It seems to be the premise of a comfortable movie.
A young man who doesn’t know what to do with his life is noticed by an English teacher who takes a poetry class at a small state university and develops his writing skills. While trying to break into the entertainment world, he wrote a screenplay that would be turned into a movie that Netflix bought for $ 20 million a few years later.
But this is not a movie plot, but a true story of CSUB alum Matt Harris.
Harris’ screenplay The Sterling is a drama starring Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd and Kevin Kline, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and currently airs on Netflix.
It is the story of an everyday couple (McCarthy and Odaud) who struggle to recover from a tragic loss. McCarthy first seeks advice on how to treat starlings, with the help of a psychologist who has turned to a veterinarian (Klein).
“It’s that kind of story that you can easily call an enjoyable story, but I tried to make it happen,” Harris said from his home in Burbank. “I don’t like it when I see and read stories of people who have suffered such losses and say, ‘Everything is fine!’ “, did he declare.
Harris injects hope and humor into “Sterling” so no one worries that the story is depressing. Considering his current job, this is no surprise. He is the executive producer of the hit MTV show “Ridiculousness”.
It took Harris years to see his lyrics turn into a movie, and there were many disappointing turning points. But when he did, he was able to get on set for the final five weeks of filming in late summer 2019.
After years of wanting to see actors, producers, cinematographers and others bring his work to life, the experience has been “very satisfying,” he says.
And Harris says that without the instruction, guidance, and support from CSUB’s mentors, none of them would have been possible, not a film project or previous screenplay awards or production credits.
“I’m really grateful to them for recognizing the spark and setting it off,” he said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have been here today to tell you about the screenplay I wrote.”
Route to CSUB
Harris’s dad worked in the oil business, so he used to travel when he was a kid. He didn’t know where to go to college, so he followed his sister to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. “I was not an avid student,” but he enjoyed reading and seemed to be good at writing.
When his parents moved to Bakersfield, Harris spent the summer there and loved it. He eventually stayed and finished his college career at CSUB.
One of Professor Jeffrey Spencer’s first assignments in a 300-grade English class was to analyze poetry. Just before class one day started, Spencer stood at Harris’ office and asked, “Are you majoring in English?” “
Harris, who has long struggled with impostor syndrome, was trying to apologize for a poorly written treatise when Spencer began reading it in his class.
Spencer was so impressed that he asked Harris to talk about his interests and introduced him to another professor. They explained to him what he could do with an English degree, taught him the critical thinking skills he currently uses to assess scenarios, and made him believe in himself.
“I was taken to the English department, and it was going to change my life,” Harris said.
Harris is in contact with Spencer, who lives in the Bay Area at the age of 93.
“A lot of times students are not aware of their donations until they are reported by them, and that’s what I did for Matt,” she said. “He was really talented and ran with the ball. “
Harris received an English degree from CSUB in 1991, followed by an MA in American Literature from San Diego State University. He then considered a doctorate, teaching at Liberal Arts College in the Midwest and writing a screenplay.
But he didn’t get any of his doctorates. The program he applied.
A “stupid” TV channel
Harris was trying to figure out his next move when a fellow Los Angeles companion told him about his job as a production assistant at PBS. Harris was able to find a job, sleep on a friend’s dirty couch, save enough money for his place, and take writing lessons.
It turned into a PA job at CBS Sitcom, and Harris continued to learn skills. He took the opportunity to write and got one of the Fox series with wild police videos.
“You’re writing a copy of the narrative that talks about these actual police chases, and I said, ‘Are you kidding me? ” I love this. It’s good. I’m on TV. You can write and hear my words. “
This led to the writing of TV clips captured on various tapes and the writer’s subsequent director. The next thing he learned was that Harris was an executive producer and executive producer.
In 2016, Harris kicked off the Nickelodeon Kids Series Crashlet, which featured sporting gaffes and gaffes, and persuaded the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski to host it.
Two years later, Harris took up the “ridiculous thing” and demanded that the number of episodes per year drop from 40 or 60 to 168. “Stupid Things” features a viral video from the Internet that criticizes the host for long date Rob Dyrdek and his co-host.
Harris currently produces over 250 episodes per year and celebrates the 1,000th episode of the series. MTV frequently broadcast “ridiculous” marathons and created several spin-offs.
“Viral videos have always kept me entertained since the very first days I started watching this new thing called YouTube,” says Harris.
The “sterling” flies
Harris’ first screenplay was the Western drama “Popping Tree Moon,” about early 20th century bounty hunters who were hired to hunt down Sioux Indians who allegedly captured white women. In the process, he revisited past crimes, including participating in the December 1890 massacre of Native Americans with knee injuries by US Army soldiers.
Harris wanted to gain attention as a screenwriter, so he invited the screenwriter to the contest. He was one of five recipients of the 2002 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicole Screenwriter Fellowship, the most prestigious screenwriting awards.
Nicholl came up with a $ 30,000 prize designed to give the winners time to write their next script. Money helped Harris finish “Sterling”.
Harris broke up with him because he got an agent who tried to make a westerner, but the agent’s efforts were unsuccessful and he was unable to circulate “Sterling”.
A powerful agency of creative artists has become the champion of “sterling,” and Harris called on director-writers Tim Robbins and John Lee Hancock to do so. On several occasions, Harris thought a movie would be made, but the stars (champion, talent, funding and luck) were never matched.
In April 2019, producer Dylan Sellers called Harris and asked if “Sterling” was still available. This last option has expired. The salesman then made lunch for him, Harris and Ted Melfi, the director of the celebrity “hidden person” who wanted to make a movie. He was already talking to McCarthy about it.
“I was like, ‘OK, well, looks like this is going to happen,’ said Harris, who started lunch preparing to be disappointed again.
The seller had the “inspired” idea of having Lily (McCarthy) as the main character instead of Jack (Odaud). At first, Harris wasn’t thrilled with the idea of recreating a room he’d been tinkering with for 15 years. But when he started the process, he said, “give new life to things”.
In the original script, Lily entered a mental health facility. In the new one, Jack did. Harris loved the change.
“It was kind of a cliché, you know, women kind of take it harder than men,” Harris said. “It was very useful to me because I didn’t think I had written a character without dimensions or emotional depth, but when I changed roles I was stunned and a little embarrassed with the way I had drawn him. . She is a female character in my story. “
Harris was in charge of most of the filming. He became “a bit arrogant” and asked to speak about how he was feeling.
“As you walk around the film set, you’ll see star cars and production trucks, and it looks like a small town has been built. The streets are closed and the police are guiding traffic, ”said Harris. .. “And you walk:” This is all due to things that came out of my head. “
Today, famous Western director Walter Hill is directing a movie based on “The Shard Tree Moon”, starring Christoph Waltz and Willem Dafoe. However, Hill dramatically changed the story and gave the film the title “Dead for a Dollar”.
Hollywood news site Deadline said one of its producers, Kirk Damiko, said Hill “has created a Western drama with contemporary themes and contemporary feel,” and Waltz and Dafo said: “The story of the film “. He embodies the extraordinary leading role for which he is destined. “” “
Harris says Hill is a great director and that the action in the film is promising, but he wonders if the film lacks some of the dramatic elements and character development of the original version. I think.
“But you know, he was collecting digital dust,” Harris said. “Unless ‘Sterling’ was a hit like ‘Matt I wanna do what you got’, I wouldn’t see the light of day.”
Harris at home
Harris met his wife, producer Molly Ryan, in the A&E series “Ancient Mysteries and Bible Mysteries”. His career is documentary and journalism.
They married in 1998 and have two daughters, Maggie and Erie.
Harris’ mother passed away last December, but her father, like one of her sisters, still lives in Bakersfield. Another deceased sister raised a daughter in Bakersfield. Two of his nieces are graduates of CSUB.
That is to say, he comes to town regularly, but has little connection with the CSUB. He changed that and signed up to mentor students in this year’s CSUB Alumni Runner Alumni Mentorship Program.
He wants to repay the mentorship he received from CSUB faculty members.
“It’s that person who takes an interest in you and says, ‘Hey, you’re good at this’ or ‘Hey, you can’t do that,'” said Harris. “Once you realize this power, you can’t help but want to do it yourself. “
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