From Protest to Screening Room
By Jordan Mattos
Jordan Mattos is a native New Yorker with a love of international cinema. He studied filmmaking and art history at New York University, where he directed experimental short films. When 9/11 happened, he felt the vulnerability of being an artist and sought out some of his favorite producers for guidance. After working for people like Joana Vicente, Christine Vachon and Robin O’Hara, he wanted to understand the business of how films reached an audience, pursuing work in distribution and doing acquisitions during the height of the SVOD era. In 2016, he co-founded a couple of platforms, including Kinoscope and Cinemarket, and now runs a sales label, Aspect Ratio, where he works with some of his favorite contemporary filmmakers.
My work involves finding films to distribute. Functionally, I do the same work a sales agent does. I work with filmmakers and help them tailor a distribution strategy that makes sense for their film, then I go out and sell their films to distributors and pitch to festival programmers. I focus on non-English language films for the US market, so I work within a specialized niche.
The COVID-19 quarantine and the movements across the world during this period have definitely re- shaped my definition of work. The current crises (which one?) opened my eyes to how versatile we can be. Even in the face of staggering challenges, we’re able to find a way to connect, radicalize colleagues, do business and find avenues around the patriarchy. Upheavals in the US surrounding Black Lives Matter have had a profound impact on the projects I choose to support and the way I evaluate cinema in particular and work in general. In the face of the events of the past few months, one must ask – to what end do we do what we do? And, if the narratives we push don’t support change for the better, what’s the point?
On a personal level, the crisis has helped me see that I can mobilize people from screening room to protest from anywhere that has Wi-Fi access. I’ve also seen that rigorous dialogue and organization does not require us to be in the same room. That’s potentially liberating; as much as I want to be romantic about how I miss attending festivals, I’m excited by the prospect of radicals organizing online, filmmakers finding new ways to create, distributors circumventing traditional routes to audiences and communally re-defining what work means to us during this new and unprecedented time.
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