Meet Matthew Pendergast, producer, director, and above all, a man with a deep love for exploration. In this exclusive interview, the San Francisco-based Matthew Pendergast tells us more about his experiences with the camera, the world and himself.
Pixpa: You have done spectacular work on a range of subjects, quite complex and diverse in their character. What motivated you to take this creative journey?
Matthew: I’ve been traveling ever since I was a little kid, so for a long time I’ve been inspired by places, people, and cultures. While writing for Reuters in Beijing, I told stories from a journalistic perspective. However, I had the chance to work with video and learnt more about visual storytelling. In college, I began to develop an interest in Asia’s development, and spent a lot of time there, traveling and working, especially in China. So, it has been very inspiring to chronicle the issues that these communities face, as the region’s economy skyrockets. And to this end, it has just been a process of expanding my visual repertoire over the years in the interest of telling a more compelling, succinct and dynamic story always.
Pixpa: How long have you been working as a producer and director?
Matthew: Five years.
Pixpa: From Bangladesh to Cambodia, Sri Lanka to Mongolia, you have travelled extensively. In your opinion, which has been the most rewarding experience of your journey and why?
Matthew: I’ve had some incredible experiences on the road, from rescuing a dying horse in a Mongolian blizzard to profiling river gypsies in Bangladesh who rarely ever stray from their boats.
While I’ve been able to capture some great images, I think that the most rewarding part was to meet the people who are fighting to give their communities and their neighbors a better life. These are the people who have let go of the opportunities in bigger cities or on foreign shores. They have chosen to stay behind to help kids in their community have an education, or make sure their environment isn’t destroyed by unchecked industry.
Working with these people and finding out what inspires them to put aside more immediate aspirations for something bigger than themselves – that’s definitely been the most rewarding part of the journey.
Pixpa: What type of films do you enjoy creating?
Matthew: I’d say, films that focus on a person’s story, and are driven by a powerful narrative, and give you freedom to experiment with new styles and shots.
Pixpa: What, in your opinion, sets you apart from the rest of the film-makers/photographers?
Matthew: I came to filmmaking in such a roundabout way that I bring a whole range of other experiences to the process. Working as a journalist, for instance, helped me learn how to focus on a story and be able to leave out the extraneous bits. Having spent nearly half my life abroad, I’ve become really attuned to the details of how people live, the finer nuances of culture etc. All this and more is what makes me different, but I think, above all, it is the fact that I’ve loved the way that I can use film/video to tell those stories.
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Pixpa: What kind of equipment do you use?
Matthew: Canon DSLRs, primarily.
Pixpa: As a creative person, what are the challenges that you have faced? Tell us how you overcame them.
Matthew: Honestly, when I first started, I had no idea what I was doing. Someone put a camera in my hands and told me to come back with something. It was trial by fire, but I firmly believe that’s the best way to learn. I discovered an incredible wealth of knowledge out there, especially on the Internet – I learnt so much by just reading how others have grappled with the same issues. I taught myself how to shoot, light, edit, create motion graphics, and all of this with the help of a great online community willing to share their valuable knowledge.
Pixpa: What, according to you, will be an ideal project?
Matthew: Most of the projects I work on are under 10-minutes runtime. I would love the opportunity to spend a longer amount of time really digging into a story, its place and people, and to have the funding and time to create something feature-length that tells an important story.
Pixpa: What part of your job excites you the most?
Matthew: Traveling to a new place with a camera in hand!
Pixpa: You have many feathers in your cap. A journalist, film-maker, photographer, graphic designer- which one defines you best?
Matthew: As I mentioned above, I think we are an amalgamation of the things that we have done. Each experience adds to the process of being a creative professional, and I try to keep those lessons handy when I’m working. Sometimes, the most seemingly random experience can turn into the inspiration or answer you’re looking for.
Pixpa:How many projects do you do each year?
Matthew: On an average, I do about 8-10 projects each year.
Pixpa: Any advice you would like to give to the Pixpa community.
Matthew: Take some time to share your experiences! There’s a lot of noise on the Internet, for sure, but it can always use another voice, especially someone who can share valuable experiences. I’m sure that almost every person, who is reading this, has been online, at some point or the other, searching for tips to make their work better. Contribute to the community with your own knowledge!
Pixpa: Tell us about your experience on building your website with Pixpa.
Matthew: Well, I liked the templates and it seemed like a nice “plug-and-play” option for someone who didn’t want to deal with code. I had to deal with a bit of jargon and had to delete some of the pre-loaded content. However, once I got the hang of how the dashboard worked, it was fairly smooth and didn’t take too long to get my website up and running.