- Text by Alex King
You’re in your late twenties, you still live at home and your girlfriend just told you to man up and get a life. What do you do? If you’re Matt VanDyke, a sheltered 26-year-old with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from Baltimore, you buy a motorbike and set off on a 35,000 mile journey through the Middle East that ends with fighting alongside Libyan rebels to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
Inspired by cult ‘70s Australian motorbike filmmaker Alby Mangels (think one part Easy Rider, two parts Steve Irwin), Matt filmed himself with a view to making a road-trip adventure movie. Using his own self-shot footage, documentary Point and Shoot pieces together Matt’s extreme “crash course in manhood” and the point where reality and filmmaking began to blur with one another.
Director Marshall Curry talks to Huck about discovering Matt’s story and searching for adventure.
How were you introduced to Matt and what attracted you to his story?
I just received an email one day out of the blue from Matthew, introducing himself and explaining that he had recently returned from Libya where he’d gone to help rebels overthrow Gaddafi. He said that he had incredible footage from his experience – and a multi-year motorcycle trip that led up to it – and he thought it would make a good documentary. I explained to him that I only worked on films where I had full creative independence and control and he agreed to that.
Soon after, Matt and his girlfriend Lauren came to NY and told their story to Elizabeth Martin (my wife and also producer of the film) and me. We thought it was an amazing tale, rich with thorny questions about “manhood”, adventure, war, and idealism. It seemed like it also raised important and fascinating questions about the way we use cameras to document and craft our images – which are particularly relevant in a world where everyone now has cell phone cameras and documents their lives for Facebook and Twitter.
What were the challenges in developing his self-shot footage into a feature film?
Usually when I am shooting a film, I am anticipating the edit, so I shoot the story lines that interest me, gathering the shots I’ll need to construct the film I want to tell. In this case I was working with someone else’s footage, so that created a big challenge in the edit room: how to craft that material into a coherent and compelling movie. I can’t complain too much about the creative burden, though, because – after all – I didn’t have to go to a Libyan war zone to get the footage myself!
Do you relate to his story? Could you see yourself taking a similar journey?
There are many elements of Matt’s story that I think are universal. I think everyone has – at some point or other – had the desire to just set off on a motorcycle and find adventures in a foreign world. There’s a romance to that which tugged at me as I edited those scenes. And I also think there is something powerful about the idea of throwing oneself into a dangerous situation for a higher cause. It is the same thing that drew foreigners to fight in the Spanish Civil War, I imagine. But I am a very different person from Matt, driven by somewhat different motivations, and I have a wife and kids, so – honestly – I don’t think I’d take a similar journey myself.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Most of my attention right now is focused on a couple of fiction film projects that I’ve been developing and am really excited about. I love documentaries and know that I’ll always continue to make them, but I try to make my documentaries feel as dramatic and emotional as fiction films. So I thought I should take a crack at making something that actually is scripted.
Point and Shoot is out now in the UK.