Filmmakers: “We Make Movies” in Granite Bay

Budding filmmakers return home for mockumentary feature
By: Andrew Westrope,
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Acting is not Matt Tory’s primary trade, but playing Stevphen in “We Make Movies” wasn’t a stretch.

Tory, a 25-year-old Granite Bay native living in Los Angeles, celebrated the release of his third feature as a director last month on Amazon, Google Play and a semi-autobiographical mockumentary in which he plays a caricature of himself, a fledgling director trying to corral his friends into making a masterpiece in his backyard.

The film garnered attention last year at the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival and the Davis International Film Festival, where it won the Triangle Award for filmmakers with a bright future in the industry and a best young filmmaker award, respectively. But aside from its higher profile, the project was a throwback for Tory and his friends, many of whom collaborated on those backyard movies after meeting each other at age 14 at Capital Christian School in Sacramento.

Tory’s house features heavily in “We Make Movies,” and filming took place almost entirely in Roseville and Granite Bay.

“I had this idea for a movie for a long time, because I basically grew up in Granite Bay with all my friends just making movies in the backyard, goofing around making stuff around town or in our neighborhood, and those were some of the best times of my life,” Tory said. “We were kids, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we had a video camera and we would run around and make little movies together. So I wanted to do something inspired by my childhood and my youth in high school with my friends, making movies.”

Written by Tory in 2013, “We Make Movies” was shot on a microbudget of $2,000 in a 15-day sprint the following summer, mostly at Tory’s home in Granite Bay. Other scenes take place at an apartment and a house in Roseville, in downtown Roseville and at Folsom Lake. Editing took close to a year.

The premise is that a camera crew has been allowed on the set of a movie being made by college kids for their town’s film festival. Tory plays the director of the film-within-a-film, his real-life childhood collaborators play highly exaggerated versions of themselves as actors and crew members, and even his mother has a role.

“It’s basically a comedy about them messing up,” Tory said. “They have no idea what they’re doing, and the director of the movie has this idea that—he wants to make a great movie, so he decides they should just copy scenes from every other great movie that’s ever been made and put them all in one movie.”

Tory said the film depicts a phase that almost all filmmakers go through, long before they hit Hollywood or Cannes or even Sundance—a phase of low sophistication and lower budgets, of cobbling together silly backyard movies with friends on the weekends, slow to realize they’re having the time of their lives doing it.

Fair Oaks native Jonathan Holmes, an actor and producer for the film, credited Tory with prompting this realization in real life.

“He asked me to do a small role in a short little two-minute clip that he was trying to film (in high school),” Holmes recalled. “We started hanging out together, and that was where it started, with him involving me in a lot of stuff. Gradually it grew from there, and the joy we both got out of doing these projects.”

For Jordan Hopewell, a Roseville native who has known Tory his whole life—the two even share a birthday—“We Make Movies” is a comedic snapshot of a formative period in their lives. Though he spent most of his childhood in Iowa, Hopewell remembers being inspired by Tory to enroll in a video production class in high school there, in which Hopewell excelled.

“It kinda started with (Matt Tory). When we were kids, he would just grab a camera—I don’t know if it was his dad’s camera or one that they had bought him—but every time we’d get together, because we’d get together at least once or twice a year all through our childhood, we’d make stupid little silly movies as kids, just for fun,” Hopewell said. “It was a lot of fun being able to reconnect with thoughts and ideas from our childhood (on ‘We Make Movies’), but really flesh it out in a little more professional manner. Of course being low-budget, or no-budget, there were some things that didn’t come out perfect and we’re basically students making a film with no money. But it was a lot of fun having everyone’s input, as well as (Tory) letting us run with our characters and flesh the characters out as filming went on.”

“We Make Movies” had a hometown premiere with about 200 people at the Palladio in Folsom last year before it was submitted to festivals, and its release online effectively marks the conclusion of the project. Public response is unknown, as few people have laid eyes on it yet.

For Tory, the film represents coming full circle, back to a moment he never really left—an image of friends making art, enjoying what they do, and each other doing it. In press materials for the film, he said, “‘We Make Movies’ is the movie I always wanted to make.”