Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews are self-proclaimed nerds, but not in the hip, mimicked-by-the-mainstream way. They’re people who met in their high school’s media department and bonded in college on public access sets. Their first dates were spent watching bootlegged copies of Troll 2 (widely regarded as the worst movie ever made) or Mr. Show on VHS. And though they’re from L.A., they left the land of the slick for Texas—and never looked back.
In fact, Graham and Matthews’s movie careers really took off thanks in large part to Troll 2. They loved the terrible cult classic, and by posting a mock trailer—back then, Graham explains, a novel tactic—they impressed the film’s former child star (turned director of a documentary about the film). They were brought on as DP and editor, and that’s how they ended up in Austin (pulling a reverse commute, of sorts, from the typical Hollywood trajectory to L.A.). The doc, called Best Worst Movie, premiered at SXSW in 2009. And, yes, Graham and Matthews do heartily recommend both the flick and the doc it inspired.
Leaving the West Coast wasn’t a tough choice for them. “We grew up in L.A., and for Andrew and me there’s something about the place that is so deeply uninspired,” Graham says. “There’s just something in Austin that’s kind of electric.” In L.A., Matthews explains, the Industry looms everywhere physically (via endless billboards) and mentally, emotionally. They feel much more at home in Texas, in a film scene they call not necessarily ambitious, but definitely “hungry to create stuff.”
Their most recent creation is a film called Zero Charisma, about a Dungeons & Dragons–playing, metal-loving nerd whose character is based on countless people Graham and Matthews have met over the years. “We’ve always known and loved the character of the know-it-all nerd,” Graham says. “You don’t like them; they’re kind of vulnerable and obnoxious at the same time. We just kept talking about how they never had their own movie or a spotlight on this particular kind of character, where he’s not just comedy.”
In fact, Graham and Matthews have both played—and still play, with a group including several other area filmmakers—D&D. “I wouldn’t have tried to make this movie if I didn’t play,” Matthews says.
They’ve found a warm reception to Zero Charisma in Austin (it won the audience award at SXSW in 2013). “Austin is a town that celebrates nerdery, unlike L.A., which is a little more ‘cool,’” Matthews says.
The duo is currently writing a couple of screenplays together. And even though it might be tough to cobble together the funds to bring these future projects to fruition, they wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’d rather be constantly making small things than having meetings about the same project for ten years,” Matthews says.