Interview with Actor/Producer Stefani Zabner (ON THE ROCKS)

ON THE ROCKS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the December 2021 COMEDY Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

This project started with three of us, all actors, who wanted to film something for our reels. And since we were all bartenders/servers, we knew we’d have a free place to shoot and took advantage of making something we were very familiar with – nightlife.

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

Oh lordy – from the time we started until we finished it took us about 3 years. The first year, five of us (4 lead actors and 1 director) collaborated to create characters and story (it’s very difficult to get 5 people together, so this took a while). The second year, we raised money and shot the film. And then year three (during covid), the film was in post-production. Funny enough, while most people were unemployed during covid, our post sound team was VERY busy with work, so it took a while in between each pass.

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


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

A friend told me you can have two of the following three, but never all three: An inexpensive production, A good production, A quickly-made production. Time was definitely our enemy, as we were sometimes on the backburner for our post-production team. But in a way, I’m grateful – it’s given us the opportunity to apply to film festivals that we can attend in-person, whereas if we had submitted to projects in the timeline we had hoped for, we would have only gotten into virtual, covid-friendly film festivals and missed the opportunity to share our film on the big screen.

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

Everyone was so incredibly nice and had such wonderful things to say! I’m a sadist for criticism and am always expecting to hear what didn’t work so that I can improve upon it. However, hearing only good things was very motivating. Learning that the audience was surprised by the ending of each character’s storyline was fun – it’s been so long since we wrote it that I forgot it could be surprising!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

I’ve wanted to act since my earliest memories. When I joined SAG and got an agent, I lost the ability to submit for my own auditions and hustle in the way I had been used to. So I learned how to write. Once I had a script, I learned how to produce it. On the Rocks was the project that made me realize I would rather make films than audition and act in them!

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

That’s such a hard question. When I was young, it was definitely Grease. Now, I’ve got to say, I’m a sucker for Love Actually (makes sense considering On the Rocks is a film about intertwining love stories!)

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

My biggest drive for film festivals is the ability to network. I know in these covid times, that’s difficult, but I love any chance to get in a room with people and shake hands (or bump elbows).

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

I’ve loved working with Film Freeway. It’s such a great way to see all of our projects and film submissions nearly organized and I love being able to filter festivals to find ones that our project would be good for.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Funny enough, a good friend just asked me this question. (I’m a Taurus, and apparently we are known for remembering “big moments,” which include food.) I’d have to say my favorite meal is from Mastro’s steakhouse: A chilled seafood tower that includes oysters, grab legs, and shrimp followed by a medium rare steak and seared scallops, the truffle Alfredo gnocchi, and then buttercake for dessert.

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

Currently, I’m working my way up the ranks in the commercial production world, producing remote commercials, working as production coordinator on live sets, and honing my skills in line producing. I’ll be helping a friend produce a web series this February and am currently working on two film scripts (one comedy, one horror) and a television pitch!


By matthewtoffolo

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

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