Interview with Filmmaker Ariane Smith (THE PECULIAR ADVENTURES OF WILLOW B. STAR)

THE PECULIAR ADVENTURES OF WILLOW B. STAR was the winner of BEST CHARACTERS at the June 2020 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ariane Smith: I love strong female characters and wanted to create one that was in the Agatha Christie style that I loved reading when I was 6 years old, but I wanted her to be updated and funky.

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

I wrote the book in 2007. Years later I decided to animate it. Once I started making the short it was a jam packed 6-7 months.

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

Edgy, Funny

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

Raising the money.

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

It was so gratifying to know that they all got what I and my team were going for. I never get to hear that kind of response.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Reading the great mystery writers since I was a kid. I was also inspired by the work and humor of Wes Anderson in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

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

Among others, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

It’s a perfect platform.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

This is really hard question. I’ve always loved The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication” and also Jain’s “Mr. Johnson.”

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

Yes. I’m working on a live action film this time.

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Interview with Filmmaker Claudia M. Ruiz (AILIN ON THE MOON)

AILIN ON THE MOON was the winner of BEST ANIMATION film at the June 2020 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Claudia M. Ruiz: From an experience, it made me think about how in the universe of young children, everything is possible, and the limit of reality and fantasy is very labile, and in that world, the word of the adult is so important and builds a world for him.

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

This story happened 20 years ago. I worked on it in a couple of script labs, but only in 2018 did I earn the funds to do it, and also found the visual way to tell it.

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

Tenderness and poetry.

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

The time, the funds we got to make it were minimal, so I had to respect the filming schedule and post to get to finish it. So the love we all put in was so much greater than the financial reward.

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

It was a tremendous emotion, seeing how they saw every detail of acting, of construction, seeing the emotion in their expressions. It was incredibly beautiful. I would have loved to be there and give you a hug!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

It is based on a true story that happened to a friend, and she just told me about the anguish that her little daughter Ailín felt when she threatened “revoke her” to the moon. The girl thought she was going to be alone, she wouldn’t have her toys, she would be hungry. Then it made me think about the value and weight that adult words have on children.

I wanted to show on one hand the weight of the word, and also the loneliness that a child feels with a scream.

So once I had more or less the common thread, the formal search was how to transmit that in a poetic way so that children could watch it, tell them that they can say “I don’t want you to treat me like this, it hurts me”.

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

Cinema Paradiso, The Journey of Chijiro, Dumbo.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I love it, because it allows me to get to places and festivals that I did not know, to show my film in a simple way, without the terrible work that was before sending everything to each place. Wonderful.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Imagine

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

I am currently filming an animated documentary series on children’s rights, and writing a feature film.

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Interview with Filmmaker Debbie Vu (ROLL PIN PUNCH)

ROLL PIN PUNCH was the winner of BEST ACTION FILM at the July 2020 Action/Crime/Thriller FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Debbie Vu: I went to my first fighting tournament back in 2013 and was so inspired by the sweat and energy each fighter puts into the ring. All those months and years of training laid out in the ring in brief 3-minute rounds. I wanted to juxtapose emotional and physical pain. This film shows the comparison of how emotional pain leaves scars that never go away while physical pain is fleeting and graceful in ways.

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

I wrote the first iteration back in 2013 and screened the final product for my team in early 2020 soooo it took me 7 years and dozens of people to go through the content and make their artistic contributions.

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

Strength. Resilience.

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

The biggest obstacle was funding. It is a constant reality for me in the filmmaking industry. I decided to put my savings into the project and I am in severe debt because of it! But it was all worth it. Also, I had to push the shoot dates twice! Because I didn’t have everything in place like the full cast until much later.

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

I was blown away from all the reactions. It was so comforting to hear this feedback because I am big on words of affirmation. Often with my imposter syndrome, I find it difficult to find confidence in my work when I do not have detailed feedback. I was awed that all the feedback was positive and I am so elated that I had the opportunity to move so many people. A lot of them nailed it with their interpretations of my work and interestingly enough, they told me things I didn’t even notice myself!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I grew up in an abusive household and after a punch to the jaw from my father, I realized that I should pursue learning how to fight and defend myself. So I took MMA in college and boxing and muay thai after I graduated and moved to Oakland, CA. With that particular gym, they suggested I come to a fighting tournament and that’s when it all clicked. I understood that I should fuse my visions as a fighter and as a filmmaker.

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

Honestly, I do not watch movies because I fall asleep quickly during the first act! A lot of movies take too much time with the exposition! I am more of a TV show kind of gal so my favorites include Game of Thrones, Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, Schitt’s Creek, and Broad City. TV shows really emphasize character development and I am here for that!

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I used to submit to withoutabox.com before they ended their services and it included an option to create IMDB pages for our projects so I do miss that aspect of submitting to film festivals. But I do like the organization of FilmFreeway’s website so it makes navigating through hundreds (maybe thousands!) of film festivals so much easier.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

“The Sound” by The 1975 and “Too Close” by Tom Misch and Carmody

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

I am working on my first Vietnamese American film which is almost entirely based on my own relationship with my mother. We are going to film the first scene in August 2020 and we will use it to raise funding for the rest of the feature film which chronicles a mother-daughter relationship while they straddle between two very different cultures. A language barrier keeps them apart but the culture of cooking brings them together. I locked down my dream crew, dream cast, and dream location within 3 days after being accepted into a series of storytelling workshops that will provide a stipend upon completion. I’m writing and producing it for my mother who’s been battling breast cancer since 2017. I am determined to produce the entire feature film within 3 years to make sure my mother gets to see it.

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Interview with Filmmaker Jordan Brown (PARK AVENUE)

PARK AVENUE played to rave reviews at the August 2020 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jordan Brown: I was motivated to make this film because the social justice system is corrupt and disproportionately targets Black and Brown communities. I have witnessed this first hand with experiences of my peers growing up. As a Pennsylvania native, I wanted to make a film about a part of the system that does not get talked about as much, what happens after someone is released from prison. While this film is not intended to be viewed as a PSA or as an ad by any means, I wanted to somehow include a real source people could go to should they ever need to. Mainly, I just wanted to tell a real story of someone’s struggle to let people in the world know that they are not alone and to let people who have ever experienced anything like this know that this is a real conversation for some people within the United States.

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

This whole film took about a month and a half to create. I created it while at a summer internship in Philadelphia, PA.

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

Unheard story.

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

The biggest issue I faced while creating this film was deciding what would make the cut. Through the company I was working for, I was only given 2:45 seconds of runtime (excluding credits). Given the amount of time given for the film, I had to choose very carefully what was seen on screen.

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

I was very pleased with the reactions. A common reaction was regarding the length of the film and people wanting to see more, and I was thinking to myself how I wished I could have given them more without the parameters I was under, but I am still very grateful that I was even able to create any story at all about this topic.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I felt like the story fell in my lap in a way. I was mainly going to focus on The Center for Returning Citizens in Philadelphia and just talk about what a Reentry Center is, but after meeting John and hearing his story, I wanted to tell his story as the main focus. I felt like it was a more personable approach and made for a more captivating story.

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

I have seen “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006) a countless number of times. One of my all time favorite films.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I felt that the platform was incredibly easy to use. I had no trouble and I recommend FilmFreeway to all of my other filmmaking friends when they go to submit to festivals.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

My most listened to song, and probably my favorite song is “Born Sinner” by J. Cole. It just reminds us that we’re human.

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

Hopefully a new film! I am currently the cinematographer for a documentary about the history of Oakland, California (pending title is “Once Upon a Time in Oakland”). I have had my hands full with this project, but I’m also trying to piece together some films of my own that cover other important issues, and others that are just creative projects to express myself and have a good time.

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“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” — Art of Quotation

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” Malcolm X, Author, book quote: By Any Means Necessary Photo: Eve Arnold

via “You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” — Art of Quotation

“The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage.” — Art of Quotation

The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage. Alexis de Tocqueville, French, historian

via “The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage.” — Art of Quotation

“Every bartender I’ve ever met is better at de-escalating conflict than the police.” — Art of Quotation

“Every bartender I’ve ever met is better at de-escalating conflict than the police.” Lucie Steiner, writer, comedian, twitter post June 8, 2020

via “Every bartender I’ve ever met is better at de-escalating conflict than the police.” — Art of Quotation

Bullies are masters at holding others responsible for their misbehavior. Instead of claiming “the devil made me do it”, they argue “You made me do it” — Art of Quotation

Bullies are masters at holding others responsible for their misbehavior. Instead of claiming “the devil made me do it”, they argue “You made me do it”. Sam Horn (2003). “Take the Bully by the Horns: Stop Unethical, Uncooperative, or Unpleasant People from Running and Ruining Your Life”, p.187, Macmillan

via Bullies are masters at holding others responsible for their misbehavior. Instead of claiming “the devil made me do it”, they argue “You made me do it” — Art of Quotation