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An Interview with Matthew Mahler, Director of Prodanopia

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2024

Films directed by Matthew Mahler on (re)Seearch my Trash


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Your new movie Protanopia - in a few words, what's it about?


Protanopia is about, in a literal sense, a missing girl and a strange house that connects her brother and the homeowner. In a less literal sense, itís about the American Dream and the horrible delusions that it can elicit.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Protanopia?


Iím a big fan of David Lynch and surrealist Americana, so I definitely drew quite heavily from films like Mulholland Drive and, of course, Twin Peaks. Iíd also say that a lot of Tim Coxís character (Alan jr) [Timothy J. Cox interview - click here] probably came from the surreal comedy and pathetic male characters often featured in the Coen brothersí films.


Protanopia is at times quite surreal when it comes to storytelling - so how easy or hard was it to not literally lose your plot when telling your story that way?


There were honestly only a few moments during filming that got me into trouble. A lot of the script was pretty clear in my mind, but a few production issues buried the story a little bit more than I intended. Overall, I had a fairly clear vision of the major beats of the story, so it wasnít terribly difficult to keep track of the plot, but for my next film Iím definitely going to ease up on the level of surreality and try to tell a more approachable story.


Do talk about Protanopia's approach to horror!


I wouldnít say the film is scary, which I know is kinda contradictory to the genre. There are some films or ideas that have to piggyback on the horror name cause they donít really fit anywhere else. Iíd say, the intent was to deliver a feeling of discomfort rather than fear. Like many horror fans, Iíve grown really tired of jump scares and the horror formula, so I wanted to try something that felt oppressive instead of edge-of-your-seat. Probably something Iíll dial back in the future, but it was a great experiment.


A few word about your overall directorial approach to your story on hand?


Iím a big fan of collaboration on set, and I definitely brought that with me into this production. For this story, it was very important that the direction take big swings. I really wanted to get away from a naturalistic look to the film that I see a lot of younger filmmakers gravitate towards. I wanted it to be very expressionistic and obviously surreal, so lighting with intense colors (ŗ la giallo films) was integral to the storyónot to mention that the placement of the colors red and green throughout is important in my mind as a connective tissue to the themes of the film. Essentially, I wanted to take a lot of risks with this film, film with serious intent, and create a vessel for Tim Cox to give a great performance.


What can you tell us about Protanopia's cast, and why exactly these people?


Well, Tim Cox is my go-to lead. Iíve been working with him for about a decade now and itís always a treat. I pretty much exclusively write films with Tim in mind. As far as Anthony Carey, heís been my best friend since senior-year at high school, and weíve made a few shorts together. Acting is definitely not a passion of his, and it took a lot of convincing to get him to co-star in this film, but he really is a very good actor, especially for someone whoís only done it a handful of times.


The supporting actors include both my parents, my grandparents, my aunt, and a good family friend. There was definitely an element of simplifying the cast to facilitate an easier shooting experience, but I was really happily surprised at how good all of them were. Especially my mom, who plays Janice, and John Heerlein, who plays the detective. Iíll definitely be tapping them to act again in the future.


Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!


Electric. Frantic. Terrifying. This was my first major production since my final film project of my freshman year at college. I had to withdraw from the program due to chronic pain issues that are still on-going. I knew weíd have Tim on the island for only three full days of shooting, so the stakes were high. It was a lot of running around, haphazard and chaotic sets, and long shooting days. But as I said before, working with Tim has always been such a wonderful experience, and my family and friends really pulled together to help me get what was needed. A great experience that I canít wait to do again.


The $64-question of course, where can Protanopia be seen?


Anyone can watch it at A lot of smart-TVs and similar devices have the Vimeo app available on them. Iíd recommend trying to watch it on a TV rather than a computer. Searching on Vimeo for Protanopia should bring it up as one of the top results. It will be from the account Matthew Mahler.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Protanopia?


Iíve been pleasantly surprised with the feedback so far. Itís my first feature and, as you mentioned, itís pretty surreal, so I anticipated a lot more of a negative reception. Iíve gotten good feedback from the few less-favorable reviews so far, and itís all stuff I agree with. But Iíve also gotten a lot of very positive reviews, from critics and audiences alike, that was honestly unexpected. Iím happy to see people have been enjoying the trip!


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Nothing concrete right now, but Iíve been itching to work on another project for months. I have a few ideas brewing, so there will definitely be another Kickstarter campaign for a film in the relatively near future!


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


My dad is a massive film buff, so I was exposed to a lot of great films from an early age. I ended up making a short movie for a school project in the 5th grade, and since then have pursued the medium. I attended the film conservatory at SUNY Purchase for just over a year, but as I mentioned earlier, I was forced to withdraw due to chronic pain problems. In that year, I learned a lot. I would be a radically different filmmaker today (in a bad way) if it werenít for that experience, so Iím very proud to have attended.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Protanopia?


Iíve made quite a few shorts before this one. Most of them I donít care for anymore, and thatís good. I forget who said it, but thereís the notion of Ďif you look back on art you made five years ago and you still love it, youíre doing something wrong.í I think thatís a very useful tool. The last major production I worked on was my final project for my freshman year, To Be Alone. That can also be found on my Vimeo account and stars Tim Cox. I feel itís a decently solid work, but just like Protanopia there are always things to improve.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I definitely gravitate to the macabre and stylized. Iíve been told when Iím directing I get a crazed look in my eyes, so Iím definitely overtaken by a manic sort of fervor during the process, but I think that excitement bleeds through to the actors and the crew and invigorates what can be a very tiring experience. I know it sounds very pretentious, but as Iíve matured as a filmmaker, Iíve been viewing films more like poems, rather than novels. Some poems are very straightforward and tell a digestible story, and others are very freeform and prioritize style and feeling to evoke a reaction. Both are great, and the mixture of the two styles is where I feel my directorial style sits.


Like I said earlier, I believe in collaborative filmmaking. I always want ideas on set, from the actors and crew. I never want to come off as megalomaniacalóI definitely have a vision that I want to achieve on set, but the great thing about working with so many talented creatives is nearly all of the creative feedback I receive while filming is constructive in the direction of that vision.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


My biggest inspirations are definitely Tarkovsky, David Lynch, Wong Kar-wai, Robert EggersÖ I could go on and on, but those are probably the ones I draw the most inspiration from.


Your favourite movies?


Stalker, Mulholland Drive, Wild at Heart, Chungking Express, Itís a Wonderful Life, Another Round, Jurassic Park, Death Proof, The Long Goodbye, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Mandy, GŁeros, The LighthouseÖ


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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There are plenty of films I dislike, but I just try not to watch those. As a whole, I detest the watering-down of the medium in recent years with the over-saturation of sequels, prequels, reboots, origin stories. But Iím hopeful for the future of film. Some of the recent massive blockbusters have hopefully shown major studios that strong, creative films can still generate huge box-office numbers.


Your website, social media, whatever else?


@matthew_mahler on Instagram is the best place to see what art Iím making.


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Yes! Support your friendsí art! Donate your time if you canít donate money. Donate your support if you canít donate your time! I wouldnít be able to make the films that I do if it wasnít for the support of my friends and family!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.


There's No Such Thing as Zombies
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry


directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke


now streaming at


Amazon UK





Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from