It has been quite the journey for former NFL wide receiver turned filmmaker, Matthew A. Cherry. The director, producer, and writer is a newly-minted Oscar winner.
His NFL career included time on several teams including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and Baltimore Ravens. In 2007, Cherry retired from football and headed to Los Angeles, California to pursue a career in entertainment.
His first Hollywood assignment was as a production assistant. He worked on over 40 commercials, and then as a director on over 20 music videos, including work with Parkwood Entertainment on videos for Beyoncé and Chloe x Halle.
Since his introduction into the entertainment world, he has been an unstoppable force. He wrote and directed the independent films The Last Fall in 2012 and 9 Rides in 2016. A true innovator, with 9 Rides, Cherry is perhaps the first director to shoot a feature film entirely on an iPhone.
Inspired by videos of black fathers lovingly yet hilariously styling their daughters’ hair, he launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 to fund what he and co-producer Karen Rupert Toliver polished into a brilliant animated short film.
The campaign blew through its initial goal of $75,000 and raised over $300,000, breaking the record for the highest amount raised on that platform for a short film.
On February 9, 2020, with Rupert Toliver, Cherry received the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Hair Love, the story of a dad’s struggle to do his daughter’s hair while her mom is in the hospital. The 6 mins 48 secs film is magical, celebratory and honest. It was critically-acclaimed long before the Oscar nomination and win, and continued the discussion on the history of hair in the black community.
Cherry touched on that ongoing conversation in his acceptance speech: “Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation,” he said. “We wanted to normalize black hair.”
We hear you, Matthew A. Cherry, and we are excited to keep watching your journey.