Filmmaker 5 with Matthew Modine: I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE

Matthew Modine’s short film I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE is not affected by the SAG-AFTRA strike as the content adheres to strict independent and unaffiliated Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) works.

Renowned actor and distinguished director Matthew Modine’s new short film, I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE, explores the unexplainable. Featuring the voice talents of Ruby Modine and long-time Stanley Kubrick collaborator Leon Vitali, the short film fuses sound, music, and expressionistic imagery to take viewers on a journey of the heart and mind. Carefully curated to create a sensuous experience, I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE is Leon Vitali’s final performance, powerfully delivered.

Recipient of a Golden Globe Award, Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup and Golden Lion, Matthew Modine previously won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival Gran Prix. He has received Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations for the M.O.W. WHAT THE DEAF MAN HEARD (1997) and HBO’s Emmy-winning AND THE BAND PLAYED ON (1993). As a filmmaker, Modine has directed several distinguished short films: WHEN I WAS A BOY (1993), SMOKING (1994), ECCE PIRATE (1997), I THINK I THOUGHT (2008) and TO KILL AN AMERICAN (2008).

I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE is an official selection at the 19th Annual Oscar-Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival, screening on Wednesday, August 16, 2023. Our Classic Couple Academy interview with I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE filmmaker Matthew Modine follows.

Filmmaker Matthew Modine

Filmmaker 5.1:  I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE is a powerful film visually. How did you make your creative choices to bring your words to life on the screen?

Thank you. In addition to my photography, there are photographic contributions from others. Most importantly, to make visible – what is imagined – I needed to employ my long time collaborator Terence Ziegler. In addition to being a brilliant editor, Terence is a brilliant visual artist. We had discussions about how to accomplish the goal and somewhere we landed on visualizing water – which is constantly changing. It’s a liquid that can become a  cloud. A snowflake that can become a raindrop. A stream that is a vein to a vast ocean. So that became our challenge. Having the story flow like water. 

Filmmaker 5.2:  The voices in the film, Leon Vitali and Ruby Modine, seem to be in conversation. Is this how the structure came to you? How did you arrive at script—the message delivered in the film?

Yes. It is a conversation. When we hear a voice inside our head, who is it speaking? Our subconscious? Is it a sign of insanity? I don’t know. The story came to me in Warsaw, Poland. I was there doing a publicity tour. I’d landed there quite late at night and had an early start and a full day of press the next morning. So, I was desperate to get to sleep. As I lay there tossing and turning a voice in my head kept speaking the text of this film – refusing to let me sleep. So I said alright, alright and scribbled the words down. Years later, Ruby was looking through my diaries and said, “What’s this?” I told her what happened and she fell in love with the story. Then Ruby said she wanted to play the person being spoken to. “And who would play the voice?” Without hesitation she said Leon Vitali. And so it was. 

Filmmaker 5.3:  How is I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE a spiritual journey? How is it something more?

I’m not even sure what a spiritual journey is. There’s SO much we humans don’t understand. So much that is beyond our comprehension. Look at all we’ve been able to create – and now look at how swiftly we’re destroying the only known, inhabitable, planet in the reachable universe. There’s so so so much we don’t understand. What is real, what is actually measurable, is love. Where there is love there is compassion. Where there is compassion there is no greed. Where there is no greed there is environmental harmony. Where there is environmental harmony there is balance and respect for all forms of life. 

Filmmaker 5.4:  You are writer, director, and photographer on the film. How would you describe your collaborative process with the production crew in the editing and visual effects process, music selection and audio mixing, and the overall design of the film?

Film production is a highly collaborative endeavor. It’s the height of arrogance to write -A Film By – unless you made the film alone – you should include all of the primary disciplines that were necessary and involved in the making; the editors, composers, costumes, cinematography, etc. Ownership, as in “Stanley Kubrick’s” is also a bold statement, but justifiable if the person with the hyphenated name has assembled all the parts. For IAWYI I assembled a small, talented group of artists that I know and knew would bring their unique voices to the project. 

Filmmaker 5.5:  This film is an ode to love, specifically dedicated to Leon Vitali “who was (and always will be” Love.” How is this film a tribute to Leon? 

Leon was an artist. Full stop. Leon loved artists. He worked for one of films greatest artists for nearly half a century. He didn’t just learn from that master craftsman, he taught him. Leon would be upset my saying that – but it’s true. Under many circumstances, Stanley Kubrick stood on Leon’s shoulders. It was my honor to work with and to call Leon one of my closest friends. He was leaving his body long before he finally did. His voice and interpretation speak to his truth about life and love during that transitional journey. 

Watch the I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE teaser.

2 thoughts on “Filmmaker 5 with Matthew Modine: I AM WHAT YOU IMAGINE

  1. Love love love this interview. Met Leon once and he was as described above. “There’s SO much we humans don’t understand. So much that is beyond our comprehension” Yes and yes again. .

  2. Thanks so much, John! Matthew’s film is amazing, Leon’s performance breathtaking. This short film is an extraordinary tribute.

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