10 Directors to Watch 2012: Matt Piedmont

Age: 41
Homebase: Venice, Calif.
Inspired by: David Letterman, Bill Murray and Martin Scorsese — the first two for their self-referential humor, the latter for his grace with tender cinematic moments.
Reps: Agents: Daniel Rabinow, Gregory McKnight (CAA); Manager: Simon Millar (Rumble Media); Lawyer: Warren Dern (Sloan Offer Weber Dern)

The synopsis of comedy vet Matt Piedmont’s feature debut reads like a grand joke: Will Ferrell stars in a Spanish-language shoot-’em-up about a lowly Mexican ranch hand taking on a drug cartel. The film, “Casa de mi padre,” is also a Gary Sanchez Production, meaning its star is heavily involved behind the scenes. Plus, as Piedmont points out, “We robbed Will of his magical shining gift: the English language.”

It’s a lot for any rookie director to take on. But Piedmont shrugs it all off with a laugh. “When I’m on the set, it’s like I do the opposite of worry about the film,” he says. “I’m open to what happens on the day; sometimes things change completely. It was very calming.”

Piedmont’s embrace of the crazy is what makes “Casa” so compelling. The film mixes the wacky premise with plenty of Velveeta: The spirit guide to Armando (Ferrell) is a stuffed tiger; the female lead’s body double is literally a mannequin; occasionally, characters hang out in front of painted-on backdrops. And some scenes, like emotional moments between Armando and his perpetually disappointed father, are played entirely in earnest.

Between this, his Sundance-winning short “Brick Novax’s Diary” (shot entirely using action figures) and the forthcoming “King Dork,” Piedmont enjoys combining the silly with the sweet.

Piedmont cut his teeth on six years of writing for “Saturday Night Live,” where he met Ferrell and Andrew Steele. The latter brought him on to direct the interstitial segments of HBO’s “Funny or Die Presents” variety show, for which he presented homages to old IBM commercials, in addition to his own series called “The Carpet Brothers.” Steele penned the “Casa” script, and since Piedmont was friendly with Steele and all the Gary Sanchez folks, he was the natural choice to direct.

To prepare for the film, Piedmont watched a lot of old Mexican films and vintage spaghetti Westerns. However, he stayed away from telenovelas, because even though “Casa” seems to resemble a soap opera, “I didn’t want to simply spoof stuff. We all agreed that would have gotten old in 10 minutes,” he says.

10 Directors to Watch
Zal Batmanglij |

Valerie Donzelli | Gareth Evans | Philippe Falardeau | Mike ‘Mouse’ McCoy & Scott Waugh | Gerardo Naranjo | Matt Piedmont | Michael R. Roskam | Lynn Shelton | Benh Zeitlin

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