When freshman Joe Matthews is behind the camera he isn’t just filming. He is telling a story, using the medium of film to create compelling narratives that will impact the audience.
“Creativity definitely drives me, but I also hope to tell a story that people will take home and just say “Wow” with characters that are inspiring and help the viewer reflect on their own lives.
I want my characters to be relatable and natural,” he shared.
As an aspiring film maker, he is well on his way to crafting that type of story. His short film “Fillmore” has done just that, drawing on observations and insights that belie his age, delving into the topics of high school peer-pressure and friendships. “Fillmore” was a finalist for Hollywood International Moving -Pictures Film Fest and a finalist for Los Angeles Film Festival. It was also an accepted submission for the largest youth film festival in the world, the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, in the spring. There were over 1,200 submissions and “Fillmore” was one of the 225 films selected.
The original score, written by Matthew’s sister, OCS junior Catherine, won Best Original Score in the LA Film Fest.
“Fillmore” is about two high school students from different social backgrounds who form a friendship while building a rocket. But they are only friends outside of school because of peer influence and social groups. Matthews witnessed bullying and ostracizing in middle school and wanted to make a film that would raise awareness of its effects on students. That type of intentionality caught the attention of his film teacher, Reid Chobanian.
"I’m so impressed by this young man. These are the storytellers we hope to raise up and make a difference in our society. So often, what students want to do is reproduce the junk that they are bombarded with through all forms of media. It’s so refreshing to see something meaningful,” said Chobanian.
Matthews says his faith influences his art, but in a quiet way.
“It’s behind the scenes and subtle, but I hope it pours into people’s lives. I don’t want it in their face. I want them to eventually realize the beauty of faith as the backstory that brings hope,” he said.
Matthew’s love of film started when he was just six. His older brother, Justin, OCS Class of 2013, would have projects assigned from his teachers at Oaks Christian and Matthews would tag along and help.
“I thought I wanted to be an archeologist, like Indiana Jones. But when my brother said ‘Why don’t we make an Indiana Jones type of film?’ I thought it was so cool to create an amazing story through film,” said Matthews who was hooked on film from then on.
Along the way he has been supported by his mentor, OCS alumnus Chad Smathers, Class of 2008, who is an actor and filmmaker, Chobanian, and his family. Both his uncles are directors and his late grandfather was Michael Landon, Sr. star of the successful “Little House on the Prairie” series.
Matthews next project was to a feature documentary about Ivan Jepsen, an OCS ninth-grader abandoned on the streets of Uganda as a child and taken in by an adoptive family. Matthews travelled to Uganda this summer to capture Jepsen’s reunion with his native family.
In addition to taking film at Oaks Christian—which he says has been a great, supportive environment that encourages all ideas—he has also done summer workshops at the New York Film Academy and hopes to eventually attend USC School of Cinematic Arts. He looks forward to taking film theory and eventually screenwriting at Oaks Christian.
Oaks Christian started in 2001 with one film class and students shooting with miniDV camcorders and exporting the final product to VHS tape. Now, Oaks Christian offers film 1 through film 3. The students use Adobe Premiere Pro CC for editing, Final Cut Pro and their own MacBooks and export to various platforms including YouTube, Vimeo and Google Drive. This fall, a middle school multimedia class was started to integrate live streaming of school events into the curriculum. Animation was also added.
Students have also been privileged to take off-campus trips to Sony Pictures to get a first-hand look at industry production, and have also had several TV and film professionals visit the classroom to share their expertise.