Interview with Filmmaker Justin Ho (I’M FINE)

I’M FINE is the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the April 2022 BLACK & WHITE Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Funny thing is it was actually a videogame that sparked the idea. I saw this video on youtube of someone talking about how the videogame God Of War really effected them, how they were able to connect so strongly to it. They started crying in the video whilst talking about how personal the game felt, how it helped them cope with their loss. I was thinking about that video for while, and really honing in on how incredible art can be, sure it’s not saving lives in the literal sense that doctors do… but it does save lives. I’ve been struggling quite a bit with my mental health, videogames and movies are a big factor in helping me move forward, helping to fill in that emptiness I feel inside, even if it’s just a little. That video about the God Of War game helped inspire me to continue my attempts at making movies. Besides my films just being a therapeutic journey for myself (as art is for all artists) perhaps there’s still a point in continuing, maybe I could help someone, or make a connection with someone. Besides the game being an inspiration for the film, as I recently stated, any attempt I make at making a film stems from an emotional core that pains me. The struggles with growing up, seeing the faults in your parents, the differences, the loneliness, seeing your parents get older, and sooner or later knowing you will be left without them. In the end is it worth holding grudges or to make amends? Regardless it will always take time, and both taking the fist step in the right direction is all that counts.

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

It’s been a while, made this film in 2019, which doesn’t seem that long ago, but as we all know the pandemic has really did a good job at screwing around with our perception of time haha. I think it all happened rather quickly, I thought of the idea, pitched it to my friend Dane Giuffre, who produced the film, and gauged his reaction. It seemed he was into it, after that it all moved very fast. So maybe 3 months from idea to a first edit at least. My apologies though I really don’t remember.

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

I’m Fine (Haha I know the title but… yeah)

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

It took me a bit to think about it, but I remembered, hands down it was filming in the car! I never want to have to film in a car again, at least not in a low budget situation like this film haha. Talking about low budget, because this film was so small, besides directing I ended up taking on cinematography as well as editing. Filming in a moving car, trying to brace oneself into a position to stay as steady as possible, whilst trying to frame shots up correctly, and gauge the emotions of the actors in the scene… my goodness not fun… also quite nauseating. Big thanks to my friend and producer Dane for driving that car as smooth as possible, and dealing with me swinging the camera around nearly hitting him in the face.

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

I was cringing, but only because I’m always cringing when anyone watches any film I’ve made. Everything I try to make is so very personal, it feels like I’m tearing parts of myself off and throwing it out there for people to see. It hurts, and I fear so much that no one would like it, or care at all. But in the end it’s not easy for me to find someone… someone to be with, to hold my hand through the storm, but I can tear parts of myself off and put it on display in hopes more people can see me, and perhaps, that would compensate for the loneliness I feel every day. The fear of no one caring leads me to consistently be overly harsh on myself, and puts me in a very vulnerable place. But after watching through more of the reactions, the cringe went away, and it felt more like a warm hug. I want to thank everyone who watched my film, it means so much to me, and thank them all for taking the time out to record those feedback videos. Because of the pandemic I have yet to be able to attend any live screenings of I’m Fine, this actually was the first time it really felt like people actually watched my film haha. I know that’s not true, in all the other online festivals, and the few that still did in person screenings, many people did watch it. But of course hearing people react to it in this way is so very gratifying!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

This is hard… I guess as a kid when I was playing the imaginary games by myself or with my friends I would always think about how cool it would be to show others what I saw during those play sessions, the world I created in my mind, the character I played, it was always very cinematic to me… it’s hard to pinpoint an exact age or year the thought of trying to make films came to my head… but if I had to put a year to it, maybe it was in 1997 when I saw Titanic. That film has influenced me in more ways than just filmmaking haha.

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

Another hard question haha. I like this, making me reach down deep into the bowels of my mind trying to feel around for anything thats familiar to answer this… I’m feeling Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Titanic. Probably Titanic since I do watch that every year on April 14th, the day it hit the iceberg.

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

Honestly the feedback video itself was fantastic, it just helped me out so much emotionally and I really needed that! That alone is enough for me right now and I so greatly appreciate it. I do miss in person screenings, the Q&As, even the social events at film festivals that I didn’t like going to because of my introversion. But the lack of in person screenings is mostly a pandemic issue than the festivals. And pair that with my fear of flying that’s seemingly getting worse every year and it’s a perfect combination to keep me at home haha. Come to think of it for someone with social anxiety and introversion, I do prefer smaller more personal conversations with people, hence why I never enjoyed the big networking events at past festivals I’ve been to. Which is why the feedback videos felt so nice for me, it felt personal, it was one person at a time telling me what they thought of the film. It would be really cool to have one on one conversation with anyone who would be interested enough to ask me more about the film… although that’s probably me desperately reaching out to fill in my loneliness and hope that someone cares enough about my film to want to talk to me about it haha. That being said even answering these questions is very nice for me, feels like someone cares, so thank you!

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

It’s great, it works! Not much else to say haha. I think the only issue I’d have with it is accidentally spending too much money on festivals because it’s so easy to just continue to submit ha.

10. What is your favorite meal?

And another difficult question, this time making me sit here and ponder about the sustenance I prefer the most out of all others… this is actually the hardest question here… I don’t have a favorite meal, but I do recall as a child I was always excited when we had tacos for dinner.

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

If I can remember I may have started writing my next film while I was working on pre-production on I’m Fine. Wanted to make a short music film, although the idea at the time never went further than just wanting a film that featured original songs. Of course throughout the course of life, things happen, and a specific event helped water the seed that soon grew into the film I’m working on now. It’s still a music film, similar to the film Once. And as is the case with writing many films (At least for me), the original intention for it to be a short ended up growing into a feature. The pandemic allowed me to spend a lot of time working on the script, I had so much time I wrote up a whole shot list for it, storyboarded every scene, and now have a full animatic of the whole film haha. Currently its in early pre-production. Really hoping this film happens, it oftentimes feels like it’s all I have, which makes it harder to work on, but I’m trying to keep the ground fertile enough to help this project continue to grow.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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