Interview with Filmmaker Katherine Castellaw (CIGARETTE LIPS)

CIGARETTE LIPS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2020 Female Film Festival.

A Film Freeway Preferred Festival:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Katherine Castellaw: I had an acting coach years ago who was encouraging us to write our own scenes, and as an example he said something along the lines of, “it could simply be two people sitting at a table, having a conversation”. Immediately, the image of two women sitting across from each other, smoking cigarettes, popped into my head. The image kept coming back to me throughout the years, and every time it came to mind, I could never really make out the faces, just the lips. So, it started from a visual. When I finally sat down to write it, the dialogue just came to me. I didn’t really know what I was going to write until it was done. It was a really cool experience.

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

The idea came to me about eight years ago. It took me around an hour or so to write once I actually sat down. This was my first film, so the process of building the confidence to even go for it, took me a while. Pre-production to final product took about eight months. We shot it in one day. There are so many logistics involved aside from the actual shoot, and I was definitely learning as I went.

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

Dreamy, noir.

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

Honestly, myself. There are so many ways to self-sabotage as an artist for fear of being rejected or judged. Getting started is the hardest part, but once we were on a roll, the confidence was built through the process. It became thrilling. Now I’m ready to do it again!

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

I was pleasantly surprised to hear all of the positive feedback. It felt really validating to hear people say such kind things. It boosted my confidence and made me even more excited to do another one!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came from a visual that had been stuck in my head for years. I titled the film Cigarette Lips before it was even written. It is funny because when I wrote it, I wasn’t really sure what it was about until I finished. That’s when it became fun because I could finally specify my vision for the film from start to finish with a clear intention.

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

That’s a hard question. Three of my favorite films are True Romance, Kill Bill vol. 1, and The Apartment.

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

I really like FilmFreeway. They make it very easy to use and are always keeping people up to date on different festivals to submit to.

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

I don’t even know how to begin answering that question. I listen to music based off my mood, but I am definitely a sucker for a song with good lyrics. That is usually the thing I focus on.

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

Yes, definitely. Once this pandemic is over, I’d like to shoot another short that I wrote a while ago. I am also an actress, so that is a big part of what I’m doing as well. I may even try acting and directing!


By matthewtoffolo

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


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