Grand Rapids, Michigan – As a kid growing up in Grand Rapids, Matthew Dressel made movies on his grandfather’s old camcorder, letting his family watch his creations when they were finished.
Next week, Dressel’s first feature film is shown at the Austin Film Festival in Texas.
Dressel, 38, wrote the screenplay for “Daniel Guetta’s Day,” a dark comedy directed by Jeremy Lalonde.
While this is Dressel’s first film, it was also the last for one of the film’s stars – Bob Saget.
Saget, whom Dressel met and worked with during production of the film, died in early January of this year.
“I was actually advocating for him to be a part of the movie for a while,” Dressel said. “His comedy ‘Dirty Work’ was one of my favorite comedies of all time, so I wanted it to be a part of the project.”
Dressel has been working on the “Daniel’s Gotta Die” script since 2011, but some changes had to be made to both the cast and script due to COVID-19.
“The movie actually had a different cast before COVID hit and then the project was ruined,” Dressel said. “Then we found out we were making the movie in the Cayman Islands where there was very little COVID, so we had to start rewriting.”
Dressel said that during the rewriting process, Saget was a big advocate of the film.
“Bob was one of the first people to come forward,” he said. “This was all so surreal, to make a Zoom call with Bob Saget. It took 12 years to get here and then all of a sudden, it all happened so fast.”
The movie is about a man trying to reconnect with his siblings at his family’s beach house, but his plan is complicated when the siblings want to kill him for his inheritance. Stars in the film include Joel David Moore, Saget, Jason Jones, Iggy Pop, Carly Chickin, Mary Lynne Rajskop and Dax Ravenna.
Dressel should be on site for some of the filmmaking process, as he met with cast members and collaborated with the crew.
“It’s incredible,” he said of the experience. “Not every screenwriter gets the chance to see the production of their work, it’s an incredible feeling.”
As for meeting and working with Saget, Dressel said the famous comedian was kind and generous.
“On the first day on set, Bob introduced himself to all of the cast and crew members, he was really nice,” Dressel said. “He would do his best to get him signed to anyone. He definitely went out of his way to help others. He was the biggest fan of the movie from the moment he signed.”
At one point, Dressel asked Saget if he could send a personal video message to his sister. Saget made a two-minute video of him talking to Dressel’s sister, then made another because he decided the first video wasn’t good enough.
Although the film’s release is a huge first for Dressel, the fact that it became a swan song for Saget after his unexpected death can’t be beat.
“We didn’t know this was going to be the last of the Pop movies,” Dressel said. “This person was so special to America and the world, and we have to respect that and acknowledge that. Any other business could be yours, and it’s really important to know how much work he put into this personally.”
Dressel knows exactly how much work needs to be done to make the movie, having gone through that process himself now.
“This has been my goal all my life,” he said, “so getting here is a really great feeling.” “I’m so excited for people to see it.”
Dressel described the film as a quirky comedy out of a story of mistakes that will appeal to everyone.
Dressel, a Grand Rapids Public School graduate and Grand Valley State University graduate, hopes young filmmakers will see how his hard work and perseverance finally pays off.
“A lot of people told me no one wanted to see a black comedy and I had no shortage of people asking me to save the project,” he said. “But I kept going because I really believed in him. Work on the things you want to see there, and what you feel passionate about.”
Dressel said he is feeling every emotion, from anxiety to excitement, about the film’s premiere next week, as part of the world-famous Austin Film Festival. But what he’s really looking forward to is sitting down with his family and showing off his progress from those movies that were made on his grandfather’s camcorder when he was a kid.
“I’ll really feel like it’s full circle when I can show it to my parents and the people I love,” he said. “They’ve been very supportive throughout my career, and I’m going to sit there, feeling good about what I’ve made.”
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