"The film is definitely real and definitely raw," said Matthews, who added that he wanted to explore the whole drug and gun culture of the area too.
"I try not to hold anything back. At the same time, I'm from there, I'm from West Virginia, I'm from Alum Creek. This is my family. I'm not trying to make an exploitation film. I'm trying to make something that takes itself seriously. My goal is for people to watch it and empathize."
In order to give the film its best possible shot at being seen, Matthews has mounted a $15,000 Indiegogo campaign to help with the SXSW screening (type in "Surviving Cliffside" at indiegogo.com to find the campaign, which ends March 7; the film's trailer also can be seen there).
The campaign will help pay for a publicist, some postproduction costs and help with travel expenses to the festival.
Matthews has come a long way toward his dream of being a filmmaker since first working as an attorney in Charleston and then as legal director for the ACLU in Connecticut. Four years ago, he quit practicing law and enrolled at New York University's graduate film program.
"Surviving Cliffside" is his thesis film, and was made possible by a grant awarded by Spike Lee.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.