Interview with Filmmaker Anaiis Cisco (BREATHLESS)

 BREATHLESS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Anaiis Cisco: This film was inspired by the killing of Eric Garner which was captured by Ramsey Orta.

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

I wrote the screenplay in 2015 when I began graduate school in Detroit at Wayne State University. In the Fall of 2016, when I entered in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University I further developed the project into my first year film, Breathless. Overall it took about one year to write and develop, then another year to produce, direct, edit, and finish by May 2017.

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

Black Life.

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

Shooting the first weekend in January 2017, the coldest weekend of the year, posed some challenges but I struggled mostly with the ending of the film. Developing this true story into a film, I knew I didn’t want to re-kill a man who we already witnessed dying. I tried out many different ways of ending the film but they all felt like something was missing. I didn’t want the end to feel so abrupt. I wanted to allow the audience a moment to breathe before transitioning into the audio from Orta’s video.

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

I was overjoyed and happy to have such a large LA based audience respond to my work. I love when viewers are able to relate to the subtleties that are very specific to the New York experience. The responses made me wish I was there to respond to specific questions/comments. And while I wasn’t able to attend, the video captured moments that I would have missed otherwise. Thank you.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It came from a class assignment that the class to write a short screenplay using a person from media and another random character to have an improbable connection. I knew that I wanted to use Eric Garner from media, and originally developed the story heavily inspired by Ramsey Orta’s brave act of capturing this killing. I used moments from the video to build the story world. For example, in Ramsey Orta’s video it’s mentioned that Eric Garner broke up a fight. In Breathless, I wanted to recreate that moment with Larry’s character breaking up a fight that we don’t get to see in Orta’s cell phone video.

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

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (1989)

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

FilmFreeway is an efficient way of uploading and updating film projects for festivals of all kinds. I enjoy keeping track of festivals that I have submitted to and one’s I want to keep an eye out for. One of the best features is that filmmakers are able to update a film if they have only submitted a work in progress to meet the deadline.

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

Mary J. Blige – Mary’s Joint

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

I am finishing my next short narrative, GYRL (2018) a portrait of a pre-teen African American girl struggling with an abusive father. Also entering my last year of film school, I am currently in the early stages of production my thesis film, Drip Like Coffee. This short narrative explores Black womanhood, desire, and space, while rendering the Black female body as fluid.



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.


By matthewtoffolo

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


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