Interview with Filmmaker Matthew Perifano (COME AWAY DEATH)

COME AWAY DEATH played to rave reviews at the May 2022 LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Come Away Death is the second of three planned videos based on tracks from my album, Shakespeare and Me, which, in itself, is a song cycle inspired by the AIDS epidemic. Of all the events of my life, of all the history that I have lived through, the AIDS epidemic has been the most defining. It taught me to put the needs of others before my own. It taught me Grief. And it proved to me that Love can see us through anything.

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

Not counting the recording of the song, which took about six hours, I worked on the video for about a week. Unlike my first video in the series, Sonnet 19 for Peter Santana, in which I shot footage, I used appropriated images for Come Away Death. So, gathering the images required a trip to the SF Public Library for images of headlines from the early days of the AIDS epidemic and searching for three simple images from Shutterstock.

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

Nostalgic Reflux.

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

I didn’t encounter a single obstacle along the way.

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

Relief!! LOL! Seriously, I wasn’t sure what direction the feedback would take. So, it was good to hear that those who shared feedback had gotten the intent of the video- to evoke the fear, isolation and stigmatization of those early, terrible years of the epidemic.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

I have always loved film from an early age. For me, the theater auditorium became a safe space for experiencing those scary big emotions of fear and sadness and longing. That love of film finally materialized in teaching film studies and video production at a private high school as well as working in community-based non-profits, giving marginalized youth the tools to tell their stories. I retired from teaching in ’20 and have since been devoting my time to my own creative projects. Along with music and performance, film/video has become another means of telling stories.

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

As a former film instructor, I was often asked what my favorite film is. Fact is that I have no one favorite, but an inordinate amount of my favorites are by Wilder, Hitchcock, Fellini… So, if pinned down, I would have to say Some Like It Hot, directed by Billy Wilder. That movie is a wonder! With its playful skirting (no pun intended) of notions of gender and sex, there are so many ways that it could be dated to modern audiences. Yet it is so deeply good-hearted and wedded to the notion that love is love and one should take it any way that they can get it, that it can produce this bit of dialogue:

Joe: “But you’re not a girl. You’re a guy and why would a guy wanna marry another guy?”

Jerry: “Security!!” (punctuated with a shake of the maracas.)

Now, I call that a wonder.

I would also mention that there’s a special place in my heart for cult cinema, so you can add The Five Thousand Fingers of Dr, T and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to the list.

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

This is a truly singular experience in my fledgling filmmaking. The feedback… the opportunity provided to talk about my video… this has been invaluable. Here’s hoping for returning to in person festivals soon!

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

I really love FilmFreeway. It has made getting my work out into the world so easy, providing me access to festivals that I wouldn’t have necessarily known about.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I’ll have to go with Italian for this one.

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

Putting together a Shakespeare residency at the school where I formerly taught film. The high school will be staging my musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. We will also be conducting workshops with the school community that take a deep dive into the language of the plays and sonnets.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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