Matt Norman’s debut feature film Salute had its U.S. Premiere at the Rhode Island Film Festival on Sunday night to an enormous crowd.
The film received an amazing response in the country it was half made as the first time that American’s got to hear the true story of what happened at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic games and in particular the events which stopped the World, being the Black Power Protest in which Matt Norman’s uncle Peter Norman was involved.
Salute, being distributed by Paramount Pictures and newly formed Transmission films by ex-Dendy veterans Richard Payton and Andrew Mackie, has had an amazing response from audiences in Australia during its cinematic release in selected cinema’s around the nation.
At its World premiere at this years Sydney Film Festival, the film which got a packed State Theatre audience to its feet and also became the best Australian documentary voted by the audience as well as runner up for best feature documentary has become a dream come true for director/producer Matt Norman who has spent the last six years making this film.
“I made a promise to my uncle before he died tragically of a heart attack in October 2006 that I wanted all Australians to meet the ‘white guy’ in the Black Power protest photo,” Norman says. “The fact that Peter Norman still holds the Australian and Commonwealth record 40 years after the event amazes most people that see this emotionally draining film.”
“Making this film has literally been the worst experience of my life. If it wasn’t for a very small group of people who believed in my journey (such as David Hirschfelder, Martin Smith and Digital Pictures in Melbourne) the film would never have made it through so many ups and downs” Matt explains.
“What most people don’t understand is the fact that making any type of film in this country is virtually impossible, even more so when you have something as special as this story being rejected by industry, funding bodies and the networks. When Peter Norman died I was committed to getting the film out to the world to truly have Peter’s achievements in sport and his stance on civil and human rights acknowledged. I feel I’ve done that but still have a long way to go!”
Matt Norman has begun development on the feature drama version of his documentary called 1968, which also was hit hard by the loss of our very own Heath Ledger who was in talks to play Olympic Silver medallist Peter Norman earlier this year.
“I think all Australian’s were devastated that such a young actor, father and Aussie would lose his life at a time in his life he seemed to have everything. That’s why his death hurt so much… It’s so hard to get anywhere in this business, he did it and had a life ahead of him most of us only dream about,” Matt says. “I felt more for the loss of Heath and more for his family than I did when Princess Diana died… It was horrible”.
With negotiations under way for the release of Salute across America, Europe and Asia, it was fitting that Salute screened to the Australian athletes going over to the Beijing Olympics.
Matt says “I hope the story gave our athletes that extra drive to do well at the games, even though Peter was shunned by the same people who sent him over there 40 years earlier."
1968 is currently in early development with Matt heading to the States later this year to follow Salute and also start meetings with the studios that have shown a great interest in his project.
“I will also be looking at casting the film early 2009 as it’s very important to get the right people involved up front,” Matt explains. “I will be doing this film differently this time, looking more for studio investment or non-funding body investors as well as sponsorship opportunities, and feel that the amount of difficulty it has been to play in the boys club here has started to put me off even asking for funds in this country."
“Luckily, we still have the very best in cast and crew to keep me from making the typical move to the U.S. to further my career”.
“The best thing that we have in this country is our local audiences! With incredible reviews coming mostly from the paying public and the incredible amount of passionate emails I’ve received, I’ve finally realised that audiences need change just as much as filmmakers need a voice in this industry. The difference is that we have the film makers that can give change but are continually left out by those who deem newbie’s as amateur."
With the award season coming up in this country, Matt has said he doesn’t expect any positive response from industry awards people as this film was made for the public not the industry.
"This was never meant to be a career film but more as an education into the human race, not the Olympic one. It is these qualities that truly give Salute a truth of its own… The real one.”.
Matt ends by saying – “My best experience so far has been working with all the people at Paramount Pictures and Transmission films. They truly came onto this project with the highest respect for Peter and his story and have done everything to help make the film a success. They have also given so many audiences around Australia the chance to know Peter Norman and not just think of him as the white guy in the photo”.
Salute is still in cinema’s nationwide and is set to go to selected Rural cities soon. Matt Norman has also co-authored with Damian Johnston “A Race to remember – The Peter Norman Story” for those that want to know more about Peter Norman’s life from start to finish. It’s in all good book stores.