Interview with director Jake Gutwillig (SHELTERED)

 SHELTERED was awarded “BEST MUSIC” at the April 2017 Horror/Thriller FEEDBACK Film Festival

 Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jake Gutwillig: A lot of different things motivated me to make this film, for example thematically telling a story about how challenging parents and authority truths is important. Though the biggest factor is that as much as I enjoy watching films, there’s nothing I love more than making films. The various phases of production, the hard work and teamwork that is being on set, and the satisfaction that comes with creating strong collaborative relationships while completing a hopefully strong short that a whole team can be proud of. I also really want to and plan to make a feature film and this short, among others I have made was one of the biggest stepping stones for me as a director, writer, producer with all that occurred and the big production with a low budget mentality that it had.

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

From start to finish we got this project done in about 7 months. I started writing it in August, it was shot in November and finished in post around the middle of March.

How would you describe your short film in two words?

Claustrophobic, Untrustworthy

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this

The biggest obstacle facing the film was actually finding the location to shoot the shelter. We didn’t have enough money to rent studio space and didn’t actually lock our location until a week and a half before we had to shoot. We found a large basement space below some industrial buildings, and I exchanged doing photography for a business for free use of the location’s basement. For three straight days, which is all we were given before we were to shoot there, our art department was working non-stop building our set up in the homemade style sound stage we created in that basement.

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

Watching the feedback was really incredible, as so many people understood so much of what I was trying to do, and some of the theories and metaphorical meaning put behind some of their thoughts after the showing was exactly what I was going for and hoping the audience would take away. It also seemed like my theme was clear, and a few things I was worried that other audiences didn’t get right away this audience did.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I came up with this idea based off of a theme I really wanted to explore, but once I had that down it really came to what I could do logistically for this short. I knew I needed to make a short where everything essentially took place in one location, so I started writing random ideas for one location shorts with the theme of trust parents, and that idea that to learn truth we have to find it for ourselves and not just rely on what others tell us. I tried to make the location something different than your average in-house setting, which led me to the shelter. I began to like the treatments I would come up with around a kid being stuck in a storm shelter, and I started to dive more into this character I kept creating who was stuck in this shelter, and through various versions and various experiences for this main character it kind of turned into what it did. Though the theme was there every step of the way and shaped the story more than trying to restrain myself around the logistical limitations.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

The film I’ve seen the most in my life is probably ‘The Wizard of Oz’, though that’s because when I was a lot younger I’d watch it essentially everyday. As of more recently, the film I can’t stop watching is ‘Brazil’.

What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I don’t know if there’s one song I’ve listened to the most in my life, as I always bounced around genres, but ‘Wino Junko’ by the Wings and ‘Sunny Afternoon’ by the Kinks are two songs I seem to never get enough of.

What is next for you? A new film?

I’m currently working on making a very low budget feature this summer in the psychological thriller genre. The script is written, and some of the elements are falling into place putting us close to pre-production. I’m taking a lot of what I learned from making ‘Sheltered’ in terms of the feature story also having a central setting and small cast, though thematically and visually it’ll be a very different project. I’m hoping to continue writing features and directing short and long form videos, whether it be my videography work or my hopeful jump into feature filmmaking.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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By matthewtoffolo

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


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