Matthew Mayers is a Weehawken filmmaker who has created a fun and spooky Halloween tradition with his family. Mayers and his brother Ryan, who make up Mayers Films, create a horror film each year featuring his children Norah and Hannah.
Mayers told The Hudson Reporter that he has always wanted to be a filmmaker. He and his brother were inspired by behind-the-scenes documentaries of major films like “Star Wars.”
“It was just the love of watching them,” Mayers said. “’Stars Wars’ was a big thing for me. When those making ‘Stars Wars’ documentaries came out, that blew me and my brothers mind that they can actually do this. All it takes to make a film is a bunch of people with creativity, some cool ideas, and the technical know-how. From there, we just started doing it.”
Mayers and his brother had been shooting films ever since. It was only natural his daughters became involved after they were born. Norah is now 13 and Hannah is now 7 and continue to play pivotal roles in Mayers’ films.
“I’ve been making films my whole life,” Mayers said. “My brother and I both are sort of a film making team. We both went into the business, we both went to school for this. So certainly enough, when we had kids, we wanted to bring them into that world. So as my daughters got older, my oldest daughter especially, they started to get into horror films and also really into what I do as a filmmaker and how the process goes.”
The Halloween fun began in 2017. The idea was born out of his older daughter’s love for horror films and an interest in being involved in the film making process. Ever since, it has been tradition.
“I think she was about nine when we filmed the first one,” Mayers said. “We just started little and it was for fun to see what we can do. She loved it and we loved it and our friends loved it. So we started sharing it and people started sharing it too. The next year, we made it a little bit bigger. Then we just made it a tradition where every year we’re going to make a Halloween film that’s sort of a spoof on a film that we love.”
While the movies are horror themed for Halloween, Mayers said they soften things to make it more appropriate for younger audiences. It’s a fun time for all involved, which sometimes includes Norah and Hannah’s friends.
“Generally the horror films were a little too scary for her when she was that age, and lot of her friends, and the audience were making of course,” Mayers said. “So we make them a little gentler. We make them for the young audience. So it’s sort of the themes and the spookiness that we try to incorporate into the shot, the soundtrack, trying to get that theme and that feel without actually any of the gore or any of the super crazy scares.”
Spoofing spooky films for Halloween
The films tend to be akin to spoofs of their favorite horror films. He’s had Norah and Hannah chased my zombies, on the run from Freddy Kruger & Michael Myers, taunted by a creepy clown and this year visited by aliens. Yesterday he released the 2022 short “Closer Encounters”
“It’s been fun and this year we did aliens,” Mayers said. “I incorporate my daughters into the writing of it, so they help me come up with ideas, they get their friends involved and they come up with ideas. It becomes a team effort. So it’s a lot of fun.”
Mayers gave a short plot summary of the film: “Norah goes up to her friend’s house at the lake for a weekend getaway in an effort to try to escape the madness that always happens every Halloween. Instead, they get some visitors from above.”
While the Halloween movie tradition has been going on for six years strong, Norah and Hannah had starred in films by Mayers in the past. He tries to involve them in the process as much as possible when he makes films.
“I’m always doing stuff like that with them,” Mayers said. “Aside from the Halloween stuff, they’ve been in other films that I’ve done. My brother and I have done narrative shorts. We do documentary films which they are not necessarily in, but they’re always a part of and involved with. They come with us on filming days, and so they’re just really involved with what we do as filmmakers. My daughter, my oldest daughter is into acting and is in the school plays and stuff like that. It’s just something we love to do. We love to share with people, because to us, that’s what performing arts is all about, film making and writing.”
It’s important to Mayers that he share the aspects of film making with his daughters. He said he aims to have one moment in film to serve as a lesson.
“In every film, we try to make one moment in there where it’s a ‘How do you do that?’ moment,” Mayers said. “That’s how I got into film making in the first place, watching the behind-the-scenes and the-making-of documentaries, seeing how they did it. It’s amazing all the work that goes on behind the scenes that you don’t actually see. So we always try to make one moment per movie that everyone’s like ‘How did you do that?,’ whether it’s the clown in the sewer or what have you. It kind of sparks a conversation and lets the kids know and learn the process while I’m doing it. So I’ll pick something, whether it’s camera tracking or different kinds of masking techniques and I’ll learn through the process as well. Then my daughters sort of sees me perfecting that for the film, and we all learn and have fun.”
Mayers also utilizes the Halloween films as practice. He hopes to not only teach his daughters, but learn something himself with every production.
“We just dove right in and we always feel like the only to get better as a filmmaker is to make films,” Mayers said. :”So I look at these Halloween things every year as a sort of practice, using a technique that I haven’t tried yet, filming at night or something. It’s all learning.”
According to Mayers, he plans to continue the tradition in 2023. Past Halloween short films include: 2017’s “Norah of the Living Dead”; 2018’s “A Nightmare On Norah’s Street”; 2019’s “THAT”; 2020’s “Hannahween“; and 2021’s “HannahNorah Activity.”
“As long as we keep coming up with ideas,” Mayers said. “I feel like it was a good effort and I’m hoping that more people will catch on to this year’s. No matter what, we’ll keep on doing it.”
“Walk with Frank”
In addition to the release of “Closer Encounters,” Mayers and his brother Ryan will soon have their first feature film debut on PBS.
“My first directorial feature film is debuting on PBS,” Mayers said. “It’s a big deal for my and my brother who have been making these kind of fun movies for our whole life. We’ve been doing a lot of documentary shorts and narrative shorts, but this is our first feature film. It’s about veterans and PTSD, so it’s more on the serious side. But it’s really going to help people. We’re just really proud that our first feature is going to be on national television.”
The film is about Frank Romeo, a veteran who’s been educating people about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for over 30 years. He even started a whole educational curriculum which he walked across New York to promote, which the film focuses on.
“He walked across New York state to create this curriculum, and in the process, slept with homeless veterans and lived in shelters to document what’s happening on the ground,” Mayers said. “So that was the catalyst for this film. So we work with walkwithfrank.org on all things creative and helped him with everything moving forward.”
The film will began showing on PBS this weekend and run through Veterans Day. The period it will air on television will run from October 29 to November 7.
“It runs all through November,” Mayers said. “Then, over the next three years, it should pop up and on and off sporadically depending on how much we decide push it. It will technically be available on PBS for the next three years and on the website.”
Mayers summarized the film: “Frank Romeo, a Vietnam War veteran, on his 70th birthday, decides to walk across New York state to promote PTSD awareness and education and to battle his own demons to confront his past in an effort to move forward and still work.”
For more information on the Halloween films, go to mayersfilms.com/familyfilms. For more information on the documentary, go to walkwithfrank.org or walkwithfrankfilm.com, as well as mayersfilms.com.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.