- Zalli Foundation
Matt Robinson: Humanity Over Everything
Updated: Jan 31
Founder of Migration Films, Matt has worked in the media industry for 25 years, as an editor on TV staples such as Strictly Come Dancing, Xtra Factor Rewind, The Only Way is Essex and Big Brother, and as a Director shooting videos for artists such as David Lachapelle, Artist Dale vN Marshall, Mark Owen of Take That and British rappers, Roots Manuva and Rodney P. His two movie credits are for editing ‘The Story Of’ and ‘White Collar Hooligan 2’.
In a concerted effort to bring an added element of social responsibility to his work, in the last 6 years he has also moved into production for the charity sector, where he has applied his skills to make a tangible difference in people’s lives, making videos for various projects. The life experience he has gained whilst working in this sector has changed him forever in terms of gratitude and appreciation for humanity. Content includes filming a cross Europe aid convoy to Greece, refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey, open heart surgery on babies in Tanzania, water wells in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, food and water distributions in the desert in Somalia and Yemen, marathons in Morocco and Palestine and a rickshaw challenge in Pakistan. He has been storytelling in the form of documentaries for years and has a strong vision of how to tell each story through directing the actors, the cinematography and the pacing in the edit. Since making the anti-knife crime short performance drama of ‘Dagger’ with Tommy Evans in 2018, multi-award-winning ‘Isolate’ is his latest creation – a claustrophobic and uncomfortable short film looking at the effect on mental health that Isolation can have, particularly in the terrifying world of a pandemic.
Matt, welcome to the leaders show. It is an honour to have you here. You are a director, a filmmaker, with more than 20 years of experience in Media. You have worked in brilliant shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Sir David Frost Show for AI Jazeera and many more. But who is Matt behind the scenes? How would you describe yourself? What are your hobbies and passions?
I’m pretty ordinary. I am quite easily pleased and quite easygoing. I am also precise with some things, but generally speaking, I am pretty easygoing, and I love my art. I’m an artist. I’m a painter, I write, and I’ve written a book that’s about to be published. My hobbies and passions include watching films, watching football; my team is Bristol Rovers.
I enjoy hiking and trekking, I enjoy the countryside, and I enjoy fishing and swimming, so those are really my hobbies and passions: painting, films, football, swimming, a bit of cooking here and there, trekking, and of course traveling. I wouldn’t say it’s a hobby; it’s more of a job, but it’s a job-stroke hobby, so really, I’m really lucky to do the job because it feels like I’m just having fun all the time.
You have worked in the humanitarian sector for the last six years, and you have mentioned that this experience has changed your life forever. Can you tell us a little more about your experience and how it is helping other people worldwide?
I would say this changed my life forever. Before this, I spent, as you know, 20 years working in mainstream film and TV. I still do continue to work in mainstream film and television sometimes in order to keep my head above water. Life isn’t cheap in London. Six years ago, I got my first actual job in the charity sector as a videographer and filmmaker. We were travelling across the country to the refugee camps in Greece, so we went from London to Greece. We drove through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and then into Greece. It took us about five days. When we got to Germany, a guy who was a partner with the charity said to me, “Matt, have you been to a refugee camp before?” I responded that I had never been. He said, “When you go there, it will change your life.”
I replied, “I can imagine.” I understood it conceptually, but I had no idea how much of an effect or impact it would have on my life. When I saw it for the first time, I saw people who were passportless and stateless. These people had no rights. They had nothing. It was horrible to see how they lived. These were extraordinary human beings; some of them were doctors, engineers, pilots, and teachers. These were people that you see in everyday life in every single country, but because war was in their country, they had nothing but their lives, but they had each other.
They made me realise that this is what I want to focus on. This is what I want to do with my life. I want to work in this sector. I want to try to help people with the skill set that I have. My skill set was filmmaking, and by creating the content for people, like refugees, I was able to raise awareness worldwide and help people, also through fundraising.
According to you Matt, what are the main humanitarian challenges and what steps can we take as a society to help alleviate these problems? How important is compassion and what can be done to cultivate compassion in life?
I think everyone should start with oneself. Look at what you’re doing. Look at how you live. Look at how you’re doing things. For example, I’m going to talk about Palestine. There are four humanitarian principles, and two of them are impartiality and neutrality, so you’re not allowed to take sides. However, when one views oppression, and one stays silent, I believe yiu become part of the problem. When you witness oppression, whenever it may come from, one needs to speak out and stand up against that oppression. Therefore, start with yourself, and then come together with other people, because unity is what drives change. Raising awareness mspreading the word, all are important. I support Palestine against Zionist oppression.
How important is compassion, and what can be done to cultivate it in life?
Well, there’s a phrase my mom would always use, and it’s “never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” and that’s a great saying to lead your life by when it comes to interacting with other people. Try to put yourself in the position of the person who needs help. Consider other people’s perspectives, such as where they are coming from, why they are hurting, and what things are offending someone. Fear is one of the biggest problems worldwide. Most people are afraid of what others will do to them, which leads to more behavioural and mental problems.Therefore, try to have empathy for somebody else’s situation, and fear will turn into compassion..
What are your future plans? What are your goals, dreams, ambitions?
I’m a filmmaker, so I’ll continue to make films, and I’ve written a book, which is being published, where I have shared my experiences. I am really excited about this. I am also starting a charity called “Migration Relief” together with my partner Farah, solely aimed at helping refugee populations because they are the most dispossessed people on the planet, independent of race, religion, and country.
Can you tell me a leadership quote that has had a big influence and impact in your life inspiring you both in professional but also in your life?
This isn’t a quote from a real person, but it is a quote from a film. However, I think it matches life perfectly, and it’s from the film Gladiator and its hero, Maximus Decimus Meridius, who says, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” I absolutely adore it; it is my favourite leadership quote.