Producer Mathew Rhodes
Born May 28, 1971, Mathew Rhodes grew up in Shaker Heights, Cleveland in the state of Ohio. "Movies is all I've ever wanted to do," Rhodes told me at his Persistent Entertainment office March 13, 2002. "I've been running around with a camera since I was a little kid. My face was always two inches from the TV.
"My dad is a dentist and my mom is a corporate designer. I was in the popular crowd in highschool. My school was like the movie Heathers. I grew up with the good guys/jocks. We were into sports but we weren't psychotic about it. We did sports, had fun and did well in our classes. I've grown up with a group of ten guys since second grade. We went to junior high, highschool, college and moved out to California together. I majored in Film & Television at Ohio University and I graduated in 1994.
"College was the greatest four years of my life. I went around with a camera on my back and partied for four years. I shot movies and TV shows and wrote. I was a pot-smoking long haired hippie filmmaker into German Expressionism and French New Wave and Italian Realism. I was obsessed with European filmmaking.
"In my freshman year, a teacher told me that I should go out to LA and check it out for a summer. I didn't know anybody out here. I told my parents I was going to LA. My mom said, 'Fuck no. You're going to stay here and work for the summer and save some money for when you graduate.' Two days later, I hopped on a Greyhound bus with a guitar and a suitcase and $800. I got dropped off downtown by Greyhound and I took a cab to Hollywood. I stayed at the Holliday Inn on Hollywood and Highland.
"I snuck on lots and soundstages. On my eleventh day in LA, I snuck into Paramount for the third time in a day and got escorted off. The security guy said, 'Look, if you do this again, you're going to be arrested.' He took me out the Bronson exit, instead of the front entrance to Paramount, and pointed across the street and said, 'Why don't you try that studio?' It was Raleigh Studios.
"I walked in the lot and waved at the guard and he didn't say a thing. It's the easiest studio to walk into, and it probably still is, even after 9/11. I walked around. Soundstage 11 was the only one flashing its lights. This old lady was walking back and forth off the set. I told her that I'd never seen a movie made before. About an hour later, she said, 'I can take you on now.'
"As soon as she turned her back, I ran up to the production manager and I begged him for a job. He hired me on the spot. And it was Single White Female. I spent my whole summer as an intern/PA.
"Then I came back every summer and winter break and worked on huge studio movies or for directors of TV series. After I graduated, I moved out here and worked various jobs in the industry. I worked for a director named Arthur Allen Siedelman who was my first mentor, then an agent named Suzanna Camejo and then worked for Producer Marvin Worth, who recently passed away, on the Warner Bros. movie DIABOLIQUE, and NORMA/MARILYNN for HBO.
"I worked for producer Scott Rudin at Paramount for just under two years. He's the most brilliant man. Then I left to become a producer out of my own bedroom. I starved. I ate Ramen noodles. I went under couches after a party looking for quarters. I made my first money as a producer setting up the movie Plan B, starring Diane Keaton, at New Regency. I sold a couple of other scripts to studios.
"A short, Conversations in Limbo, was my first production. Then we raised $92,000 and called in every favor in the book to make a high concept comedy - Shafted. It was the greatest experience I've had to date. The bigger your movie gets, the further you are away from every moment of every process of the movie. On Shafted, I was there every minute. I slept on the set in sleeping bags. I was begging, borrowing and stealing shots and equipment.
"It was the best and worst film I've ever made. It didn't turn out the way we hoped it would. We had 68 actors and 35 locations and sets that we built. All for no money.
"I then went into partnership with Dan Stone. We shared an office. Eventually, after Star Fucker, we formed Persistent Entertainment. I bought him out last year.
"In 1997, I was partnering with Dan Stone as he was producing a movie called The Alarmist  , starring David Arquette, Stanely Tucci, Mary McCormick, and Kate Capshaw. Then we produced and financed Star F * cker [released in 1998 as Starstruck] starring and Jamie Kennedy, Loren Dean, Carmen Electra , Amy Smart and Bridgette Wilson. The initial name Star F * cker was a marketing tool."
Imdb.com comments: "There's nothing more refreshing than a blatantly sexual film depicting overweight bakers in a race against time, trying to prevent death by popcorn drowning. What's more, the ending, a satirical look at today's current events, is more satisfying than that of the likes of the Shawshank Redemption, or the Deer Hunter. I give this movie a ten out of ten, for not only good acting, but a horribly unbelievable plot which actually seems plausible."
Luke: "Do you have any good stories from on the set?"
Mathew: "Maybe there were a couple of days where everything went right. And that's it. I believe there's a Film God. She's a super amazingly hot chick who oversees the movie making process and makes sure that everything ends right. There's a mystical thing that no matter how bad it gets, somehow you figure out how to get something done.
"I work closely with the director, discussing the scene and the motivations of the actors. I'm constantly pushing. I want to make sure that we're sharing the same vision."
Luke: "What are the common elements in the films you produce?"
Mathew: "The business part. At 27 years old, the head of a studio is not going to let me be the head producer of a $30 million movie. So our business plan was to take a name writer, make him a first-time director, let the material attract a great cast, finance it 100% out of foreign sales, and then take it to film festivals like Sundance, Cannes and the Hamptons. And we've been fortunate to have six of our seven movies bought [by studios] and released in the theaters. And we've usually received good reviews."
Luke: "How did you get that 100% foreign financing?"
Mathew: "The package of the film has a value. Mostly, that package is dependent on the cast. Actors have a value overseas, especially on the smaller independent films. This value throughout the entire international marketplace adds up in each territory and if that number is high enough to finance the films entire budget - you can make your movie."
Luke: "How were you able to sell it in a few months when a huge producer worked on it for years?"
Mathew: "Everybody has their own way of operating. Often, big producers send their material to the heads of studios. The ultimate joke is that someone who has won so many Academy Awards will probably send a script to a studio head, who will send it to coverage. Some 22-year old kid doing coverage on it is not going to get an older drama and probably pass, which is what this person did. So the big producer, being the proud amazing producer he is, is not going to call the head of the studio about it. He's going to wait for the studio head to call him back. That's the way the business used to work.
"Now you need a swell of people at a studio behind a project. I went through the acquisition side. I found an executive who loved it. Then I found another and another executive who loved it. I built a support team around me that was excited about the project. By the time it went to the studio chief , he had a swell of people [within his own company] wanting to make this movie. Knowing you have the support of all your executives is important to the head of a studio."
I spot a silver idol on a chain around Mathew's neck and ask him about it.
Mathew: "It's a Buddhist symbol for masculinity, strength and energy."