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A Glendale native projects his film dreams

Matthew James Reilly wins student film award at Cannes festival.

July 01, 2012|By Steve Appleford, steve.appleford@latimes.com
  • Matthew James Reilly, a 2007 graduate of Glendale High School, on the set of his short film 'Abigail,' recently honored in the student film category at the Cannes Film Festival.
Matthew James Reilly, a 2007 graduate of Glendale High… (Courtesy of Matthew…)

Five weeks ago, Matthew James Reilly sat for an elegant dinner at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, on the French Riviera. Around him were acclaimed filmmakers such as Alexander Payne, Michael Haneke and many others, and earlier that evening, Reilly himself had been honored with a Cannes student film award for his 17-minute short, “Abigail.” He had come a long way from Glendale High.

“I've been an avid fan of the Cannes festival since I first got into filmmaking in high school,” says Reilly, 22. “I used to geek out on it every year and watched what films came out of it. To be able to be a part of that, to be honored, is unreal.”

It was an astonishingly unexpected outcome to a film he'd made for a class at New York University, but the quietly evocative story of a young woman who quits her job at a gas station in an attempt to change her life clearly made an impression. Reilly wrote, directed, produced and edited “Abigail,” which was one of just two American films accepted into student competition, out of 4,500 entries.

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The short film won second place at Cannes on May 26 as part of the La Cinéfondation program, which seeks to support and encourage the newest generation of filmmakers.

“This is probably the first film and the first script that really represents the type of filmmaker I want to be, and the type of stories and characters I'm attracted to,” Reilly says. “I feel like everything else I've done so far has been an exercise.”

The young filmmaker now lives in New York, where he just graduated from NYU, but spent most of his life in Glendale, from age 5 to 19. His interest in film came unexpectedly during his teenage years, when his original career goals were much different.

“I was pretty dead set from 9th grade on to being a professional skateboarder, but when I was 15 years old I severely injured my wrist, and that eliminated that dream,” he explains. During that summer, he watched Jim Jarmusch's 1984 indie film classic “Stranger Than Paradise” on TV, and his perspective on what a movie could be changed.

“It was the first low-key, super-low budget independent film that really spoke to me,” he says now. “I'd always loved movies, but that was the first film where I was able to recognize the voice of the director in it.”

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