Interview with Filmmaker Michelle Brand (A SMALL VOICE)

Michelle Brand’s short film A SMALL VOICE played to rave reviews at the August 2016 Under 5 minute FEEDBACK Film Festival. It was an honor chatting with her:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michelle Brand: The film ‘A Small Voice’ is based on a personal experience of the time when I taught children at school. I felt that many children weren’t acknowledged and respected by their parents or teachers as to who they truly were and the talents they may hide. Instead, they were only valued through achieved of grades and success. This inspired me to create a film about a very talented child whose talent is misused by his father, who merely uses him as a tool for his own reputation. Instead of focusing on the actual storyline and character of the father, I wished to convey the boy’s feelings of fear and loneliness and to create a world in which the audience can share in what he sees and feels.

MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

MB: I would assume roughly 4 months. I was figuring out the idea for a few weeks and then had 3-4 months production time at university.

MT: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

MB: ‘Scary’ and ‘Empathy’

MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

MB: Probably the ending, which I must admit I still aren’t satisfied with. After the build up of the overwhelming, scary situation the boy was put in, I wanted to help him escape, wanted him to be free at the end. I found it really hard to find a way to express that.

MT: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

MB: At the beginning, I was really nervous. But throughout hearing the audience talking about my film, I had to smile. It really moved me to hear people discuss the film, their thoughts and feelings, and it was very touching.

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

MB: The initial idea is a mixture between my experience of teaching at a school and knowing many people whose talents and skills aren’t acknowledged by their surrounding environment. It is as if you have so much to say, so much you want to do with your life, but nobody is ready to listen to you and rather asks for something else. This feeling was what sparked the idea of a boy who can sing, but doesn’t want to sing in front of all those people.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

MB: I must admit, that a lot of (live-action) films I only see once in my life, but I usually only read books once as well. Animation films I can watch again and again, as on second or third view you may realise new details on how the film was produced and discover small new meanings. Being an aspiring animator, I guess that is what makes me want to re-watch something.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

MB: Yes, of course!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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