Film Courage: When did you decide on documentary filmmaking? Your first film was a narrative or was it…there wasn’t really a decision? There was an interest sparked for something?
Matthew Miele, filmmaker (ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE): My thinking behind it was I did a second a narrative called EAVESDROP and then that had a very hard time getting out there, too. So I was very discouraged because I was trying to figure out Well, how am I going to tell the stories I want to tell? And then you have this huge mountain to climb with raising money and the cast. You have a very small amount of time to get it right with a feature because it’s only like a four or five-week on-set experience and there are such long days. And I really was discouraged with the process of storytelling and the feature narrative.
However, from those two directing gigs (because I’d gotten notice from some writing) because I had written scripts I came out here [Los Angeles] and I was doing some writing and I got a manager and I was working with an agency. And I started working with a couple of high-profile directors on a couple of scripts and I was helping to do a couple of things.
“I just want to tell my stories. How can I do this?”
But ultimately I got discouraged because with that you sometimes are on turn around on a lot of things, you don’t get credited if you work on something and you know, you’re in that development thing. And sometimes your work doesn’t really pay off because you can be working on something for so long and never gets made.
So then I had this frustration point where I was like “I just want to tell my stories. How can I do this a lot easier in a sense?” And I’m a New Yorker in my heart and as a child used to come into the city and see the windows at Bergdorf Goodman and a variety of different storefronts.
And I remember that as a kid and I used to look up at these different windows and say “Wow, that’s like my first approach and first encounter with storytelling and a three-act structure you could see within just one window. And I just absorbed that and I said to myself “You know what? I’d love to do a film on Bergdorf’s because that was my first encounter with this window (windows). I approached them and they said we don’t allow filming and to do a whole feature would be crazy because you’d have to buy the store out and film and it’s multi, multi-millions to even think about it.
But then I said Well, let me look at your archive. Let me do a little more research on the place. They showed me their archive and it was so thin and I was like Well, you don’t keep a formal archive? I’m surprised it’s not huge it’s a hundred years old. And they said No. And I said Well, let’s do a project together. I’ll beef up your archive with interviews and we’ll figure it out together. And I said Let’s do a documentary? And they said Okay.
So for the next two years we were rolling camera. And you can green light your project like that without all the money you need to get it done. And also there’s this protracted period where you can work on something for a longer period of time at your own pace and you don’t have to have that really concentrated thing.
And it was in 2011 when I started to think about that and that’s when the doc started to get hot and get like this golden period (which I still think we’re going through).
And I feel like storytelling in a doc form is a really refreshing approach if you really want to get your thing or your film made and out there because you can literally for $1,000-$2,000 bucks have a camera, start rolling and green light your own project.
It’s really about picking the right topic, getting the right people that you want to interview or highlight and just making a compelling story. And if you stitch that all together successfully you can get something out there in a theatrical way just as much as a feature narrative is these days.
I mean my last four docs all went to theaters and they were rated and you feel like you’re doing it and in it. But it was a byproduct and a result of my frustration with the features side. So I’m kind of like in the doc world right now (about to do two more that are already shot) but I’m entering back into the feature world now because I got attached to direct this film on Norman Rockwell. It’s a biopic on that iconic artist. I’m really excited about that so I’m kind of like entering back in. But I feel better now because I’ve accomplished what I’ve needed to in the doc world and I feel like with that experience I’ll bring more to my directing prowess when I get on set and do that next thing.
Question For The Viewers: What are you frustrated with?
ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE, a documentary by Matthew Miele about the famed hotel on Madison Ave released in New York on May 11th and Los Angeles on May 18th with additional cities to follow.
For the past 88 years, The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel has been the definition of class and a calling card for Manhattan’s elegant Upper East Side. But while it has housed some of the world’s most famous clientele, the stories within the walls of the hotel rarely leave the premises. Until now. In Always at The Carlyle, writer/director Matthew Miele (Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s, Harry Benson: Shoot First!) presents the untold stories and well-kept secrets of The Carlyle in a feature length documentary to be released worldwide in early 2018. In the works for more than three years, Always at The Carlyle offers an exclusive and provocative peek into the pop culture history of the renowned hotel, all from the mouths of The Carlyle’s own guests and employees. George Clooney, Anjelica Huston, Tommy Lee Jones, Vera Wang, Anthony Bourdain, Roger Federer, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Jon Hamm, Lenny Kravitz, Naomi Campbell and Elaine Stritch join the more than 100 personalities sharing their favorite stories and unique insights in this exposé of New York City’s legendary hotel.
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GIRL LOST by Filmmaker Robin Bain – tackles the very real issue of underage prostitution as told through the eyes of a wayward teen. Groomed by her own mother to work in the underbelly of Los Angeles, the young girl struggles to survive in this dark world. Stream GIRL LOST on Amazon Prime Video today.
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There are days when New York City seems to open its doors to you and every single piece falls nicely into place supporting the dream that brought you to that big wonderful city. Then there are the other days…the days when those same pieces become ill-fitting sharp-edged shards ganging up against you and any goal you may have. Those are the days when the cruel heartless city itself seems to be conspiring against you. Those are the days you know you’ve been…New YORK’d. It WILL happen to you…