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NSU grad makes million dollar movie in Natchitoches

Lia Portillo Cantarero
Matthew Yerby, writer, director and producer of the movie “The Dirty South,” visits professor Melody Gilbert’s advanced journalism class to talk about the process of making a film.

After seven years of creating a film, Matthew Yerby, a 2011 Northwestern State University of Louisiana graduate, takes his movie to the big screen in his new film “The Dirty South.”

Yerby is the writer, producer and director of this movie, which is being premiered in Natchitoches on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, and soon being shown in select theaters nationwide. This film was shot in Natchitoches and received favors from various connections Yerby had while attending NSU. He created what would have been a $3 million movie into a $1 million film.

“Oh, I loved NSU,” said Yerby, “I played baseball there from 2009 to 2011 and I was a psychology major.”

Although he was involved with theater programs from the age of eight, and at 10 he made his move from Oklahoma to Winnfield, La, Yerby found his focus to be baseball when he was in college, temporarily leaving behind his life as an actor.

However, as soon as he got out of college, Yerby moved to Shreveport where he got into modeling and acting. Soon after, he moved to New Orleans where he hired an agent.

“I started auditioning for big feature films and television shows. While I was doing that, I wanted to just be able to write scripts,” said Yerby.

With this, Yerby got a mentor.

“Her name is Eva,” Yerby said, “She actually helped me–I was too broke to even pay her for her mentorship, and I was a yoga instructor, so I would teach her yoga and she would read my street plays.”

No matter the circumstance, Yerby continuously pushed himself to follow his passions. He searched for experience and took advantage of every opportunity that came his way.

“In 2017, I finally auctioned the screenplay and I came to Los Angeles to write for a company,” Yerby said. “After about eight months of doing that, I decided I wanted to direct my own films that I was writing.”

This was just the start of Yerby’s production of “The Dirty South.” Here, he had begun writing a script which would lead to a five-year process from script to film.

“My two characters, who are Sue and Dion, are based off of two songs from 1961,” Yerby said. “One is called Runaround Sue, and it’s about a girl who breaks everybody’s heart. The other song is called The Wanderer, and it’s about a man who has girls everywhere and all over him. What happens when the girl who breaks everybody’s heart meets the guy that can have any woman he wants? What happens if they meet in Natchitoches?”

Yerby took inspiration from these two songs, which were both written by a song artist named Dion. His selection of these songs, however, was not random.

“They were actually my father’s favorite songs,” said Yerby. “My father passed away in 2017, whenever I wrote the scripts. I listened to a lot of his old music shortly after he passed, and I had an idea.”

Through the incorporation of these songs, he commemorates his father in one of the largest milestones of his career thus far.

“I would say the film is in memory of him. He was the exact reason that I chose these two characters,” Yerby said.

With his father being what the story of the movie was inspired by, Yerby’s experience with NSU and the town of Natchitoches was what inspired him to film “The Dirty South” in Natchitoches.

“My mentor once told me to write what I can produce and write what I know, and I’m from the Winnfield and Natchitoches area,” Yerby said. “So I know this area. I know the people that are from there.”

Yerby said his connections within the town really helped him out. If he needed anything, both faculty and students of NSU were willing to assist.

Logan Bordelon, a senior communication major, got an internship to work as a production assistant (PA) on the set of “The Dirty South.”

“I was behind the camera literally 90% of what you see in the trailer,” Logan said.

The scenes were shot all around Natchitoches, including locations such as NSU and Cane River. NSU students being a part of the production of “The Dirty South” is just another connection the movie has to Natchitoches.

“The average shift was 12-13 hours,” Bordelon said, “I would set up food for lunchtime, bring equipment back and forth, set up different camera angles, check lighting…”

PA’s are essential to the movie-making process. They make sure things are running smoothly, while they gain insight into what goes on behind the camera.

“I loved it.It was really fun getting to see that side of it,” explained Bordelon. “I cannot watch a movie without thinking about all the behind-the-scenes stuff. It’s crazy.”

Shona Mottier, an international student from France who was attending NSU during the production of “The Dirty South,” also worked as a PA.

“I was there for all the night scenes mostly – I think my favorite one to see was when they were in the bar. I didn’t know that, when you’re shooting a movie, you don’t have the music on set, so the actors were dancing and singing without any sound.”

Working as a PA, Mottier got to learn and understand more about what goes on when filming a movie. With filmmaking being one of her interests for her future career, this experience was beneficial for her.

“If we were filming for 12 hours, I didn’t feel like it was 12 hours because I was enjoying what I was doing,” Mottier said. “Now, I know that I want to do that. After working on this movie, I started to look for a video school, so that’s what I’m doing right now–I’m really thankful.”

Yerby commented on Bordelon and Mottier’s assistance on set and said, “these two students came out there and they were just bound to take care of any little job that we asked them. It was so cold, and they never complained once–I was just super impressed with both their work ethics.”

He said that getting to work with students of his former college and them being willing to help him out was an incredible feeling. Yerby’s journey up until the release of this movie is a testament that students like him can achieve whatever it is they truly desire in life.

“I just want every student at Northwestern to know this,” Yerby said, “It truly doesn’t matter what you think or what you hear – You can really do anything you want. You just have to work hard for it and not stop. It’s not easy, and there are a lot of hours that go unpaid, but if you want to do something – be a famous actor one day, be a pro athlete, if you want to do crazy things – you absolutely can do it. You really have to just do the work.”

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About the Contributors
Madelyn Murphy
Madelyn Murphy, Current Sauce - Arts & Living Editor
Maddy Murphy is a freshman communication major at NSU. Spending her first semester as a reporter for The Current Sauce, she cannot wait to write news articles and stories inspired by both on-campus and off-campus events in Natchitoches. Her goal is to entertain students by including them in her writing, so be on the lookout—she may ask to interview you for a story!
Lia Portillo Cantarero
Lia Portillo Cantarero, Current Sauce - Editor-in-Chief
Lia Portillo Cantarero is a junior communication major. This is her third year in The Current Sauce and as Editor-in-Chief she hopes to raise awareness around the stories that are happening in the campus community. For Lia, becoming the Editor-in-Chief has been a dream and she is honored to carry the legacy of The Current Sauce forward.

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