Interview with Filmmaker Keith Armonaitis (THE STRUGGLE)

THE STRUGGLE, 5min., USA, Comedy
Directed by Keith Armonaitis
Adulting is hard. Morning is harder.

Get to know the director:

1. What motivated you to make this film?
As a filmmaker, I have always been interested in how life contains universal moments, and I try to bring those out in a unique story on the screen. Sometimes it is done through drama, but I really enjoy finding the funny in those moments as well. The Struggle was about finding the absurd in the mundane, and putting it upon the screen so that we can laugh at the film, and ultimately, ourselves.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
That is a bit hard to calculate, as I have many ideas that pop into my head, but aren’t quite ready for writing, which means they aren’t ready for filming. So they bounce around in my head for a while, my subconscious pulling as much weight as my concentration, until one day I see it all, from start to finish and then I have to write it in a rush or it gets lost. It is most inconvenient. The idea actually came to me a few years ago, but when it was ready, and I knew I was going to shoot it, it was a matter of a few weeks from writing to casting to production. Once it was in the can, it was a few months for post. I spoke with Michael, the Husband in the piece, at the end of March about the idea. It wasn’t long after that he had the final script in hand and we were shooting by the beginning of May. Post production was completed by the beginning of September. Ah, the joy of Independent Filmmaking.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
The Struggle. I think I hit it with that one.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
My own impatience. Where I had full control, it was easy for me to move things along, but having to wait on others schedules was difficult for me. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak that way. Don’t mean to be. I think my life would be far more enjoyable if I weren’t, but I’ve been this way since I was a kid.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I wanted more. Seriously. Can I get the unedited responses?!? I really enjoyed this medium. Like many independent filmmakers, I submit to a lot of festivals, and the fact that there are some you never hear from after your film is accepted kinda bothers me. In-person festivals I could always go to if they are nearby, but when I can’t I never get the feedback to let me know what things are going right- or wrong. Seeing the responses from the initial group in your festival gladdened my heart. I’ve watched the feedback several times, and each time it brings a huge smile to my face.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I am a classically trained actor, so I’ve wanted to make films for as long as I can remember. But it is nice to have money and, ya know, things, so I had a very successful career as a technologist. I wrote for many years and a few years ago I met the person who became the catalyst for my independent filmmaking journey. Since then, I’ve been trying to make as many films as I can. Thanks Fokke.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
That’s a tough one, because there are a few that I go back to – sometimes because they are familiar and make me feel good, like Big Lebowski and The Hudsucker Proxy, others because I am still as in awe of them now as when I first saw them in the theater (Blade Runner).

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 first film, Missed, had gotten into Shortcutz Amsterdam, and Rutger Hauer was on the board that chose it for inclusion. I always dug that he had seen one of my films and liked it enough to want it in his festival. That was pretty cool.
But I think Under 5 Minute has something really unique, and frankly very valuable- real people’s feedback in a way that lasts. Even in person festivals can be very difficult to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t- shorts can be ten to a block and the Q&As afterwards can be a nightmare if the all of the filmmakers show up- 30 minutes to respond to questions for that many films! Plus you are answering questions, not being able to get feedback from the audience members except for how the react in the moment. Comedies are great for this, but dramas can sometimes be more difficult to gauge.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
It’s a mixed bag. There are so many festivals that it can be difficult to judge which ones are worth the time and money. It gets very expensive very quickly, and bigger named festivals can charge $50 or more just for your film to be considered. Other festivals take the cash and sometimes you never hear back, especially if your film wasn’t selected. Like, did they even watch the film? I think there should at least be some response other than “Not Selected”. Even ones where films get selected, sometimes you don’t hear anything else. One of my films won an award and I tried to talk to the festival coordinators to see when my film would be shown so that I could go and watch it with an audience. They never got back to me, even after contacting them for over a month. Frankly I think FF should regulate festivals a little bit better so that the filmmakers feel like they aren’t getting ripped off. Then again, I found your festival through them so sometimes you pull out a win!

10. What is your favorite meal?
I’m from Jersey, so I am literally surrounded by the best cuisine that the world has to offer. From insanely good Asian food, to some of the best Italian restaurants and pizza joints in America, to world class diners where you can get breakfast 24 hours a day, picking just one would be an impossibility.

11. What is next for you? A new film?
I have a few things in the hopper. I am working on a horror film anthology where I will be directing several of the segments, and another short early next year that we are hoping will open the door for my first feature! The big issue, as always, is funding. So tackling that is going to be the next big challenge! Stay tuned!

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By matthewtoffolo

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

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