Interview with Filmmaker Sean Parker (WORD ON THE STREET)

WORD ON THE STREET was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2020 COMEDY Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sean Parker: We’ve made films together for about 20 years, including a lot of silly, low-key sketches for YouTube, and with Word on the Street, we wanted more of a showcase piece.

Before we made this, we’d taken a lot of time off from our creative projects to do client work apart from each other, and we each “leveled up” our skillset. So there was a strong desire to get back to doing our silly thing together in a way that showed what we were currently capable of.

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

We wrote it in 2014, where it lingered for a while on our “shoot this someday list.” We ended up shooting a version of the film the following year, but it didn’t turn out great due to poor planning on our part. It stayed in limbo for a few years until fall 2018, when we took an opportunity to get the team back together to reshoot. In July 2019, post-production was finally done!

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

Sean: Rhyming noir.

Austin: Pronunciation masturbation.

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

Our biggest obstacle was trying (and failing) on our first attempt to make the film in 2015. It really all came down to a lack of pre-production and trying to do too much of it ourselves.

We didn’t have our original location well-scouted, so the environment gave us iffy sound conditions. We had no means of bringing in lighting, so our “murky noir” looked more like incomprehensible shadow soup. There were also no storyboards or shot lists. We were just flying by the seat of our pants and not allowing ourselves the time and thought to be careful and deliberate with our creative choices.

We could have completed post on what we got, but we just liked the concept too much to let it it out into the world with the haphazard execution it had. So we made the choice to throw it all away and start over with an intent to fix everything we did wrong, with a better-planned vision and a slightly bigger team of talented pros.

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

Oh gosh, it was absolutely wonderful. Our hearts filled with warmth at the kind faces and thoughtful critiques spilling from the screen. Receiving that feedback video was very special and a truly one-of-a-kind experience for us. Even though we couldn’t be there, the Feedback Festival has given us one of the greatest gifts we could ask for as filmmakers. So, thank you very much.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This way of talking (building on rhymes for as long as we can) is something we do for fun with each other a lot. I guess it comes with the territory of having a twenty year history with someone that goes back to middle school — you just end up having a lot of weird little private games, that over time become less private. So it felt natural to go “Oh let’s just take that aspect of our friendship, but turn it into a narrative.” In the spirit of that, we cast Conor Eifler to play opposite Austin, who happens to be another longtime friend from our middle school.

We also really like doing period pieces and letting people dress up all fancy for it. So I suppose we just took a bunch of what we liked — an ambiguously 30s/40s time period, rhyming games, and wonderful friends new and old — and put it all into one cohesive film creation.

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

Austin: One of the Indiana Jones movies. Raiders or Last Crusade.

Sean: Probably O Brother, Where Art Thou, but if TV specials count, then definitely Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (a family holiday staple).

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

Film Freeway’s quite nice. It’s certainly consolidated the delivery process and made it much simpler for festivals to get what they need without requiring each filmmaker to manually email in their film info, media kit and screener.

This was the first time we’d done much in the way of festival submissions since our feature Coup de Cinema in 2011 (back in the era of Withoutabox.com), and the times sure have changed. Fortunately, it made our lives easier in this case.

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

Austin: At the risk of sounding full of myself, I’d have to say it’s the music I compose. Not only because I have to listen to it a lot as I’m creating it, but the music I try to make is the music I like to listen to.

Sean: Probably something from Peter Gabriel, like “Growing Up” or “Secret World.” Been waiting oh so very patiently for his next release.

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

Yes! We just completed a comedy-horror feature script that we’re moving into pre-production soon. It’s a really fun story about two lifelong friends in the business of making places haunted (with actual ghosts), and trying to fix their flawed relationship while dealing with a job gone awry. (And there’s no rhyming.)

We’re currently building a great team as we make little tweaks for draft 10, so we’ll soon be looking for investors and people we can pitch to. It’s something we’re really, really excited to make and share with the world.

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