Lifelong summer residents Thomas and Michael Matthews return to the Nantucket Film Festival.
Thomas and Michael Matthews grew up making movies. The sons of journalists Kathleen and Chris Matthews, the brothers learned how to tell stories by hanging around newsrooms as kids. Wielding clunky camcorders, they unwittingly taped over their mother’s archived newscasts to shoot their own homemade movies with dubious titles such as “The Call of Doody.” Fast-forward a couple of decades and the Matthews brothers have each earned credits in a number of films, the most recent of which—their directorial debut called Lost Holiday—will be playing at the Nantucket Film Festival this June.
The Matthews brothers have been touring Lost Holiday around the international film festival circuit, but the showing on Nantucket is a blockbuster in their books. Summering on the island with their parents since the nineties, they remember the early grassroots days of the film festival back when black-and-white indie films were projected onto a bedsheet hung in an alleyway downtown. “It was a great time for our family and a great time in independent film,” Michael says. “It felt like making movies was actually something we could do.”
The brothers began interning at the Nantucket Film Festival every summer from the age of sixteen. When they applied to film school at New York University, the festival’s founder Jonathan Burkhart wrote their letters of recommendation that helped them get accepted. “Jonathan and [executive director] Mystelle [Brabbée] have really been mentors to us over the years,” Michael says. “So while this won’t be the film’s premiere, it’s certainly a homecoming for us.”
Their film Lost Holiday is a nod to the early influences in their lives. “Our parents never let us rent the movies we wanted,” Thomas says. “So we grew up watching Audrey Hepburn and Spencer Tracy movies.” They came to love the old crime noir genre, so while at NYU, the brothers started penning a script for their own murder mystery. Five years later, they shot Lost Holiday as a short film. “It was hell,” Michael says. “We had never directed together and almost killed each other making that film.” Thomas was fresh out of acting school, while Michael had been trained as a director, so the brothers battled over who knew best about making a movie. “The good thing about being brothers is that you’re never really going to kill each other,” Michael laughs. “So given the fact that we were still talking after that, we figured we could probably make a feature film together.”
Lost Holiday is a mystery comedy. Thomas—who has acted in films like American Hustle and Joy as well as in the HBO series The Newsroom—plays the lead alongside House of Cards actress Kate Lyn Sheil. “It’s a different movie,” Thomas says. “It’s a little weird and a little offbeat.” Lost Holiday tells the story of a grad student played by Sheil who comes home for the holidays in Washington, D.C., and gets wrapped up in investigating the kidnapping of a young socialite. Thomas plays Sheil’s sidekick of sorts as they embark on many misadventures in the D.C. area.
Based on the trailer and a few select scenes, the film has a subtle Wes Anderson feel with quirky dialogue and understated humor. Thomas performs his own stunts, which the brothers agree are sometimes delightfully over-the-top. Lost Holiday was shot in just fifteen days on 16 mm film, giving the final product a grainy, indie look that Michael says is a nod to the seventies-style films they enjoyed watching as kids.
The brothers bootstrapped the seventy-five-minute film. “Tom was really the producer and cheerleader in chief,” Michael says. “His job was just getting people excited about making a movie—because nobody was going to make any money.” They received vital support from Nantucket summer residents Mary Haft and her son Michael, as well as Ginny Grenham, who hosted a number of the film’s crew members at her home during the shoot in D.C. The wardrobe was provided by Tuckernuck Clothing Co. Even their mother had a role, as Kathleen Matthews plays a television news anchor.
While Lost Holiday will be the brothers’ first film shown on Nantucket, it won’t be their first one shot on the island. Earlier this spring, they reconvened their team to produce an island-inspired feature. “It’s an oddball ghost thriller about a one-hit novelist who is way out of his depth on winter residency,” Thomas describes. “We shot in partnership with the Nantucket Historical Association, Cape Air, the Atheneum, Compass Coffee (and Handlebar), the Greydon House and a ton of folks on island who pretty much became producers because of how much they stepped up…with movies this tiny it for sure takes a village!”
At the center of that village are Thomas and Michael Matthews, whose rise in the film industry continues to be a love story—brotherly love, that is.