Interview with Filmmaker Julia Campanelli (116)

 116 played to rave reviews at the February 2018 ROMANCE FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto on Valentine’s Day.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Julia Campanelli: I made my film, “116”, because of the dearth of interesting roles on screen for women over the age of 45 years. As an actress, generally the roles available to me are “grannie” roles. “116’ is not your grannie film. It features a powerful, sexually vibrant woman in a complicated relationship with a younger man. I see the reverse of this dynamic, an older man and a younger woman, all the time in film, the male gaze. As a filmmaker I am doing my part to change the narrative and represent complex female protagonists and intersectionality in my productions.

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

A very long time for a very short film! The process took two years due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. After we established our location and shot a day of footage, in a boutique luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan, the hotel closed suddenly and indefinitely. It took a year to try and schedule more time in the hotel (NYC hotels operate at 98% capacity on any given day), but in the interim I lost my lead actor due to scheduling conflicts. It then took much longer to re-cast the role, as I was trying to match physical type to the original actor, so that I could use some of the original footage I shot (shots of the actor from behind, not revealing his face). It was quite challenging, but I ended up with a fantastic actor for completion.

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

Power struggle is primary, and role play is backstory.

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

For indie filmmakers, budget is always a huge obstacle. And as a first-time filmmaker losing my location was heart-stopping experience! It was so unexpected, like an act of god. There was no way to foresee it.

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

What a wonderfully engaged and astute audience! I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there for the Q&A. I intentionally left the film’s ending ambiguous. I feel on the subject of intimate relationships, people bring their own experiences, prejudices and judgements when viewing it on screen. It was my intention to make the audience voyeurs into this couple’s relationship. If I made the audience a little uncomfortable or a little unsure, then I feel I succeeded in raising the question of perceptions and role reversals. If I made the audience question their own perceptions, I did my job.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

This piece was originally intended to be an immersive theatre piece. I also have a theatre company, Shelter Theatre Group, in NYC. I was approached by a producer and asked to choose a Shakespeare sonnet and a location to mount it. I immediately wanted to use 116, as it’s my favorite sonnet. I also knew right away it had to be placed in an hotel room. Hotel rooms fascinate me. They give the appearance of privacy, that hotel guests adopt readily, which is a type of role play, when in fact, hotel rooms have very little privacy. Housekeepers, bell hops, waiters, and the couple in the next room are all very present, yet a guest will ignore them for a false sense of privacy.

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

The Wizard of Oz. Complex female protagonist.

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

I think FilmFreeway is great, very user–friendly and very convenient.

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

I listen to such a variety of music, I can’t say there’s one song I listen to the most. I listen to movie soundtracks a lot. Sophia Coppola’s film soundtracks are a favorite. The music in her film is like an additional character.

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

I’m currently developing a feature, an historical drama, about a witch hunt in the 17th century. My source materials are transcripts from the trial, clergy sermons, and eye witness accounts of the bewitching, the trial, and the executions. The film has an innate horror aspect to it, given the subject matter, and will feature a female-centric cast. I plan to use a female-majority crew as well through my film production company Shelter Film NY.



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 single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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