Matthew Dunehoo is a filmmaker living and working in Kansas City, Missouri. From May 7-28, Dunehoo wrote and directed his first feature film “Wretch.”
Dunehoo previously wrote and directed the short films “No Margettes” and “The Vetting” in 2015 and 2017 and collaborated on another short, “Drifters,” in 2017.
“Wretch” is a horror film, but it’s difficult to place into a genre. Dunehoo said he doesn’t know if the movie is horror or not.
“I think some people will call it a horror film and some people will not,” Dunehoo said. “I would be happy if the consensus was ‘psychological horror.’”
Dunehoo said he has been working on the idea for “Wretch” for around 2½ years. He said the other short films he made out of a “stream of consciousness,” but he took his time working on “Wretch.”
“I didn’t want to get too emotionally attached to a story that wasn’t going to hold up,” Dunehoo said.
“I’ve vetted the story with people several times before I even tried to write the script,” Dunehoo said. “I had little workshop sessions where I invited people up to the restaurant… (to) read my story outline.”
Dunehoo is a private dining manager and server at Grunauer, a restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri.
Dunehoo laughed about how much people had to read for his outlines, which he said was a lot.
“It was really generous,” Dunehoo said. “Then I shared my script as far and wide as possible when I finally started writing drafts.”
The final version of the script was made March 21.
Dunehoo funded the movie himself. He said he opened and maxed out eight credit cards and used his life savings.
“I went all-in on the film,” Dunehoo said. “It’s a gamble and I understand the implications, but at the same time I’m sure I don’t accurately understand the implications.”
Dunehoo said directing his feature film felt scary.
“For me, personally, I have a lot of emotional issues and it was hard to balance feelings,” Dunehoo said. “It was a real manic rollercoaster of high, good feelings and really low, self-deprecating, dooming feelings.”
“I’d like to think that if I had the chance to do it again it would be a little less (of) that,” Dunehoo said, “It probably be similar in a lot of ways,”
Dunehoo said he advises aspiring filmmakers to be organized.
“Be thorough and comprehensible in your planning,” Dunehoo said. “See what you can do with the resources that you do have. See what’s possible and then do it.”
Dunehoo said filmmakers should be willing to have their script read by strangers who are familiar with a screenplay writing.
“Just subject your script to strangers reading it,” Dunehoo said. “Then when they do read it, thank them for their time and effort because it does take a lot of effort to read a script and offer feedback. It’ll be positive if it comes to you at all,” Dunehoo said. “It doesn’t have to be glowing.”
Dunehoo said it can be difficult to separate the artistic vision from some of the practical realities.
“Because when you hold something as close and as tight and it’s as personal, meaningful and heavy as executing a story you’ve been working on for 2 1/2 years, it’s tricky to unwrap your own psychosis from what’s actually happening when the film is being made and all the parts are moving,” Dunehoo said.
“It’s tough, and after completing the shooting on this, I think I learned a little bit finally in the end about letting go on some things.”
This past weekend, Dunehoo hosted a screening of a rough cut of “Wretch” and wanted to hear feedback from the audience. Dunehoo said he hopes to fully complete the film by the end of October in time to be entered into film festivals but is willing to hold back if the film requires any drastic edits.
He said his dream is for “Wretch” to premiere in either South By Southwest Film Festival in March 2019, or as part of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program in September 2019.
“I will be entering the film as far and wide as I can afford to,” Dunehoo said. “I plan to work the film heavily on the festival circuit and attend its screenings wherever, whenever, however I can.”
Editor’s Note: Ryan Sheehan worked for Dunehoo on the film over the summer as an unpaid production assistant.