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May 22, 2024
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Romanian-Born American Filmmaker Mattson Tomlin: ‘I’m a Big Fan of Mungiu, Radu Muntean, Radu Jude’

Mattson Tomlin is a Romanian-born American screenwriter, producer, and director, defining himself as ‘the filmmaker who cares‘ on his Twitter account. He was born amid the Romanian Revolution, and his natural parents gave him to adoption when he was a baby. Moved to the United States, Mattson Tomlin followed the School of Film and Media Studies and attended the renowned writer/director program at the American Film Institute.

Mattson has created some big projects, including a science-fiction script, 2084, and co-wrote The Batman, a Warner Bros. film to be released in 2022 and that will star Robert Pattinson. More than that, he’s also been chosen to write the pilot for an Amazon series based on Rick Remender’s comic The Fear Agent. One of the executive producers is Seth Rogen. He has many other productions to his credit, like Project Power or Little Fish.

Mattson Tomlin’s big directorial debut is Mother/Android, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller streaming on Netflix from January 7. The film is dramatized from real life-story of the screenwriter, and it is an emotional rollercoaster filled with romanticism, drama, and vulnerability. Georgia, interpreted by  Chloë Grace Moretz, is a young pregnant woman who tries to save herself and her baby with her lover Sam on a risky journey (interpreted by Algee Smith). At the same time, America is overtaken by a deadly and violent artificial intelligence uprising. Their journey to a safe place is filled with ups and downs. The two lovers show us that you would do everything to save your child. Georgia is a brave and strong woman who continues to travel at such speed and fight for herself and her baby despite her condition. The future is not so bright for the three of them, but Sam and Georgia will do everything to escape from the harsh reality they live in.

The film’s story is inspired by Mattson Tomlin’s personal experience when his parents made a difficult choice and decided to give him up for adoption.

The Interview offered to Valahia News before the release of Mother/Android on Netflix

Mattson Tomlin, Romanian-born American filmmaker

Mattson Tomlin offered Valahia News an exclusive interview in which he tells us more about the film and the details behind Mother/Android.

Valahia News: Mattson, we are glad you agreed to answer our questions. Thank you for that! We will start by asking you something… You were born in Bucharest in the aftermath of the Revolution, but you were adopted and moved out to the United States immediately after. You lived almost your entire life in the US. How would you describe Romania as a Romanian-born American? Are the changes accomplished by Romania during the last 32 years visible from the States?

Mattson Tomlin: I mostly know Romania through the very specific lens of my own origins, and my relationship to the country up until recently has been very focused in the past, particularly the Revolution. It’s only been as I’ve gotten older and made friends who have their own relationship to Romania, either being from there, lived there, or visited frequently, that I started to understand the country that it has become today. From an American perspective, one of the reputations that Romania has is that it’s a hidden gem, and I’ve often heard people describe it as the most beautiful country in Europe.

The other, and perhaps more striking observation I can share is how the events of the Romanian Revolution aren’t well known in the US. For America, the spotlight of that era was very much on the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is what most people know. Of course, 1989 was a huge turning point for so much of Europe and these events are not unrelated… But here not so many people are educated on the events of the Revolution. Someday I hope I am lucky enough to make a film set during the Revolution instead of simply being inspired by it. That event and the stories around it have stayed completely relevant over the last 32 years, and are also the events that surrounded my origins, so I am always thinking about it.

Valahia News: Who were the filmmakers or screenwriters who offered you guidance or inspiration? Who made you step on this path and become the artist you are now?

Mattson Tomlin: First and foremost in this particular film is my producer, Matt Reeves. Matt is my mentor and very much helped godfather and guide me through the process of getting my first film made. His movies, from Cloverfield to the Planet of the Apes films, have been huge inspirations for me as a filmmaker, so having the opportunity to work with him and learn from him as I launched my first film was invaluable. Matt was one of the first filmmakers to really understand that I was telling my own story of my biological parents but translating it through genre and was incredibly supportive in helping me find the right way to do that. There are other filmmakers I’ve worked with along the way, either serving just as a screenwriter on movies that someone else directed, or just knowing and developing projects with other filmmakers. Going through that process with another director and seeing how they make a movie was also invaluable because I could learn through observation, from Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman on PROJECT POWER, from Chad Hartigan on our film LITTLE FISH, and many many others, it’s all been a learning experience.

Two of my biggest inspirations as filmmakers are Alfonso Cuaron and Derek Cianfrance. Alfonso I think is an easy one to spot because MOTHER/ANDROID has some obvious parallels to CHILDREN OF MEN, but Cianfrance is very special to me, how honest and vulnerable he gets. When I was pitching MOTHER/ANDROID in the early stages, I would describe it as BLUE VALENTINE meets TERMINATOR, leaning a little bit more towards BLUE VALENTINE.

Valahia News: Romania is quite proud of the new generation of film directors, some of which are already winning important European film festivals, such as Berlinale. Do you happen to know any contemporary filmmaker or screenwriter from Romania? Or maybe you saw some of the films they created. What is your opinion about the new wave of Romanian cinema?

Mattson Tomlin: One of the most profound experiences I’ve had in the cinema came in 2007. I was 16 or 17 at the time and my best friend had read that there was a film by a Romanian filmmaker playing and he took me to it. We had no idea what the movie was or anything about. The film was Christian Mungiu’s 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS and 2 DAYS.

I can remember watching the film and pretty quickly realizing that it was set in the late 80s, following a couple of young university students, and then the kind of sinking, visceral feeling when I realized the story was about pregnancy. I had gone to the cinema thinking we were just going to watch a film by a Romanian director, and suddenly it hit me that I was watching a story that was not that far off from my own story. It was incredible intense, I was absolutely not prepared emotionally, and the film left me stunned, in awe, and very shaken… Which sounds unpleasant, but I quite like having real emotional experiences in my movies. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

I’m a big fan of Mungiu, Radu Muntean’s The Paper Will Be Blue, Radu Jude’s work. The filmmaking coming out of Romania is incredibly strong, both in dramas and comedies. There’s a level of patience and deliberation and realism that is such a different rhythm than Hollywood filmmaking and I try to get my hands on everything I can… Partially as a huge admirer of the craft… But also because it’s a way for me to access the voices of the country.

Somewhat related… Several years ago I met the actor Sebastian Stan, who was born and spent his childhood in Romania. Both working in Hollywood now but with the ties to Romania, we really bonded and have a beautiful friendship that I am quite thankful for. We left Romania around the same time, though he is older than I am and has childhood memories of the country, of course, speaks the language, so getting to know him and learn his story is something I’m very thankful for and I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the future we find ourselves working on something in Romania together.

Valahia News: Mother/Android is your directorial debut. We learned you wrote the script with your own experience in mind – this is like an ode to your biological family in Romania. There is an unmistakable resemblance between your birth mother, who lived and survived the problematic events during the Revolution, and the character in the movie. This pregnant young woman is looking for a shelter to give birth. Without revealing anything from the plot before its debut on January 7 on Netflix, can you tell us other similarities between the two women?

Mattson Tomlin: I wanted to take the several things I know about my birth parents, my birth mother, and weave them into a story about love, about loss, about family… I don’t know my birth mother. I know her name and a few details around the circumstances of my birth. Because there’s so much unknown, there’s a tremendous amount of fiction. Chloë Grace Moretz’s character Georgia is fiction. But I’ve taken parts of my own personality and combined them with what I know of the true story to try to paint a picture that feels realized as a young woman pregnant in an extremely chaotic environment trying to do the best she can with the situation. Ultimately the killer robots of the film are there to invite the audience in, but when you look a little bit closer, the film is really a love letter to the parents I never got to know.

Valahia News: As we already mentioned before, Mother/Android will be featured as a premiere on Netflix, on January 7, in just a few days. What do you expect from your directorial debut? And, as we care to find out something we are not familiar with: how do you measure the success level for a movie featured on Netflix? Apart from good critics, of course, you don’t have a box office type of measurement. Do directors get any metrics from Netflix? Will you know how many viewers you have on a specific period? What’s your expectation here, and what results, apart from good reviews, would mean success for you? 

Mattson Tomlin: For this film, it is not about the metrics of the views, it’s not about money, it’s not about the critics. For my future work, of course… And if MOTHER/ANDROID does well and people respond to it, I welcome that and am thankful to be seen… But I am not sure I know how to make a more personal film than this and ultimately I feel the success has already been achieved. As a first film, being able to combine the sci-fi genre with something intensely personal and make a movie entirely on my terms, in order to convey some very real, very deep feelings that I’ve had my entire life… That’s a privilege that not many first-time filmmakers get to have. The success is that the movie was made entirely on my terms I was able to say for myself, and to my biological parents exactly what I need to: I see you, I know you, thank you, I love you.

Instead of conclusion

Mattson Tomlin is a promising young screenwriter who offered this incredible film that for sure will be a great success. Despite his life story, he proved that it doesn’t matter where you were born or if you have been adopted or not. As long as you work hard and dedicate yourself to your purpose, you will undoubtedly create something beautiful.

Here is the trailer for the movie to be released on January 7 on Netflix. Enjoy!

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