Alumnus interns as cinematographer for international film

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Matt Butler, a 2017 UCM graduate and former digital media production student interned with Actuality Media, a documentary production company, in Nicaragua during the summer to produce "El Libro Volador" or "The Magic Book." A documentary about a traveling bus that moves across the country distributing reading materials for children.

A 2017 graduate spent a month in Nicaragua interning on an international documentary titled “El Libro Volador.”

Matthew Butler, a former digital media production student, applied for an internship with Actuality Media to be part the documentary as the film’s cinematographer.

Matt Butler filming on the bus from El Libro Volador.

Cinematography in its simplest form is the craft or profession of making a film.

“Cinematography is the art of making a movie,” Butler said. “It is the main function behind the art of visualization and how the film connects to the viewers.”

“El Libro Volador” translated means “The Magic Book.” The film is a documentary about a traveling bus filled with books for children. The bus moved across the countryside providing those in need with reading material.

Butler stayed in Nicaragua filming from July 8 to August 11.

“We were working out of a hostel where I would go to and from when I went out to do photography work. This photography was our research prior to filming,” he said.

Butler was able to describe what the role of cinematographer meant in regards to this film.

“I was the director of photography,” Butler said. “That was my main role to the film. I would work with the director on how to create good visuals in the one month we were down in Nicaragua.”

Butler also worked as a scout during preproduction for the film and was responsible for finding the next location for filming.

“I always worked closely with the film’s director when it came to location scouting,” Butler said. “Every time that I went out to a new place, the director would come along. We would scout the locations together and bounce ideas off one another in the process.”

Throughout the month spent on location, Butler gained valuable experience and skills that will benefit him in his future career.

“I was able to learn that filmmaking is about researching your subjects thoroughly and in depth,” Butler said. “This was definitely something that I learned a lot about while on location with this film. I also learned that this industry is always quick-paced and that in the future I need to set up my shot lists way ahead of time.”

Actuality Media’s Meredith Dolan worked as the film’s production supervisor. She said Matt and the rest of his team developed a very detailed plan for the filming of El Libro.

“Matt created a list of shooting locations and specific shots that he wanted to capture to tell the story of El Libro,” she said. “I encouraged Matt to think critically about his shots, to think about what they would contribute to the overall story of the film, and if they were truly necessary. He was happy to have feedback and was always working to continue to refine and develop his skills as a filmmaker.”

Butler said working on a film for over a month in a completely new environment gave him a whole new perspective on his future in cinematography.

“I gained a sense of my own cinematography style and the process behind filmmaking,” Butler said.

Butler said he took an interesting path starting off in college transferring to UCM from Missouri State in order to find himself where he is today.

“I originally wanted to be an English major and make my way into film in that manner. I particularly enjoyed how film affects people,” he said.

Matt Butler and crew interviewing Ariel Rugama outside of the Bibliobus in Estelí, Nicaragua.

UCM DMP professor Mark von Schlemmer was Butler’s instructor for an editing and broadcasting class.

“I had him in my editing class and then in the documentary class as well, which was an area he was especially interested in,” von Schlemmer said.

Von Schlemmer advised Butler in earning the opportunity to intern with the company.

“I was assigned a news package in one of my intro courses within the department,” Butler said. “I produced this story over my friend and everything took off from there. The courses at UCM gave me the basic skills to learn the most I could from my internship experience.”

Dolan said Butler was a pleasure to work with because of his enthusiasm and positive attitude.

“He genuinely cared about collaborating to create something great,” Dolan said. “I think overall, Matt learned about making films in challenging locations, working with a wide range of teammates and subjects, and strengthening his own understanding of the documentary filmmaking process.”

Now with his work on the film “El Libro Volador” in his back pocket, Butler said he is ready to pursue his next project.

“I am working now to start my own media production business,” Butler said. “I am very much enjoying what I am working on now and I am continuing to become the best storyteller that I can be.”

“El Libro Volador” released in September 2017 and can be viewed on Actuality Media’s YouTube or Vimeo pages under the film’s title.

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