Matt McCormick admits his movie “Some Days Are Better Than Others” might seem like a hard sell sometimes. The film, which is screening in the Sound Unseen series at the Trylon in Minneapolis on Wednesday, follows the misadventures of three misfits in McCormick’s hometown of Portland, Ore.
One blurb for a screening in New York described them as competitors in a ‘saddest job in the world’ contest, but McCormick says he thinks that’s unfair.
“I hope it’s not entirely a sad film. It deals with some sad issues, but I don’t think its a sad film. I think its more about the process of dealing with unfortunate situations,” he told me over the phone from Portland. “It’s a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, and its not a feelgood comedy by any means.”
In reality “Some Days Are Better than Others” is a beautifully crafted exploration of unfulfilled dreams. We meet a young woman who works in an animal shelter whose boyfriend just dumped her. As she tracks his new found freedom on social media she convinces herself she can escape from her misery by getting on a reality show. There’s an aging hipster who believes if he can just get a production job on a local film crew his life will change forever, and then there is the woman who works sorting donations in a thrift store who finds a discarded object which begins to consume her.
“Something that is very important to the movie is all of these various abandoned objects,” McCormick said. “Whether its the dogs at the Humane society or the objects at the donation center or the buildings that are boarded up and being demolished. I wanted to have this real life reflection where the audience had to deal with that.”
McCormick says each of the stories has roots in real life, but then he abstracted and played with them until the movie came together.He wanted to explore the melancholy mundane feelings people often experience. “Knowing that things are not going the way you want,” he said, “But knowing they could be a whole lot worse.”
“There’s a little stress that comes with that, and it’s part of growing up. And I think we are always growing up, whether you are 25 or 40 or 60, you are always going to be facing that reality of where you are at compared with that idealized image you had of yourself 20 years earlier, or whatever, and how you thought things would work out.”
Getting back to the idea of selling the film to an audience, McCormick says he didn’t make it with that in mind. He just made a movie he wanted to make.
“It relies on the audience doing some of the work as well,” he said. He says he doesn’t think his audience is necessarily filled with cinephiles. He’s looking for an audience like those he finds in Portland
“They are just smart curious people who want to go and find entertainment, whatever, art film music that speaks to them more directly and satisfied them both in terms of entertainment and also intellectually.”
He’s finding that audience all over. After screenings around the country (including at Sound Unseen Duluth showing last year) the film was due to be released nationally this month. However then it was selected for the New Director New Screens series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and so the broader release is being held for a couple of weeks until after the showings at MoMa and Lincoln Center.
He says that larger release will likely include the Twin Cities, although it all depends on how it goes in the first few cities.
McCormick has made many films in recent years, and a lot of music videos. He actually worked with two of his actors in their other lives as musicians, Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and James Mercer of the Shins and Broken Bells.
He says he enjoys making videos because they are face-paced to make, and you can push the creative envelope. Making a feature is very different he says because of dealing with the emotion action and reaction to actors working with their lines.
“And so as a result a narrative work is much more delicate but that’s not to say the video work didn’t have a big impact on it,” he said. “As film makers we are always learning. Any project that I do whether it’s a documentary or a more experimental piece, or music video, or even some of the commercial work I do, every project that I do I walk away learning something.”
Matt McCormick is always trying something new. He’s just opened a gallery show in Portland which is based on a the remarkable story of a group of women who in 1958 set off in a car to explore the Northwest. They drove 3,500 miles and then made the scrapbook to commemorate the trip.
“That scrapbook somehow ended up in a thrift store and I found it, and I retraced their trip and did their entire roadtrip in 2010 and made this project which is one part documentary film, and one part visual art collage, and made this immersive gallery installation show.”
He used the trip to document what has changed and what remains the same.
So what’s next. He laughed and said he needs to get some busy work done. Like his taxes. The life of a film director isn’t always glamorous.