Interview with Filmmaker Vanessa Powers (50 ML)

50 ML, 8min., USA, Drama
Directed by Vanessa Powers
A young man struggles with his sobriety while he and his wife host a holiday dinner with her dysfunctional family.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I have had this idea in my head for a while. My dad is 35 years sober, and so alcoholism and sobriety have ALWAYS been part of my understanding of the world. Even when I was a little kid, my parents never lied to me about it. In that spirit, there was a time my dad ran to the liquor store to pick up wine for a family event, and had the experience of being drawn to the tiny bottles at the counter. He was sober enough with enough skills to walk away, but I wondered what might happen to someone younger and earlier in their sobriety journey. In addition, my good friend, Casey Hoekstra, who plays the lead in the film, is a professional actor. We worked together on a couple film projects when we were younger, but we had reconnected and discussed working on another project together for a while. I knew I wanted someone of his talent to play the lead, since the film was so complicated in nature. He had this small gap in his schedule, and so once he was available, it was a done deal.

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

2 and half months-ish. It was made for a competition with a limited timeline, which I really love. It means no excuses, no procrastination. You pretty much have to get an idea and run with it and get it done. It doesn’t give you much time to second guess or get in your own head about it either.

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

Look harder

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

COVID, for sure. Our lead actor was only available for a small window of time, and had to be flown in for the project. We picked our weekend about a month ahead of time, and then, unfortunately, when the weekend came, there was a HUGE Covid spike. We couldn’t really reschedule, so we went with it. We couldn’t find a replacement HMU after ours had a Covid exposure, so everyone did their own HMU. We went back to REALLY strict protocols re: testing, crafty, and distancing. We got through the whole thing without incident, but it was particularly nerve wracking because of the baby in the cast. Babies can’t take tests or be vaxxed, so we had to do everything else right to ensure that the baby (and everyone) stayed safe.

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

It is always really rewarding to hear what people get out of a film. You know what you put into it. You know what details and techniques you used, and where you feel you excelled or struggled. But at the end of the day, it isn’t what you think of the film, it’s what the audience thinks. You need to know that the film language you’re using is being properly interpreted. I’m currently working on refining my voice as a filmmaker, and so knowing that people get out of a film what I put into it is really affirming. Watching the audience feedback was like, ‘Yes! Yes! They’re picking up what I’m laying down!’

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

There are about 3 answers to this question. Maybe 4. So I’ll try to go fast: First, reading ‘Matilda’s Movie Adventures’ about the making of the movie ‘Matilda,’ when I was growing up. There was a particular segment about the construction of Matilda’s toy doll that made me think differently about how people made the media I consumed. 2. Watching ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ TV Show. I found an old letter I wrote and never sent asking all about how they made the show. 3/ When I saw my first probably truly independent film, ‘Laughing Boy,’ in High School. It was at a convention and the filmmaker was there, and he was just a guy. I don’t think I had ever really put together that you could just ‘make’ a movie. You didn’t have to be famous or anything to do it. 4. In college, after a 3 year hiatus from filmmaking, I had a dream that I knew I had to turn into a short film. I made it, and loved it, and never looked back.

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

This is a tough one – possibly ‘Aliens.’ The Alien movies are a big favorite in my house, and I’m pretty sure I grew up watching the whole series once every couple of years, if not more often.

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

More resources connecting filmmakers to distribution! We have the ever-ugly question of how to fund movies, and one such way is to make money off of the films we’ve already made. Obviously for shorts this isn’t necessarily viable, but direct connections to distribution could make a huge difference.

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

I like FilmFreeway. It is convenient to have everything in the same place and have everything be so searchable. I wish there were more filters to refine searches, etc, but overall the site is pretty great!

10. What is your favorite meal?

What a great question. Probably one I’ve cooked with loved ones to enjoy together. Though, Duck breasts are pretty great. I also particularly enjoy fondue.

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

I’m currently promoting the feature-length horror film I directed, ‘Sins of the Father.’ It will be premiering at the Twin Cities Film Fest in Minnesota in a couple of weeks. After that I’m gearing up for another feature, ‘Here We Go.’ The genre can only be described as ‘coming-of-middle-age.’ In the meantime, I’m working on about 1 million different shorts, and sometimes trying to be a human being for five minutes! Never stop never stopping!


By matthewtoffolo

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

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