Daria Matza is an adjunct professor at Pierce College but also recently co-directed a documentary with her husband, Mark Devendorf, called “Rise of the Giants.”
Matza has been working on and making documentaries for around 15 years and won an Emmy as an editor for a documentary named “An Inaugural Ride to Freedom.”
“Giants” follows different people on their journey to growing giant pumpkins. The pumpkins can grow to over 2,000 pounds and some are even larger than cars. Matza started making this documentary back in June of 2013 and finished the editing process in September 2014.
Matza found she was infatuated by the process of growing giant pumpkins and after doing some research, she found out giant pumpkins grow up to 50 pounds a day.
“I was just kind of taken by the fruit,” said Matza.
Matza started off by emailing different pumpkin clubs all across the country. Her documentary began when she received an email from a farmer who she met in Utah while visiting with family.
“He was great, he connected me with all these other people and the ball just kind of started rolling and moving fast,” Matza said.
“It’s just like a really fun, exciting group of people to be around and their enthusiasm is contagious and there was a lot of really great stories that I was just excited to follow-up on.”
All giant pumpkins can be traced back to the Dill’s Atlantic Giant seed that originated from Nova Scotia, Canada. Seeds range in prices and some are even traded like baseball cards. The most a giant pumpkin seed has sold for was $1,600. But growing giants pumpkins takes a lot of work and dedication.
“Some people say it takes three things to grow pumpkins: seed, soil and luck,” Matza said. “Other people say weather and other factors, but from what I can see it starts with the soil.”
The current world record for growing a giant pumpkin is held by Tim Mathison from Napa, Calif. His pumpkin weighed in at 2032 pounds in the 2013 Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off hosted by Uesugi Farms in Utah.
When the competitions ends, people do various things with their giant pumpkins. Some people participate in pumpkin drops where they drop their giant pumpkins from a crane. The pumpkins are also fed to the local zoo elephants. But the one that resonated with Matza the most was the hollowed out pumpkin boat races.
“I saw the image of a giant pumpkin and someone rowing in it like a boat and I just thought it was crazy and it just stuck with me,” Matza said.
“Giants” was funded through Kickstarter, a website where people can pledge money to different people to help fund their projects. Matza said her goal amount was pledged within 10 days and people pledged from across the U.S. She promoted the documentary by sending out emails to various pumpkin clubs and people seemed to be really excited by it.
Matza’s traveled back to Utah for the last weekend of September to screen “Giants” in a local movie theater as well as a jail. The film features inmates and their journey with growing a giant pumpkin.
“One of the coolest sections of the movie for me is when we went to a jail in Utah,” Matza said. “They use the garden as a way to rehabilitate drug addicts and they try to grow a giant pumpkin.”
Matza still found time to teach cinema classes at Pierce. Her Cinema 104 (History of Documentary Film) class was shown a sneak peak of the trailer.
“Well it’s really weird. But weird isn’t a bad thing it just means different and it’s just so cool. I never would’ve even thought ‘let’s make a movie about pumpkins’,” said Ashley Beroukhim, Matza’s Cinema 104 student.
Steve Maldonado, 19-year-old Communication major said he felt like he could learn the aspect of documentaries from Matza.
“She’s been there and done that, she’s credible,” Maldonado said.
Matza doesn’t have another idea for her next documentary in mind yet. “Rise of the Giants” came to her and she feels open to whatever the next one should be and feels it will come to her as well.
“A lot of people say it’s love at first sight and I kind of feel like that happened to me,” Matza said.
A free screening of the documentary will be held on Thursday, Oct. 30 in The Great Hall at Pierce College. For more information about “Rise of the Giants” visit riseofthegiantsmovie.com.