BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Matt Harris, an award-winning screenwriter whose latest project sold for a whopping $20 million, lived all over the world — including Singapore, Venezuela, and Indonesia — before landing in Bakersfield during his college years. He connected deeply with Bakersfield’s history and its residents and decided to finish his degree at Cal State Bakersfield.
“You know I feel like there’s something about Bakersfield — I suppose it’s in the roots of my family, in the sense that my parents are both originally from Oklahoma and as you know there’s a lot of people from Oklahoma that found their way to Bakersfield,” Harris said.
Harris’ CSUB English professor encouraged him to develop his talent for writing. As he says, her interest in him changed his life.
“It took somebody taking the time and the interest in me to sort of, you know, just to reaffirm or acknowledge or even recognize the talent that I wasn’t aware of,” Harris said.
With no formal training in screenwriting, the first script Harris wrote won a Nicholl Fellowship, the film industry’s most prestigious writing award, beating more than 6,000 other submissions. His second script, “The Starling,” collected dust years before being acquired for a staggering 8-figure amount by Netflix. The comedy-drama, which stars Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd and Kevin Kline, began streaming last month in more than 190 countries.
“I am writing more stories. ‘The Starling’ has done very well for Netflix — and Netflix is very interested in doing something else together, which is nice,” Harris said.
Although Harris has a thriving career in Hollywood, visiting Bakersfield is a priority. His father, sister and nieces live in town. When he visits, he enjoys spending time with family, searching for the best barbecue restaurants and playing golf at the North Kern course.
“Every time I’m back in Bakersfield I’m just astonished at how much it’s grown.”
Harris will strengthen his relationship with Bakersfield when he participates in the CSUB’s ‘Runner Alumni mentor program this fall. He will be paired with a student who is interested in the entertainment industry and help that student make the transition from school to career.
“I know it sounds daunting you know to make that break and to find your way into Hollywood – but if you’re really interested in doing it it’s probably — you start with the micro right you know, first things first I’ve got to ask some questions, you know reach out to a person like myself.”
Harris is also working on a screenplay that depicts Bakersfield’s oil history — based on his experiences working in the oil fields when he was in college.
“It was a very dangerous job when I did it. There was one incident that I had working out at a pumping unit at a well site where I nearly lost my hand had someone not pushed me off of the well-head when they did. And the clamps gave way and it would’ve been horrible to my hand. I did know a few guys out there when you would shake their hand you’d realize they only had a couple of fingers, you know. It’s inspired by that idea -– of someone who’s injured and has to find their way.”
Matt Harris’s career continues to grow at warp speed but he will always remain a “Runner to us.
To learn more about the ‘Runner Alumni Mentor Program, visit here.