Exclusive interview: writer/director Mattson Tomlin talks ‘Mother/Android’
You may not be familiar with the name Mattson Tomlin just yet, but you’ll definitely be aware of his work. The writer and filmmaker is one of the fastest-rising talents in the industry, despite the fact only one of his screenplays has made it onto screens so far.
However, that was high concept superhero story Project Power, which became one of Netflix’s ten most-watched original movies ever. He also has The Batman coming to theaters in March, a deal with the aforementioned streaming service to develop a Terminator anime series, and hes partnering up with Keanu Reeves to develop BRZRKR for live-action.
Before that, though, Tomlin makes his feature-length directorial debut on Mother/Android, the ambitious sci-fi that comes to Hulu tomorrow. A passion project that was inspired by his own experiences growing up, Chloë Grace Moretz stars as pregnant Georgia, who seeks safe passage for herself and the baby she’s ready to give birth to, but a robot uprising presents a number of serious obstacles to overcome.
Ahead of Mother/Android‘s debut, We Got This Covered had the opportunity to speak to Tomlin about the project, and you can check out what he had to say below.
You’ve spoken in the past about how personal this project is to you, was it always planned to be your feature debut as a director? Because presumably you wouldn’t want anyone else to make it.
Mattson Tomlin: I got out of film school in 2014, and you graduate and you try to make a movie, and then it doesn’t work out and you try to make some more movies, and they don’t work out. And it got to the point for me, where I realized I just needed to write the thing that was so personal that nobody else could do it.
So I turned to my own personal story, and my adoption story. And that was in 2017, that I wrote the first draft. And so kind of from then on, it was always, other things can come and go, and I’m working on my writing projects and building a screenwriting career. But Mother/Android is the movie for me.
Post-apocalyptic stories are everywhere these days, were you always conscious of avoiding the tropes of the genre? Because without going into spoilers, there’s a couple of major twists the audience won’t see coming.
Mattson Tomlin: I hope they don’t see them coming! Thank you for saying that. Yeah. I mean, we’re all watching all this stuff. And we all love the same movies. And they’re the pillars of the past that you kind of look and go, “Can I do better than that?”. Probably not. But maybe I can do something a little bit different.
I think that for me, it was always about putting a personal spin on it, and not just making a robot apocalypse movie for the sake of making a robot apocalypse movie. But there were really characters and a human story that was important for me to tell. And as long as that was my North Star, and I kept focused on that, everything else I felt like was gonna work out.
A lot of the setup leans into what people have become used to seeing, was that to deliberately lull them into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under them, so to speak?
Mattson Tomlin: Definitely, you want to play with expectations, and knowing what people might want from a movie like this. And giving it to them, sometimes, then giving them something completely new other times. There’s also, you know, it’s my first film, so it’s just a lower budget movie. And so, just in crafting that you kind of look and go, “Okay, well, I can’t have too many apocalyptic battles, because then nobody’s gonna let me make this thing”.
And so, you know, it was always kind of going back to character and the relationship between this couple and going, “How do we really get on a ride with them, and fall in love, and be invested?”. You don’t need a lot for that to happen, that can just be two people in the woods.
This is your feature debut as director, so did you write the script imagining how you would shoot it? Or did you approach it the same way as a script you’d hand off to another filmmaker?
Mattson Tomlin: It’s so much easier to write for yourself, because I will be much more aggressive about talking about camera, about sound, you know? I’ll be kind of editing the movie on the page. And I’ll restrain myself from doing that if I’m working with a director, because those are their choices. But in this case, well, it’s all mine. And I just need a place to remember it all. So it’s nice to write for myself every so often.
You’ve become one of the go-to guys for high concept, star-powered, action-driven stuff like Project Power, The Batman, BRZRK, Mega-Man and the rest, so is Mother/Android the right movie at the right stage of your career in terms of showcasing your range as a writer and now director?
Mattson Tomlin: I feel like I should ask you that question! Like, I hope so! No, thank you for saying all of that. The hope was always that this movie could really be a statement of the kind of filmmaker that I want to be both as a writer and a director, personal stories, you know, things I really care about, I have a tattoo in my hand that says ‘Who cares?’.
And that’s kind of the thing I’m always looking for is, “Can I really make people care and at the same time, be fun, be entertaining in a genre space?”. Because those are the movies I love. So hopefully this will set me on a path to just get to keep doing that.
That concludes our interview with Mattson Tomlin. Mother/Android is coming to Hulu on December 17. Tomlin’s next credited screenplay is The Batman, which lands in March 2022, and be sure to check out our interview with the stars of the movie Chloë Grace Moretz, Algee Smith and Raúl Castillo.