54.9 F

Suanne Strider Presents: A Photograph of Matthew Graves


When I began my research for this series, I was awe-struck with the amazing talent that abounds in the wealth of local actors, writers, editors, directors and producers we have right here in the city of Oxford and the surrounding area. The purpose of this series is to highlight just a portion of the magnificent talent that we possess in spades in this small, yet artistically flourishing, community.

Matthew Graves
Matthew Graves

Matthew Graves is a prime example of one of these seemingly yet-undiscovered gems of brilliance that we have right here in our very own back yard. A transplant by way of Abilene, TX, Graves was born and raised in Seminole, TX. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Communication from Hardin-Simmons University, where while gaining more experience in filmmaking, Graves met the reason he would end up at Ole Miss after graduation, his future-wife Melissa. Melissa was attending law school at Ole Miss after her graduation from Hardin-Simmons and, luckily for us, Graves followed her here, landing a job at the University of Mississippi’s Media Center, now called University Communications. It was here that Graves had access to all the video and sound equipment he would need to create his now-lengthy resume of great films.

An interesting side-note to Graves’ resume is that while attending Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Graves worked at the infamous Paramount Theater in Abilene. In an interview I did with Graves, he explained how working at this theater helped to spark his interest and develop his creativity with both cinema and film in general, but especially editing. Graves was operating an old-timey double-reel projector, where you can see with your own eyes how each scene is laid out piece by piece on stills that come to life by rolling the film from one spool to the next.

Being a fan of the supernatural, I asked Graves if this was, in fact, the actual “Paramount Theater” that has been receiving much press as of late regarding its reportedly being haunted. The theater was highlighted by the Abilene Visitor’s Bureau in 2010 as a spot to visit on the Haunted Abilene tour. Graves was surprised when I asked him if it was really haunted, and I was surprised at his lack of knowledge of this. The theater is well reported to be haunted. Graves was not aware of the legend attached to the Paramount in Abilene, but it makes perfect sense that it would be this building and its atmosphere that would inspire Graves to attempt his first real filmmaking experience with the creation of his first feature-length film—one in which he was in complete control of every aspect of the film, taking on the star role as well as the writing, directing, filming, editing and sound. This 2005 film called, “Dummy,” was conceived of, set, and completely shot in the famously haunted theater. It portrays the theater’s Technical Director, played by Graves, getting locked in overnight with a ventriloquist’s dummy that he believes may be coming to life.

Dummy from Matthew Graves on Vimeo.

Dummy is one of the many award-winning films Graves has under his belt thus far, with its 2006 win for “Best Short Comedy” at the Tupelo Film Festival. At this point in his career, Graves has written, shot, scored, edited directed and produced over twenty short films. His 2014 documentary feature-length film The Toughest Job: William Winter’s Mississippi, elevated him and co-director and film producer Andy Harper to status of “Emmy Winner,” as the film took home the regional Emmy for “Best Historical Documentary” in 2014. In this film Graves and Harper portray the life of Mississippi’s 57th Governor William Winters, and the vast strides he made as a Progressive political figure in the South, who greatly furthered his own state in the areas of civil rights, voters’ rights and education. This film covers the former Governor’s fight to help integrate the school systems in Mississippi, his fight to pass the 1982 Education Reform Bill (thus, giving every child a right to go to Kindergarten…Mississippi being the last state that did not in 1982), as well as covering the creation of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

The Toughest Job: William Winter's Mississippi Trailer from The Southern Documentary Project on Vimeo.

Harper and Graves are co-collaborators on many of the amazing pieces of art that are the fruit of the Southern Documentary Project, a collaborative effort between Graves, Harper, and many other great documentary filmmakers at the University of Mississippi; and The Southern Foodways Alliance, also touting a strong artistic staff, including great writers and socio/political figures such as the famous Southern Culinary Writer John T. Edge and the amazingly talented John Currence—with the Southern Docs project being housed under the tutelage of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Go here to check out the vast array of great films that have come out of this very innovative and much-needed program.

One of the many notable films to come out of the Southern Documentary Project was Ole Miss Monsters—a promotional video written, directed and produced by Matthew Graves for the 2011-2012 Ole Miss basketball team—the first 3D Promotional Sports promo to be shown to a live audience in NCAA history. It played to a crowd of over 60,000 at the Alabama/Ole Miss game that year. Also of monumental note is the 2008 work The Debate Starts Here, a suspense-filled and star-studded back-stage account of the historical 2008 Presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain—the first Presidential debate ever to be held at the University of Mississippi.

"The Debate Starts Here" Teaser Trailer from The Southern Documentary Project on Vimeo.

Graves has figured prominently as a major contributor to the Oxford Film Festival since his arrival to the Oxford area in 2005. There is a Community Film contribution to the Oxford Film Festival every year since 2011, with the first installment of this being The Hanging of Big Todd Wade, on which Graves worked as Assistant Director and Editor, and featuring a virtual “who’s who” of Oxford’s most well-known actors.

The Hanging of Big Todd Wade from micah on Vimeo.

Graves has been instrumental in contributing to the yearly Community-Created narrative films submission at the Oxford Film Festival, beginning with The Hanging of Big Todd Wade (2011); and adding to the list: The Show Must Go On (2012), The Embalming (2013), Barry (2014) and ‘Till Death (2015). ‘Til Death is this year’s contribution to the series. There is an underlying theme of dark humor that threads these short films together—a “Creepshow” quality that raises the artistic level of the films in the writing, use of props such as lighting and music, and juxtaposing beauty with the macabre to create a new kind of Southern Gothic Horror on film. Using a style that is reminiscent of both Hitchcock and Stephen King, Gravesyard Films (Graves’ production company) has produced thus far a fine collection of this new type of dark-humored, Southern Gothic Horror. These films are also a part of the Southern Documentaries Project.

You will not want to miss the Premiere of ‘Til Death at this years’ Thirteenth Annual Oxford Film Festival, showing Friday, February 19th, at Oxford Commons Malco Cinema from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and on Sunday, February 21st, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, where I will review Graves’ short film, ‘Til Death.

Another film showing at the Oxford Film Festival in which Graves features prominently is Michael Ewing’s short narrative Last Night, in which Graves plays one of the feature actors, as well as serving as producer, cinematographer and editor. Adding to the genius factor of this film is the fact that it was all shot on location at Lamar Lounge in Oxford, MS, between the hours of 4:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., using only several tactically placed stationary cameras left unmanned and running stationed in strategic areas around the room. I am calling this film out to be eligible for many awards including Best Writer of a Narrative/Short Film by Dennis DiClaudio, Best Actor in a Narrative/Short Film for Matthew Graves’ performance of “Karl,” and Best Cinematography, and Best Editing by Matthew Graves. My review of Last Night will be featured in an article coming soon to this series.

When he is not making movies, Graves can be found making sure that future filmmakers are well-schooled in the process. He is an Adjunct Professor of Cinema Production at the University of Mississippi.

Matthew Graves can be contacted at mrgraves@olemiss.edu.

Suanne HottyToddy Picture

Suanne Strider is a writer, editor, photographer, promoter and paralegal from Tallahatchie County, in the Mississippi Delta. She also serves as a booking agent and philanthropist. Suanne lives in Oxford and has three beautiful children–daughter Mimi (the oldest); and Drake and Jess, who are twins (Drake being older by one minute). She may be contacted at suannestrider@gmail.com.

Follow HottyToddy.com on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @hottytoddynews. Like its Facebook page: If You Love Oxford and Ole Miss…

Most Popular

Recent Comments

scamasdscamith on News Watch Ole Miss
Frances Phillips on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Grace Hudditon on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Millie Johnston on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Binary options + Bitcoin = $ 1643 per week: https://8000-usd-per-day.blogspot.com.tr?b=46 on Beta Upsilon Chi: A Christian Brotherhood
Jay Mitchell on Reflections: The Square
Terry Wilcox SFCV USA RET on Oxford's Five Guys Announces Opening Date
Stephanie on Throwback Summer
organized religion is mans downfall on VP of Palmer Home Devotes Life to Finding Homes for Children
Paige Williams on Boyer: Best 10 Books of 2018
Keith mansel on Cleveland On Medgar Evans
Sarah Blaker on