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Award-winning filmmaker Maxwell uses storytelling as catalyst for change

By on September 3, 2019 in ACU News, Campus News with 0 Comments

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Matt Maxwell with his wife, Katie, and their two sons, Henry and Riggs.

Stories have the power to change the world, and ACU alumnus Matt Maxwell (’07) believes this so full-heartedly that he has devoted his life to telling them.

Matt’s film Finding Home in Boomtown will be featured at this year’s ACU Summit Film Festival. The documentary film, set in Midland, Texas, tells the story of a man and his family making a life-changing decision to trade in their luxurious lifestyle and home for simpler living with the goal of putting their wealth toward housing for the homeless. 

The film began as a project for his Master of Fine Arts degree at Vermont College of Fine Arts’ two-year film program in October of 2016, when he was asked to create a few short documentary projects near his residence.

“We had some friends who were deciding to disrupt their lives in that they were selling their big, beautiful house and moving into a trailer to devote their lives to the homeless of Midland, Texas,” Matt said. “I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s kind of an interesting story, maybe we can get a short little video out of this.’ ”

For the next two years, Matt began following the Midland family and their life transition. He remembers his professor at the time advising him to continue the project beyond a short video. Matt’s wife, Katie (Riggs ’10) Maxwell, worked closely with Matt and became producer of the film. Matt received Mountainfilm’s first Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship in 2018, which provided a year of support and mentorship during the creation of the film.

In September 2018, Matt finished filming, and by May 2019 the editing and post-production work was completed. A long three years in the making, Matt said the film took a “huge labor of love, ” adding that he could not have done it without the emotional and financial support of friends and family.

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Still from "Finding Home in Boomtown"
Still from 'Finding Home in Boomtown'

Matt has applied to several film festivals, already been accepted to a few and is waiting for responses from others. “It’s really an exciting time because we’ve done all this labor, and now we have the joy of sharing it with people,” he said.

The film was created to help viewers catch the vision and heart behind the project, but Matt hopes the film also entertains.

“There’s no sit-down interviews where I just ask them questions of why they’re doing this or that; you just see them live out their life and witness things unfold,” he said. “There’s new life in this film, there’s death in this film, there’s pain, sorrow, joy and happiness. …We feel the best stories are the ones that entertain, and we all know that stories change the world.”

The film already has won Best Domestic Feature Documentary at the 2019 Fort Worth Independent Film Showcase.

Matt began working with film during his college career at ACU. In 2004, he was given the opportunity to be a part of the creation and production of ACU’s first FilmFest, as co-chair. 

“Through starting that festival, film was always part of my life and the direction I wanted to go,” Matt said.

After graduating from ACU in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia with a concentration in visual media, he applied to Los Angeles Film Studies Center’s semester-long film program, with the encouragement from his wife, then fiancée. Though originally he was hesitant to take his talents to Los Angeles, the couple ended up living in California for another five years while pursuing filmmaking. Matt found work in reality television with ABC’s hit show Wipeout and later worked with The Kennedy/Marshall Company.

However, the Maxwells felt a desire to return to Texas, where both of their extended families are located. 

Today, Matt tells stories from Midland. He also works as the visual arts director for Golf Course Road Church of Christ, telling stories for the church through video, photography and design. On the side, he and his wife co-run a production company called Maxwell Filmworks, where they produce commercial-style films for companies and nonprofit organizations.

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