Interview with Filmmaker Paola Bernardini (SOLITAIRE)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Paola Bernardini: I visited the Italian Embassy in Brazil and had the opportunity to shoot something there. I didn’t know for how long that opportunity would last for so I had to act quickly. I was craving to tell a story there, I was motivated by the challenge of making something on the spot, without a crew, just Wayland Bell and I, brainstorming ideas, shooting, acting, and editing together. Wayland is an incredible filmmaker and the only person I could think of that would to be crazy enough to do this with me.

We were optimistic that we could pull off making a short film that looks and feels as if a full production team was involved by ourselves.

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

We worked on it on and off for about a year. Everything took us longer since we were only two and doing this on our free time.

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

cute and psycho

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

Pulling off a film like this was itself an obstacle but I decided to look at it more as a challenge I was giving myself as filmmaker. That was what kept me going, the stubbornness that it had to be done and it had to work.

The first big challenge was in post, we were still kind of rewriting the film while trying to finish within a deadline. It should also be said that many emotions come into play when you edit yourself in a film you’re not sure is going to work. Towards the end, we were so sleep deprived and got cabin fever. In some ways we mirrored the film and Wayland ended up quitting. After that, my second biggest challenge was finishing the film without him.

Showing the film to an audience and seeing their reactions like at this festival, really makes it all worth it.

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

I flew to Toronto from NY to attend the festival so I was there to hear the audience’s feedback about my film. This was the first time I was able to sit in a room while people give their honest opinion, especially since Matthew insisted that no one knew I was sitting in the audience. I was nervous the whole time but it was very interesting and I wish I could experience that more often. I would absolutely do this again.

It’s definitely a treat that everything is filmed and I can look back at feedback afterwards. Thank you for that.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We arrived at the Embassy without an idea, we had a few scenes we wanted to create but they weren’t attached to a story. Very untraditional way of doing things.

We thought that the moment we both walked the grounds of the Embassy, a genius idea would strike. Unfortunately, we bounced off too many ideas for a couple of days. I blame the Embassy, for being so massive and every room being a place you just must shoot in.

“Can you imagine living here by yourself?”. This was a question that was asked a lot and how we ended up with this idea. I think in the end we followed the initial feelings the location gave us. We felt luxurious, spooked, and deserted. I think all those elements made it in the film.

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

Probably films by Totó, an old Italian comedian.

Then Scorsese, Spielberg, Hitchcock and anything with Roberto Benigni I’ve rewatched a lot. It’s too hard to pick just one!

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

I love how easy the platform is and that it includes reviews.

When I am planning where I will be submitting, I really have to look into what the festival is about, what they have shown in the past, just to see if your film fits that festival. All the information is right there for filmmakers to view.

The reviews are great when you encounter a festivals you never heard of before.

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

Anything by Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.

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

I am working on a short documentary called “What Were You Wearing”. The film is about victim blaming from the point of view of real people who have experienced sexual assault. Those accounts will be intercut with a fashion show where models will wear the recreated outfits that people wore the day of the assault.

The film seeks to deconstruct the widespread misconception that survivors are somehow responsible for their assault. By showcasing the multiplicity of outfits we hope to demonstrate that sexual assault is only the result of the violent actions of the assaulter.

The goal is also to send a clear message to those who might not think that questions like these are detrimental and insinuate blame on the victim.

This documentary is fiscally sponsored by the New York Women in Film and Television. Donations for the making of this film can be made here:

We are looking to interview people who have experience with sexual violence. If you’d like to part of this project or simply learn more about it, please email me directly at


By matthewtoffolo

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

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