For local filmmaker Matt Porterfield, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship offers room to breathe. The creator of the set-in-Baltimore dramas “Hamilton,” “Putty Hill,” “I Used to Be Darker” and “Sollers Point” is using some of the money he was awarded to pay off debt from his last couple features.
Porterfield’s work has been lauded in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The A.V. Club, and by the late Roger Ebert, but that doesn’t alter the budgetary realities of independent movie-making and its delicate margins.
Of course the fellowship also provides opportunity: Porterfield will use funds to finally film a story on young metalheads, called “Metal Gods,” that he’s been kicking around for years–only instead of being shot here in Baltimore, the story will be set in Tijuana, Mexico, where Porterfield travels about once a month to be with his girlfriend, producer Paulina Valencia. For the director and writer, that offers the freeing sense of being able to work on a more intimate project as he tackles his biggest picture to date, “Check Me in Another Place,” following the exploits of a mid-career New York rapper touring Europe.
Even with all that on his plate, Porterfield says he will remain at Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches classes on film production and theory.
I caught up with Porterfield to talk about “Metal Gods,” the similarities between Baltimore and Tijuana, his other future projects and creating a sustainable movie-making practice.