Matthew Luppino is a prolific artist and versatile filmmaker, he has garnered acclaim for his emotionally charged dramas and poignant romances. With a rich tapestry of cinematic achievements, including award-winning short films such as “Fragments,” “H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends.),” “Love Drunk,” and “The Blink Of An Eye,” Matthew Luppino has left an indelible mark on the industry. As the President of Luppo Studios Productions Inc., he has deftly explored the delicate nuances of human emotions through the lens. Graduating from Toronto Film School with High Honors and Distinction in 2015, he has consistently pushed the boundaries of storytelling, demonstrating his prowess as a writer, director, producer, editor, and cinematographer. Luppino’s recent triumph at the World Class Film Awards in Mexico City, where “Fragments” clinched the Best Cinematography award, is a testament to his dedication and vision. Today, we have the privilege of delving into the mind of this cinematic virtuoso, as we explore his artistic journey, the making of “Fragments,” and his future aspirations.
- Your film “Fragments” is a deeply personal project. Can you share what inspired you to turn such a personal story into a film, and what challenges did you face during this process?
“Fragments” is my true story of growth and healing. It deals with heartbreak, loss, mental health, self-therapy, self-reflection, self-discovery and self-love. “Fragments” is a celebration of all my previous work over the course of my career. “Fragments” is a monumental treasure. A true adventure. This film is my best work. A near 37-minute masterfully crafted not so short film that will take you on the most divine adventure of grief.
“Fragments” has led me to discover so much personal growth and tremendous growth within my craft. This film has been the vehicle on my own adventure of grief. It is a deeply rooted and personal story about my own personal growth in my life. I originally wrote and created this film for the cathartic release and self-therapy. But once the film was completed, it was too good not to share with the world.
While in lockdown during the pandemic, I was forced to look inwards and self-reflect on all the moments I never got closure in my life. I found that these moments or fragments of my life weighed heavily on my conscience and influenced a lot of my art. I spent a lot of time exploring these feelings of pain and uncovered many layers of growing pains that I didn’t even know existed.
The initial writing process of “Fragments” was very painful. Laura and I had many conversations about the story and how I felt. As I was opening a Pandora’s box of emotions from my past, I was open and honest with her 100% of the way. It was important to me to have her support and her blessing to create something so personal and raw.
I wanted the aesthetic of “True Colours.” The cinematography and emotion of “Love Drunk.” The vibe of “Stardust.” And the rawness of H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends.).
I wanted this film to be both painful and beautiful. And I wanted others to share the adventure of the grieving process. There is beauty in the struggle and “Fragments” is the definition of beautiful pain.
“Fragments” ripped me apart from the inside out, brought me to the brink of insanity and then back again. It brought me headaches, heartaches, stress and a whole lot of sleepless nights over the last 3 years. But it also brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined too. “Fragments” has been the most ambitious and most painful project I’ve ever done. But it has also been the most beautiful.
I’ve learned so much and I’ve gone through more than I’d like to admit. It’s been an unorthodox, grow-through-it kind of process, but I’m grateful for every obstacle, every painful setback and every moment that made me question my entire being from the time of inception to execution. This film is my baby. I’ve been nurturing this one for a long time and now it’s time for it to fly away. I just hope I can watch it soar into the sunset, knowing that I did my best.
From inception, “Fragments” has been the absolute hardest, most challenging and most enduring process. The entire production of “Fragments” has been the true definition of Murphy’s Law. “Everything that can happen, will happen.” Good and bad. Everything fell apart during this production. Every step of the process was a constant battle of failing and trying again.
In the search for perfection, there were many ups and downs. It took 3 years, multiple Covid lockdowns, 16 screenplay rewrites, 1 full year of reshoots, and 2 years of post-production with 6 months of color grading with color shift issues when using AI to upscale and create pixels that don’t exist.
Everything that could go wrong, went wrong on this project. Failure after failure, it became an obsession to get the “perfect” shot, the “perfect” take, and the “perfect” look for the film.
Mother Nature plays a big role in the storytelling of “Fragments.” Sunsets and golden hour were also a challenge. Studying the weather and sun location to get the sun in the exact position in the sky that I needed it to be in to shoot was pinnacle in getting the right look without artificially lighting scenes. Especially all the scenes in the attic. That was the most challenging sequence as there are multiple scenes shot across the attic. I shot all the attic scenes completely by myself and the most difficult challenge was to make sure the sun was bright enough and was in the right spot at the right time to film each shot correctly. It also gets extremely hot in the attic, as it is not insulated, so during the summer months, it becomes like a sauna. Filming in the attic is impossible in the middle of the day so I had to make sure I captured every shot within a 2-hour period before the sunlight changed. The margin for error is so small to get it right. This was extremely challenging and I ended up reshooting these scenes many times, over the course of a full month.
I also struggled with the storyline and pacing during the post-production process. I rearranged scenes so many times, studying the film and trying my best to intertwine all my other award-winning films and other works of art. I spent a lot of time reworking the script and making sure all of my previous work leads to “Fragments.” There are thousands of versions of “Fragments.” I spent so much time at the editing table piecing the puzzle together, cutting and moving scenes around to get all the pieces to align perfectly.
Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. But everything that could go right, also went very right. There are many divine things that happened while creating “Fragments.” So many happy accidents and little miracles that enhanced the film all together. There were so many magical spontaneous moments captured that were like little glimpses of heaven. Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
- Congratulations on winning the Best Cinematography award at the World Class Film Awards for “Fragments.” In your creative process, do you draw inspiration from any specific filmmakers, artists, or works of literature that have had a profound impact on your storytelling style?
Thank you so much!! I was so humbled to receive the Best Cinematography award at the World Class Film Awards for “Fragments.” That was such an extraordinary night! I am so honored to be a part of such a prestigious event and to have met so many amazingly talented artists! The World Class Film Awards was a once in a life-time experience. Laura and I are so grateful to have had the wonderful opportunity to be included in such a beautiful and breathtaking Award Ceremony!
“Fragments” in particular was inspired by “Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame” as all of my other 12 award-winning short films all lead into “Fragments. I loved the fact that all 23 of Marvel’s films intertwine and lead into one final masterpiece. 10 years of storytelling over 23 films. That to me, is inspiring. When I realized all the little Easter eggs hidden within “Avengers: Endgame” that connected all the films together, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. That concept was mesmerizing to me and ultimately inspired the concept for “Fragments.”
Other artists that inspire me are Sylvester Stallone, (The entire Rocky series), Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Nicholas Sparks, NF, Eminem, and Dr. Dre.
All of these artists inspire me in my creations. I am influenced and motivated by how they all work in their own ways. To me, all of these artists are geniuses and I gravitate to their styles and how they create art. Over the years, I can relate to and have become more drawn to NF as an artist. In my opinion, NF is a creative genius who also wears a lot of hats. I love that NF stays in his own lane and knows that what he is creating is amazing. He doesn’t try to conform to what the world wants, he just creates his art from a very pure and heartfelt place. I love the way he writes and his storytelling is on another level.
Any artist inspires me. I am an artist, and also an empath, so naturally I feed off of that creative energy from others. Art inspires me, no matter what medium it is. I love the creative passion of others and I love watching someone vibe and create in their element. That always inspires me and motivates me to push the boundaries on my own creative limits.
I am often inspired by poetry and poetic sayings that I come across on Instagram as well. I love to read poetry and interpret rap lyrics. I find a lot of inspiration in words and the craft of using specific words to tell your story.
- Your body of work has primarily explored Drama and Romance genres. Are there any other genres you are eager to explore in the future, and what attracts you to these genres?
I am eager to explore the Thriller and Comedy genres. I love thrillers, that’s probably my favorite genre of films to watch. Suspense Thrillers, or Psychological Thrillers are the most fascinating to me. I love a film that keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. I love thought-provoking films that are exciting and thrilling. Comedy films are great too because who doesn’t like to laugh and have a good time? The majority of my work is sad and depressing, so I want to explore the opposite. Comedy films look like a blast to make and in my everyday life, I think of myself as a pretty funny, happy go-lucky guy. So, I have always wondered what it would be like to make a comedy film. I hope to explore these genres in the future.
- You wear multiple hats in the filmmaking process, from writing and directing to producing and editing. How do you balance these roles, and do you find one aspect more creatively fulfilling than the others?
I used to love writing more than anything. That feeling when you know you’ve written something amazing is undeniable. I used to only want to write and direct my own stories. But over the years, I have fallen in love with the entire process of filmmaking. I wear many hats daily and at times, it can get overwhelming and stressful. Balancing these roles is always a challenge. As a workaholic, I often get lost in the moment when creating. I find the hardest part is juggling all the hats I wear on a daily basis while working on set. Sometimes, it can be difficult to do the lighting, audio, camera, act, direct, set design, continuity and still get the shot right. It can be exhausting at times, but I just try to remain focused on telling a great story and let my instincts guide me on what feels right. I love to create and that’s where my passion lies. Sometimes it feels impossible. But I remind myself the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.
Over the last few years, I have come to discover that I prioritize and love cinematography over everything else. I have always loved being behind the camera and seeing the world from the eye of a lens. But lately, I have become obsessed with making each shot cinematic and perfect, falling more in love with the art of independent cinema. When I am behind a camera, I become so immersed in the shot, time seems to stop. Nothing else seems to matter to me. Anything for the shot, they say.
Nowadays, seeing the world through the lens is my little piece of heaven. Cinematography brings me the most satisfaction and if you ask my wife, when I get the shot, you can see it on my face.
- Could you share some insights into your creative collaboration with your wife, Laura Luppino, on your projects? How does this partnership enrich your creative process?
Working with my wife, Laura, has been the most beautiful and inspiring process of my career. Having someone by my side that is so supportive and understanding is truly a blessing. Laura helps me with every step of the filmmaking process now. We spend a lot of time talking about ideas, discussing projects, and communicating about our feelings. She is a breath of fresh air and the light of my life. She has enriched my creativity and my passion for my craft tenfold.
It’s been a long journey with “Fragments” but I’m grateful to have her by my side and have her support always. It makes this adventure so much more meaningful and to me, that is my success. To be able to share my dreams, doing what I love with the one I love is truly the dream come true. It’s a blessing to be able to share these moments of success with her and to cherish these memories we’ve made along the way.
- “Fragments” is just one of your many successful short films. Can you walk us through your creative evolution as a filmmaker and what is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker, in your opinion, and how do you overcome it?
A lot of my work is about heartbreak. The majority of all my creations stem from a very vulnerable and dark place. All my work is personal to me but there are certain stories that I write as a cathartic release. Creating is my passion and it is also my therapy. It’s my safe place where I can pour my heart, soul and all my emotions into something positive and beautiful. The majority of my work has been dark and depressing. For many years, there were so many growing pains I was working through and my work reflects that journey of grief. “Fragments” is the product of healing and growth on this journey.
The most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker is learning when to let go.
As an artist, when the inspiration strikes and I’m feeling it, you cannot stop me. Time doesn’t seem to exist. I become so indulged in what I am creating, I tend to operate at a very instinctive level. I have had a lot of sleepless nights, skipped meals and overworked myself many times during my creative phases. I have a very overactive brain that continues to work even while I sleep. Learning how to balance work and home life is a necessity as an artist. Sometimes creative genius demands its own hours and a lot of time spent in a headspace that shuts out the rest of the world. It’s a balancing act of going through creative rollercoasters of manic passionate extremes and also creative ruts. It’s a lot of time spent hyper focused on my emotions and getting lost inside the fantasy land of my mind. I call it passionate transcendence and it’s a beautiful creative moment to be in.
The art of chasing perfection is something I struggle with every day as I strive for greatness. There comes a time when you have to let go of the vision in your head and accept the reality in front of you. Nothing is ever good enough to a perfectionist.
Coming to terms with this can be a harsh reality to face. But in every project, there comes a point when you need to let go. This is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker.
To walk away from what could have been and be happy with what you still created and to learn how to grow from it.
- Apart from filmmaking, you also create music videos, write songs, and practice photography. How do these different forms of artistic expression complement and influence your work in cinema?
This is a great question!
I love shooting music videos. This is where my creativity flourishes and I can push creative boundaries without any limitations. When making a music video, there are no rules. As long as the artist is synchronized to the music and the shots “look cool,” the video will work every time. But when you start to get creative and bring the song to life with a cinematic storyline, well now you are creating a mini short film as well as a music video.
Music videos allow me the freedom to test new tricks with shooting styles and camera tricks, new lighting setups, visual effects, editing tricks, color grading and even using different frame rates to tell a better story.
I try my best to learn something new every day. I then practice these new learned tricks while creating music videos to constantly expand my knowledge and experience.
This has helped immensely in the production of a film. There are no wrong answers when creating. Art is subjective. But to be able to adapt and create new and exciting things even out of your comfort zone is definitely a bonus. Music videos allow me to freely create without worrying about audio, dialogue or any of the traditional “rules” of film. It allows me to tap into my creative genius and run with it without any restrictions.
Making music on the other hand, is definitely more of a cathartic hobby. Writing has always been my best coping mechanism. Over the years, journaling and writing down how I feel has been my therapy as I’ve struggled with my mental health. I realized early on, writing rhymes and poetry seemed to drastically help get the turmoil and pain I was feeling off of my chest. I started with a collection of poems in 2013. I had just started film school and I was going through a lot at that time in my life. I started with slam poetry and then quickly progressed to actual songs. In 2014, I had written over 100,000 rhymes. It was all written on one large word document on the hard drive and I thought it would be cool to make an album out of it, rapping these poetic songs that I had written. I had no experience whatsoever making music, recording, rapping, mixing or mastering. But I took it as the greatest experiment and made the album anyways titled: “The Underdog EP.”
I recorded the album one line at a time and stitched it all together, much like how Dr. Dre taught Easy E of N.W.A how to rap for their debut song “Boyz N The Hood.”
“The Underdog EP” was very experimental and raw. Please, don’t listen to it. It’s horrible. But we all start somewhere.
A few years later, I put out my second album: “Crossroads.” This album was a bit better but still experimental. I started freestyling a lot more in my spare time to learn different flow patterns and to understand the timing in a beat. I had no idea about any of this. I am completely self-taught with trial and error. This album had better flow and writing but still felt unpolished. The mixing and mastering needed work and my delivery was very raw. But this album was progress because I learned how to record a full song in one take because of all the hours I practiced the art of freestyle.
My third album: “Timeless” came out 3 years later in 2017. This album was always designed to be my final album. The concept was simple: I wanted 20 tracks that could all be good enough to be singles. I wanted my writing to be top notch, the delivery to be better and the mixing and mastering to be more polished. This album still impresses me to this day. There was something special and organic about this project. I went through a lot of growing pains during the process of making this album and it is felt within the project. I thought I was done with rap. I wanted to shift my time, energy and focus back to film.
But my healing process had other plans.
So, I created my 4th album titled: “Closure” that came out in 2019. This album had a darker tone to it as I searched for closure within my writing. I was battling many demons from all aspects of my life. So, I did what I do best, I fought it out on the page. I am very proud of “Closure.” There are many great songs on this project. I spent 2 years learning how to polish my tracks and master the audio better. I wanted my delivery to be more professional and my songs to sound like they would on the radio. I spent a solid year of insanity hearing the same song over and over again testing different mastering variations. It was a painful trial and error extravaganza that ultimately led to success. The writing, the vocals, the delivery, the mix and the mastering are all superior on this album.
I am most proud of my growth and evolution with music and rap. I never thought I would ever consider myself a rapper. But so many fans and people love my music so much that the thought of being a rapper has grown on me.
Making rap music has taught me so much. I used to read the dictionary to expand on my vocabulary which has allowed me to write better overall. I am able to write more concisely and tell better stories.
It has also helped with annunciation, speech impediment and learning to speak clearly and confidently. When learning how to master the art of rapping, there is so much breath control and annunciation that you don’t realize. I am more well-spoken, confident and personable because of rap. It has helped me record better voice-overs for my films and get more comfortable with my voice and be in my own skin.
But the biggest thing that rapping has helped with is stress relief. There is nothing like putting some headphones on and getting lost in the music. It is such a cathartic release. Making music and rapping has helped immensely in managing my stress and keeping my mental health in check.
Photography on the other hand, is a guilty pleasure. I love capturing moments and practicing the art of photography because it allows me to become one with the camera.
Taking photographs helps me become more centered in the artist I want to become. It allows me to explore creative concepts and master my camera inside and out.
There is something beautiful about looking at life through the lens of a camera. In my spare time, I like to take little retreats with my camera and just capture the moment around me. Photography has helped with my creativity and knowledge behind the camera. I love to challenge myself by taking creative concepts in photography and creating those concepts into a moving image in the art of cinema.
This has helped me broaden my horizons as a director of photography and a cinematographer by mastering the art of composition, lighting, and visual imagery which has allowed me to tell better stories.
- In today’s rapidly evolving film industry, what trends or changes do you find most exciting or challenging for filmmakers?
I think the biggest trend is also the biggest change and worry of just about every filmmaker or creator: the new age of AI.
Although for me, I find this time to be very intriguing and exciting. The technology has grown so rapidly, there’s no stopping it. We must learn how to evolve with this technology and better our crafts.
This is a very scary and uncertain time for filmmakers and artists alike, as our entire industry is changing before our eyes. Content creation and AI generated art has taken the world by storm while our industry is at a standstill.
But it doesn’t have to be the end of art and human creation.
My philosophy is simple. AI is like the drill to the construction industry. It has totally revolutionized how we think and create all together. But you can still build a house with a hammer and nails. The question is, why would you when you can use a drill? It still will never replace a hammer on the jobsite. We just need to learn how to adapt and use this technology to our advantage.
We can create literally anything we imagine. I think that opens the doors to unlimited possibilities for future creations.
All we have to do is learn how to use this new technology to our advantage and grow with it.
AI can create just as good as us filmmakers and artists. But it’s missing the heart and soul of what makes us artists. It’s missing the human connection. The human experience of emotions. It’s missing that direct connection that makes us feel something. From one soul to another soul, connected by our storytelling and life experiences. I strongly believe that even though a machine can learn from us and replicate our work, maybe even better, it will always be missing the secret sauce – the heart. Machines can’t feel anything. Artists can. It’s that simple.
So, while the dawn of AI is upon us, I feel that this is a new era to create even better and more thought-provoking stories that were impossible to create in the past. All it comes down to is the creativity and innovation to envision something that doesn’t exist. And I believe us artists all have that little gift flowing in our veins and beating in our hearts.
- With over 50 awards to your name, you’ve certainly made a significant mark in the film industry. What advice would you give to aspiring independent filmmakers who are striving for recognition and success in their careers?
My advice to any artist or aspiring independent filmmaker is don’t be afraid of failures and hard work. Find your voice as an artist and stay in your lane. Don’t chase the money or recognition. Fall in love with the craft and only focus on bettering yourself. Success and money will follow. Create from a passionate and carefree place in your heart. Put all of your focus, heart and soul into your art. Build your legacy and make something that your older self will be proud of when telling your kids someday. Create something so undeniably good that people who hate it still can’t help but respect it. Whatever you create, go 1000% all in. Do it right. There are no shortcuts on the road to success. Work hard, stay consistent and remain patient even when it feels like you are at a standstill. There will be many times when life tests you.
Don’t rush the process. Let creativity breathe and flow. Good things take time. Don’t forget who you are and don’t lose your love and passion for the craft.
I know it’s a cliché, but don’t give up. There are so many obstacles and roadblocks that you will hit that are designed to teach you something. Learn to find the meaning in every setback and to appreciate all the little miracles around you. Never lose your passion and why you create in the first place. Most importantly, follow your heart and have the guts to chase after your dream with all of your tenacity, because nothing is impossible.
- Looking ahead, what can your audience expect from Matthew Luppino and Luppo Studios Productions Inc.? Are there any upcoming projects or aspirations you’d like to share with us?
Life after “Fragments” is going to be fresh and exciting. This is a new beginning for me as I turn the page into a new chapter. I look forward to creating more art and telling more stories that are less about my life and more about the story itself. I want to explore new genres and build a legacy that I can leave behind.
My next film titled: “That’s Life” will be a breath of fresh air. It will be a comedic drama and will be nothing like my previous work. I cannot wait to make this film. I am very excited for this new era of my life with unlimited possibilities and untapped potential.
Connect with Matthew Luppino