Interview: Matt Cohen Talks ‘Mama Bear’ – Favorite Character, Directing, and Working with Mandy
On February 15th 2019, Nerds and Beyond had the honor of being invited to the first ever screening of Matt Cohen’s Mama Bear. The screening was packed full of family, friends, cast, and crew. It was a magical evening (you can read about the night and a review of the short film here.) After the screening ended we were able to pull the ecstatic director aside and ask him a few questions about the film’s process and his experiences.
Nerds and Beyond: Now that the short is completed and being shown to an audience, what are your feelings on it? Was it everything you’d hoped it’d be? How was the process, from beginning to end for you?
Matt Cohen: Yes, and yes, it’s everything I hoped it to be. Everything I wanted it to be. And the process was chaos, you know, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I studied as hard as I could, I took as many notes as I could from the friends that I could take notes from. And then I committed to a vision, and my crew committed to me and my vision, and fucking-a we made it. I don’t know how, but it’s here and it’s great. I think I’m going to screen it in a movie theater. Like a big big movie theater. Whoever shows up is allowed in. People need to see it for all it’s worth if we’re allowed.
Nerds and Beyond: Who was the first person you showed the finished film to?
Matt Cohen: My wife and my editor were the first ones to see it when it was final final. And both of them, and really everybody was ecstatic. I mean I was happy and nobody’s ever happy with the final product usually. I’m super happy with what we accomplished.
Nerds and Beyond: What was the most challenging part about Mama Bear?
Matt Cohen: I think just trying to figure out how to wrangle a crew. And be a director. And you know, maintain leadership. I mean, everything else you can you can feel it out you know, like you can figure out how to solve each problem if you put enough effort towards it. But keeping morale and motivation high on a film that is being shot on the weekends, and a film that has a rigid, tough pacing – it can make things, well, tough. But we had a good group of people, and they were somehow motivated by my speeches.
Nerds and Beyond: What character turned out to be your favorite?
Matt Cohen: Oh that is tough. To say which character is my favorite. I’m gonna go with the guy that I get to shoot in the film. He’s a bald, white man, and that is Lee Ehlers. He’s my writer. And that is going to be our calling card for all the films we make. If I make a cameo, and he makes a cameo, my character gets to kill his.
Nerds and Beyond: There was talk of potentially turning this into a full-length film. Is that still an option?
Matt Cohen: It is. A lot is on the table after tonight. A full length film or potentially a series. Yeah, a bunch of things are on the table after tonight.
Nerds and Beyond: Now that it’s premiered, is there a timeline of when it will be released?
Matt Cohen: No, because this is not so much a premiere as a screening for cast, crew, and friends and family and the like. We’re going to premiere at a film festival. And then from there we may shut it down because it may be in production.
Nerds and Beyond: What did it mean to you to have all the support from your friends, family, and the fans?
Matt Cohen: It’s really amazing. And it’s really about how amazing the crew is. We became a family very quickly – in one or two days. By the second weekend we were a well-oiled machine, and we finished early on most of our days. And to have their love on top of the love of everybody I’ve known for the last 15 years in Hollywood has been amazing.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you want to keep directing in the future?
Matt Cohen: Yeah, absolutely. I’m in love with directing. I’m in love with acting. I just want whatever thing that comes to me to be in the form that I want. From now on, I’m not doing anything that I don’t absolutely love. Because when you absolutely love something it comes out like this (gestures toward the room) and anything less is unacceptable. Anything else is a waste of time. And life is short, so I want to make things that I love. You have to learn the power of the word “no” I guess, and it took me fifteen years to figure that out.
Nerds and Beyond: And finally, what was it like to work together with Mandy on a project that was so important to the of both you?
Matt Cohen: You know, surprisingly, it was a dream. Going into it, we were like “we’re going to need marriage counseling.” I’m a first-time director. I’m going to push you through a four-day shoot that is very physical and you haven’t acted in three years, let alone gun and action. You know, any kind of action piece like this requires a lot from its actors. Something of this magnitude in such a short period of time. But we thrived. We really thrived. Our marriage is stronger, and is growing better every day because of the things we learned we were willing to do for each other through this process. What we’re willing to give to each other, and the love and support when one, or the other, or both of us at the same time, fell apart and fell down – we picked each other up. It was really tremendous for us.
Stay tuned for more updates and news about Mama Bear!