Lisa Matt makes splash in Hollywood
A woman who grew up in Fairfield has made it big in show business with casting jobs for major television networks.
Lisa Matt is only 24 years old and has already worked in casting famous television shows such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Real Housewives of Miami and Swamp People.
Matt was raised in Fairfield and attended several schools in her youth. She was homeschooled through fifth grade. She attended Maharishi School for a few years, spent a couple more in the public school system and then began attending Indian Hills Community College when she was a teenager.
When she was 16, she enrolled at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Mich. Matt cultivated an interest in fine arts through her exposure to many interesting people in Fairfield.
“Because of Fairfield, I developed an interest in a diverse array of art forms,” she said. “I got so much hands-on experience in the arts, I knew I wanted to do something artsy.”
The art that interested Matt most of all was acting.
“It just got my gears turning,” she said. “I wanted to delve into it.”
Matt studied motion picture art at the arts academy in Interlochen. She learned how to run a camera, set up lights and write a screenplay. She decided perhaps acting was a more difficult career than she imagined after seeing so many acquaintances from Fairfield move to Hollywood to act and then move back to town.
“It’s good I didn’t get my heart set on acting,” she said. “For women, there’s a really narrow type of person you have to be.”
Matt became interested in screenwriting while in Michigan. One of her screenwriting teachers had gone to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where Matt decided to enroll as well. She said it was a fantastic choice.
Because of the university’s close proximity to Hollywood, Matt was able to meet major film producers on a regular basis.
Matt’s budding career as a writer got a boost her sophomore year when she landed a job with Disney. Disney releases special editions of its television shows known as “What’s What Editions” wherein pop-up bubbles appear on the screen throughout the episode telling the audience about the actors or funny behind-the-scenes facts. Matt was one of the writers who produced this pop-up commentary.
The writers got together in a room and came up with jokes as they watched the show. Matt said anyone could say a joke, and the head writer in the room decided whether to include the suggestion or not. Matt said even though she was the youngest person there and still in college, she was treated just like the other writers. She bonded so well with those writers they are now among her closest friends.
The shows Matt wrote commentary for included Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, Starstruck, and Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, among many others.
As if that were not exciting enough, Matt said her life changed completely the following year when she secured an internship with the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. At the time, Matt wanted to pad her resume as a writer so she could become a writer’s assistance. However, her internship with Extreme Makeover was in a different field, casting.
“I ended up being really good at it,” she said. “Right after the internship ended, the casting producer team set me up with part-time paid casting jobs that I did while I was in school.”
After she graduated from USC in 2011, Matt was looking for work. She planned to sign up for a bartending course, but then she got a call from Extreme Makeover. She had made such an impression on the casting team it wanted her to return to the show to become the associate producer of casting. Matt was thrilled with the news.
The premise of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is the network finds a family that is doing all it can to make ends meet and is suffering in terrible housing. The network finds a construction company that is willing to donate labor and materials to build the family a brand new house.
Matt’s role was to find families who would be a good fit for the show. She said her job was harder than most reality TV casting jobs because most reality TV shows advertise for and receive participants on the Internet. However, the families Matt had in mind were humble and hardly attention-seekers.
Once a construction firm was lined up, Matt searched for families in that area by calling the local YMCA, Boys and Girls Club or any organization that might know of families struggling to get by. Matt said working on the show was a truly rewarding experience.
“It’s great when you can do life-changing work like that,” she said. “It made me think there is this whole other world of real people out there that really captures me and fascinates me. It made me realize how amazing real people can be in comparison to the kind of people you make up.”
Real people are the subject of Matt’s next project, which is filming a documentary about people who routinely dress as mascots. She said she’d like to do many more documentaries.
“I like the process of getting to know real people’s stories and relating those,” she said. “I’m trying to get some documentary projects off the ground. That’s where I see myself going with all the skills I’ve picked up.”