Interview: Matt Osterman discusses making “400 Days”, working Syfy Films, and filmmaking in the Midwest

"I believe in making my own chances and having the luxury to live in the Midwest gives me artistic and economic freedoms I couldn’t get elsewhere."

A lover of films from a young age, Matt Osterman is a filmmaker on the rise. Located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Osterman has created a portfolio of great science fiction films. With his most recent film 400 Days set to be released soon, Osterman allowed me to interview him about his career, his films, and working with Syfy Films.

You can learn more about Osterman by visiting his homepage and following him on twitter @mattosterman

400 Days Promo art

Nicholas Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to make a career in the entertainment industry? Was there a specific movie that inspired you to pursue this field?

Matt Osterman: I was a fairly typical child of the 80’s raised on Spielberg, Lucas, etc, but I was mostly just busy being a kid. The first time I became truly aware of how films were made was when MTV played the Thriller “Making Of” featurette. That’s definitely the first time I felt the draw to filmmaking. After that, I wrote a bunch and always played around with cameras, but it wasn’t until after college that I began to take it seriously.

Yanes: You’re from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and you now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. These aren’t cities people think of when they think film production. Could you take a moment and discuss the challenges and opportunities of wanting to make movies while in the Midwest?

Osterman: Good question. It’s a constant battle. I think a lot of beginners run off to the coasts before they’re ready and they get to LA or NYC and wonder why no one is giving them a chance. I believe in making my own chances and having the luxury to live in the Midwest gives me artistic and economic freedoms I couldn’t get elsewhere. However, I also write my own stuff, so if I was only a writer or director, I think I’d have to be more available to pitch or take meetings, etc. Either way, you can now make movies from anywhere, so there’s no excuse that you don’t live in the right town.

Yanes: On this topic, could you discuss how you first got started actually making films?

Osterman: Started with making no-risk shorts, worked on other people’s projects, kept writing and making shorts, and finally got the confidence to jump into making a feature. There were probably fifty other steps in there, but my template isn’t all that unique.

Yanes: In 2010 your movie Ghost from the Machine was released. What did you learn from this production that you applied to 400 Days?

Osterman: It’s hard to quantify how much I learned from that project. I didn’t go to film school, so this was basically it. More than anything, I learned how to stretch a dollar, how to write for the edit, how to treat collaborators, and how to not wait for permission.

Yanes: Your film 400 Days was just released. What was the inspiration for this film?

Osterman: It was first inspired by a fascinating European/Russian experiment called Mars500 where six astronauts volunteered themselves to get locked up in a fake ship for 500 days. All in the name of science. When they got out (with sanity supposedly intact), I decided to make a more cinematic version.

400-daysYanes: The idea for 400 Days feels like an old-school sci-fi concept; like something from The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. What were some of the stories that you think influenced this film?

Osterman: A million percent. Rod Serling (among others) played a huge role in my inspiration for this one. Two episodes come to mind: “I Shot an Arrow into the Air” and “Where is Everybody?” Steal from the best as they say…

Yanes: Though 400 Days is an indie film, it has a great cast. Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz are both in the CW’s Arrow, and Tom Cavanagh is in CW’s The Flash. How did you manage to get such an incredible cast?

Osterman: And don’t forget about Ben Feldman (nominated for an Emmy on Mad Men) and Dane Cook (needs no explanation). Here’s the short answer: We paid them millions of dollars. Okay, that was a lie.

In truth, we got really lucky. They loved the script and that it took chances that many other projects weren’t. The ending is a bit controversial, but I think that’s what made it special. The story respects the audience enough to let them think for themselves and I think the actors were drawn to that. Plus, who doesn’t want to dress up in a space suit?

Yanes: Given that you have so many popular actors, how was their popularity used to help promote this film?

Osterman: At this point, the film hasn’t technically come out in the US yet (coming in January, 2016), so we haven’t really reached that point. I do know that they’re all very excited and supportive and will go to battle to get this thing seen.

Yanes: According to Deadline, 400 Days is SyFy Films’ first project. What was it like to work with Syfy Films? 400 days logo

Osterman: Great so far! We’ve really only begun the distribution and promotion process, but 400 Days is the first film to come out under their SyFy Films shingle, so I know they’re also excited to get it out there.

Yanes: When people finish watching 400 Days, what do you hope that they take away from the movie?

Osterman: I want them to watch it again to see if they can figure out the mystery! We were pretty careful about being too obvious and want folks to talk about their theories amongst each other. I love films that keep me thinking well after the film ends.

Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects you are working on that people can look forward to?

Osterman: Can’t spill the beans as of yet, but I have a few really exciting things brewing. Should be a fun year!

Remember, you can learn more about Osterman by visiting his homepage and following him on twitter @mattosterman

And remember to follow me on twitter @NicholasYanes, and to follow Scifipulse on twitter @SciFiPulse and on facebook.

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