Innovator Spotlight: Matt Pethel
Every week, we take some time to focus on someone in the metro Atlanta area that is doing amazing work that matters. Today, we’re talking with Matt Pethel: composer and audio engineer for film, television, and advertisements, and the owner of Grey Echo Productions in Atlanta.
How would you describe what you do?
I make music for films and advertising out of my production studio in Douglasville, GA. Being a multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer, I have the privilege of composing, performing, producing and mixing most everything I create.
On screen, music is the emotion. It helps tell your story. My job is to interpret what is happening, and then convey that emotion through music so that the viewer feels what you want them to feel. It’s really rewarding to have a filmmaker say to me that they were moved by a particular piece that I created for them. Coming from a somewhat diverse musical background, I have experience in many styles of music.
What are you excited about right now?
Over the last few years, Atlanta has become a hotbed for the film industry as the tax breaks bring filmmakers to our great state in droves. There are so many things being made here now, and there are projects all over the place. It is very exciting knowing that you can be a small part of what is going on here in the ATL.
And lately, I have been really into making ambient and melodic soundscapes using easily accessible instruments. Building an epic, cinematic soundtrack with rock instrumentation (guitars, drums, bass, etc.), for example, is really fun to do, and a great outlet for me. There is something about that raw energy that translates well to film.
What’s something that you’ve accomplished in the past year that you are proud of?
The last short film I did performed really well in the festival circuit. We got a lot of recognition and positive feedback. The whole team was phenomenal from top to bottom, and there definitely were some bonds created during that process. Hearing all of these great things about something you put your heart and soul into is very validating, and it inspires me to keep going and push myself to do bigger and greater things.
As far as vision goes, where are you headed? What’s coming next?
I have a couple of projects lined up. There is a short documentary that I am about to start working on and potentially a feature-length follow up to it. There is another feature that is currently in the very early stages of pre-production that I will be working on as well with a local filmmaker. My goal is to continue working on great local projects and building a solid portfolio. Ultimately, to be able to do this full-time is the goal!
In the last 90 days, have you experienced a new resource that taught you something new?
I love watching interviews and lectures with sound engineers. There is a famous engineer and producer, Andrew Scheps, who recently gave a lecture called ‘What Comes Out Of The Speakers’ at the University of Oxford. He talks about his evolution from using entirely analog outboard gear to mixing completely “in the box”. That means doing everything with a computer using plugins and software, rather than relying on expensive—sometimes hard to acquire—analog gear. You can get surprisingly good indistinguishable results. Ultimately, he says that it only matters what comes out of the speakers, not necessarily how you get there. This resonated with me and helped me to realize that you can do a lot with very little.
Do you have a recently released project or upcoming project that you’d like people to check out?
Anything else you would like folks to know?
In the last couple of years that I have been working on films, I have come to learn that a LOT of filmmakers use generic music from websites such as Musicbed and Soundstripe, which is fine because there are some really great tracks out there, and it is a great way to get your music heard.
However, I personally feel that if you use music that was created specifically for your project, where it reacts to what is happening on screen, there can be a greater emotional response. All big films use composers for a reason! For those of you who are just getting started, my advice is to get connected with the local filmmaking community and build relationships. There are surprisingly few people who do scoring on smaller projects, and there is opportunity and potential to build and create something powerful and meaningful.
Morrowmade is building a community of makers, hackers, and creatives around metro Atlanta that are passionate about making stuff that matters. If you want to learn more about us or get involved, sign up for our newsletter at morrowmade.com or say hello. Know an ATL innovator that we should feature? Send them our way! innovators.morrowmade.com