Black History 365: Matthew A. Cherry

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Academy Award winning filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry is a Chicago native and a former NFL wide receiver who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens.

In 2007, Cherry retired and moved to LA to pursue a career in entertainment landing work initially as a production assistant for commercials and music videos before transitioning to being a Set PA for the final season of the hit CW TV series Girlfriends and the third season of Heroes for NBC.

After learning on set behind the scenes Matthew started directing music videos in 2008 and now has over 20 to his credit with his first directing credit being the video “I’m Free” for R&B singer Terry Dexter. Since then, Cherry has gone on to direct music videos for various artists, including Michelle Williams featuring Beyoncé & Kelly Rowland, Tweet, Jazmine Sullivan, Chloe X Halle, Lalah Hathaway, Kindred The Family Soul and many others.

In addition to directing music videos, Cherry directed the live action short films “This Time,” starring Reagan Gomez-Preston & Terri J. Vaughn about a soldier coming home from war and trying to win the love of his life back, and “Forward” starring Kenny Copper & Ciera Payton about finding love in an unexpected place. Matthew also created the award winning web series “Almost 30”.

Cherry is also a feature filmmaker and his first indie feature, “The Last Fall,” starred Lance Gross, Nicole Beharie, Vanessa Bell Calloway Keith David, Harry Lennix and Darrin Dewitt Henson. “The Last Fall” is loosely based on the difficulties Cherry’s experienced after he retired from the NFL and attempted to transition back into the real world. The film made its world premiere at SXSW in 2012 and received awards at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) for Best Screenplay and Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAFF) for the HBO Best Feature Film Award. After a limited theatrical release, “The Last Fall” was acquired by Image Entertainment and made its television premiere on BET in December 2012 and is currently streaming on UMC.

Cherry’s latest feature film “9 Rides” premiered at SXSW in 2016 in the Narrative Spotlight category and stars Dorian Missick, Omar Dorsey, Robinne Lee, Xosha Roquemore, Amin Joseph, Skye P. Marshall, Thomas Q. Jones & Tracie Thoms. The film, about an Uber driver who receives life-changing news on New Year’s Eve, was shot entirely on an iPhone 6s.

In television, Matthew has also directed multiple episodes of television, including ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” “Black-ish”, and “The Wonder Years”, plus Peacock TV’s “Bel-Air”, “Saved By The Bell” and more.  

Cherry also served as an executive producer on the Academy Award®-nominated film “BlackKklansman” from Spike Lee while working as a creative executive at Jordan Peele’s production company, Monkeypaw Productions.

Cherry’s latest project “Hair Love” is an animated short film about an African American father attempting to do his daughters hair for the first time. The short, which made its theatrical debut in August 2019 with Sony Pictures Animation’s “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” won the Academy Award in 2020 for Best Animated Short Film and has an accompanying picture book which is a 6 time New York Times Bestseller. Hair Love is now being turned into an animated television series with HBO Max.

Matthew recently signed a first look deal with Warner Bros TV and is set to direct the upcoming comedy heist film The Come Up for New Line Cinema.