Indy Shorts Feature Highlight: Matt Mays

Presented by Heartland Film, Indy Shorts International Film Festival showcases short films created by storytellers from all over the globe. This July 26-29 marks the first Indy Short’s festival and includes categories such as short film finalists, official selections, Indiana spotlight program and a high school competition. Along with the festival, viewers can attend panels and workshops to learn more about filmmaking and what happens the behind the scenes on set. To learn more about the event and how to purchase tickets, visit Heartland’s info page here.

Name: Matt Mays
Hometown: Indianapolis
Instagram: @mattmays

Tell me a little about yourself?
I am a producer, director and writer and am a three-time National Emmy Award winner. In over 20 years, I have worked on hundreds of hours of TV series and specials, commercial spots, feature documentaries, shorts, films for advertising, music videos and much more.
I am also a husband, father and aspiring musician. I was the Chair of Tonic Ball for six years and I assist in fundraising for GiGi’s Playhouse, a Down Syndrome Achievement Center.

How did you get started with film?

I do quite a bit of wildlife and conservation filmmaking. For this project, I was approached by the ESCAPE Foundation, an organization

dedicated to protecting and restoring endangered wildlife around the world. ESCAPE had partnered with Kenya-based WellTold Story to develop a year-long research project around the youth of Kenya and their attitudes towards wildlife and natural resources. This film is the culmination of the research project.

What is your favorite thing about creating a film?
In a sense, all of it. Each part of the process has something uniquely enjoyable. In a documentary project such as “Mabingwa,” where we shot for two weeks in very remote parts of Kenya, it’s a combination of working through the story and simply figuring out how to pull it off. The young people we met on this project were simply incredible. They all have such passion and drive to improve not only their own lives but the lives of those around them. From what I understand, this film has had a big impact in Kenya and has led to some amazing opportunities for each one of them. To think we had some influence on that is pretty fantastic.

Tell me about your film “Mabingwa” that was submitted to Indy Shorts?
Kenya is one of the most diverse countries in the world. It boasts some of the most incredible wildlife spectacles on the planet. But with the human population set to double in the next 25 years, wildlife and natural resources are already feeling the pinch. In Mabingwa, we meet four young men from four different corners of the country. We see their daily struggles to make ends meet and to relate to their country’s natural heritage. Some want access to the ecosystems but are denied. Some are too poor to even bother. Some have turned their lives around because of their involvement in conservation. These four young people exemplify how starting a simple discussion can change the course of a life – and a country, forever. Mabingwa is the Swahili word for champions. The youth of Kenya must be the champions for wildlife if it is to survive.

Where did the inspiration for your film come from?
Looking at the research that had been done on the topic, it was really exciting to look for young people in Kenya who had great stories to tell. The people we worked with have incredibly diverse backgrounds and are from vastly different parts of the country. We move back and forth from the high plains, to a rainforest to an inner city slum. That said, all of our subjects had the same desire – they simply want to be engaged. They all want to be a part of moving their country forward in a positive way. That was a very inspiring story to tell.

What does it mean to you that your film is a part of the first Indy Shorts Film Festival?
As a filmmaker who made a conscious choice to stay in Indiana, it’s incredibly important to be a part of anything that celebrates and promotes Indiana-based artists and gives us a platform to promote our work. Not all festivals have the same dedication to local artists. I have immense respect for the Heartland Film Festival and all it has done over the years for Indiana-based filmmakers and beyond.

What’s in the future for you?
In addition to multiple projects, we are in the middle of completing the films for the 2018 Indianapolis Prize which feature locations from all over the world. We spent the first part of this year in Suriname, The Himalayas, the Arctic and much more. We should wrap on this in August.

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