On Point With: AJ Mattioli

Queer local indie filmmaker AJ Mattioli, who brought us “Killer Unicorn” and other gems, has a new project in the works… and you can help make it happen! [Cover photo: Danny Gucci]

Thotyssey: Hello AJ! Happy February! You’ve got a lot going on… are these times fun, or stressful!?

AJ Mattioli: I drive on stress… so, stressful can be fun! I am completely a workaholic, so the more work the better! Plus, it helps that I love what I do.

I see you’re making great strides in crowdfunding for a film project that you’re working on with writer Cameron Cole {who’s also a DJ in Brooklyn) called Twitterpated! Tell us a bit about that campaign you two are doing, and how folks can get involved in that process.

[Twitterpated is] actually a feature film! That makes crowdfunding even more important, as you need more money to make it! The campaign is really fun, in the sense that the perks we have are not typical. We have shout outs from drag queens, gift bags, signed scripts… and of course, our gratitude. I think it’s important for people to realize that most queer films do not get the support of big companies, so if we want films made by the community with authenticity then you have to support from the ground up.

[Photo: @kaceyanisa]

I’m gonna come back to Twitterpated in a bit, but let’s first get a little background on you. Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in Queens… and if you ever hear me speak, you know that immediately. The New York accent is thick!

Same here on all counts! Were movies always your thing?

I have always been into film; I would sit in front of the TV for hours and memorize scenes. I’d dream about my favorite characters. I did not realize you could do this for a living ’til college, when a friend suggested I take a film class with her. It changed my life completely! I no longer hated homework, and thrived on the creativity of it all. It was true love the first time I picked up a camera.

I actually worked at Blockbuster for along time to feed my love of films. At that time it cost four bucks to rent a film for two days, so it was simply cost effective to work there.

Do you have any particular favorite movies?

Some are so obvious. I came out in the late 90s, so most of my fav films are from that time and are LGBTQ: Better Than Chocolate, Incredible Adventures of Two Girls in Love, But I’m a Cheerleader. So, basic young lesbian (before I realized I was trans). I love them, though… God, how I love them.

That was a good time for early queer indies. Hollywood is doing a better job now with portraying queerness than in decades past, but what more needs to be done?

I just think more. More is what needs to be done. We have millions of straight films and never bat an eye when a story is told again, but just in a new way. We deserve that. We deserve millions of love stories. We deserve millions of scares, millions of laughs. We simply need more.

[Photo: Krys Fox]

Tell us a bit about Mattioli Productions, and what your particular job as an indie producer entails!

Mattioli Productions has been making queer films since 2011, so a little over ten years. We have taken numerous scripts from page to screen. I often help with the script, deal with logistics, deal with agents and casting, and I crew the whole thing up. But really, what I do mostly is answer lots of questions… lots and lots of questions.

I bet! I’ve seen a few of your films… Words is a great documentary released in 2018 that featured many local nightlife folks, everyday people and some RuGirls talking about the power of words and labels. That must’ve been fascinating to film.

It was an amazing adventure, for sure. Having to cut down 20 hours of footage to 1.5 hours was a struggle. They had lots of interesting things to say!

And then of course, Killer Unicorn arrived that same year, which was the epic horror movie starring many Brooklyn nightlife luminaries. I really enjoyed that! That must’ve been a huge learning process and memorable experience to film.

Lol! You can definitely say casting mostly drag queens and dealing with those personalities was a learning experience! That film was probably one of the best times of my life, and made me fall in love with Brooklyn. I moved here right after shooting.

2020 saw the release of Neon Boys, starring Matty Glitterati and Sucia! That was a very poignant, dramatic short, filmed largely in the now still-shuttered Brooklyn queer hub Macri Park.

Oh Macri, how I miss you. Neon Boys is very dear to my heart. As a co-director on that film, I was able to really get to know the characters. I am very proud of that film. It does pretty well on Amazon and other outlets. It’s sad, but seems to really resonate with people.

Tell us a bit about your impressions of Cameron’s Twitterpated script, and what kind of film you think it could be.

I’m really excited about this film. I haven’t directed a comedy in a long time, and I’m co-directing this with Cameron. I normally have dramas cross my desk, but was looking for something different — something that would bring a smile across people’s faces. This is a feel-good film that has you rooting for love. Also, the story of Cyrano is one that people love, so making a queer version of it is something the people will enjoy.

Cyrano de Bergerac is an old French play about a guy usually portrayed as having a freakishly big nose who believes he can’t get the woman he loves, so he sort of lives vicariously though a hot dumb guy who’s courting her and tells him what to say to woo her. I’m grossly oversimplifying this, but the device has been used in so many romantic comedies. Like The Truth About Cats & Dogs!

It’s completely been done a few times. Roxanne with Steve Martin was a good one as well. Our big nose is a heavy set guy. The gay community can often overlook heavier guys, so we wanted to look at that dynamic. We feel that this was a good reason our “big nose”, was to have him on the bigger size.

I can’t wait for this to get made! What other hurdles and milestones must we surmount at this point before production begins?

It’s sadly all about money. Luckily, I have acquired cameras and lighting throughout the years, so I don’t have to rent anything; and it’s all top of the line, which is helpful! Casting can sometimes be a pain; we only want to hire queer actors to play queer characters, so that often bring its own challenges when dealing with agencies. So we try to cast on our own without going through a casting director. So all actors reading this, feel free to send your resumes along… as long as you are queer and in New York!

Open call, children! Anything else in the works to report or discuss?

Yeah, we have lots of great things happening! I produced a short musical called Break/up and another gay love story called Velvet. Both star trans people as the love interest, but the stories aren’t about being trans — just about being human. They are fantastic shorts, and are being submitted to festivals as we speak. My feature film Guys at Parties Like It is a thriller that is going to fuck everyone up. It’s a thrill ride, and currently in post-production. So, lots coming from us this year! But without funds for the community, we can’t make them. So support, support, support!

Let’s all get in the movie business, folks! So, we’ll close with this: what’s your all time guilty pleasure, so-bad-it’s-amazing, go-to flick?

I hate to admit it, but I’ll watch any of the Twilight movies at anytime. I know they are bad… I don’t care, I love them.

We hear you, lol! Thanks, AJ!

[Photo: Tom Roper]

Check out Thotyssey’s calendar for AJ Mattioli’s upcoming appearances, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram Twitter and YouTube. Also, check out Mattioli Productions’ website, and pledge to the “Twitterpated” Kickstarter.

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