Directors to Watch 2008: Matthew Luem

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Matthew Luem
Matthew Luem
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Though still unsigned, L.A.-based Matthew Luem has already directed spots for McSweeney's publishing, UCLA and Taschen among others. The projects display a keen documentary sensibility and eye for detail. For McSweeney's, Luem shot an intimate portrait of screenwriter and novelist Millard Kaufman, who discusses his trials with Hollywood producers. In a trailer for a new Taschen book, Luem steps into artist Walton Ford's studio and captures the nuances of the his process, like how he uses a rearview mirror to review his painting. Luem believes the documentary format fits closest to his style of directing. "Most of the film I have shot is of real people, although sometimes they are slipping in and out of different versions of themselves."

His directing, however, also happens to be bolstered by an upbringing in photography and sculpture. As a photographer, he's shot for L.A. Weekly and Sony. As an artist, he's worked as an assistant to Charles Long and Tom Sachs, building dioramas for the Museum of Natural History, as well as designing and building sets for Martha Stewart Living magazine. Four years ago, he also worked as an art director for the infamous Tony Kaye and, since 2001, his artwork and film projects have made their way to the New York Underground Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, MCA Houston, Burofriedrich Berlin and London's VTO Gallery.

"That background has been a crucial benefit for me in making the transition [to directing]," says Luem. "As a director you must be able to understand something photographically. [The sculpture and design experience] gives me a highly evolved 3-D picture of the world around me as it relates to film. Directing is the place where I'm able to bring these skills together."

Read about Ben Wheatley, another of our 2008 Directors to Watch.

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