Senior Member Scott Matthews.
Matthews received CAP’s Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award in January 1990 as a cadet in the California Wing.
Footage shot by Matthews while deployed to Afghanistan earned him a prestigious Emmy award.
Jennifer S. Kornegay
Since its founding, Civil Air Patrol has depended on the time and talents of its members to accomplish its missions. For its 75th anniversary, the organization looked to Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Scott Matthews – who received the organization’s top cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, in January 1999 – to help it share its story, from inception to today, in a powerful and dramatic video.
“Scott’s film is absolutely amazing,” said John Salvador, CAP’s interim chief operating officer. “That struck me the first time I saw it, and now, every time I see it again, I feel the same way.”
Matthews created two versions of the film. The full-length version was premiered during CAP’s National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in August; the shorter one was shown during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in September in National Harbor, Maryland, and again Thursday night at CAP's 75th Anniversary Gala at the Smithsonian Institution Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia. All three times, the audiences were moved.
“Everyone in Nashville loved it, and the shorter version was a big hit, too,” Salvador said. “So many Air Force leaders told us how impressed they were. It really tells CAP’s story in moving way and highlights our legacy.”
Salvador pointed out that Matthews brought something more than technical expertise to the project. “He understands the value of CAP to our communities and our nation because he’s a member, and it’s obvious he really cares about the organization.
“Scott feels that he has achieved so much in life because of CAP, and he wanted to give back in this way.”
Matthews confirmed Salvador’s assessment of his sentiments. “My CAP cadet experience did a lot for me. It was the best and most comprehensive leadership training I’ve ever received,” he said. “I still consider my Spaatz award as one of my greatest achievements. And it was while I was a cadet that I discovered my interest in making films.”
Matthews now lives near Nashville, where he works for the Tennessee Air National Guard and serves as a Civil Air Patrol senior member, but he got his start in video production while he was a CAP cadet in California in the late 1990s. “I joined in 1993, when I was 15. I was interested in becoming a pilot, and I saw a CAP display at an air show and thought it looked cool,” he said.
When he was a cadet, one of his squadron leaders was looking for someone to film cadet activities and asked if anyone was interested in filmmaking. Matthews said he was. They went to a local electronics store, got a video camera and other equipment, and he, along with two fellow cadets, started shooting cadet events.
For three years Matthews chronicled cadet activities. Then, at the end of his time as a cadet and after high school, he went off to Cogswell College in San Jose, California, specializing in digital animation and motion pictures.
The very next year, CAP asked him to film all of the cadet special activities, marking the first time he’d filmed for CAP outside his cadet duties and the first time all the activities had been captured on video.
In August 2001, with dreams of flying still in his head, Matthews enlisted in the California Army National Guard, hoping to become a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. But shortly after his graduation from initial enlisted training and after the tragedy of 9/11, he was deployed to Afghanistan as a Black Hawk mechanic instead of getting to wait on a pilot slot.
Matthews took his video camera with him. “Leadership let me film while I was there, and I sent some of the videos I made home to my family and put some on the unit’s website. They ended up getting shared, a lot,” he said.
Several high-ranking military officials at the National Guard Bureau saw his footage and were so impressed they requested his unit allow him to film full-time on the Guard’s behalf for the remainder of his deployment. When he returned stateside, the National Guard hired him as a civilian contractor to film for them.
That job took him to Tennessee. In 2008, he deployed back to Afghanistan, this time as an aerial gunner on the HH-60G Pave Hawk in a combat search and rescue unit. He took along the highest-quality digital motion picture camera available at the time, and again he shot some compelling scenes.
One of the projects that made use of his footage, a film made by the National Guard entitled “I Won’t Let My Guard Down,” won an Emmy, and Matthews got his own gold statue with credit as the cinematographer. “That was a great moment,” he said.
Matthews stopped filming for the Army National Guard in 2010 and is now working in a cyber support role for the Tennessee Air National Guard. But he was missing filming, so when CAP asked him to do the 75th anniversary video, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I really wanted to do it,” he said. “I knew I had the technical experience, and my experience with CAP meant I understood the story. Plus, CAP was so valuable to me, I was happy to give back and be a part of honoring it.”
He pulled in every favor he could from connections made during his full-time filming days and borrowed most of the Hollywood-quality equipment he needed to achieve the look he was aiming for, and Salvador got him cleared to fly on a few of the Surrogate Predator missions CAP performed in conjunction with the Air Force, as well as other missions.
“I really wanted to get dynamic angles, so the shot tells you what is happening,” Matthews said. “There is no dialogue, so the images have to tell the story on their own.”
Working as a one-man show with no lighting and no crew meant he had to improvise and do a lot on the fly, but he had a vision all along. “He was always confident,” Salvador said. “He told me more than once, ‘This is going to be a great video.’
“He had it all in his mind, and that made me and others confident that it was going to be truly amazing.”
Knowing CAP, Matthews knew the organization didn’t have a giant budget to produce the film, so he did it all at cost.
“There was no profit involved, but I wanted to do this, and I wanted it to have a big-budget look, so I borrowed the best equipment I could find and worked hard to get the right footage,” he said.
Those who’ve seen the finished piece agree that he achieved his goal.
“The video really is done so well and means a lot to all of us in CAP, and I know it meant a lot to Scott to make it,” Salvador said. “He is great example of how CAP prepares young people for future careers, whether it be in military or civilian life, or both.”