Behind the scenes of Hearts and Bones with producer Matt Reeder
After the critical success his new film Hearts and Bones received on the festival circuit, producer Matt Reeder has risen to the challenge of dealing with uncertain times for the industry, to bring this story about the human condition to new audiences.
You optioned the script for Hearts and Bones. What attracted you to this story?
I’ve always been attracted to stories that explore relationships, and human emotion, but also play out on a wider scale. What particularly attracted me to Hearts and Bones was the quality of the writing and the opportunity to work with Ben Lawrence.
You consulted South Sudanese criminal lawyer and public speaker Deng Adut for community consultation to develop the story and scripting. How did you work together?
Deng Adut has an incredible story himself. After I read his book, Songs of a Warboy, we approached him to read Hearts and Bones. Deng is also an incredibly busy person. He’s a partner in a law firm and at that time he had a new baby on the way, but he was generous enough to find the time to read the script and sit down with Ben and me and go through it page-by-page, and share his thoughts. It was an invaluable part of development.
Why was it important to you to have this kind of consultation?
Hearts and Bones is primarily about two men who build a bond of friendship through shared trauma from the past. It is also about their partners and the lives that they have built. While we were not attempting to speak for the South Sudanese community at all, by depicting the character of Sebastian as South Sudanese in the script, in a way, we were representing the community. To ensure the script was authentic, we had Deng and other consultants read the script to give us critical feedback during the development phase. Then once Andrew Luri was cast, he was able to contribute, which again, helped the story immensely.
Through Hearts and Bones, you have given the South Sudanese community a voice. What more do you think can be done to give other underrepresented groups an opportunity to tell their story?
Any time that a screenplay tries to represent any underrepresented groups, consultation with that group is a must. There is no better way for underrepresented groups to tell their story than by being empowered to do it themselves. From a filmmaking point of view, it’s about creating opportunities for people to learn the art and craft of filmmaking; writing, directing, and producing. With the production of Hearts and Bones we offered a director’s placement to young South Sudanese filmmaker Ez Deng. Ez was a great person to have around and I know it was a special experience for him.
Hearts and Bones was originally scheduled for an April 30 premiere across 40 cinemas. As a result of the Public Health Orders, you’ve worked with Madman Entertainment to rethink your distribution strategy, resulting in the film releasing digitally earlier this month. What advice would you give other filmmakers in a similar situation?
Given that cinemas are closed right now we had no choice but to rethink the strategy. The argument for a digital release just made sense. My advice for other filmmakers would be to work closely with your distributor to determine what is the best course of action. One of the key things for us was having the guarantee that the film would be visible on the PPV platforms and not get lost in the mix. It’s a simple thing but you need to make your film easy to find.