Just this past Summer, Matthew James McDonough went from unknown Australian writer, to top 3 winner in our very own Launch Pad Feature Competition, signed writer with Will Rowbotham and Adam Marshall at Caliber Media Co., and he even notched a spot on the 2013 Young & Hungry List.
We had a chance to hop on the phone with the comedic newcomer to discuss how life has changed since the contest, what he’s up to now, and what it’s like writing for Hollywood from the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW JAMES MCDONOUGH — PART 1
THE TRACKING BOARD (TB): Matt… How’s it going–
MATT: Stop talking!
MATT: Don’t say anything to me man… like stop asking me questions right now.
TB: But we just started. We’re calling about the interview–
MATT: It’s 4 AM here in Australia! You want me to come over to your country at 4 AM? You’re talking about, how’s it going? It’s not going good. I still live at home with my mum and sister and two cats who were originally strays but we took them in because we like to do nice things from time to time but they annoy the hell out of me! I need a script sale. That’s how it’s going.
TB: So, should we call back, or…
MATT: Nah, I’m just messing with you. Well, like 60% messing with you, because it is 4AM, and these cats do annoy me. But, I’m up now, so lets make some magic!
TB: Excellent! And, well good morning. So, first things first, a big congratulations on making it into the Top 3 for our first ever Launch Pad Contest. That alone is an exceptional accomplishment. Before we discuss that though, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
MATT: Thanks, I really appreciate the Top 3 spot! Very excited, and very humbled at the same time.
A little bit about me? Well, I live in Brisbane, Australia, which for those of you who have never been, should know that it’s also known as “The Sun.” If you want to know what it’s like living here, picture wearing a snuggie… forever. But without any of the comfort, just the additional heat.
TB: Sounds wonderful, but in the worst possible way. So tell me, what’s it like being a writer in Australia trying to break in to Hollywood? I know there are a number of writers doing it now, so in some ways, its much less difficult than before, but at the same time, there is still this very large ocean keeping you at a distance? Anything you’d like to delve into here?
MATT: Don’t worry about the Pacific… I have a plan. Well, at least in my head. I’m sending a picture.
MATT: But if that doesn’t work… there’s always the Internet for the time being. It’s definitely nowhere near as difficult to break into the industry, as it would have been before email was commonplace. Could you imagine querying agents by snail mail from another country?
I’ve spoken to a couple of guys who’ve had success over in the States but still live here. So, I guess it’s feasible on a certain level… The only downside is they have to schedule all of their meetings in blocks. It seems as though they might be looked over for certain jobs too because they’re not based where the action is. Australia is an amazing place to live, but I think if you really want to make your mark the industry, you need to move to LA at some point (although it can be difficult getting the right Visa).
It makes it easier on your reps & other working relationships too. Put it this way, you can try and make your long distance relationship work, but Skype isn’t gonna match the real thing…
Also in Oz, we usually get TV episodes a few hours or a day after they’ve aired in the States. So, if I go on Twitter or the web in between that time, I see more f*cking spoilers than a Fast and Furious movie marathon, so a move will be in the works eventually.
TB: But, as you mention, Australians have been invading Hollywood as actors, directors and writers now for some time. In what ways do you think they’re influencing the industry? Or do you think this is just talented people who happen to be from Australia? Or more apt, what do you think the native Australian can bring to the table that no one else can? Aside from wallaby grooming tips and kangaroo boxing, that is.
MATT: You know I’ve never actually seen a kangaroo in my entire life?
MATT: No, I’m gently cooing into the ear of one right now.
But seriously, it’s awesome that there’s so many Australians making it over in Hollywood. We say it’s our work ethic that attracts people… but what we don’t tell you is, we’re driven by a deep, deep fear. The fear that if we start acting like a bunch of divas, you’ll send us packing and we’ll have to work on Home and Away or Neighbours forever (two very long running soaps in Australia).
Think of them as the Australian Hunger Games… Each year, actors from those two shows compete for a chance to make it in Hollywood… but only one will survive. The rest will have to die on Summer Bay or Ramsay Street. And that my friend is a hell I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
Past Hunger Game winners include Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger, Guy Pearce, Naomi Watts, Isla Fisher, Ryan Kwanten and in recent years, Chris and Liam Hemsworth… who coincidentally, won the real life Australian Hunger Games, had his career spared, was granted safe passage to LA and went on to star in ‘The Hunger Games’ movie.
Oh, I have a little treat for you… Although be warned, this Youtube video of the opening credits of Neighbours from the late 80s is like the video from The Ring.
You will die after viewing it.
TB: Oh boy. Since we’re going in depth on all things Aussie, any specific Australian talents you’re fond of? Popular or lesser known? Both? I’m partial to the John Hillcoat & Nick Cave partnership (speaking of, I’d kill for a copy of “Ghosts… of the Civil Dead”, hint hint, wink wink), George Miller of course and to a lesser degree Geoffrey Wright for “Romper Stomper” and I’m especially fond of David Michod with the breakout “Animal Kingdom.
MATT: Animal Kingdom was great. It’s so weird, after the trailer was released; I remember reading the comments section on Youtube. A few Americans were like, ‘OMG, Melbourne looks so dangerous, fuck going there LOL’. I was like, umm… You’ll be fine – guy from Detroit.
TB: How about contradictory? Any Australian exports you’re not particularly proud of, or something you think gets too much credit? Thoughts on “Rocko’s Modern Life?”
MATT: F*cking Vegemite.
Whenever I see a celeb trying to introduce it to a talk show host I’m like, what the f*ck, man?! Stop introducing this stuff to people from overseas! That’s our dirty little secret, nobody else is gonna understand it! Vegemite is like a foot fetish…. You don’t just go around telling people you enjoy it willy-nilly. You gotta keep it close to your chest, boy! Oh, and nobody besmirches the good name of Rocko.
TB: Any chance you’re a genre nerd at all? Horror? Crime Dramas? Sci-Fi? Speaking of Sci-Fi, any chance you’re a “Farscape” fan? (Next to Mad Max and maybe Pitch Black, it’s invariably the first thing my mind wanders to in reference to Australia film industry. And as far as I know it was one of the biggest television collaborations between Australia, UK and the USA.
MATT: I f*cking LOVE Farscape.
TB: Anything about it you really–
MATT: Nah, I’ve never seen it. I just wanted to get you excited for a minute. That’s always a fun game to play with Sci-Fi guys. They’re so passionate; it’s like a little piece of them dies when you say you’ve never heard of their favorite show.
‘Sorry, what’s Firefly?’
‘Oh, nothing… it’s just this… this TV show…’
‘AAAAAAHHHHH I’LLLL KILLL YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!’
I do enjoy crime dramas though, TV and film — The Wire, The Shield, The Departed, The Town… basically anything with ‘The’ in the title is a good indicator.
Except for The Wiggles. They drive a red car and red cars are for assholes.
Also, never trust a man whose friends with an octopus wearing a hat. Life lessons right there kids.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF THIS INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW JAMES MCDONOUGH, AS WE GET A LITTLE MORE SERIOUS AND TACKLE: