Interview with Filmmakers Whitney Lockert & Miranda Sherman (WHY NY)

WHY NY was the winner of BEST MUSIC VIDEO at the February 2021 Dance & Music Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Whitney: The song was written as a humorous look at New York, a place which has been rightly celebrated in song many many times. As much as I loved the city and loved living there, there were definitely times that I wondered why I put up with the noise, smells, awful weather, and expense of life in the city. While the song obviously expressed some of the downside of life in Gotham, it’s also the greatest city on Earth, with potential magic around every corner, and when it came time to make the video Miranda and I decided that it would be great to try to answer the question of why people live in New York in visual fashion.

Miranda: Listening to Whitney’s song made me want to argue with him. While the song conveys the challenges of life in the city, my experience of New York was always a bit sunnier, and I wanted to show that side of things. In order to capture the city through as many lenses as possible, we asked our friends to take videos of their daily life in New York and I cut them together into this collage of experiences. The decision to crowd-source footage was rooted in our respect for the many faces of New York and our celebration of the community of people who make the city feel like home.

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

Miranda: An embarrassingly long time involving many trips back to New York from Los Angeles, and many communications with the friends who provided footage. In the end, it was good that we took our time because we were able to get a look at all the seasons of life in New York.

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

New York.

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

Miranda: There was a time most of the way through the edit when I didn’t know how much more I could do with it. It felt like the vibe was there, but I wasn’t sure I had the technical skills to finish the edit. The timing needed to be very precise, and because we were combining so much different footage from different sources, it was tricky to make it feel cohesive while maintaining the collaborative spirit. Ultimately a little time away from the project was helpful in providing perspective and motivation to finish.

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

Whitney: I was glad that people enjoyed the video, and I was pleased that people recognized and enjoyed the contrasting themes of the song and the visuals. It felt like people really got it.

Miranda: I was glad that the audience could see their own experience in the video, and that the humanity of New York came through.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What are your passions in life?

Whitney: Music, music, music.

Miranda: Mostly dogs. Also voting. And composting.

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

Whitney: Probably The Princess Bride when I was a kid.

Miranda: Manhattan. And The Little Mermaid.

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

Miranda: It’s great! We had a great experience with the festival.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Whitney: Tough call, but a good burrito is hard to beat. And incidentally, almost impossible to find in New York.
Miranda: The Grey Dog breakfast with French Toast and scrambled eggs at Grey Dog on Carmine St. in the West Village.

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

Whitney: I’m finishing up work on a new album which should be coming out later this year. There will doubtless be at least one video to accompany the album’s release, not sure what it will look like yet.

Miranda: Producing lots of different projects and continuing to have artistic arguments with Whitney.

Interview with Filmmaker Daniel Cawthorne (SWOOSH)

SWOOSH was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2021 Dance & Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

My initial motivation to shoot a dance film, was to show the beautiful and smooth movements and flow of the Arri Trinity Rig which is the latest form of Steadicam, on film and digital. I wanted to be able to show how closely you can capture the story, movement and expression on the dancers faces.

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

We started planning the film in Winter 2021 just as Covid hit, which slowed us down, however we managed to continue working with the team online until we could come together again in August 2020. The actual shoot took place in one day.

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

Dreamy world

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

The biggest obstacle was the pandemic, as it took forced us to delay many times and having to switch to meeting and planning remotely.

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

It was a feel good moment to hear different views from different people around the world and happy to have worked with a such great team.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What are your passions in life?

My passion is using film to portray my vision of art.

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

Bladerunner ,Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Once upon a time in Hollywood and The Hateful Eight.

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

I think Film Freeway’s platform is an excellent opportunity for film makers to get their films viewed by audiences from all around the world, they would not have otherwise reached.

9. What is your favorite meal?

My favourite food is a good Sunday roast.

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

Yew, I am working on two new short films for this year.

Interview with Filmmaker Mark Knight (THE GREAT ATCHAFALAYA BASIN)

THE GREAT ATCHAFALAYA BASIN played to rave reviews at the February 2021 Environmental Film Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

– I grew up in that part of Louisiana and I know that most people do not even know it exists. It’s incredibly beautiful and it provides such an important role in our eco-system… even I did not know the extent to which it was/is being threatened until I started filming and talking with Dean and Jody and the others who ultimately were involved.

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

– I took some breaks between trips over to Louisiana(I live in Austin, Texas)… there were times when low water levels in the basin made filming impossible(as is talked about in the video). It also took a little while for Dean and Jody to become available.. they are both so busy working on various projects inside the basin and also making a living! I started in July of last year… and finished in November.

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

Disappearing Wilderness

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

As I mentioned, the low water levels in the basin sometimes made it impossible to navigate with the airboat through some areas.

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

– I’m pleased that people are getting to see this part of the world… and how beautiful and important it is on so many different levels. It was never our (Jim Wilmer and myself) intention to make a ‘hit’ piece on the corporations and entities whose actions and disregard have created such a fragile landscape… We prefer a ‘velvet hammer’ approach with a more meditative style that lets people see and vicariously experience the beauty for themselves.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What are your passions in life?

I love nature photography/videography and being outdoors… and I’ve been fortunate in my life to have been able to make a living doing what I love to do.

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

hmmm… Back to The Future?

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

It’s a great platform for smaller filmmakers like us.

9. What is your favorite meal?

– Crawfish Etouffee!

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

I just finished editing the VR version of this film that we shot at the same time using hi-res, stereoscopic cameras. Utilizing the latest headset technology and playing it back at 8K resolution… it’s as close to actually being there as you can get! It feels very real.

Interview with Filmmaker Bhushan Thakkar (RETURNING HOME)

RETURNING HOME was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2021 Environmental Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I have been working with Richie for a few years. Producing commercial work for our clients. During various shoots, we often spoke about needing to tell a more compelling story with mountain biking as a vessel, but not the main subject. Practicing mindfulness when you’re outdoors, listening to the sounds of nature, photographing and filming landscapes has been very therapeutic for me personally. When the pandemic hit, it felt like the perfect time to get back to simple and work on a project that brought both together in a compelling way. That was the original thought and ethos for the film.

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

We had an idea and formulated a pitch deck in June of 2020. However, it wasn’t until the end of September, that Richie and I started writing the script. All the pre-production happened around the same time, and our crew formed a sort of a “bubble” so that we can be as safe as possible. We left Southern California for Utah on October 11th. Began filming on the 12th, returning to California on the 17th. We shot some pickups in California and started editing. We had the finished edit around November 9th.

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

Hopeful and reflective

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

I guess the biggest hurdle for me personally was biking one of the trails in Cedar City. I had never really done that before. From a technical standpoint – challenging communication. For example, when filming Richie from across a valley or up a mountain and our walkie talkies didn’t work. Overall we could have faced much worse, but we had an awesome team with us to overcome any obstacles that came our way.

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

I was excited to hear everyone give their take on the film. It seems to have invoked the kinds of emotions I was trying to hit.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What are your passions in life?

Telling compelling stories is my passion, I feel so lucky to have turned that into a career.

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

It’s probably a toss up between “Scent of a Woman”, and “Carlitos Way” when I was in High School, I could quote both of those movies. A close second is probably Godfather 1 & 2. I was a big Pacino fan.

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

A great platform to find the right audience for our projects and manage submissions, acceptance, and rejection.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Anything my wife makes 🙂

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

My dream for some time has been to make a western. But for now I’ll be working on more travel based projects and telling stories in the outdoors.

Interview with Artistic Director Miki Ohlsen (OUT OF RUIN)

OUT OF RUIN played to rave reviews at the February 2021 Dance & Music Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

My and my Assoc Artistic Director’s primary motivation in making this film was to provide meaningful work for our dancers during the height of the pandemic, and to provide wonderful artistic content to our community, our audiences and our donors. We knew we would need to work outside and that there could be no audience. We have done lots of site specific work so working in amazing locations was not an issue. Film came to mind as the only vehicle to accomplish this goal. We had a wonderful relationship with Marta Renzi, the film maker. We contacted Marta, set about finding the locations, chose the theme, chose the music, created the choreography then Marta came and worked her cinematic magic.

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

We thought of going to the film format in June. Went into rehearsal with dancers on location in July. 5 Weeks. We worked 3-5 days a week on the choreography and filmed all of the locations in 4 days. So 3 weeks of work on location and 3 days of filing. A couple of weeks of think time prior.

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

Finding Unity

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

Dealing with the weather in outdoor settings. Heat, sun, rain. Having to go inside to rehearse things that were meant to be rehearsed for stone walls or stone rooms or cliffs etc.

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

I was mesmerized by the very thoughtful, insightful critiques. We loved that viewers understood what we were trying to say. We were very flattered by the comments about our beautiful dancers, the sites, choreography, costumes, music. It is really more than we could have hoped for.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

What are your passions in life?

Creating choreography that portrays the transformative power of dance.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Dutch films.

What is your favorite meal?

Really? Dancers don’t eat. LOL. Moules Frites

What is next for you? A new film?

We have already made a new film, “Through Her Eyes” . It has been picked up by RIPBS. We are thrilled. At the moment we are working on our live stream production of our March repertory and then hopefully a live performance in May and our Dance festival in July. Very big news? We are working on a project for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that will take place in Matera, Italy. This is through the US Consulate. We learned today that PBS may be interested in doing a film about the making of this project. So YES!!!!! To film. We have so enjoyed this foray into a new medium.

Interview with Filmmaker Luigi Rizzo (THE INVISIBLE MIRROR)

THE INVISIBLE MIRROR played to rave reviews at the February 2021 Dance & Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

After many years working as an editor I decided to challenge myself and try directing.

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

I had the idea and then I forgot it! After moving from Milan to London it came back and I started saving some money to invest in the film. From the shooting it took almost a year.

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

It’s a story about life and legacy

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

To compose the soundtrack, a whole new experience

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

It was great to see them talking about all the key aspects of the film that I tried to develop, you never know what people gets from the story and can’t really take it from granted.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What are your passions in life?

Experimenting with visuals and music.

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

The double life of Veronique

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

It saves you a lot of time.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Fish lasagna

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

I’m working on an experimental horror feature

Interview with Filmmakers/Composers Ania Reynolds & Carl Polke (AUDIBLE LOCKDOWN)

AUDIBLE LOCKDOWN was the winner of BEST SHORT FILM at the February 2021 Dance & Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Ania: We received a commission from the Australian Music Centre to create a new work in lockdown to be presented online. Initially the idea was to make an audio composition out of field recordings gathered in Melbourne under lockdown with some basic accompanying visual imagery, but during our expeditions to gather material it became apparent that the visuals would play an equally important role in shaping the creation of the work. Often I’d set out to record audio and end up filming footage the whole time instead! With the absence of human presence in the city, it became easier to focus on inanimate objects, machines and scenes devoid of people.

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

We started gathering in mid-May 2020, and the work premiered online on September 4.

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

Audiovisual kaleidoscope! (Or…Audible Lockdown!)

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

A 5km-radius restriction was imposed with the stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne at the start of August, meaning we could no longer travel to the CBD to gather any more material or to reshoot. Luckily by that stage we were mainly editing, and it was also an interesting creative parameter to work with what we had, with no option to re-record or re-shoot.

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

Ania: I was so rapt that the audience enjoyed the visuals, and also that they got a sense of what I strove to convey in the work, which was that although the environments were generally devoid of human presence, they were far from inanimate, and that there was a certain beauty and whimsy in that. I was also stoked that people appreciated the detailed synching of the sound with the video edits – as a soundtrack composer I find that immensely satisfying and it was great to hear that it resonated with audience members too.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. What are your passions in life?

Ania: Art, music, moving image, ideas, good food and conversation, languages, travel, running, wine.

Carl: Music, ideas, performing, guitar solos, saxophone solos, surfing, finding beauty, making very loud and often somewhat abrasive sound!

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

Ania: Allegro Non Troppo

Carl: Dark Star.

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

Ania: as a newcomer to filmmaking I found the platform very accessible, a great online database that provides information on and gives access to film festivals all over the world, many of which I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Ania: Carl’s mum’s Greek baked beans, fassolia.

Carl: ..mmm… anything in the hearty wholesome home-cooked territory, baked spud/leek/tomato thingy with lots-o garlic and chilli was pretty damn good the other night! (Something fancy and expensive I don’t have to pay for can often be a favourite too…)

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

Ania: We are currently working on two more audiovisual compositions in our This City This Sound series (which Audible Lockdown is part of). I’m working in the regional city of Albury, Australia for much of this year and planning to use the opportunity to make a This City This Sound Albury. The one thing I’ve noticed so far is how many cockatoos there are here, and how ridiculously raucous they are! That’s already a source of inspiration…
We are also making a work as part of an artist residency through the Centre Culturel d’Ambronay, France. Because of the pandemic we’re unable to travel to France to make the work, so we’re doing it remotely. We’ve asked the community in Ambronay to gather audiovisual material (recordings, photos and videos) from the village for us, which we’ll use to make the new work. We’ll also incorporate footage and sounds of natural wilderness environments here in Victoria, which will hope will present a significant contrast in environments, from the 12th century abbey in France to the windswept coastline of Phillip Island, Australia.

Interview with Filmmaker John D. LeMay (Covid Landscape: Boise, Idaho June 2020)

Covid Landscape: Boise, Idaho June 2020 was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the February 2021 Documentary Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I have a working relationship with the artist, David Carmack Lewis. I met David a few years ago while he was painting another mural here in Boise. Last spring David called to let me know he was working in Boise again on a much bigger project and asked if would get some shots for his website. The scope of the project blew me away, and the fact David was painting on the side of an 18-story building in the middle of a global pandemic intrigued me.

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

I shot on two separate days in June about a week apart, and then took a couple of weeks to edit the footage.

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

COVID Landscape … says it all, I think.

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

Wanting to respect David’s space during the shoot while still getting the variety of shots I needed to tell the story required some planning. Since it wasn’t going to be possible for me to join David up on the scaffolding while he worked, I rigged up a remote camera for that intimate look at David while he was painting. I also rented a long lens and shot the mural from various vantage points in order to show how it fit into the overall cityscape.

The need for social distancing during COVID-19 led me to interviewing David via cell phone … I spoke with David and shot him from the parking garage across the street. I found a phone recording app that worked well, but syncing that recording with my shots of David on the phone proved to be a bit of a challenge.

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

Although David’s canvas and the time in which it was created are monumental, the story I wanted to tell was very intimate and personal. I was pleased that folks seemed to appreciate that about the piece.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve always loved the creative process, and over the years have expressed my life experiences in many different mediums. We are fortunate to live in a time when the tools for telling stories on film are accessible … I love that. Working with film combines so many other areas of artistic interest for me that it was just a natural progression.

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

North by Northwest – Eva Marie Saint, Cary Grant, James Mason, Martin Landau, Alfred Hitchcock, and an awesome score by Bernard Herrmann … What’s not to love?!

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

The interface is very intuitive making the submission process quite easy.

9. What is your favorite food?

Is banana cream pie food?

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

I am currently editing a film project for the Idaho Commission on the Arts, putting together some shorts of interviews documenting Mexican musical traditions across southern Idaho’s Snake River Plain. I love the process of finding people’s stories, revealing their history and humanity.

Interview with Filmmaker Miya Matsumoto Lee (WRITING ON THE WALL)

WRITING ON THE WALL was the winner of BEST SHORT FILM at the February 2021 Documentary Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

2020 was a historic year. I wanted to document one of the largest civil rights movements in American history. Even in the midst of a pandemic, people came together to protest injustice and to make art in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. I also wanted to document how quickly New York City stores and shoppers returned to business as usual — how quickly some people forgot or willfully ignored the summer’s outpouring of pain and calls for change.

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

From June 2020, when the Black Lives Matter protests in response to George Floyd’s death began, to September 2020, when I completed my edits on the film.

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

Witnessing Cooperation

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

Learning how to edit my film on Premiere Pro. With the help of some books and the internet, I taught myself how to use the powerful (and very reactive!) software.

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

I was extremely grateful. In these isolating times without the ability to interact in person, I appreciated the opportunity to hear how people reacted to my film and what they took away from it. It was extremely gratifying to hear peoples’ thoughtful comments.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Probably when I was in college. One of my older sisters, Kimi Howl Lee, is a TV writer and filmmaker. I was in one of her films and felt the magic and power of the filmmaking process. I also saw some of my male friends make movies and realized why not? I could, too.

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

Ha! Probably The Sound of Music.

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

I think it’s pretty seamless. As a filmmaker, I found it to be an efficient way to learn about and submit to film festivals.

9. What is your favorite food?

Thai restaurant classic: Pad See Ew.

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

Yes! My sister, Kimi, and I are working on a documentary about our grandmother Stella who was a poet and artist ahead of her time. Stay tuned.

Interview with Filmmaker HK Alleys (HONG KONG DIALOGUES)

HONG KONG DIALOGUES played at the January 2021 Political Documentary Festival to rave reviews.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Well , we didn’t know each other at first, we were filming separated in the scene on our own but later we met, a few of us, we were filming for different pages and media, later on we decided to make some of our unseen footages into a film.

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

Around nine months….I guess.

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

painful, heartbreaking

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

The Hong Kong Police tried every way to block people to film, strobe, yelling, sometimes pushing, holding up canister of pepper spray, and they were checking everyone’s ID just to show off their power, they also say that the student’s report card is not valid, they shouldn’t be filming there. Also, we can’t use our real names because there are possibility that they will arrest people who tell the truth.

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

I felt very grateful, I sent the video to the others immediately. I felt a little sorry for you guys to watch this film, because I edited the film, I understand it’s hard to watch.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We noticed that we had to film it, we all had that feeling and obligation, people could hardly sleep for days during that time.

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

Not sure about this one.

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

It is alright. Just a platform for me, but the showreel of WILDSOUND is quite good so I submitted.

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

Close to you – Carpenters

10. What is next for you? A new film?1. What motivated you to make this film?

Don’t know yet, probably something political too but more subtle. The protesters of Hong Kong, the young ones mostly, inspired us a lot, that they are not afraid to die for protecting something valuable to them.