Interview with Filmmaker Kayden Phoenix (PENANCE)

PENANCE played to rave reviews at the January 2019 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kayden Phoenix: I grew up in a Catholic church, my mom even sang choir. I’m not religious but the church has always been a powerful influence People turn away from their relatives (even their kin sometimes) and friends because of sexual preference and they use the Bible as their reason. Religion has a huge hand in conversion therapy. I’m a believer in freedom of choice- so to see others being persecuted for being themselves is unconstitutional. I made Penance to turn the tables around on the persecutors and to bring awareness about the horrors of conversion therapy. It’s sadly and oddly still allowed in 35 states. You can legally physically and emotionally hurt another to “cure” them from your rigidity.

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

30 mins to write. 2 weeks prep. 1 day shoot.

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

Dark. Twisted.

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

Not letting the church I shot in know the storyline.

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

I was so happy. I listened to the audience during the film- the gasps and shrills were the best- it means they felt it. I loved the feedback- there was a great range of confused, loved, self-interpretation as to their experience with the church, etc.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Conversion therapy has always gotten me mad, so it wasn’t hard to write the ironic justice side of it.

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

The Lion King

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

I love it. Simple and accessible.

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

Phantom of the Opera “Music of the Night”

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

I’m making a graphic novel, Jalisco, and writing a horror feature.

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