Bringing the DIY spirit of punk and hardcore music to indie filmmaking
How’s it going? My name is Matt Wells. I’m an actor and producer on the independent feature film CROWN & ANCHOR, which will be released theatrically in the fall of 2018.
CROWN & ANCHOR is an intense family drama which examines the effects of childhood trauma and it is scored entirely with punk and hardcore music. Bands like GORILLA BISCUITS, YOUTH OF TODAY, DYS, JOHNNY THUNDERS, X-RAY SPEX (just to name a few).
I made the movie in my town of St. John’s, Newfoundland, which is where I am right now hiding from the rain under the trees.
I made the movie with my best friend Michael Rowe and I met him when I was in a band. We were in a band together and that’s how my journey started into filmmaking, it started with music. We started to have some success on music television in Canada. We were touring with bands like SLAYER and FISHBONE and D.O.A. Eventually that journey led me into music television. So I all the sudden I went from being a singer in this independent band to interviewing some of the bands that I admired. I became a music and film journalist on music television and through the years I got to interview people like Lou Reed and NO DOUBT, Greta Gerwig and Quentin Tarantino.
But somewhere along that journey I started to feel I wanted to do something different which was acting and filmmaking. And you can imagine what an aspiring actor and filmmaker can learn from interviewing people in that world. I did thousands of interviews and it was always sort of percolating in my brain.
To be quite honest with you what I learned as a guy in an independent band, that’s what gave me the tools to be able to make a movie. This sort of D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) spirit of punk and hardcore music, that’s what I lived, that was my whole life. We were putting up our own posters, we were raising money to make albums and music videos, running it like a small business so we could go on tour and sustain ourselves to continue doing something that we loved and that is exactly how we made this movie and exactly how we’re approaching the roll out of distribution.
And when you think about it, those worlds (independent film and independent music) that punk and hardcore do-it-yourself culture and spirit, they are very similar and that is exactly the tools that we used to make CROWN AND ANCHOR.
“This was a no-frills set. There were no dressing rooms, no trailers, it was stripped down. We had to have a team that were checking their egos at the door and were cool to work in that sort of environment and just try to put all the money on the screen, which is what we did.”
What made the production of CROWN AND ANCHOR unique?
Matt Wells: Our first day on set of CROWN AND ANCHOR we shot 15 pages which was already longer than any project our writer/director Andrew Rowe had worked on in the past which sort of set the tone for the next 15 days of filming. This was Andrew’s first feature and we only had 15 days to make it happen. But it created an urgency on set which absolutely you can see in the performances, you can see in the direction. There is something about being under the gun and knowing that you really don’t have the option to make a lot of mistakes or second-guess yourself and that’s really what we did.
And the backstory of CROWN AND ANCHOR is that we had private investors and we had a strong script, but it was long. And everybody told us it was too long at our budget. We didn’t want to have to cut it because of budget. Because we knew if we cut it at the script phase, it was going to cut the heart out of the film.
And Andrew had a distinct vision for this movie about wanting to really focus on character development which was going to mean a lot of long, one-take, no cut scenes. And Michael and I, we connected with that vision (we believed in it). So we wanted the ability to cut in the editing room and not on the page. So we knew we had to assemble a team who was amendable to that type of environment.
I mean essentially we had to find people who wanted a punk rock the sh*t out of this thing and that’s what we did.
We found an amazing cast, an amazing crew. I mean the good thing about having a very strong script is that it allowed us to attract very strong actors who had been in the business for a very long time and without that sort of experience, never would we be able to make something like this.
This was a no-frills set. There were no dressing rooms, no trailers, it was stripped down. We had to have a team that were checking their egos at the door and were cool to work in that sort of environment and just try to put all the money on the screen, which is what we did.
Without this incredible cast and crew it never would have happened. So that really influenced it and was a big part of the energy you see on screen. But not just the environment of production, but also the location. Our creative team are spread all over right now from Toronto to California, but out home town is St. John’s, Newfoundland (where I am right now) and there is something really special about this place. And if you have a project I highly, highly recommend you consider coming to make it here, not just because it has a growing and thriving film community. Not just because it has an amazing crew here, really talented actors and not just because it’s beautiful. But because there is an energy in this place, it’s an island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. We are geographically isolated, we are socially and culturally unique and it also informs our movies. And if you don’t believe me how special it is here just see if you can ask Jason Momoa, I’m sure you can just call him. The guy is here all the time filming. It’s not a rare occurrence to see him walking down the street going to grab a coffee, it’s a very special place. And there is something about (not to get into too much of a history lesson on Newfoundland) but our ancestors through the years having to live off the land and the brutal climate, that sort of helped inform who we are. And there is a dark, raw beauty to Newfoundland and there is a strong independence and you see that in our film as much as you see it influenced from the words that were on the script.
What were your biggest challenges?
Matt Wells: So our biggest challenges (I mean like most independent films) it’s budgetary, right? We only had so much money and we had to work around that. But honestly our biggest challenges on CROWN AND ANCHOR came later as we went to market and they were all self-inflicted wounds.
Like I said everybody told us after reading the script that they really thought it was strong but we should not make a movie (as first time filmmakers) that was running at two hours, that maybe some of the scenes were too intense, maybe we shouldn’t score it with punk and hardcore music because that might alienate some audiences and that being in such a beautiful part of the world we should focus on these exteriors and show more of the landscape. But we did the opposite, not because we are stubborn or we don’t want to collaborate, it’s because those choices we felt were true to the characters and true to the story and that’s what we wanted to do, right?
So we made a movie that runs just under two hours, no A-list stars, all punk and hardcore music but these are the things that have allowed us to get an international sales agent, these are things that are allowing us to have a North American theatrical release as an independent film and it was because it was authentic to the story and authentic to the characters. And that’s what we’re doing, right? As independent filmmakers what we’re trying to do is chase these authentic stories. And we knew all these choices were only going to help the film. But again, it was because we knew who our audience was. Knowing who your audience is, is so important and you know I go back to this idea of the do-it-yourself punk and hardcore spirit from that music world that inspired us so much that we took it to the independent filmmaking process, the same way that we used that when we were in a band, the same way we thought about DIY when we were in production is the same way we’re rolling out distribution.
You know as independent filmmakers we want to see our film in theaters, right? But it’s not always something that we have access to. We didn’t want to go straight to DVD, we didn’t want to go straight to VOD or streaming, so we’ve taken the same do-it-yourself spirit and we’ve partnered with independent movie theaters across North America to do our own theatrical. Every independent film journey is going to be different but this has been our’s. And it’s because we stuck to our vision, it’s because we knew our audience and we were willing to do the work because we believed in what we were doing.
So I hope you come out to see us when our film hits your city. You can check out our website [CrownandAnchorFilm.com] which is up on the screen here and you know come out and talk to us. We’re going to do Q&A’s in some of the cities afterward with myself, our writer/director Andrew Rowe, our lead actor Michael Rowe (who is also a producer on this with me), we want to talk to you guys and hear your questions and know what you’re doing and tell you about filming in Newfoundland.
So that it. I hope you get to check out CROWN AND ANCHOR. It’s raining so I’m going to go inside. Thanks for listening.
His path began as a musician touring the world and sharing the stage with bands like Slayer, D.O.A, and Damage Plan. Eventually Matt went from being featured on Canada’s largest music network (Much Music) to hosting his own show. Showcasing his unique perspective as a musician interviewing musicians his work on “The New Music” and “In Sixty” connected him with thousands of artists from Lou Reed, John Lydon, Mariah Carey, No Doubt, Oasis, and The Police to Metallica, Deborah Harry, Ozzy Osbourne, Katy Perry, Ice T, Coldplay and Aerosmith. It also found him performing on stage with Sammy Hagar and recording music with Huey Lewis.
His life as an actor began in the award winning web-series “Prison Dancer; The Musical!” and continued on TV screens in shows like “Beauty & the Beast”, and “Designated Survivor” which would serve him well in his next adventures in interviewing. Taking his acting experiences and passion for film into his role as host of MTV Movie Night, Matt eventually found himself talking cinema with everyone from Quentin Tarantino, Benicio Del Toro, Samuel L Jackson, Guy Ritchie, and Don Cheadle to Jake Gyllenhaal, Baz Luhrmann, Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts, and Ben Kingsley.
Matt continues to write, record, and tour as a solo artist and his most recent work has found him writing, producing, and starring in the award winning short film “Poison in the Water”, as well as the highly anticipated indie feature “Crown and Anchor” set for a 2018 release.
About the Film:
CROWN AND ANCHOR [Watch the trailer here] follows James Downey, who is living a disciplined and straight edge lifestyle as a result of growing up with an abusive alcoholic father. His estranged cousin Danny is drowning his own trauma with drugs and booze. When their lives are forced to intersect once more, they each begin to unravel as the past returns with violent and tragic consequences. Featuring a blistering punk/hardcore soundtrack, Crown and Anchor is a slow-burn drama delivered with the intensity of a punch to the gut.
The film boasts an intense and carefully curated track-list made up of cult punk and hardcore bands, including: GORILLA BISCUITS, YOUTH OF TODAY, JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE HEARTBREAKERS, PROJECT X, SIDE BY SIDE, X-RAY SPEX, ho99o9, and DYS.
Written and directed by Andrew Rowe and starring Michael Rowe, Matt Wells, Natalie Brown, Robert Joy, Andy Jones, Ben Cotton, Jonathan Watton, Sofia Wells, and Stephen McHattie.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: CINEQUEST FILM AND VR FESTIVAL. OAXACA FILMFEST.
*AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD 2018 -NICKEL FILM FESTIVAL*
WATCH THE CROWN AND ANCHOR TRAILER