A couple of months ago – on Sunday 17th July, just before 7pm I was outside a pub in Windsor and my heart was beating fast. I had driven 80 miles to meet someone I’d never met before, but whose voice I’d listened to every week for the past 4 years. I wasn’t alone: I was expecting to meet a group of complete strangers too.
I walked into the pub and looked around. I knew (sort of) what ‘he’ looked like from pictures, but couldn’t see him there. One guy was sitting on his own, and a group of about 6 people were sat around a large table, drinking and talking. I tentatively approached them. “Excuse me, are you guys Filmspotters?”
They paused for a moment while they tried to understand the label I’d given them, before politely laughing and saying ‘no’. Moments later they left the pub joking that they were “just in time to ‘spot’ the 7.14 to Maidenhead”… With hindsight it should have been obvious that they were all good friends, rather than a group of cinephile strangers with a more-sophisticated-than-average-taste-in-film-podcasts.
However, the guy on his own was one of those cinephiles: we introduced ourselves and sat down together. We were both there to meet Matty Ballgame, co-host of the very excellent Filmspotting podcast. His ‘other’ job had brought him from Chicago to the UK for a few days, and another listener had made the effort to invite him to a pub for a few beers.
They arrived a few minutes later, as did around half a dozen other Filmspotters, and until closing time we drank beer and talked about stuff – mostly films and music. My fellow Filmspotters are all very nice people, we had a laugh. Matty is charming and funny, and talks about pretty much everything he cares about with passion and commitment. What you see is what you get, in a very good way. He was also being very positive about potential acting opportunities which at the time made me wonder how long he could keep presenting the show if his intended career took off.
And so it now transpires that Matty Ballgame is leaving Filmspotting, at present for destinations unannounced. Filmspotting is my favourite film podcast by some distance (sorry Dr Kermode), because it has done more to broaden my cinematic knowledge and experience than anything else. I rarely make it to the cinema, and FS fuels my DVD-rental list months in advance. Even better, it has introduced me to directors and films I might never have sought out, but for the passionate, committed and considered recommendation of its hosts.
Filmspotting will survive Matty’s departure (sorry, Matty!) because (a) it’s a terrific format that has been consistently delivered by the fantastic Adam Kempenaar for 6 years, alongside 2 co-hosts and occasional guests, (b) it has a scale of supporters (including me) who love it, and (c) there will always be films worth talking about.
I don’t know Matty, but it feels like I do. His frank openness and honesty about himself, his work, his love life (or lack of) and his love of films make him much more than just a radio presenter or film critic (although he might deny that he’s even a film critic!). I want to wish him the very best of luck from all his Filmspotting fans. I hope he succeeds in his ambitions (whatever they might be!?), that he continues to Bring The Truth™ and that he can occasionally return to Filmspotting once in a while.
In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait to see his Lear. But we’ll always have this piece of broadcasting gold…
And if you want to hear the quality and range of his performance skills, you should really check out this gem of a Massacre Theatre scene from FS#258 (starts around 33mins).