Matt Henry

Can you tell us a little about what you do?
Do you like to laugh? Do you love adventure? Do you yearn to escape the humdrum
routine of everyday existence? Then you might be interested in my work. I’m an author,
playwright, filmmaker, and fifteen-year resident of Burbank. I love telling stories of
escapism and whimsy. Growing up in the suburban mall sprawl of northeastern Ohio, I
sought out anything that could whisk me away from the cookie-cutter houses and
endless chain restaurants. When movies and video games weren’t enough, I started
writing. I began with short stories, then moved into one-act plays, and completed my
first “novel” when I was in seventh grade. Thankfully, it was never published.
But as I grew older, I started to wonder if storytelling was something I could do for a
living. I moved to Los Angeles to attend USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and when I
graduated I found work as a reality TV editor. But my heart still sought out escape. I
decided it was time to write another novel.

In 2017 I published my first real book, a middle-grade fantasy called Sorcery for
Beginners. Publishers Weekly called it “a clever, often hilarious adventure” and Booklist
dubbed it “a charming package.” The sequel, Cryptozoology for Beginners, was
published two years later. I went on to write a novel about a super-powered baby called Superkid, and an interactive novel for adults called You Are a Filmmaker. Reviewers called it “extremely compelling, creative, and fun.” All four books can be found on Amazon, Indiebound, or at your favorite local bookstore.

But novels are not my only artistic outlet. I’ve written over two dozen screenplays,
several stage plays, and a web series pilot called Super Kids. In 2019, I wrote and
directed an immersive romantic comedy called Somebody to Love that was performed
in Burbank’s Magnolia Park district. Become Immersed called it “a delightful romp about
modern dating.”

I have several more projects in the pipeline, including a sci-fi detective story and
romance set in a hidden valley where people don’t age. Recently, I’ve been hard at work
on the third book in the Codex Arcanum series, Time Travel for Beginners. I’m also
writing my first podcast and developing a mobile game based on You Are a Filmmaker. I
hope to escape into stories for the next fifty years.

How did you first become interested in art?
I was always interested in telling stories, but I never thought of it as a legitimate art until
I was in eighth grade. During my lunch periods, I would meet with my English teacher
Mr. Werner to discuss my writing. He would read whichever silly story I was working on
and give me feedback. (Now that I’m a teacher myself, I realize what a sacrifice it was
for him to give up his lunch breaks!)

One day, he handed me an envelope. Part of me worried that it was a letter of
resignation. Or worse, a bill for all his tutoring hours. Instead, I opened it to find a
handwritten note from the editor of a local kid’s magazine. Mr. Werner had sent them a
story I’d written, and it had been accepted for publication! Even better, there was a $15
check included. It wasn’t much, but it was the first time I realized that I could actually be
paid for my “art.”

Thanks to Mr. Werner, I gained the confidence to submit my work to other magazines. I
became a reporter for the teen section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, I wrote plays, and
I was published in several more magazines before graduating from high school. Thirty
years later, I’m still an artist, and that’s in large part because of the support Mr. Werner
gave me. I dedicated my first novel to him as a small indication of my gratitude.

How does art enrich a community, and what are some ways people can engage with art in Burbank?
Art is essential to a vibrant community. Not only does it bring people together, but it
helps us deepen how we view the world and our neighbors. Burbank has plenty of
opportunities for these kinds of shared experiences. You can see plays at the local
theaters, watch movies at Teddy Bear Park or the Ume Credit Union, and attend the
holiday festival in Magnolia Park. I’m a member of California Creative Arts, which also
features local artists’ work at community events. Finally, I’d encourage people to check
out the great public works of art, from the murals in downtown Burbank to the colorful
paintings on the utility boxes.

If you could share with our community one thing about art, what would it be?
Anyone can make art! Everyone has a story to tell, and there are a million ways to tell it.
Sculpt. Make a podcast. Create a comic book. Draw a picture on your sidewalk (in
chalk, of course). You’ll be amazed by how many people you will connect with. During
the pandemic, my wife and I put a “Joke of the Day” blackboard on our porch. We kept it
up for a year and a half, writing new punchlines every day. When we finally ran out of
steam, we heard from so many of our neighbors who had enjoyed the jokes. One
woman even told us she changed her dog walking route so she could keep up with the
day’s joke.

The point is, even something that seems small and silly can have an effect on people.
And you’ll never know unless you put your work out there.

To find out more about Matt and his work, visit his website