Interview with Directed Eric Shahinian (FOREIGN SOUNDS)

Eric Shahinian’s short film played to rave reviews at the September 2017 CRIME FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto. It definitely stirred a great conversation. This was one of those films that was made for the FEEDBACK Film Festival format.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

The film was motivated by a real situation I experienced when I was with a friend and we heard distressing sounds coming from a neighbor’s apartment. My inclination was to separate myself from it, while my friend took a very different stance and immediately wanted to help.

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

Since this was a student film made with a minimal budget, post-production took a long time, especially the sound design, because it’s such a crucial element of the story. From script to completion the film took nearly a year because I had some other projects that came up during post-production.

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

Foreign Sounds. (I wish this was better, sorry).

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

The biggest obstacle faced during the film was the sound design because it was such a crucial element of the story and I did not get all of the sound on set, so I had to set up multiple ADR sessions and really refine the details of the offscreen dispute.

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

It’s not easy to judge how well an idea is going to translate, so having the audience feedback is very grounding even if they aren’t singing your praises. It was great to see people respond to it and in some cases to see that my intentions came through. It’s always interesting to hear people having such different reactions and bringing their individual subjective viewing experiences.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Video of the short film:

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

The idea came from a real situation very similar to the characters except that I was with a friend. We took very different responses to hearing the sounds of our neighbor’s fighting and I thought that instinctual opposition was interesting. It was also never clear to us exactly what happened, which further complicated the question of how much we needed to involve ourselves in strangers lives. I really recreated the film very closely to how the situation unfolded in a way of processing it and exploring the conflicts that we both experienced in that moment.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s a toss up between Punch Drunk Love and Ghost World.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I love filmfreeway, it’s so much easier to navigate than withoutabox in terms of the layout and the search functions. I love being able to include a vimeo link as an online screener. I’m a fan.

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

I’m not sure, I go through periods where I obsessively listen to certain songs until I can’t stand it anymore and then find a new obsession. Recently I’ve been listening to the Silversun Pickups, they have a song called “The Go Inbetweens” that feels tonally similar to a feature I’m writing so that ones been on loop.

What is next for you? A new film?

I made two more shorts after Foreign Sounds. The first was a dark comedy about an emotionally codependent sister who breaks down when her younger sister gets the chance to move out. It’s a weird movie and hasn’t been accepted to many festivals but it was fun to try something new. My thesis short film is currently on the festival circuit and has been screening globally. It was influenced by the relationship between my grandparents and is about a caretaker who is forced to confront his limitations. I am currently torn between two feature scripts that I’m trying to decide to move forward with as a first feature.

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