Interview with Filmmaker Kaitlyn Fajilan (MADEIRA)

MADEIRA was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the February 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kaitlyn Fajilan: I’d been wanting to shoot my own short film for some time. One day I was in charge of creating the weekly prompt for my writers’ club, so I came up with the following: write a piece involving two characters in one location. My result was Madeira.

About a month later, I joined a Filipino-American film organization that was looking for filmmakers to have their shorts featured in a program at last year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Seeing as the first deadline was in two weeks, I kicked myself into gear and started pre-production right away.

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

It took me about a week to write the screenplay. Production, shooting, and post took just over two months, although we technically only had one day of actual filming and another day for reshoots. So total was about two and half months.

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

Who’s Adriano?!

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

There were many obstacles to completing my film in such a short amount of time. One of them was trying to determine whether viewers “got” the twist at the end. In the first version of Madeira, some people I tested the film on didn’t really understand what the ending meant. Since I could only accomplish so much in the reshoot, I tried my best to tweak the script and add in some scenes that let the audience know Carmen was lying–that she had gotten pregnant by sleeping with someone else. Still, I was paranoid that with the reshoots people still wouldn’t understand the ending. Luckily, that seems to not have been the case.

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

I am usually quite apprehensive about listening to feedback on my film as I see many flaws when I watch it, technically and narratively. I was, however, quite pleased that so many audience members were interested in the dynamics of Carmen and Pacey’s marriage, as well as the twist at the end. One member had a critique for the film that I completely agree with–I had tried to smooth it out the editor when I first noticed it, but it couldn’t really be helped with the tight schedule I was on. So I really understood where that criticism was coming from.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

At the time my friend, due to certain medical problems, was having extreme difficulty becoming pregnant. Her and her husband were spending lots of money on treatments and were at last considering IVF. The idea must have stuck in my subconsciousness, because shortly after I wrote Madeira. Like Carmen, she finally did get pregnant (but through IVF) and actually just gave birth to twins!

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably The Lion King. I used to watch the VHS every night when I was a kid, to the point where I’d memorized every single line.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I’m not really versed in different filmmaker submission platforms, but so far I find FilmFreeway to be a great way of sending my work out to festivals and competitions.

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

Probably On My Own, as performed by Lea Salonga at the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Currently I’m trying to get staffed on a television writing team, so I’m writing original pilots and spec scripts. I just wrote another short that I’m hoping to produce soon. Its genre is speculative fiction, and deals with the issue of colorism, which is a type of intraracial discrimination based on skin color that exists within many ethnic groups.


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