Student Spotlight: Matthew Mark Hunter
By Nick Hawks
What do you do in your free time other than making films?
It’s not presented to be a trick question, yet Cleveland State University student Matthew Mark Hunter is speechless for the first time in our interview, save for an “Umm…” in between long pauses. It’s a question that has caught him off guard, like the one question you didn’t rehearse in your head before an important job interview. Finally, he answered.
“Over the summer, I worked,” Hunter said. “I hang with friends, but they’re mostly just members of my crew. I’m trying to think… I play video games every now and then.”
Hunter makes strictly horror films, which is evident if you spend just a few seconds on his Facebook page. He got a taste for blood at the age of four, when his mom and dad introduced him to the film, “Freddy vs. Jason,” and his obsession began.
“I would always watch it growing up, and I knew how everybody died and in what order everybody died. I explained the plot to everyone by the age of five or six,” Hunter said. “From then on, [my parents] kept showing me more horror films.”
He made his first film in 7th grade, using his mom’s VHS camcorder. There was an English project for school where the students had to write a script for class and would receive extra credit if they followed through and filmed it. Hunter was the only student in his class to do the extra credit.
Hunter may just be 19 years old, but he has made over 100 films (all horror) over the last three years, thanks to an obsessive work ethic. A typical day for him includes waking up around 10 a.m., looking at the footage he’s shot or editing the footage over the next 12 or 13 hours, sprinkled in with a little bit of shooting throughout the day for balance.
“I edit almost every night,” he said. “I’m up to two or three in the morning writing or editing.”
His latest slasher film, “Poe’s Stories,” follows four friends who read tales from an Edgar Allan Poe book and put themselves into the stories. It took him two years to complete, thanks to a heavy workload.
“I wrote the script, directed it, did the camera operations, edited it, did the color correction and did all the distribution to the festivals,” Hunter said. “Everything, start to finish, is all me. I might have someone hold the camera for a scene or two if I’m in it.”
Arguably his most successful film to date is his 2019 film, “Easter Massacre,” which won in the categories “Best Gore” and “Best Kill” in the Independent Horror Movie Awards. Hunter attributes this to stepping up in the blood splatter and the gore. A certain part of the male anatomy is chopped off quite graphically, causing blood to spray a sadistic killer wearing a giant bunny costume. It was a tricky shot to get, as initially, the actress behind the bunny costume laughed when the blood sprayed all over her costume. Typically, Hunter tries to get the blood shots done in one take, but thanks to that gaffe, it took two.
“I tell the actors to get the giggles out before we shoot because the blood we use is expensive,” Hunter said. “It’s edible and tastes like mint, so if it gets in your mouth, you’ll be fine.”
For that film, it was the most expensive fake blood Hunter had ever purchased, at $50 for just 32 ounces. It was well worth it to win those awards that he’d chased for years but had only been nominated.
Despite his already vast experience as a filmmaker, Hunter is not technically currently a student in the Cleveland State film school. He was frustrated with the “Hollywood aspect” of the film school, meaning he believes they push big budget, big crew films that leave smaller productions and B-level horror thrashers in the dark. He will be moving back to film next year, for his junior year, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have critiques.
He learned everything he currently knows about film from the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, which he attended for two years in high school. He describes it as a hands-on crash course in camera operations, editing and everything film-related. He even learned how to make his own website to publicize his work.
He came to the new film school last year excited but had expectations immediately tampered when, in his first year in the program, he spent virtually the entire year watching other films and critiquing them, rather than getting the type of hands-on experience he was accustomed to.
“I came to the film school, and it was a totally different experience,” he said. “Our first year, all we did was watch films. It was no help to get you into filming… I feel like they should have a test you should take to see where you should place in the film school. I wish there was a way to have me just skip the first year. Just give me the tests and quizzes and let me do it.”
In this current state of quarantine, Hunter has kept himself busy by making shorts and editing his film to submit to festivals. It’s business as usual for the young director, who was planning on shooting footage later that night after our interview. He even made a short about the coronavirus pandemic and posted it to the Cleveland State University School of Film and Media Arts Facebook page, a comedy with, you guessed it, a horror twist.