Interview with Filmmaker Tammy Klembith (WHAT IF)

WHAT IF was the winner of BEST DIRECTION at the April 2021 HORROR Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

It was a bizarre time. We were all deep into Covid lockdown, and I started questioning existence. Everyone was an image on a screen, so I thought, am I a mere projection in your life, only existing because of our interaction? Am I in your dream or are you in mine? One morning I woke up saying to myself — What if I never existed?

This prompted me to go deeper. I wanted to portray the concept of time as malleable, conveying how we are indeed expressing/living/existing in many projections across the multiverse. For this project I chose the name Maya because it means illusion, and which version of her character really exists, or do they all exist simultaneously? Ultimately, does it even matter?

That is the genesis of WHAT IF.

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

It was September of 2020 and I didn’t want that year to come and go without doing another film. I had written the words (which became the title) WHAT IF, in my cell phone reminders and writing notebooks among several thoughts and concepts, and chose that one to pursue. I wrote the script, did casting, and gathered together an incredible crew. I filmed for 2 days in November and completed post production by end of December 2020.

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

Simultaneous Time

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

There are no obstacles… only challenges. Filmmaking is all about flexibility and problem solving.

My last horror short film had a successful crowdfunding campaign. Due to Covid, I didn’t feel comfortable crowdfunding this time because of what everyone was going through, so money was the first hurdle. I ended up putting the entire film on a credit card. Even though I needed 3 shooting days, I was only able to do 2. There were a few shots that were in the script that did not make it into the film because it would have taken too long to light.

The only other obstacle was Covid itself. We had an extremely safe set, following all the Covid protocols and guidelines. Everyone wore masks and I also purchased the clear face shields for the actors after they had their hair and makeup done. We ate individually wrapped meals outside and created separate zones for HMU set apart from the rooms we were shooting in.

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

I experienced a visceral reaction while watching the Audience Feedback video… I actually burst into tears because I’ve never seen people that I didn’t know comment on a film of mine before.

Hearing their reactions was a unique and incredible experience for me. I am very grateful to Wildsound Festival for putting these videos together. It’s so helpful to filmmakers and I really appreciate it!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I literally was raking leaves by an outdoor shed back in September. I found a tiny baby shoe that looked as if it had been there for years, buried beneath the debris. At this point I was contemplating how I would present the concept of simultaneous time for WHAT IF and while walking on a separate day I found an old baseball. This was several blocks away near a park and it had the same worn patina as the shoe. It all started coming together after that.

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

I’ve watched many films numerous times, and every time I see something different, catching nuances and details that I didn’t recognize before. Each film is a new journey. There are several films that I’ve seen dozens of times – I usually spend my nights watching movies… unless I’m writing or filming. Ironically, I have always loved comedy, especially the old screwball rom coms, Hepburn/Tracy, etc. Yet, I also enjoy darker fare and resonate to psychological horror. For horror, one of my favorites is Rosemary’s Baby (the original) and more recently, The Conjuring.

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

Honestly, I love FilmFreeway because it makes submitting both films and screenplays extremely easy. Once I upload a film for example, add my bio, a poster if I have one, etc., then I can browse the various festivals and with the click of a button submit. FilmFreeway provides all the necessary information on each festival and keeps track of all my submissions.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I’m a purist. I used to be super healthy… a vegan raw foodist for 4 years. Now I’m back to eating “regular” food. I absolutely love wild caught salmon and I make a terrific pesto from scratch.

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

My goal is to raise the funds and direct my first feature. I have 2 low budget feature horror scripts that have now placed in the Semi-Finals in a few festivals, GLIMPSES and RETURN TO SENDER. Both take place in primarily one location with limited cast. I’ve created Lookbooks and budgets for each. My intention is to film in a state where I can utilize the tax incentives. My first choice is New Mexico, aside from the beauty of the terrain, the state is extremely filmmaker friendly and I’ve already been in talks with an incredible local Line Producer who can help me navigate their requirements. I actually lived in Santa Fe many years ago for a brief period of time when researching another script called Bluebird.

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