When he was growing up in Pulaski, everyone knew him as Scott Self, but when his film opens nationwide at Regal Theatre’s Friday, he’ll be credited under his business name, Scott Mactavish.
“MURPH: The Protector,” a documentary film created by Self’s company, Mactavish Pictures, opens at Regal Theatres in 180 cities, including the theatre in Christiansburg, Friday, March 22. Regal currently has exclusive rights to show the film.
“For a documentary like this to get a theatrical run of more than five or 10 theatres is very, very rare,” Mactavish said. “It’s an extremely rare deal, but (Regal) really felt the film was powerful enough to justify running it in that many cites.”
The documentary is about the life of Michael “Murph” Murphy, a Navy SEAL who gave his life to save his team in 2005. The soldier was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007.
Mactavish said “a sneak preview” of the film was held in Manhattan in late 2012 and “it sold out the theatre. It was a great success. That’s why Regal decided to pick it up.”
Regal heard about the film’s success and invited Mactavish to their headquarters to screen it. “We were thrilled and very honored to have them offer the deal they did,” he added.
Mactavish became involved in making the documentary after he worked with Michael Murphy’s biographer, Gary Williams, on the marketing and promotions process.
“They knew I had been in the Navy,” said Mactavish, who entered the military upon graduating from Pulaski County High School in 1983. “I became friends with the Murphy family and they knew there would be interest in a film (based on the biography). They wanted me to take the rights to it because they knew, as a veteran, I would do it right and not try to politicize it.”
He said the documentary is “unlike any other SEAL movies that are out there because they tend to kind of glamorize the shooting and combat action.”
The documentary is “really about Michael’s entire life. He was a very committed young man to his family and friends,” said Mactavish. He noted Murphy was a tutor for relatives in his early teens, a lifeguard, a standout at Penn State and was accepted into law school.
“He gave up a law career to pursue a career in the SEAL teams. What he was most famous for was making a radio transmission that was meant to save his men’s lives,” Mactavish added. “He had to go out into an open field, knowing he was going to get shot. That’s why he was awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Mactavish continued, “The movie is about the character of these men who go into this very, very difficult and dangerous occupation. It’s told from the prospective of his friends, family, teammates and the people who knew him. I call it more of a hero film than a SEAL film; it just so happens the hero is a SEAL.”
In the 10 years he has operated his own film business, Mactavish said he has made a “wide variety” of documentaries, including a cancer research film narrated by Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek.
His film career developed after he completed four years of active military duty and three years in the reserves. “When I got out, I considered a couple of options,” he said, noting that he thought about going to law school and following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a founding partner in the Gilmer-Sadler law firm in Pulaski.
“But I was always interested in writing, so I applied to New York University Film School and I was accepted,” he said.
Asked why someone who is interested in writing would apply to film school, he said, “You have to have a screenplay before you can have a film.”
However, the fact he writes screenplays hasn’t kept him from other types of writing. He also has a best-selling book entitled, “The New Dad’s Survival Guide,” which has sold more than 100,000 copies. Plus, on March 12, a book he co-authored with Mark L. Donald, “Battle Ready: Memoir of a Seal Warrior Medic,” was released.
When he completes about a month of worldwide promotional travels for “MURPH,” he said he has another book project of his own he would like to finish.
“I’d like to get back and drill down on a book I’ve been working on for some time now and finish that up,” he said. He declined to provide any hints on the subject of the book, but said it’s “historic in nature.”
Asked whether all of his documentaries and books are non-fiction, Mactavish said, “I sold a couple of fiction screenplays that were never made into films, but that’s not uncommon.” He described the book he is working on as historical fiction.
“The non-fiction documentary process is very gratifying from a filmmaker’s prospective because you don’t have the huge Hollywood machines involved,” he said, explaining that when Hollywood invests in a film, it controls how all of the creative decisions are made.
“We do everything in-house. We have much more control over how our films are made and it’s much more gratifying,” said Mactavish.
Asked about documentaries he has in mind for the future, he said, “There are always ideas 100 bullet-points deep.”
As for the film opening Friday, Mactavish said the amount of time Regal has exclusive rights to it will depend upon public response.
“There’s a possibility it may expand beyond” the current contract, he said. “Regal has been very, very good to us. If we do well on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th, they’re willing to expand” to some of the other 600 theatres the company has across the country.
Asked when the film might be shown at Pulaski Theatre, since his mother, Cary Sutherland, is on the board of directors, Mactavish said it could be shown there after the Regal contract expires in four to five months. Sometimes he also can work out special occasion showings with Regal.
So, for the final question, why does he go by the name Scott Mactavish rather than Scott Self?
He explains that there was a famous British author named William Self. Since his full name is William Scott Self, he knew there could be confusion when he started writing professionally in 1992, so “I went back on my family tree and started picking out names that sounded unique.”
Mactavish is a distant name on his mother’s family tree.
For more information on Mactavish and his company, visit mactavish.us.