Local independent filmmaker looks forward to release of second feature film

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Aspiring filmmaker Matt McKisson will soon be releasing his second feature film “Reseda” at a local theater and on Amazon Prime. 

The film “Reseda” is the story of four unlikely housemates: Amos, a Jewish man inheriting a house from his estranged father; Baz, a formerly homeless workaholic; Lola, an old friend of Amos’ with a mysterious past; and Rocco, a former competitive gamer and gambling addict. The official synopsis of the film goes on to say through years of strife and misadventure, this bunch redefines what it means to be a family.

The film’s release comes a year after his first feature film “Instant Karma,” which centered on a college student who becomes endowed with the ability to enact karma on others at his own will. The film was produced and released on YouTube in the fall of 2018. 

McKisson, graphic design major at San Jacinto College, said he always had a plan to work on a new feature film in 2019.

McKisson found himself searching for inspiration for an idea that could become the kind of film he himself would enjoy.

“Whenever I write a film, I want it to be a film about something that I would enjoy watching,” McKisson said. “That I could sit down and discover one day, watch it, and have a nice afternoon. Luckily for me, I enjoy films of all genres. The only genre that routinely turns me off is horror, but even that has a few exceptions among my favorites.”

McKisson is a fan of character-driven stories and says the use of ensemble casts is his favorite device in literary media and said he found his true inspiration upon watching the 1993 film “Short Cuts” by Robert Altman. 

“That masterpiece was the biggest inspiration for ‘Reseda,’” McKisson said. “I wanted to make a character drama about four radically different individuals, and show the ways their lives converged and diverged from each other. It was a film about the characters. A film about the people.”

A year later, after watching “Short Cuts,” McKisson came up with the four characters for the film, wanting to explore their differing intersecting lives.

McKisson stars as one of the minor characters in the film and the gambling character Rocco is played by the previous lead actor of “Instant Karma,” Ibraheem Moinuddin. McKisson noted that Rocco has turned out to be the favorite among many.

“In this movie, Rocco is very similar to me in terms of the dynamic I have with Matt,” Moinuddin said. “I say things and do things and Matt is sure to comment on. I don’t mind the things people say or think about me even if it can get to be a bit negative or harsh. I am this way to an extent, but tapping into it to the point of borderline delusion was a fun ride.”

Moinuddin said why he thinks many have been so receptive to the character.

“I don’t think any of Rocco’s problems are internal,” Moinuddin said. “Yes, he has a gambling addiction but as a device, for growth in the movie, we don’t really see that affecting him or preventing him from change. Other characters behave in a way that might seem moody or irritable and although those feelings are motivated and important it gets a little ugly to look at. Rocco is just approachable, weird but harmless.”

McKisson said one of the differences between “Reseda” and his previous film was the realism and greater ties to the Houston area.

PHOTO: Poster for the independent film "Reseda" by Matt McKisson. The upper half of the poster shows a street sign of the Reseda street, with the shape of Texas and a Star of David in the tape. The rest of the poster shows various spliced pictures of characters and cast members. At the bottom are the film credits. Graphic courtesy of Matt McKisson.
Poster for the film. McKisson wanted the film to tell multiple characters and give a look into the lives of individuals in Houston. Poster courtesy of Matt McKisson.

“In short, the story is supposed to take place in a Houston neighborhood, albeit a fictional one, with many constant references to things, people, and places in Houston to help the world-building,” McKisson said. “The themes are mainly about the relationships people make between each other, how sometimes friends can turn into family, and sometimes you have to walk away from blood relatives if they don’t have your best interests at heart.”

McKisson said he will be submitting the film to multiple other streaming platforms as well. The film has also been submitted to 16 film festivals internationally.

Regarding what he wants audiences to take away from the film, McKisson said it was a rather hard thing to answer without spoiling anything.

“Thematically, the film is about a lot of different ideas, such as familial bonds and conventions, wealth and poverty, religious identity, love and pride,” McKisson said. “I don’t really view this as one of those movies that gives you an expectation to think a certain way about characters or view any one action as the right or wrong thing to do. Like I said earlier, this is just a film about a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds, with actions and decisions just as variable as their personalities.”

McKisson said he did not want to make a film about politics or any controversial topics.

“I just wanted to make it a film about human beings with compelling interesting lives,” McKisson said. 

Since the film’s completion, it was screened by the cast and production crew at McKisson’s residence and is going to have an official theatrical debut at 14 Pews Theater and will debut on Amazon Prime on Nov. 29.  

McKisson searched for multiple venues, from restaurants to local community colleges to see which prices “were agreeable” with his budget.

“After weeks of deliberation, I found the best choice was the 14 Pews Theater, an independent theater which was originally a church built in Houston Heights in 1924 before being closed and then bought and renovated as a movie theater by the venue owner, Cressandra Thibodeaux,” McKisson said. “Special thanks to Ms. Thibodeaux, she gave me a good deal and seemed to really appreciate what I was doing. I recommend it as a venue to anyone looking to do any public performance projects.”

He said how the process of the Amazon release is “basically a legitimization process.” 

“Amazon is probably the biggest opportunity for independent filmmakers to submit their film to an independent streaming service, but they do curate their media,” McKisson said. 

The filmmaker said he does not plan to make another feature for a couple of years, but nevertheless assures his creative drive has only increased and he is working on six other ideas. 

“I’ll still make various short-term projects throughout, upload them on my YouTube channel and whatnot, but I don’t see myself finishing an entire third feature film until probably at least 2022,” McKisson said. “I know it’s hard for some people to get into this way of thinking, but I truly believe film is the greatest form of art ever created. And my opinion on it is that I just want the form and the movement to advance. I want it to change. And with or without me. Of course, I want film to be my life’s work, and like any other person, I enjoy getting recognition for things I create, but it’s not what my career is about.”

“Reseda” will premiere at the 14 Pews Theater Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. and will be available on Amazon Prime on Nov. 29.

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