Interview with Filmmaker Rommel Villa (TEDDY MATE)

TEDDY MATE was the winner of BEST FILM at the January 2020 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Rommel Villa: I thought this was a special story that needed to be told because it not only served as an educational tool for the little ones but also could bring awareness in regards to the judging hand of conservative societies around the world that still discriminate and objectify underrepresented communities. I had experienced myself what it is like to be put in a labeled box (black or white, man or woman, poor or rich, gay or straight) before being able to figure out where I belong myself. So to me, the best way to address that was by making a corky film in a magical world!

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

The writing of the script and the several revisions took about a year, while production and post-production took about half a year. So in total, it took a year and a half to bring this magical story to life.

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

Fantastically corky.

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

I think the length of the film. We shot so many scenes. Marie’s growing up montage had originally 8 mini-scenes, and before the resolution, there were a few quiet and reflective scenes that didn’t make it into the film. The assembly cut was originally 27min long, and we had to cut that down to 12min as a requirement of the USC class… that was THE challenge.

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

I don’t think I’ve felt that much excitement in a long time. At first, I was nervous, biting my hand and toenails while my slow internet was loading the Youtube video. Then, when I heard how passionate people were about the story and the overall positive reactions, I could finally breathe. No joke, my cheeks still hurt for so much smiling. It is very encouraging to see that people pay attention to the story and have an emotional response to it. It makes me want to get magical teddy bears for all that lovely audience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Back when the film was in the pre-conception stage, Lydia Lane, the writer, was engaged to her now wife, and she was thinking about the best way to explain to her nieces and nephews that true love doesn’t choose, that it is completely fine to love someone from the same sex, so she took the idea of kids loving their teddy bears as their favorite companions, wrote a couple of fantastical drafts of the film and after I read it, I fell in love with it.

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

It’s a tie between Spike Jonze’s “HER”, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “THE LOBSTER”.

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

It is very straightforward. I think it works well and it’s definitely convenient.

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

It’s a song in Spanish, from an Argentinian pop/rock band called “Miranda”, the title of the song is “Uno Los Dos” or “We Two Make One” in English. It’s a breakup song that is sung with the sweetest voices and the strangest electro-pop instrumentals you can imagine. It’s weird but emotional… I love it.

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

Yes!!! A couple of months ago, I finished “Sweet Potatoes”, a historical film shot in Durango, Mexico, based on the real-life events of Luis Miramontes, the scientist who synthesized the main component of the birth control pill in 1951. I am very excited to show this historical drama to the world and to possibly expand it to something bigger and better.

In addition to that, I’m currently writing a couple of feature films with LGBTQ lead characters and some TV pilots. I’m excited about future opportunities to come! :).


By matthewtoffolo

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

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