Interview with Filmmaker Roshi Givechi (MY FAMILY TREES)

MY FAMILY TREES was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the March 2021 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’m drawn towards unsung heroes that reveal a particular aspect of creativity and resilience in the human spirit. This particular story had been evolving – slowly – right under my nose, which made me wonder about the many acts of creativity that never really get seen. I wanted to honor the central character and make sure he could see the finished film – and the tribute to him – in his lifetime. He’s 92 now (and has thankfully seen it)!!

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

I started in 2016, but sometimes a year would pass before I had the headspace and energy to get back into the film. Last year with the pandemic, I wanted to control something positive. I assigned myself a “Film Sprint” and finally brought on amazing collaborators in a short window to get my first film across the finish line.

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

Bittersweet marathon


bittersweet passage

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

2 things

Except for 2 specific moments, I shot my film on my iPhone 6S and space-management was a huge issue since I was shooting segments in 4K. I fumbled to figure out efficient ways to download footage and clear space on my phone while in the field. It felt chancy to me, especially in the earlier years.

There was one trip to Kansas where we had a rare agreement to go to the land at the crack of dawn, literally. I wanted to film specific b-roll footage with the beautiful morning light…Tragically, the download process at the hotel took waaay too long and ultimately never worked… sooo… I watched the sun rise before getting out the door.

An intangible obstacle I faced in completing this film was frankly being a first-time filmmaker with no deadline. It somehow was easier for me to honor commitments I made to help other people with their endeavors, than face the unknowns and openness in my own filmmaking. I eventually had to create different strategies to inch, and then sprint towards the finish and ultimately had so much fun.

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

I first thought “what an amazing gift” from the LA Feedback festival, especially since most everything is viewed online and we don’t get the benefit of seeing or hearing live reactions. I also really appreciated hearing which specific anecdotes resonated with the different reviewers.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

It was mid-career as a designer when the voice in my head said “when I grow up one day, I want to make short films.” At my company, we focused on human-centered design, and to get inspiration, we’d go into the field and do ethnographic research with people in different contexts — in their homes, farms, banks, whatever. I wanted to experiment with telling real stories and weaving in my sensibilities in design to amplify aspects of a story. My fascination with shaping stories stemmed from much earlier though… When I was in 3rd grade I used to read stories out loud and voice record them on a tape player, and then I’d listen to them again and change the way I’d read the same story for the next recording. My appreciation for the rhythm and cadence of a story started back then. I still love that aspect…

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

Probably Love Actually, thanks to the holidays… 😉

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

As a first-time filmmaker and user of FilmFreeway, I was relieved that I could set everything up once, and distribute to different festivals seamlessly.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Spaghetti Carbonara — and I love it so much, that I only have it a handful of times a year so I don’t take it for granted.

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

Yes! I’m excited to pick up a short doc I started even before I filmed My Family Trees. It’s going to be a short animated documentary based on 2 people in Taiwan. Should be fun to experiment with animation for this particular story.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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