Born and raised in Colorado, Matthew Ryan Hoge attended the University of Southern California, where he received a BFA from the School of Cinema. His senior script, Happy, received the university's Abraham Polansky Award for Most Outstanding Screenplay.
While working at various temp jobs, Hoge started to make his first film, but ran out of money. A few years later, he received backing from a small production company to turn another screenplay he'd written, Self Storage, into a low-budget feature. Unfortunately, even though the film starred his friends, the budget he'd been granted - US$9,000 - wasn't quite enough for him to complete this film either.
In the meantime, tired of doing temp work, Hoge became a teacher at a juvenile detention facility. (Due to a teacher shortage at the time, a college degree was the only requirement.) The 15 years his mother spent as a special education teacher afforded him some knowledge in the field, and he felt it would be a good experience for him. The first day, he immediately realized that the kids were very different from what he'd expected. Four months into the job, he decided to write a screenplay in order to portray what he was experiencing. He created a fictional character - a teenage murderer named Leland - and put him in that setting.
While Hoge continued to work as a teacher, his script was making the rounds and ended up at Trigger Street, Kevin Spacey's production company. Spacey was interested, and brought Hoge in for a lengthy meeting. By the end, Spacey told him that Trigger Street would produce and that he wanted Hoge to direct.
In order to get financial backing, Spacey agreed to take on the role of Leland's father. Starring Ryan Gosling as Leland and Don Cheadle as his teacher, The United States of Leland (2004) was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film festival, and the Grand Special Prize at the Deauville Film Festival.
Hoge lives in the Los Angeles area and is working on his next screenplay.
The United States of Leland (2004)