In the early 2000s, Matty Rich had the opportunity to be the creative director/artistic director for the French video game company Ubisoft.
He was the creator of the street racing game “187 Ride or Die.” Rich also wrote the cutscenes, or short cinematic narratives, for the game.
For the past three years, Rich has been a screenplay film writing instructor at the American Film Institute (AFI). “I instituted the first writing for video games course [at AFI],” he said.
Rich, however, is probably best known for his 1991 independent film, “Straight Out of Brooklyn.” It is a Black coming-of-age story, and it is set in Rich’s hometown of Brooklyn, NY.
He was only 19. Rich says he initially used his mother’s and sister’s credit cards to shoot a short clip to get the funding. He continues by remembering meeting actor Malcolm Jamal Warner at New York University. Warner came to one of his screenings, and his attendance drew a huge crowd.
“I raised $77,000 with just regular, everyday people investing in ‘Straight Out of Brooklyn,’” mused Rich. “That’s how I got the money to finish the film.”
The film went on to win the Special Jury Prize Award at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival. Rich also portrayed the role of “Larry” in the film.
His success with “Straight Out of Brooklyn” would land Rich a development deal with Tri-Star Pictures. In 1994, he directed his second film, “The Ink Well,” for the company. The film is about a family from upstate New York that spends two weeks with relatives in the prestigious community of Martha’s Vineyard.
Rich remembers after reading the script that he had a close connection to it because this was the life he wanted. At only 21 years old, he had the opportunity to work with great actors like Larenz Tate, Jada Pinkett, Dwayne Martin, Mary Alice, and the list goes on.
After many years developing unproduced projects, Rich met Michelle Satter, the founding senior director of the Sundance Institute’s Artist Program, and he began teaching online writing and directing courses for Sundance.
Rich’s latest moviemaking offering is the cinematic trailer for his new film, “Birth of the Black Underworld.” He calls the film his passion project, and one that has been with him for a long time.
According to Rich, the fictionalized film is set in 1930s Brooklyn where a young African American orphan is groomed to be a lackey for the Jewish American and Italian American mafia. However, the young man wants more — he wants to create his own criminal organization.
“This story is a lot about African American ownership, even in the underworld,” stated Rich. “Racism existed even in the underworld. People of color could not exceed a certain level, so I wanted to tell this story of how this group, set in Brooklyn, wanted to have their own.”
Rich self-financed the extended cinematic trailer for “Birth of the Black Underworld,” which stars Frank Stallone, Rhonda Morman, Thomas Copeland Jr., George V. Andreakos, and Matty Rich.
In July 2023, “Birth of the Black Underworld” won the Audience Award at the Essence Film Festival.
After the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes are over, Rich says he intends to go into full production on “Birth of the Black Underworld.” The unions went on strike in May 2023 and July 2023 respectively, contesting the issues of streaming residuals, AI usage, living wages, and more.
“There is also a television component [to “Birth of the Black Underworld”], and there’s also a gaming component,” said Rich. “So, what I do now — for the 10-plus years I’ve been in the gaming world — is anything I do has to have a gaming component.”
Keith L. Underwood is the host of the KBLA Talk 1580 entertainment radio show, “Black In The Green Room.” A former entertainment publicist, he currently develops platforms for performers, creatives, and Hollywood execs to shine and inspire. IG: @umaworldwide.