Creative conversations: 7 questions with Fort Wayne filmmaker Matt Ayers of Anchor Films

Anchor Films is a Fort Wayne-based, full-service visual production agency that does work for local, regional, and national clients.

In 2019, the company evolved and earned an Elevate small-business grant of $25,000 from FHLBank Indianapolis to purchase gear that will ultimately benefit the Fort Wayne nonprofits and small businesses Anchor serves.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Anchor Films owner, Matt Ayers, to learn more about his work, why he’s staying in Fort Wayne, and his advice to aspiring filmmakers.


Anchor Films works with national, regional, and local clients.

IFW: How did you get into filmmaking?

MA:
Prior to starting Anchor Films, I was a freelance commercial photographer.

Unfortunately, most photographers are asked to simply fulfill the vision of a marketing director or agency without being asked to contribute their ideas about how best to capture a subject to tell a story. Filmmaking is inherently different; it’s more complex, expensive, and generally speaking, the creative process is less understood.

So I was initially drawn to filmmaking to have greater creative input on projects. But it was an entrepreneurial move as well.

I had clients asking if I shot video, and naively, I thought it would be an easy way to grow my business. I soon learned just how many more moving parts are involved with filmmaking and simultaneously fell in love with the process.

So in 2012, I started Anchor Films.
 

IFW: Who or what inspires your work?

MA: As an entrepreneur in a creative industry, I’m inspired in many ways­ and through various mediums. As a photographer and filmmaker, I’m inspired by the work of Jimmy Chin, Matthew Hawthorne, Alexi Lubomirski, and Art Streiber, to name a few.

These guys push the limits of what’s possible (in the field and in-studio) and have clean styles that challenge me in my art. I also find inspiration in print magazines like Iron & Air. Their publication oozes with beautiful photography, compelling writing, and heart. And they truly care about the experience they offer their customers, which is palpable in their product.

As an entrepreneur, I’m inspired by big businesses like Patagonia who create amazing products, craft marketing content that’s honest and enjoyable to consume, and show the world it’s not all about profit.

But I’m even more inspired by small businesses like Dancer Concrete Design. Nick Dancer’s ethos, vision for his business, and positive attitude is contagious. At face value, concrete work and filmmaking seem quite different, but Dancer’s pursuit of perfecting a flow with his team and dialing in their processes to become true craftsman is in total alignment with our vision and goals.

 

IFW: As a filmmaker, why have you chosen to live and work in Fort Wayne, of all places?

MA: In the summer of 2012, I met a girl, and that fall, I started Anchor Films. In my mind, I gave them both a year. I figured I’d know within 12 months if either were going to be a thing; it turns out, both were.

Within a few years, Katie Fox and I got married, and Anchor has been around now for 7 years. At the beginning, I was set on moving the business west to the mountains, but over the years, I’ve come to appreciate Fort Wayne for what it has to offer: An affordable place to start and operate a business, a wonderful community to raise a family, and close proximity to larger cities. And Fort Wayne just keeps getting better.

I love the strides Fort Wayne has taken—especially in recent years—and look forward to being a part of its continued growth in the future.

In spite of Fort Wayne having a small film community compared to larger markets in the Midwest or coasts, I’ve always felt supported and championed by local businesses and friends. And it’s a wonderful place to create.

We run into all sorts of red tape in larger cities with permitting, ridiculous location fees, unions, and logistical difficulties with running productions. Fort Wayne is just simpler.

Sometimes we have to be a bit scrappy in how we work and get creative with casting, locations, etc., but generally speaking, it’s an easy place to produce films.

From a quality of life perspective, the development downtown is a game changer, and all the amazing authentic food options Fort Wayne offers is somewhat remarkable. And you hear it all the time but it’s true: The people here are the best. We have an incredible friend group who love us and support us, and it’s hard to imagine raising a family without them.
 

IFW: Anchor Films earned an Elevate Grant this year. To what do you attribute your success?

MA: I’m a naturally curious person and love to learn. I think this genuine interest in many different topics has helped Anchor connect with a wide variety of clients across many different industries. I’m also a very competitive person and simply want to see how far I can get as a commercial photographer, film director, and business owner.

This ambition is fueled by a desire to continually grow and create better work than I made the day before. And I’ve been blessed by really wonderful guys and gals who work with us on staff and freelance.

Filmmaking takes a team, and you’re only as successful as those who you surround yourself by, so although I’ve led our team, I can hardly take all the credit for our success.

I also have really wonderful friends who run businesses and nonprofits who have invested in me as a person and provided all sorts of business advice throughout the years. Their perspective and feedback has been critical.

And I am hugely inspired by and simultaneously reined in by my wife. She truly believes I can do anything I set my mind to and supports me emotionally and challenges me to keep pursuing my craft when I am scared or frustrated. She also knows I’m a dreamer, and that dreams must be grounded in reality­—and helps me be patient, which is tough.

I’m positive I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.


IFW: Practically speaking, how will having an Elevate Grant transform your business?

MA: We purchased a set of 7 Canon Cinema Lenses with the Elevate Grant and made an additional investment in a remote follow focus system, matte box and filters, shoulder rig, and v-mount battery setup.

The grant helped us afford this gear more quickly and alleviated the burden of choosing which investment to make first. And it’s made a huge difference already. Not only are we better equipped to go head-to-head with our regional competitors, but by owning the gear, we’re able to bring the best gear on set for every client—regardless of size.

As a result, the small businesses and nonprofits we serve locally are receiving a better product by having their videos shot on the same gear we use for our national clients like Ford and Schlage.

Long term, I anticipate the grant will help us grow our in-house team and employ more people in the film industry. It’s a win-win for Anchor and the Fort Wayne community.


IFW: What projects are you working on at the moment?

MA: We’re juggling 6 different client projects at the moment, but just wrapped three really fun shoots for Exodus 90—a Catholic nonprofit that provides a 90 day spiritual exercise for men.

The spots are being used in an online targeted ad campaign and show various comedic ways men prepare for Exodus. They requested :06 second and :20 second versions of 3 different concepts we provided which was a really big creative challenge.

The first of three spots just went live a week ago and has already had more than 400,000 unique views! I can’t wait to see how the campaign impacts Exodus 90 and am excited for the men who will go through the program.
 

IFW:  What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?

MA: Don’t wait to be asked to tell great stories. And don’t wait to have all the gear to make it happen. Work with what you have, and make great stories now.

You have to prove your worth and showcase what you’re capable of to be trusted creatively—especially when budgets get larger. So show up every day, and create, whether you’re feeling inspired or not. Then go out and show the world what you’ve made.

You have to get your work in front of people. It’s very unlikely you’ll be discovered unless you put yourself out there. Also, understand that filmmaking is not just an art; it’s a business. So do yourself a favor, and learn the business side of things as well.

You’ll need an accountant, attorney, and banker. These guys are your friends and will not only provide insight, but also will save you money and heartache in the long run regardless of their hourly rate.

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.
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