Matthew Lawrence Receives Home Grown Feature Award

Specialty communication professor Matthew Lawrence was awarded the Home Grown Feature award at the Garden State Film Festival for his film “Two Pints Lighter” on March 23.

Lawrence, who teaches video production courses at the University, said he wanted to try directing and producing a feature for quite some time.

“Up to this point, I had produced several shorts, so this seemed like the next logical step,” said Lawrence. “By sheer coincidence, around this time, I read a short screenplay that a friend of mine had written and really enjoyed the premise. I then developed that idea into what is now ‘Two Pints Lighter’ with the help of my best friend, Ryan Conrath, who also plays the lead in the film.”

The Garden State Film Festival is hosted annually in Atlantic City to promote and celebrate the independent film genre.

The festival’s mission was “founded to promote the art of filmmaking on all levels by showcasing a wide variety of film, video and animated works as well as provide educational programs in the creative arts to the public by industry leaders,” according to their website.

Dr. Chad Dell, Chair of the Department of Communication, said, “Professor Lawrence is a very talented filmmaker, and this award is recognition of his considerable skill and creativity.”

Kim Shephard, a senior communication major who attended the viewing of the film, said, “I’m so happy for him winning this award; he deserves it. He is a great professor who exercises his passion in and out of the classroom.”

Lawrence said even with all of his production experience, he did not anticipate how much of an undertaking the film would be. “The film took me about three years (of working on it consistently, mind you) from the initial idea to the first screening we had in Asbury Park last March,” said Lawrence.

According to the festival’s philosophy page, the film festival was created to “pay tribute to New Jersey’s legacy as the birthplace of the American filmmaking industry in Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park.” The Home Grown Award category is given to recognize films that are shot in New Jersey.

Filmed on location in Asbury Park, “Two Pints Lighter,” is described as a human story about a human monster. On the decision for the location, Lawrence said he grew up in Ocean and Monmouth County, therefore when he writes he often already knows where he plans on filming the scenes. “Some of these decisions are based on practical purposes (i.e. where I can get permission to shoot) while, at other times, some spaces are so aesthetically pleasing (or have been such an important part of my life) I want to preserve them on film,” said Lawrence.

The film was produced by Dynamatt Productions and written and directed by Lawrence, starring Ryan Conrath and Hannah Rebecca Telle. Fitting into a horror-comedy genre, the feature film is centered on a vampire named Wade who gets himself into trouble after a “night of promiscuous feeding,” according to the film’s description. He moves to a small coastal town in order to change his ways and “end his nomadic lifestyle.”

Shephard said, “The movie was unique and moving. The experience was great seeing Professor Lawrence showing off his personal work and it gave me a lot more respect for him in the classroom.”

Dell said, “His film has been garnering great attention at film festivals this season, which speaks volumes for his talent. I’m delighted that Professor Lawrence is getting the appreciation he deserves.”

When asked about providing advice for student filmmakers, Lawrence said, “Go out and make movies. The more you write (or shoot, or edit, etc.), the more you learn and the better your stuff gets.”

Lawrence also added that it is important to be kind to your cast and crew, and always remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

“You have to be your harshest critic, have high expectations of yourself and your work. Don’t be afraid of failure, and don’t give up in those moments when you feel you have failed,” said Lawrence.