support them and the 50lb camera bag and tripod on their backs. So amazing no one got seriously hurt!
Also almost everyone on our crew is an accomplished underwater cinematographer and they jump at the chance to shoot in water. That is until we got to South Africa… we were considering drawing straws to shoot water after hearing the water temperature. And then Drew mentioned that it was Shark week on Discovery Channel back home.
LOBH: HA! That’s equally hilarious and horrifying. On the polar end of that question… What were some of the greatest challenges shooting this film? For example, Chad sent me some of the footage from those intense moments where Jon had to get home because his daughter was in the hospital. I imagine it must have been difficult to film that… and to even decide to keep the cameras rolling in the first place.
Matt Katsolis: There are moments in film making where you have to cross a certain line and make a decision that will have a impact on the final result of the film. When Jon recieved the news that his daughter was facing an emergency, your natural reaction as a human and a friend, is to put down your camera and give them their space and walk away. However, as a professional, you know it’s those moments that define people and that crisis reveals character. Those moments could never be scripted and truly show the band at their most vulnerable and transparent. At that point in production, the crew had truly earned the trust and respect of the band, so as Jon went back to the hotel room to pack to go home to be with his family, the band left the door unlocked and let Nic enter quietly into the room and capture the raw honesty of the moment without them being aware of it. All in all, that decision to keep filming captured the heart of the film.
LOBH: With that in mind, how were particular parts of the movie and/or songs written during filming, inspired by the actual journey of filming?
Matt Katsolis: It’s a strange thing, knowing you are setting out on journey, knowing you are seeking to be inspired, but not knowing what those moments will look like, or how they will present themselves. Sometimes the band would get to sound check early and after they were prepped, they would start working on ideas that Jon had, and Tim would start laying down the base line as Chad found the groove. Once those elements were in place Drew and Romey would start creating all the layers and depth to the song and it just as you would start seeing it come together, it’d be time to clear the stage and open doors for the crowd. Other times it would be something as simple as a car ride and hitting the back of the seats to lay down the rhythm. When Jon was in his darkest hour leaving Australia to head home to be with his family, Tim felt inspired to pick up his guitar and start writing a song to deal with what was happening. Again, a moment that never could have been planned or forseen yet it led to a new song for the film and potentially the album. Their jam session with Rob Machado at the edge of the cliffside in Bali is also unforgettable.
LOBH: You mentioned earlier planning character arcs and choosing a final goal – can you share a little bit about what that will look like in the finished product?
Matt Katsolis: In terms of developing character arcs and the film itself, its a really tough challenge to only have just over an hour to convey the band, the heart behind their music, their journey, and the themes. You don’t know if it may be the only 80 minutes you get in someone’s life to show them who Switchfoot is and what drives their passion. In the end, the decision was made to create an art house film which has certain benefits and free’s you from the constraints of traditional cinema. Working with the band, we went back and forth on which parts of the story were crucial and which ones could become special features and supplemental pieces. We didn’t always agree in the edit room, and had clashing opinions, which can be tough at times, but also it can be a good thing. We ultimately met in the middle, in that they implemented a lot of our notes while at the same time, told the story they wanted to tell. I know earlier in the interview, how I talked about our film crew wore multiple hat… well Switchfoot wears just as many, if not more. In addition to having the pressure to create a new album, they are also balancing being professional musicians, touring, filming for Fading West, press apprearances, recording, and being husbands and fathers. They are one of the hardest working bands I’ve ever encountered, and the reason they continue to work so hard to make such powerful music is because they believe every word of what they sing.
LOBH: What reactions are you hoping to get from the viewers/fans after watching this movie?
Matt Katsolis: My hope is that the audience who already knows Switchfoot sees a new level of depth to the band that they have never had access to before. That they see how the guys are truly so grateful to be where they are at today, yet still so motivated to continue pressing forward, writing news songs and taking them around the world. Additionally, I hope a new generation of people will be introduced to their music and will see how different it is from other mainstream music. That they will question how the other music they listen to stands against a band that will only write and sing songs they believe in. The creative process that leads to these timeless songs that have impacted and changed so many lives is so unique ,and I feel will affect a lot of viewers as they get to know Switchfoot. They may just see that there is a greater purpose and force behind it much bigger than the music itself – that has kept kids from committing suicide and made people question what they were really living for.
LOBH: Matt, thank you so much for your time and handwork. We cannot wait for this movie… I think it is going to be truly remarkable!