Interview with Filmmaker Raed Truett Gilliam (Common Ground?)

Common Ground? was the winner of BEST SHORT FILM at the March 2022 POLITICAL Feedback Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

It was a mix of my desire to make a documentary, and this issue, which I care deeply about. I had found my way into the UVA Center for Politics internship knowing that they often produce pretty big-budget documentaries, so I came in thinking I’d assist on a larger project. But when spring 2021 came around, things were quiet at the Center for Politics, and we really didn’t have much to do. I had just bought some more gear, and in our second meeting as an intern team, I suggested turning an idea we had for a live event that would bring students from across the political spectrum into a student-produced short documentary. Fortunately, my peers were enthusiastic about the idea, and I do believe we came up with the title “Common Grounds?” right there in that meeting.

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

From idea to premiere, it took about nine months! All preproduction and filming happened in the spring semester of ’21. Editing took place over the summer and into the fall, all the way up till our mid-November premiere.

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

Realistically Optimistic.

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

One of the bigger challenges we faced was the pandemic, and the restrictions it placed on production. Spring semester was mostly on zoom. In fact, we–the interns working on the film–didn’t even meet each other until our first interview shoot. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to film the group discussion indoors until a few days before it took place, because we were subject to University policy. As you can imagine, those were some stressful days.

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

I was very encouraged by the feedback and takeaways people had from watching the film. This was my first “real” film project, so it’s still honestly kind of surreal to see total strangers engage with something I’ve had such a direct hand in creating. I’m glad this film resonates and gives people hope!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

I’ve always been lost in my imagination and drawn to storytelling. Watching the Lord of the Rings and the full behind-the-scenes featurettes at the age of eight or nine is definitely what made me discover that filmmaking was actually a thing I could do. I quickly started making home movies, and the rest is history haha!

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

Again, the honest answer is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I could watch those films on repeat forever, nothing has had as much of an inspirational, jumpstarting kind of impact on me creatively as those films have.

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

Industry networking opportunities would be cool! Some kind of FB group or something for other award winners, or a way for the filmmakers to interact with each other.

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

It’s been very smooth and intuitive. I haven’t had any real problems with it.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I’m a sucker for classic comfort foods: steak and fries/mashed potatoes, bacon and eggs; that kind of hearty meal.

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

I’m about to graduate from college, and I’m considering pursuing filmmaking, documentaries, and maybe even video journalism. I’m trying to find a gig that can allow me to travel and develop my filmmaking skills!


By matthewtoffolo

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

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