Filmed in Utah Spotlight: American Murderer

Oct 20, 2022
Matthew Gentile on the set of 'American Murderer' (2022) / Caty Gainer

Matthew Gentile is an award-winning director and screenwriter based in Los Angeles. A graduate of the prestigious directing program at the AFI Conservatory, Matthew directed two successful short films, Frontman (2016) and Lawman (2017) before directing a proof-of-concept short for American Murderer, which starred Jonathan Groff (‘The Matrix: Resurrections’, ‘Mindhunter’) and Amanda Crew (‘Silicon Valley’). He most recently completed his first feature film, American Murderer, a true-crime drama filmed-in-Utah that stars Tom Pelphrey (‘Ozark’, ‘Outer Range’), Ryan Phillippe (‘Breach’, ‘Crash’), Idina Menzel (‘Uncut Gems’, ‘Frozen’) and two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver (‘Animal Kingdom’, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’).

American Murderer is a riveting thriller based on a true story of Jason Derek Brown (Tom Pelphrey), a charismatic con man bankrolling his extravagant lifestyle through a series of scams. On Brown’s trail: Lance Leising (Ryan Phillippe), a dogged FBI special agent determined to put Brown behind bars. When Brown’s funds run low and his past catches up with him, he plots his most elaborate scheme yet, pitting himself against Leising in a deadly game of cat and mouse — and becoming the most unlikely and elusive fugitive on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Distributed by Saban Films & Universal Pictures, the film premieres in theatres on October 21, 2022 and available on demand & digital October 28, 2022.

From the set of 'American Murderer' (2022) / Caty Gainer

What do you like about writing and/or directing?

With writing: I love when a character starts to come to life on the page. It requires a lot of work to get there, but through the slog there is always a moment when the characters come to life and I become like a court stenographer. The only way to get there, for me, is to do it every day, as a daily ritual and practice.

With directing: I love every prep, where the movie is really made. I love the excitement of shooting and the adrenaline rush. I love finding the film in the edit, and that magical process of discovery. I love collaborating with people who are more talented than myself – whether that be my cinematographer Kalilah Robinson, my amazing Utah-based 1st AD Evan Lai-Hipp (who made the impossible happen) or my actors or anyone. I love letting a film grow and evolve, as a writer and director – that is what’s most gratifying to me. 

Why did you choose Utah to tell this story?

I won’t lie to you – at first, it was because my producers told me about the tax incentive. When my cinematographer and I went to visit however on a preliminary scout courtesy of Derek Mellus (Utah Film Commission’s Production Manager), it immediately became clear that this was the perfect place to tell our story. It had the look and feel we were going for, with the Southwestern Americana landscapes. 

How was your experience working with Utah cast and crew?

The Utah crew and cast was exceptional. We shot the film in November 2020, at the height of the pandemic, at a time when the world was in lockdown. Needless to say, many people were coming off unemployment and all kinds of circumstances. To see this cast and crew come together and rise and make art in a time like that was a miracle. I am very grateful to the entire crew, and I’d like to especially call out my 1st AD Evan Lai-Hipp and his second Chris Copier who both did an incredible job. 

What was it like working in Utah compared to other places?

It being my first feature film, so I don’t have much to compare it to! The Utah Film Commission was very accommodating and easy to work with, and I feel very fortunate we got to make American Murderer in Utah.  The Utah film incentive also allowed us to film in Utah, which after shooting this movie and seeing it so many times, I am convinced was the best place for us to tell this sprawling story.

How can audiences see the film?

American Murderer will be in select theaters nationwide (including three screens in Salt Lake City!) on October 21st and it will be released on digital and demand on October 28th.