You’ve seen him on the red carpet at all the major events in Hollywood, you’ve seen him on yachts with Victoria’s Secrets models and you’ve seen him in National Dress proudly representing Saudi arts and culture. Just follow his Instagram to learn more about his extraordinary life as a Hollywood producer, behind the scenes and what it takes to go out on one’s own.
DJ – Tell us about the changes in Saudi?
MAT – There’s been a lot of changes in Saudi in terms of entertainment, cinema, arts. They’ve already built an Opera House in Riyadh, they’re investing in music, they’ve just granted a licence for a school of music, they’re honoring music legends in Saudi to take part in teaching the youth. They’ve also invested a lot in the entertainment sector in terms of events – everyone from Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta, French Montana… it’s not just happening in the major cities, but all over the country.
DJ – and tourism as well…
MAT – there’s two major sites that are historical sites that have been hidden up to now, it’s just incredible – and there’s now e-visas to make tourism easy and accessible to Saudi. This was also so easy for the Formula E. The biggest change I’ve seen and the biggest support is towards women. Now they can drive – but also our ambassador for Saudi Arabia is a woman, Princess Reema bint Bandar.
DJ – Now you’re onto your 11th film..
MAT – I’ve worked on many independent films, not all have been big projects, but I’m working on a project now called Dreamland and I’m working again with with Director, Nicolas Jarecki, who I worked with for Arbitrage in 2012. It’s about the opioid crisis. Oxycontin is the 2nd largest cause of Opioid related deaths in the USA, it was reported on CNN, people get prescribed these addictive drugs and they get ruined. It’s causing a huge epidemic in the USA. So the film’s a drama discussing why the FDA approved it, why are doctors prescribing it to people who are not in need of it. It’s also been found in the black market where people are selling fake copies of the pills – this is deadly.
DJ – People are hurting, they’re emotionally wrecked and they need this to get on with their life?
MAT – It’s crazy .. but then going back to my films … a lot of my films are based on timely issues. With Arbitrage, it was off the back drop of the financial crisis. 99 Homes was discussing the housing crisis. I did a film with Richare Gere called Time Out Of Mind which was shedding light on the homeless community in the USA, he plays a homeless man, you can watch it on Apple TV.
Now there’s Dreamland which sheds some light on the Opioid crisis. So there’s definitely an important message, it’s not only entertainment, but it serves the viewer a purpose.
DJ – Do you feel this is also your motivation?
MAT – Yes, I’ve loved movies but recently I felt a moment on set which was very surreal … we were filming a scene in Canada and we were in the middle of the mountains and it was under-30 degrees celsius and there were helicopters and sledges and a chase scene and it was just so surreal, and I looked to the director and we just started laughing, as even though I’m working on the project from beginning to end, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like reality, it’s just so surreal and I just feel so blessed. I always think of myself as this Saudi guy who comes from a small town, Khobar and then I’m on a huge movie set and sometimes I just find it so surreal. I feel very humbled to be working with Oscar Winner Gary Oldman on this movie and the movie has an incredible cast. My best friend Michelle Rodriguez is also in the movie.
DJ – Do you see these movies ever happening in Saudi?
MAT – So this year in March, we’ve had the Saudi Film Festival. I’ve participated in a live panel regarding Film in Hollywood with Salman Khan and Oscar Winner, Cuba Gooding Jr… and this all happened a 10 minute drive from my home town which I never imagined would be a reality! When I started my career in film cinemas were still banned in Saudi. Now they’re looking to create a new industry and to excel in it. Even though it’s a very new industry in the region we’ve already broken boundaries. Director Haifaa al-Mansour, her film Wajdja, was a a world wide favorite, She was also a jury mender at the Cannes Film Festival. We have actress Ahd Kamel, who’s in hit TV show Collateral. Then we have Dina Shihabi who’s in the hit show Jack Ryan.
DJ – So do you guys get together and hang out?
MAT – No, but we probably should! And then this year was a big moment in LA for Oscar season and Rami Malek won best actor, Nadine Labaki was nominated for her direction in the best foreign film category for, Capernaum.
DJ – So after 11 films, the initial giddiness of just making it happen has passed, how have you grown as producer?
MAT – After I did 99 Homes, I took a break for a few years and shifted into other things I wanted to explore namely the fashion world and other businesses, but now back on this movie, I feel like this really is my path. Now I’m on set and I’m looking for my next project.
DJ – How do you choose a script?
MAT – Lot’s of people ask me if I’m looking for a certain script and honestly I don’t look for scripts. I go to people that I’ve worked with in the past and felt good energy between the team, all are creative geniuses, most I’ve met through mutual friends – that formula has worked. I like to go back to the success we’ve had in the past and reignite that success and see if we can do something bigger. I still think I’m at a good place in my career, but in future, I would prefer to do a few more movies in the same way before I look outwardly for scripts.
DJ – So I suppose you bring a team together and you all brainstorm, think about a topical issue and then start to develop the concept together?
MAT – Yes this is how we develop a concept and work with the exact same group of cast and team. If it works – why change? Why mix the energy?
Look out for DREAMLAND coming in 2020.