There’s something about fire and metal that is aesthetically pleasing to film. The way the fire explodes and flicks here and there in slow motion. The orange ember glows, the reds and yellows, the little bits of blue. The energy, the suddenness. The little sparks that fly that as a million little shooting stars.
And so when we started talking about filming Matt Orthmann and his blacksmithing company, we knew it was going to be good.
Matt Orthmann was a college buddy of mine. There were a lot of reasons that we shouldn’t have been friends. He was a football guy, I was a nerd in the library reading old books. Though short, Matt was tall in stature and confidence with the suave of a Hollywood action hero. I was sweet. A few girls liked me, but certainly not for my overabundance of confidence.
We were very different people. But there was one thing we had in common: a love of movies, making them, to be exact.
Because beneath the bulging muscles, the sports-star bravado, and the long hour spent practicing on the football field, Matt had the soul of an artist. His real love – which he discovered in college – was creating things. Iron things, to be exact. And this was the spirit that brought two otherwise different human beings together to make movies in college and afterward.
Matt’s blacksmithing work is beautiful, as you’ll see in the film. At the time, Matt was working on a full-size metal tree for a commission. By the time filming was finished, so was the tree, and we got the opportunity to be the first people to film and showcase the tree even before it was delivered to its final resting place.
Matt was the first interviewee that I experimented with the tactic of getting coffee before the actual interview took place. Sitting in Longbranch on Depot Street, we talked about movies, art, God, and the interesting confluence of masculinity and femininity in blacksmithing and body sculpting, two activities which are, on the surface, very masculine: iron, strength, fire, explosiveness. But beneath those surface-level masculine traits lies a subtle strain of the feminine as well: a concern for beauty, attention to detail, texture, and a love for aesthetic.
What interested me in Matt – and what still interests me today – is that he is a man in which these contradictions disappear: a confident and strong soldier and athlete with a deeply-felt appreciation of aesthetics, beauty, and the act of creation.
Matt is a walking lesson to all of us: these things which we so often see as diametrically opposed – art and sports, power and finesse, the manly and the effeminate – are not so exclusive as they might appear. They can be synthesized inside ourselves, often for the betterment of both.
Here is the final film:
If you’re interested in seeing more of Matt’s artwork or connecting with him, you can find him at this site.
You can also find him on social media here.
Matt, thank you for letting us into your life and shop. Keep pumping iron, in all the different meanings of the phrase.