33 Q+A with MATT SHALLY + JORDAN BLADY | COMFORT ZONE

Comfort Zone is the latest short film by Paris-based director Jordan Blady. Exploring the vibrant drag community in Tbilisi, Georgia, the documentary looks at the blossoming drag ball scene through the eyes of activist and performer Matt Shally.

We dive into his personal journey of self-acceptance, first as his emotional and aggressive drag alter-ego Victoria Slutyna and then as his true self, Matt in a Dress. The film also highlights the resilience of the queer Georgian community. Regardless of the homophobic threat and attacks of the past few years, the Tbilisi’s LGBTQ+ community has refused to give up existing and having a voice and place in Georgian society.

Director – Jordan Blady (@jordanblady)
Cast: Matt Shally (@shallymatt)
Executive Producer – Sandro Gabilaia (@sandrogabii)
DOP – Igor Smitka (@igorsmitka)
Music – Vazha Marr
Head of Production – Make Gurabanidze
Producer – Masho Tevdorashvili (@masho_tevdorashvili)
Line Producer / 1AD – Ninia Sherpa (@ninia_sherpa)
1st AC – Fillip Kettner (@kazisvet)
Photography – Emma Louise Swanson (@emmalouiseswanson)
Gaffer – Vazha Aprasidze
Boom Operator – Bacho Gvetadze
Electrician – Robert Arakelyan & Mishka Saganelidze
Mua – Qeto Chantadze
Set Designer – Hitori O.G (@hitori_og)
Styling by – Levau Shvelidze (@levaushvelidze) & Matt Shally
Titles – Kostya Chiqurov
Supervising Sound Editor – Beso Kacharava (@besosound)
Sound Editor – George Murgulia
Foley Artist – Biko Gogaladze (@bikogog)
Foley Mixer – Giorgi Lekishvili

33 Q+A WITH MATT SHALLY + JORDAN BLADY

MATT SHALLY

Name?

Matt Shally

Profession?

Actor/Performer

Country of origin?

Georgia

Current living place?

Tbilisi

Guilty pleasure?

Trashy Pop Songs

Age you identify with?

22 and somewhere in my twenties I guess

Zodiac sign?

Capricorn

Culture you are most drawn to?

Musical and animations

First job/career choice?

First official jobs were dancer and waiter, now acting and performing

Favorite creative outlet?

Baggy clothes

What is something mundane that inspires you?

The older generation and disney animation

What about your main source of inspiration?

People who cares about culture

Real world or fictional world?

Real because we have theater for all the magic

Something from your cultural heritage that you wish would be noticed more?

How talented we Georgians are

An unpopular opinion?

If it’s about me, then it would be that I am messy. And it’s true haha

Which movie had a strong impact on you and you wish more people knew about it?

First thing that comes to my mind is Broadway musicals and Moana from Disney

How would you describe your style?

Fancy/taste homeless person haha

What is your personal “cure” when experiencing a creative burnout?

My friends always

What advice would you give someone trying to follow the same career path as you?

Learn more

If you had the opportunity, which person from the past would you want to work with?

David Bowie and my grandpa (he died before my birth)

Where do you see yourself in 33 years?

I see the whole scene: before going on stage I’m screaming because I’m hungover but I still nail the whole performance hahah

How can the internet influence creativity?

It’s just more information for everybody and it’s necessary now

What is the most important part of your creative process?

Trust people I am working with

Fictional characters you relate most to?

Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast

What is your personal philosophy?

Before work make sure you trust those around you and mostly yourself

How was the experience of working with Jordan?

Jordan is amazing and he saw me like even some of my closest and dear people couldn’t

You have presented a short film with a very strong statement and even stronger sub messages; if it had to be just one thing, what would you like the audience to take away from it?

You are everything and one day your thoughts will go out of your room

What are some visual references that guide your choice of representing yourself? Who are your influences both in the drag scene and outside of it?

Pop/rock stars who were always unapologetic. My drag and characters mostly came from me but of course also partly inspired by unapologetic chicks like Courtney Love, Paris Hilton and so. But mostly everything came from me though I am not in love with myself

The art of drag has taken the world by storm – what would you like to introduce in Georgia that is already possible in other countries?

The scene and visibility of this amazing culture. We even don’t have a drag scene and drag education

How would you describe the drag scene in Georgia? And what do you feel sets it apart from the rest of the world?

We don’t have that much of a drag scene, but there’s so much potential and it’s so real. It’s really something different

Before Matt in a Dress there was Victoria Slutyna; what would you say you learned from this drag alter ego that helped you morph into your true and authentic self?

Victoria was crazy as fuck so she gave me the right to do anything I wanted and rule every place how I wanted

What is the most challenging part of drag for you?

Publicity. But also getting an education because a lot of this amazing culture was still hidden

What is something you would like to tell the team that

Someone always cares about you somewhere and learn as much as you can from everywhere and from everything – it is the only weapon.

JORDAN BLADY

Name?

Jordan Blady

Profession?

Writer / Director

Country of origin?

USA (with a Polish passport)

Current living place?

Paris and LA

Guilty pleasure?

Ice cream on top of chocolate chip cookies drizzled with honey

Age you identify with?

Almost 38

Zodiac sign?

Capricorn sun / Scorpio rising / Libra moon

Culture you are most drawn too

French

First job/ career choice?

I worked at a photo processing lab called Moto Photo which doesn’t exist anymore and I was fired.

Favorite creative outlet?

Journaling or composing music. It’s a tie.

What is something mundane that inspires you?

Staring at water

But your main source of inspiration?

Local news

Favorite social media?

None

Real world or fictional world?

Both

Something from your cultural heritage that you wish would be seen more?

Zulawski films

An unpopular opinion?

We deserved Trump

Which movie had a strong impact on you and you wish more people knew about it?

Watcher in the Woods

How would you describe your style?

Fledgling

What is your personal “cure” when experiencing a creative burnout?

Long walks. Especially in Paris

What advice would you give someone trying to follow the same career path as you?

Be kind to yourself

If you could, which person from the past would you want to work with?

Burt Lancaster

Where do you see yourself in 33 years?

Teaching (hopefully) and owning an extremely comfortable chair to read in

How can the internet influence creativity?

That’s a trick question

What is the most important part of your creative process?

Following through on ideas I’ll never use

Fictional character you relate most to?

The Tall Man from Phantasm

What is your personal philosophy?

Keep failing

How was the experience of working with Matt?

Incredible. He’s just as wonderful to be around as you’d imagine

Which movie genre would you say has the strongest impact on the viewers? And which movie genre has the strongest impact upon yourself?

I think narratives with a docu-real feeling like the Dardenne brothers’ work or that Soderbergh period when he made Traffic and Erin Brokovich tend to have the strongest impact. More recently I think that Netflix TV doc series format is grabbing people the most, like Tiger King etc… It’s kind of like Ken Burns meets the Kardashians. For me personally it was always horror or thriller. Hellraiser completely changed my life as a kid

How did the idea for this short film first come to mind? Was it something in particular or did it just come naturally?

Totally natural. Matt and I met a little over a year before we shot Comfort Zone when he auditioned for another film I was doing. We got to talking and we decided almost immediately we were going to have to do a project of our own. Then over the course of the following year and several bad ideas, we ended up doing a short doc, the most natural thing possible, where I tried to capture everything I loved about Matt

As a film director and writer, I’m sure you know best the place everyone tries to avoid which is development hell. How would you say this project evolved from a development standpoint? Did you encounter any hardships? Looking back would you change anything?

I tend to move pretty quickly with my projects because I think it’s important to try and maintain a sense of freshness with your ideas. In the case of Matt it took me about a year to decide which of our concepts was going to work the best, but once we settled on it we were shooting within a month. At the end of the day instincts determine the quality of your directing, so trusting them is essential. When you know the idea is right I think it’s important to try and fuck around as little as possible and execute. I’m very happy with the way the film turned out. If anything, I’d love for it to be longer as there’s plenty more of Matt’s story to tell, it just didn’t fit into the concise format I was going for

What is your point of view when it comes to film festivals?

I struggle with them. I’m not a great networker, they can be pricey, and at the end of the day I’d rather be trying to make more work than promoting something I’ve finished. I love discussing film and trying to pass on whatever knowledge I may have to offer, so I guess I’d say I’m more interested in appearing on panels at festivals than I am competing in

You have presented a short film with a very strong statement and even stronger sub messages, if just one thing, what would you like the audience to take away from it?

Love who you are

What sets apart this short film from your past works?

I think it’s the most stylized short documentary I’ve ever made. Between Igor Smitka’s cinematography and Vazha Marr’s score, I’m really proud of the tone we achieved

What is something you would like to tell the team that collaborated with in realizing this project?

A resounding thank you. When people give their all to create and support a vision, it means everything. 

About Jordan Blady

Jordan is a director living between Paris and Los Angeles. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, his work has been featured on Dazed, Nowness and Vogue Italia. Jordan’s first feature film, Softness of Bodies, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in September 2018. His most recent short film, Comfort Zone, has won Best Unscripted Personal Work at Berlin Commercial and Best Cinematography and Script winner at A Shaded View on Fashion Film, with a nomination for Best Doc at London Fashion Film Festival, and selections at Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Canadian International Fashion Film Festival and Fashion Film Festival Milano.