February 17, 2021 : By Jacob Couch – Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University junior film production and content development student Mathew Gates recently won a music video contest sponsored by Red Street Records and Jay DeMarcus, a member of the multi-platinum selling country music band Rascal Flatts, for a new song from contemporary Christian artist Cade Thompson.
Contestants filmed a music video for Thompson’s single, “Every Step of the Way,” now playing on K-Love and other top radio stations across the country. (Watch Gates’ video). Gates’ winnings included Red Street Records and Thompson merchandise, a gift card, and virtual meetings with Thompson and DeMarcus amongst other prizes.
“I am so excited that Matthew Gates is the winner of the official music video contest for my song, ‘Every Step of the Way,’” Thompson told the JesusWired website. “I love how Matthew took his own creative spin, and narrative to go along with this song. Every time I watch the video I see a new eye-catching element that I love, and it keeps me engaged the entire time. It is so special, at the beginning you see the struggle of someone trying to make music who eventually finds peace through God’s word. I feel this message is relatable to many people in life. We are so excited for the world to see this video. Congrats again, Matthew.”
The contest began in October of last year and was open to anyone in the U.S. Each filmmaker was allowed to insert clips of Thompson recording the new Christian radio single in studio and also create their own shots that helped illustrate the story described through the song.
“Cade has had tremendous success for someone his age,” Gates said. “It was an honor to win a contest that involved him.”
For Gates, it all came together in a matter of a few days.
“I ended up shooting the footage I used in one day and then turned it in the day it was due.”
Although he submitted his video somewhat last minute, the 23-year-old’s goal of starting a career in film is anything but new. Gates grew up in Bentonville, Ark., where his love for cinematography began at age 9 while watching 1993’s “Jurassic Park” with his friends.
“It was during that movie that I had a moment where I realized that I wanted to make something like this,” Gates said.
From there, he began creating small films in the woods behind his house before migrating to larger projects like filming school plays for parents who wanted copies of their children performing or retirement party documentaries of his father’s Walmart co-workers.
Throughout his late teen years, Gates began to study film on a deeper level and eventually made the decision to started saving up money for film school. Unlike many kids his age, Gates had the foresight to know that studying film in school would be a full-time job.
“At the age of 18 I worked a bunch of small jobs to pay for film school and did that for about four years so I could basically have film school payed off by the time I got there.”
During those four years, Gates received an associate’s degree in finance from Northwest Community College in Rodgers, Ark., then ventured east to Lynchburg Va., to attend Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts – Zaki Gordon Center. He said he decided on Liberty because of the way the program immerses students in filmmaking, offering hands-on production experience that doesn’t compare with other film programs.
“When I saw that in Liberty’s program you could make a feature film or be trained for the practical reasons and more than just the theory of film, I realized that I would probably end up being equipped to go jump on a film set anywhere and be able to fit in and know how to work the different jobs,” he said.
The young filmmaker has been able to be a part of multiple small films throughout his time at Liberty and is excited to begin working on his thesis film next year.
Gates has also enjoyed the fact that with his tuition already paid for due to his years of hard work before coming to Liberty, he is able to dedicate as much time as needed to his film projects.
“This is the first time in my life when film has been the only thing that I’ve focused on,” he said.
Gates plans to graduate next year and begin creating feature films with some of the fellow filmmakers he has met at Liberty.