When Florida-based moviemaker Matt Katsolis stumbled upon a contest link this past summer, little did he know that he would soon be named the grand prize winner in Panasonic’s “Shoot It. Share It” video contest. Katsolis won the short-form competition by submitting a trailer for his upcoming feature-length documentary, Moving On: Love is Winning, about the life-changing journey of a young American couple to Uganda. As winner of the contest, Katsolis received an AG-HPX370 P2 HD camcorder package, valued at more than $12,000.

For the “Shoot It. Share It” contest, users of Panasonic’s professional AVCCAM, P2 HD and DVCPRO HD camcorders submitted videos demonstrating a compelling use of their cameras. After a panel of judges chose the first and second place winners in each genre (Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Nature, etc.), the public voted online to name the grand prize winner. All 14 top entries can be viewed at www.shootitshareit.com.

MM recently caught up with Katsolis to discuss winning Panasonic’s contest, and about his upcoming documentary, Moving On: Love is Winning.

Kyle Rupprecht (MM): What does it feel like to win this prestigious contest? How do you think it will affect your moviemaking career?

Matt Katsolis (MK): When I got the news about winning Panasonic’s grand prize, I couldn’t believe it. There were so many amazing films across the seven genres, so just to win first place in the documentary genre was a real honor, but then to find out that Moving On was selected as the grand prize winner… It took a few days to sink in. My motivation for filmmaking has always been rooted in my passion for just experiencing new and different things in life. I’ve been fortunate to get to know incredible people along the way, have the privilege of telling their stories and try to give the audience a perspective or glimpse into a world they may not have ever known before.

How winning the contest will affect my career in filmmaking, I’m really not sure, as I rarely think about it as a career; more of a recurring revelation that I get to wake up every single day and do what I love. The win was a huge encouragement in that other people respect the work we’re doing and I really can’t imagine doing anything else in life.

MM: Can you tell us a bit about your winning film–Moving On: Love is Winning? How did it come about?

MK: Two years ago, in what started initially as a short phone call between Light Gives Heat founder Dave Hansow and myself. I quickly knew that they had a story that stirred my heart and had to be told. They had seen my first feature documentary that I directed, Dia de Luz | Day of Light (www.dayoflightmovie.com), and were moved by the film, but more so that the film genuinely reflected the culture and people in it. We were introduced by one of my best friends, Austin Blasingame, an amazing artist—both traditional and digital—who later became the art director for the film. Over the next year and many phone calls, Dave and his wife, Morgan, shared their life story and we saw the potential for it as a movie.

Knowing the amount of work it would take to pull off the production in Uganda and Colorado, I assembled a production crew of close friends: Jesse Schluntz as assistant director/editor and Nic McLean as director of photography. We had a week of pre-production and scripting, then began official production in March of 2010 with the six of us flying to Jinja, Uganda. The only way we were able to get the footage we did was because everyone gave selflessly—working up to 18-hour days, lugging jibs and dollies through mud, up hills, down to Nile River, to different villages, day after day.

Once you meet the people of Uganda, in particular the ones we really focus on in the film—Betty, Charles, Joyce and Agatha—it becomes something much more than a film, but something deeply personal, where you feel the responsibility of carrying someone’s story, the weight that comes with that realization and the desire to do the best we all can, because that’s what they deserve.

MM: At what point did you decide to enter Panasonic’s “Shoot It. Share It” video contest. How did you find about it?

MK: In Mid-August I was online reading up on the pre-release of Panasonic’s new AG-AF100 series camcorder with a 4/3rd inch sensor that accepts prime lenses and I saw a link for the contest. I spent about an hour on the site going through different submissions and decided to enter it on a whim. I never thought I’d be getting the news I’d won it. It’s still pretty surreal.

MM: What makes Panasonic’s camcorders stand out from the rest? Do you think you’ll continue to use them in the future?

MK: Over the last 10 years, I’ve been a pretty loyal user of Panasonic cameras, from their DV cams to the newer HD models, and I think what really sets them apart from the others is that while some cameras shine in certain areas, I’ve found that Panasonic’s produce the greatest overall performance and results across the board. Everything from their native DVCPROHD codec to their CineLike Gamma and, of course, the ability to under- and overcrank in pre-saved scene files that you can access in a second as opposed to having to fumble through menu after menu to change a setting.

A lot of the work my friends and I do is really in the moment, run-and-gun style, in that if you miss it, you won’t get another chance. Missing it isn’t an option and the Panasonic HVX has proven itself time and time again in the toughest of conditions. Thanks to Panasonic and winning this contest, the newest camera in the arsenal is the HPX370, so I’m really looking forward to shooting master quality 10 bit imagery and knowing it will perform in any situation I put it through.

MM: What’s up next for you? Any projects in the works?

MK: We’ll be finishing post-production on Moving On in the next few months and our desire is to create a film that is different than any other film from Africa. Often as westerners, we are in the mindset that we are going to be the ones to help them, but in reality it is us that can be helped and changed by them.

In addition to Moving On, I’ve also been working with Red Bull North America doing some really creative high-end productions, ranging from sea plane exploration to night surfing with jet ski’s, pulling some of surfing’s top aerialists into waves at 35 mph, using massive HMIs to light up the beach at night to create a unique atmosphere and produce some really unique imagery. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings…

For more information, go to www.lightgivesheat.org or www.movingonmovie.com.