Interview with Filmmaker Mischa Livingstone (CUBICLE)

CUBICLE played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mischa Livingstone: One day at work I happened to wander into an area of the third floor that I hadn’t been in before. Lo and behold, I discovered a recently abandoned office space looking like something out of the apocalypse. I had this immediate feeling of hypocrisy, sensing the gulf between what such a large workspace promises (success, money, stability), alongside the reality of a business overextending itself and making false claims.

I knew I had to make a film there. It was simply too interesting a location to pass up. The problem, though, was that all the equipment and furniture was being moved out within the next few weeks, so if I was going to shoot something it had to be quickly.

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

From walking into the location for the first time to shooting “Cubicle” was barely 2 weeks. Having discovered the location, I quickly made a round of calls to a number of people I regularly collaborate with and fortunately everyone was game to jump on board. I didn’t have an idea yet but didn’t want to wait until I did before putting together a crew. This was a rare case of figure out the logistics first, come up with the idea later.

Something about churning out a film in a short amount of time meant I couldn’t afford to be precious about the material. As such, I wasn’t agonizing over every decision or edit, which was a welcome change from other films I’ve made. It taught me a lot about being decisive and not sweating the small stuff.

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

Faking it.

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

For me, the biggest obstacles in filmmaking are always psychological. Deciding to make a film is the most significant hurdle. I’m mostly terrified of the thought and shy away from that commitment even though I know it’s what I need to do. Once I’ve made the decision, however, and fully committed to it, I barrel forward.

I am a much happier person when I am working on a film, but it’s that first decision that is always the most difficult and most frightening. Thankfully, my wife is there to push me forward and provide me with the support and encouragement I need to overcome my insecurities.

Specifically for “Cubicle”, I was facing a layoff myself at the time, and very uncertain about my future. Making the film was tied up in my own psychological state, and was a way for me to work through my fears, concerns, doubts, and anxiety.

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

Watching the feedback session was fantastic. I felt really honored by the thoughtful responses people gave, not to mention grateful to the festival for taking the time to record them.

Most surprising to me were the people who found the film motivational and inspirational. I hadn’t set out to portray the character as defying the odds. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nonetheless, if people find optimism in the piece then I’m thrilled. It is fascinating how irrelevant the director’s intent can sometimes be.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Given the limited time I had before I had to shoot at the location, my wife and I looked at the resources we had and built the idea around that. Rebecca Lincoln, who plays Becky Schyster in the film, was a good friend and had a lot of sales experience. I knew she could nail this character, and she was utterly game to play so the film coalesced around her specifically.

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

Airplane.

“Surely, you can’t be serious.

I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”

I can’t tell if the humor in the film has withstood the test of time, or if I’m simply nostalgic for my younger self watching this and finding it so hilarious. Either way, watching this film makes me very happy.

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

I was introduced to FilmFreeway through a friend of mine who is a producer in Canada. I had not heard of the platform and he was very enthusiastic about it in comparison to the other options out there. This is the first time I’ve used FilmFreeway for a project and I will absolutely use it again. I particularly appreciate the ability to select festivals based on the cost of application. When you are making independent films, every penny counts, and FilmFreeway makes it easier to manage your festival submission budget.

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

Honestly, and I’m ashamed to admit it, it’s “Let it Be” from Frozen. This is on account of having a 3-year-old daughter who is obsessed with all things Elsa. Did you know there is a 10-hour loop of the song on YouTube?

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

I am in the throes of post-production on a new short film called “One Bedroom, One Bath”. I should be done by December 2018, at which point I’ll be submitting to festivals.

Sadly, it is over 5 minutes and won’t be eligible for the Under 5 Minute Film Festival.

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