ALORA was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2020 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Festival in Toronto.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
Nick – We originally wrote Alora for Houston Film Society & NASA’s partnership festival called CineSpace. We had to combine real NASA footage with our own to make a film that fit a few of their categories. It was quite fun to operate within those parameters. I’m sure we’ll do it again.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
Nick – When we first learned of the CineSpace competition it was about 2 weeks from the final deadline. We wrote in a couple days (each of us taking a stab at a story) casted, shot and edited over the course of the remaining week and a half – which was crazy. Felt similar to a 48 hour film challenge. What you see now is a slight update in editing and VFX work culminating in about another two weeks of work. To answer your question finally, it took about a month.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
Nick – Tender / Inspiring. Go call your parents, they want to hear from you.
Michael – Love / Choices.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Nick – Executing with only a three-man crew. When you’re aiming for at least a high-end indie product that’s quite difficult to obtain with just three people (and 0 budget). The other obstacle we had is scheduling. It was very difficult to get everyone in a room together for post because the three of us live in completely different parts of Texas (within an hour of each other, though).
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Nick – Major gratitude and some water works. It’s quite something to hear your passions and skills validated by someone who doesn’t know you and maybe hasn’t seen any of your work. It was very inspiring and surprisingly in depth. I appreciate all the feedback we received. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Michael – I teared up. It is was so amazing taking these words that we wrote together, getting amazing to embody your vision from the page, and getting others to be moved and stirred from something we created and put out into the world.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
Nick – It was originally developed for the CineSpace competition mentioned earlier. The idea for the story came from my leaving home for a new job a few years ago that took me three states away. I thought about how I missed my family and used love and family as a backbone to this vast sci-fi story. Dreams, ideas, and love can transcend time And can be felt by, or shared by anyone and I liked exploring that. There is so much more we wanted to explore with this but didn’t have the time due to the competition’s constraints. For example, we shot another version of the “A-107A = Alora” scene where it was a fight between Alora and her mom instead of tender, and that didn’t play as well (despite looking better than the current iteration due to some camera problems). The idea always was that Alora didn’t know mom had been offered this mission of a lifetime, finds out, they quarrel, mom passes, and Alora eventually carries her mother’s torch. We just didn’t have time for all that.
Michael – We decided to take on CineSpace competition challenge and met at a bar to brainstorm. Nick, being a white guy from Nebraska, who moved to Fort Worth, and myself being a black guy born in Jamaica, but grew up in Fort Worth for over 36, we wanted to challenge ourselves to create a powerful story from a strong female perspective. We talked out the main beats and feelings we wanted to achieve. We went to our separate corners and wrote, coming back to compare notes. The decision to tell it without words was due to the running out of time to workshop the dialogue, so we voted to remove it all. It wasn’t until we saw the initial edit, I decided to do a quick re-write of the ending, giving only one line of dialogue to a character. Doing so, brought the whole piece to a emotional head and really punches the viewer in the gut. I still tear up watching it.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Nick – That’s really tough—I’m an obsessive viewer. It’s either Jurassic Park, Gladiator or Tim Burton’s Batman.
Michael – I would have to say it’s a toss up between Fight Club, Memento, or The Godfather Trilogy.
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
Michael – It has really been a Godsend as a resource for finding festivals your film is the perfect niche for.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
Nick – That’s hard to say because I tend to create a playlist based off the tone of whatever I’m working on to help me write in that feeling and to help me come back to that place mentally after stepping away, so I’ve heard many songs hundreds of times. That said, it’s probably Experience by the great Ludovico Einaudi. If you listen to him you’ll find his music has been used in many commercials, specifically P&G Olympic spots; I hope to work with him one day.
Michael – I’m very eclectic in my musical tastes from classical to pop and everything in between. But rock is my usual go-to. Like my Godfather example, I still believe listening to an album (usually more times than not) is an overall time capsule of artist’s expression. As far as songs go, I find myself bouncing between a couple. “Favorite Things” by Incubus, which is my favorite band of all time. Skunk Anansie is a British band and in my top 3 favorites, but their lead singer Skin did a song called “Trashed” from her debut solo album, Fleshwounds that also really spoke to me. Both singers have this vocal quality that is beautiful and unique. While “Trashed” deals so much about the melancholy of heartbreak that I have personally felt coming from a relationship, “Favorite Things” sticks a finger back at the world in a rebellious spirit because “too bad the things that make you mad are my favorite things.”
10. What is next for you? A new film?
Nick – I’m currently working on far too many things. I have a sci-fi historical fiction series I’m chipping away at and hope to sell, a few feature scripts I’m 40 pages into (ugh, I know, one at a time please lol), and a new short I’m trying to ideate with my producer from Alora and a coworker. Tell me what to do, haha!
I think it’s a blessing and a curse to be a creative. You always want to do everything, and can’t rest until you have in some fashion. It can even scare you into being paralyzed for fear of not spending the right time on the right piece. It’s so bizarre.
Thanks for your time, for managing this festival and all the great things you’re doing. I’m honored to be apart of this festival, to have won, and to have the chance to reflect on Alora a year later. Thank you!
Michael – I have so many pokers in the fire creatively. I am the host of the Avert Your Eyes Podcast where I talk with other creatives about their backgrounds and what drew them to their creative endeavors, which can be found at http://www.avertyoureyespod.com.
I also dabble in and out of the world of comedy and improv. I just took part in an improvised show called Socially Distanced Comedy, which is available on Facebook.
As far as films projects, I am currently writing a short film that will be a modern re-telling of a fairy tale, but as a prequel. I’m also writing a feature that focuses on several issues, the main being tackling the migrant situation between Mexico and the U.S., but with a twist.