With his debut novel published last October and development underway for his animated pilot, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screenwriting instructor Matt Harry is making waves in the industry. A multi-hyphenate, Matt’s not only a writer—he’s an editor, director, and producer. Matt took some time to chat about his career, teaching, and the time he made a fool of himself in front of Tom Hanks.
NYFA: Where are you from originally?
MH: I was born in West Virginia, but my parents moved around a lot. We ended up in Cleveland when I was in sixth grade.
NYFA: Growing up, what did you want to be?
MH: I wrote a novel in seventh grade, so I wanted to be an author from a young age. Later I became interested in theatre, then filmmaking, but eventually I went back to writing.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): What’s your professional background?
Matt Harry (MH): After I graduated, I spent 12 years working as an editor on shows like The Bachelor while continuing to write. I’ve written screenplays for various production companies and my feature film Fugue, which I wrote and produced, was named Best Horror Film at the Mississippi International Film Festival. My short Super Kids, which I wrote and co-directed, has over 3.7 million views on YouTube and is being developed into a feature by Temple Hill and Fox 2000.
NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?
MH: A chance encounter with my former USC classmate Eric Conner at a coffee shop led to me to NYFA.
NYFA: What are you working on right now?
MH: My novel Sorcery for Beginners was released last October, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’m also developing a TV adaptation of Sorcery as well as an animated pilot I wrote called Monster Cops. I also have a couple new book projects I’m finishing!
NYFA: What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far?
MH: My short film Super Kids was the first project I worked on where the finished product looked almost exactly like what I imagined it could be.
NYFA: What is your favorite course to teach?
MH: The thesis screenwriting workshops.
NYFA: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current students?
MH: Keep working. I’ve met very few artistic geniuses, but my own career is a testament to the fact that if you keep pushing, working and revising, you’ll improve.
NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of teaching?
MH: Frequently I’ll be discussing a student’s project, and I’ll have a realization about not only their work, but mine as well. Thanks to the students, I’m constantly learning and improving.
NYFA: What is most challenging about teaching for you?
MH: Finding enough time. I could talk about story development all day, but with less than three hours per class, we have to set timers to get to everyone!
NYFA: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?
MH: “Stick with it. Even if you don’t make it, eventually everyone you know will make it, and you make it by proxy.” I have absolutely found this to be true.
NYFA: Who has influenced you the most in life?
MH: My wife Juliane. Her work ethic, morality, and positive attitude inspire me to be a better person.
NYFA: What creators have influenced you the most?
MH: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, David Lynch, Edgar Wright, Colin Meloy, Madeline L’Engle, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Pullman, and Wes Anderson.
NYFA: What do you do to take a break from work and teaching?
MH: Video games, going to restaurants, and hanging out with my family.
NYFA: What is an interesting fact about yourself your students and fellow faculty might not know about you?
MH: I interviewed Tom Hanks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when I was 15 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was incredibly gracious. I remember shouting out some inane question about Madonna, but he treated me like every other adult journalist there.