Selective Focus: Matthew Dressel

Matthew Dressel is a Duluth filmmaker, screenwriter and movie enthusiast. He has served as host and festival director to the Duluth Superior Film Festival, and like most movie makers, seems to always have something in the works. This week in Selective Focus, we hear about some current and past projects, and challenges of putting work out to a YouTube audience.

MD: For as long as I can remember I’ve primarily considered myself to be a screenwriter. The problem with screenwriting, however, is that you need to wait for people to see it. This can take years and, for some, may never happen at all. So it’s a lot of waiting with potentially no pay-off. So along the way, I try to make things when I’m able. Up until recently, this has meant making short films, but this past year I’ve gotten into creating my own web series called The Pilot is Dead.

I’m the writer, director, editor, and only actor in the series. Each episode I take a look at a failed television pilot from the past and basically make fun of it. I was a huge fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 growing up, so I think basically anyone who does this type of internet critique owes a great deal to Mike and Joel.

I created a web series several years ago called Let’s Kill John Stamos! but that was a totally different experience. The internet was a different place and it was a much more in-depth endeavor. This is just me and my camera. And then it goes directly out to my audience for instant feedback. It’s both incredibly rewarding and terrifying at the same time.

The biggest challenge I face with my web series is the fact that it IS a one-man-show. It’s really daunting to film an episode and then realize I have hours of editing ahead of me. And my show is very edit-intensive, so I always know it’s going to be a lot of work. And because of the nature of editing, I can spend two hours working on a gag that lasts 20 seconds. But I’m very protective of my jokes, so I won’t cut anything just because it’s a lot of work. I also won’t keep something because it’s a lot of work. If the joke isn’t working and I spent hours editing it, I’ll pull it without a second thought.

The biggest reward to having a web series is the fact that I’m directly connecting with my audience. When you write a script, it will just sit there until it’s made, and even if you show it to people, all they’re doing is reading it. My comedy is heavily visual, and so it helps to be able to actually show people what it is I’m thinking about. This can also be a double edged sword though, because the feedback I get isn’t always good. My style is very particular and it tends to rub some people the wrong way. So naturally I can get bombarded with trolls, and half of having a channel is learning how to handle them. Unfortunately, I can’t help but poke the bear, so I usually incorporate the trolls into my show.

The easiest way to find me is to just type my name into Google. I used to have a website, but it was a lot to maintain, and – in the end – just didn’t seem worth it. If you head over to YouTube and type in The Pilot Is Dead, you’ll probably find my show. Or a TON of dead pilots.

Right now I’m devoting most of my creative energies to the show, and will continue to put out episodes every other week for the near future. There’s no shortage of bad pilots out there, and I think I can keep this thing going for awhile. Or until the internet turns on me.


The Pilot is Dead

Just Coffee (Short Film)

Let’s Kill John Stamos!

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