In 2006, Matt learned the remarkable story of Welles Crowther, an equities trader who saved at least ten people during the 9/11 attacks in New York City, during which he lost his own.
At the time, Matt was struck to the core by the power of the story. In his words “in that moment, I thought three things: what an amazing story, everyone needs to hear this story, and I want to share this story with everyone.”. However, a husband and wife filmmaker duo had already started filming a documentary about Welles, and so an existing project to retell the story was underway.
The story never left Matt. In 2011, some 5 years later, he inquired as to the status of the project and learned that it had been aborted. He immediately asked Welles’ parents for permission to restart the project and make the film. He contacted the prior filmmakers and obtained their footage, and quickly learned he would need to start the project from scratch. Only 7 seconds of the footage was reusable.
With no prior skills, experience or relationships in the film business, and no access to film-related financing, Matt was armed only with his research and writing skills as an attorney and his entrepreneurial acumen (which he attributes to gaining through his experience at EO). Using this core skill-set, Matt set out to research the story and write a script for the film.
With a draft script in hand, the next steps were not without significant roadblocks. One challenge was to find the people and resources that could help the film become reality. In particular, Matt wanted to secure an A-list celebrity to narrate the film. In Matt’s words, “In my world, when I have a challenge or problem, I tell the world about it because I don’t know who might be able to help”.
With the help of his EO network, he found a way to put the draft script in front of several well-known actors, including Alex Baldwin and Gwyneth Paltrow. Ms Paltrow loved the story and immediately agreed to narrate the film. In addition, Matt secured an introduction to Lyle Lovett to record an original song for the film. To put this into perspective, Matt secured an Oscar-winning actress and Grammy-winning song writer for the film, as a first-time filmmaker with no training or experience.
Matt then navigated his network to build a team of skilled film professionals to help create the film. With limited financial resources and no outside backers, Matt leveraged his own funds, his network and his top-grading skills (learned during his time at EO), to build a team and produce the film.
Shooting for the film was completed in 2015 and through the EO network Matt secured a distributor in early 2017, an exercise known to be much harder than creating the film itself.
In the words of his nominator: “Matt wanted this story told so badly. Other filmmakers had tried and failed, but Matt found a way to make gold out of nothing. You can’t do that without incredible resourcefulness and perseverance”.
Matt has distinguished himself by demonstrating exemplary resourcefulness and leveraging limited resources to create a professional quality documentary that will open in September 2017 with a theatrical release in over 200 arthouse cinemas throughout the United States.