Interview with Filmmaker Linda Gasser (WHAT IF)

WHAT IF was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Linda Gasser: What if (with the original title: Wo sie ist) is a film about the future, but it is about presence too. In the past I had worked on films for a large IT company, it is “the” large IT company that everyone will know. Working with them was like working in the future. When I began to understand not only what it meant to collect big-data, but rather how intense the impact of it’s analytics are, I kind of already did live in that future. I feel that the genre definition Sci-Fi doesn’t really fit to the film, because it really is about the society in an individual in an oppressive society dominated by algorithms.

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

From the idea to the actual shooting block it actually went quite quick. I wrote the screenplay in December and was working on a documentary in South Afrika in the beginning of the following year. Coming back I had only 3 months for the entire production – considering the production design with its scenery of which a lot had to be built by hand, this is pretty much “no time at all”.

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

intuition vs. algorithm

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

The budget! Telling an entire futuristic environment including many diverse locations was a great challenge. In a dense short like What if the surrounding becomes an additional protagonist – this precise concept sometimes made it hard: The protagonist is working with wood, a material that appears nowhere else then in his workshop. Finding locations without any trees or wooden elements ended up being an outrageous dare.

Sometimes the tight budged forced us to stay quite flexible in this very detailed design concept. Because the budget was tight we had to be flexible: Everything was there for a reason and if a furniture didn’t fit we had to establish a reason so it did. I remember throwing up the color concept when a large blue Eggchair was delivered on shooting day 6 and couldn’t be replaced. The colours of most upcoming scenes were influenced and blue ended up as a predominant color in the film. Luckily in the post-production I had support and our DoP eventually ended up being a great Executive Producer and handled keeping on track with the many visual artists.

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

Well, to be honest. I did get goosebumps right in the beginning, due to the very charming and benevolent voice at the start of the video. I must confess that I was nervous – I had never heard feedback about the film where people didn’t tell me personally. Of course I read feedback, but writing people care differently about finding the right words. I loved the audiences reactions and was exited that they had specifically talked about the ending. I must say that even if it is that open, no-one had actually ever asked be about it. So the theme the discussion was about surprised me.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Well this is very much connected to the first question about my motivation. But actually there was an additional specific incident. I had broken up with my long-term partner. He was ready to work on us and organised appointments for a couple therapy. This was actually funny: a sturdy, flower-bloused lady with low glasses (really just as you’d imagine) sat in the large winged chair and asked questions. At the end of the first session she gave us the link to an online quest so that we learn about who we are and if we fit together. The evening before the next session we actually filled out the test and found out we match – of course he was all about it but I couldn’t imagine how even a phycologist could be trustful with this exerpt about our emotions based on a fact-machine.
The next day I was working for the company that deals with real-time analytics and fascinating algorithms. The combination of those absurdities formed the basic idea.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Phew… since I am reviewing for the Arc Film Festival in the third year it’ll probably be on of those. Definitely is. Films I watched the most were Doors of Perception from Caroline Schwarz, Wave by Benjamin Clearly, Einstein-Rosen by Olga Osorio, ..

A well known American Film are 2 Days in Paris by July Delpy or Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind by Michel Gondry
.

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

On FilmFreeway there are black sheeps in between the festivals. I must say that I do see it from 2 sides. I am in the great position to b invited to festivals all around Europe and beyond. From this side I am experiencing that many of the small festivals really make sure their guests (the filmmakers) get the most out of the time at the festival, whereas large festivals, may be precious and have a strong representative effect, but some smaller festivals offer an excellent hotbed for creativity and connect in an intimate atmosphere. Lets put it like that: When a large festival feels like work, it is worth visiting small spaces to have some extra holiday.

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

Once I had the chance to work on a video for a great German jazz band: The Max Clouth Clan. Most of the songs from their LP “Kamaloka” are probably in the fron of that hitlist.

What is next for you? A new film?

Currently I am working on my debut film, debut in feature length fiction. “Mimosa Preciosa” tells the story about Gabriela and Georg. A feiry spanish lady, that lives together with the German game-developer Georg. When Georg accidentally deletes Gabi’s collection of digital photographs and the only proof of her past, the two set out on a road trip to recreate her photos and restore her memories. While Gsbi longs for the past. Georg dreams of the future. But both remain out of reach until they learn to walk in the present.

I am very glad to be working together with my co-aothor Valery Dalena, who lives in the States. With the new technologies we were able to work together productively transcontinental.  

 
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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 http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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