Interview with Actors Stephen Tracey & Erica Anderson (PREY)

PREY played to rave reviews at the August 2018 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Taking a quote from the director, Vivien Endicott- Douglas, who says it best:

“As women, we are predominantly conditioned to believe that we must sacrifice our own happiness and comfort for the sake of staying in a relationship. The relationship is paramount. It takes a great deal of will to be able to free ourselves from this reality and shift the paradigm. Prey is the beginning of one woman’s journey to come home to herself. We were inspired to document that first step, the realization that she cannot have the full life she wants, be the whole person that she knows she is capable of being if she is in attachment with either of the men she’s between.”

We wanted to show that moment of discovery, and the struggle leading up to it. Because this is a timely discussion and an important one. Especially as young women learn to navigate relationships as well as building their identity. And that sometimes the ones we feel we love the most are actually the ones holding us back from where we want to be.

We also wanted to make a film about a woman, written by a women and made by women. There’s such a need for female representation beyond the camera and we wanted to help promote young Canadian female film makers.

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

The light bulb went on sometime during February of 2017. That’s when script meetings and the team building process began. We didn’t shoot until the beginning of June 2017. Which was an incredibly long night shoot. Started at 4:00pm and went all the way until 6:00 am. Don’t worry, craft was bountiful. And then post went on until about March 2018. So just over a year.

Many of our crew (pre and post production) are young film makers, and finding the time to access these budding artists with a lower budget provides obstacles because not only are they working on other projects but they also have non industry jobs to keep food on the table. So we had to find flexibility with our timeline. Which is just the reality of establishing artists.

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

The audience at the Female Festival had such a colourful conversation/commentary about the piece that for us to pin hole it might be a disservice to the viewing experience. Part of our story telling was an emphasis on ambiguity and challenging of expectations.

But here are some themes to think about:

Personal awakening
Self discovery
Gentle empowerment

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

It for sure goes back to that earlier comment about people’s schedules. Had we a giant juicy budget, schedules would’ve made themselves more readily available but because of our circumstances there was more rigidity. And that had pushed our expected dates further.

All a learning experience as we continue to grow. The beauty is in seeing the completion of the project. From idea to product is pretty magical.

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

It was really incredible to hear the audience react and be in the theatre to experience it firsthand. It was great to hear that so many people felt compelled to speak about the film and that it brought up conflicting opinions and discussion. It was especially encouraging to hear the women in the audience who immediately recognized the internal conflict within our protagonist.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Prey was originally a full length theatrical play, written by Britney Tangedal for the 2014 graduating class of the National Theatre School of Canada. Both Erica Anderson and Stephen Tracey (the two leads) were also in that first production.

This particular scene comes near the end of the play and was always a highlight. There’s such a weight to it that is so universal and so human. It also had just the right amount of information to be a stand alone story giving it the ability to transfer from stage to screen.

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

Erica- Under the Tuscan Sun. Guilty pleasure movie all the way. After watching it as a kid I painted a mural of sunflowers on my bedroom wall (thanks to my artistic mom for being so cool!) I think I’ve always been attracted to stories of women who do what they want. One day I’ll run away and renovate an old house surrounded by sunflowers. And also, Sandra Oh! She brings depth and humour to everything. She’s brilliant.

Stephen – Gone With The Wind. Grew up watching this movie over and over. Funny enough, it’s also about a woman caught between two men and more importantly about how this fiery woman steps outside of social norms into traditional male roles to save herself, her home and her family. In that order. It’s Scarlett O’Hara after all.

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

It’s an easy and efficient way to submit to festivals already known to you and to learn about festivals you hadn’t of before. Giving your film the optimal amount of opportunity for your project to be seen.

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

Erica- Again, in the not-so-gulty pleasures, anything Shania Twain. She practically raised me and i still break her out on a bad day. Currently though I have I Know A Place by Muna on repeat daily. I think the acoustic version is stunning.

Stephen- Unintentionally Brown Eyed Girl – because of any sort of family get together. I swear, it’s like they own nothing else. It’s their entire I tunes playlist. Intentionally, Nina Simone, all day every day.

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

Erica- Catch her on screen in upcoming seasons of The Baroness Von Sketch Show (CBC) & Murdoch Mysteries (CBC). On stage at the GCTC in Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells) by Rose Napoli. And future personal films are in the dream and scheme phase but she’s excited to lift them off the page soon.

Stephen- Can be seen on CBC’s/Netflix’s Anne With An E season 2 coming September 23rd. He’s also in the process of writing his first feature.

prey

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Interview with writer/actor James McDougall (WALKING SUPPLY)

James’ short film “WALKING SUPPLY” was awarded “Best Cinematography” at the May 2017 CANADIAN Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

James McDougall: I was reading about Russian history in the wee hours of the morning and stumbled across some terrifying true stories. During Stalin’s regime, when two prisoners would escape a Gulag, they would sometimes bring along a third man whose sole purpose would be for meat if they began to starve. That idea both disturbed me, and made me want to delve deeper into that story. I identified with the third man, and started to think about how scary it would be to find yourself in the middle of the Siberian wilderness with two men who are stronger and faster, and finding out that you were brought along to be eaten. I not only wanted to write this story but I wanted to play the role of the unsuspecting victim. I really connected with that character and knew I needed to play him from the beginning. That, coupled with the fact that we recently did a huge gear upgrade at our company Mountain Man Media and Derek Barnes and myself were itching to shoot something with the new toys made for a perfect combo that got our idea into action. I was also really motivated by the challenge of pulling off something this ambitious. It’s a period piece set in the wilderness, in 1950 U.S.S.R., and in the dead of winter. As an actor this felt like a role of a lifetime and I wanted to do it justice.

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

Well, I started thinking about making this short about three years ago but Derek Barnes and I began writing it January 2016, we wrote multiple drafts, and went to camera soon after in March 2016. We shot 2 days, broke for a month while the seasons changed and myself and the other actors lost some weight (about 20 pounds each), and then went back to shooting our final 4 days in mid April. We submitted some rough cuts to a few festivals before but our film was officially finished in Sept. 2016.

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

Russian cannibals.

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

The biggest obstacle was probably shooting WALKING SUPPLY over 6 days in the wilderness. Lots of complications can come up when shooting outdoors, especially in the winter. We were an indie production, all out of pocket and we couldn’t afford trailers or heating tents and the cast and crew were notified in advance to dress warm and that they may have to poop in the woods. Everyone who came out totally played ball and lots of the shoot felt like an epic camping trip / hike. We had to journey up steep trails, trudge through swamps, get tied off on high cliffs, and the first 2 days were shot overnight in the blistering cold Canadian winter. It was a challenge, but tons of fun.

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

My initial reaction to the feedback was just feeling very grateful. I was really happy to hear peoples thoughts on our film and to hear that lots of people loved it and were really invested in the characters and the story was really cool and the most an actor/screenwriter could hope for. Even the constructive criticism was great to hear as we were currently developing a feature version of WALKING SUPPLY and any feedback helps immensely. I was also honoured to learn that we won best Cinematography as Derek Barnes who is my co-producer / co-writer / and the director of the short also was the director of photography and he put so much effort into the overall look of the film. He and our awesome crew really went all out in shooting this with epic drone shots, some stellar crane work, and Derek was even was tied of on a cliff standing on a ladder at one point just to grab a shot. I’m so glad Derek received some recognition for his stellar cinematography.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the short film:

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

It began when I was reading about some terrifying Russian history about how when two prisoners would escape a Gulag they would sometimes bring along a third man to kill and eat if they needed sustenance. So while the actual idea is inspired by true events, Derek Barnes and I came up with the story for WALKING SUPPLY by researching many historical facts from 1950 U.S.S.R. and coming up with fictional characters set in that world.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Good Will Hunting

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

What I Got by Sublime

What is next for you? A new film?

It’s been a good year so far. I’m an actor first and foremost and was very lucky to recently book a principal role on CONDOR, a new TV series shooting in Toronto. That has been an absolute dream to be apart of. I also booked a supporting role in the upcoming rom-com feature THE PERFECT KISS which is set to premiere in winter 2017. On the filmmaking front I just finished producing my first feature film, an experimental piece called LANGUAGE directed by Elizabeth Lazebnik. It is essentially King Lear performed by 11 actors who all speak a different language. The creative team behind it is incredible and we are very excited to hit the 2018 film festival circuit. And lastly, Derek Barnes and myself are working with an amazing and accomplished producer right now developing WALKING SUPPLY into a feature. The script is coming along quite nicely. I’m loving the character development, twists, turns, action, and suspense we are able to explore in a full length version. Once we are happy with where the script is at we’ll be shopping it around and hopefully returning to the wilderness to shoot sometime in the near future.

Final comment

Thanks so much Matthew and your entire team at Wild Sound Festival! It’s been a joy to be apart of and it’s amazing what you do. Thanks for continuing to support indie filmmakers through screenings, feedback sessions, and just helping to get the word out about our films. I’ll definitely keep submitting our films your way and I encourage other filmmakers to do the same. All the best!

James McDougall – Actor/Screenwriter/Producer
Twitter and Instagram: @ActorJamesMcD
WALKING SUPPLY

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with actress Linette Beaumont (THE PROWLER)

linette Beaumont 1.jpgLinette Beaumont was the winner of “Best Performance” in her short film THE PROWLER at the April 2017 Horror/Thriller Film Festival. It was an honor to chat with her about her role and what’s next for the talented actress:

Matthew Toffolo: Describe your character? How was the process in executing this performance?

Linette Beaumont: Eva is a tormented character, who is struggling with heart break after her husband has had an affair and left her. Eva is unable to let go and finds herself in a very dark place, manipulating her daughter into being instrumental in something that will change their lives forever.

As an actor I believe I have a responsibility to the character that I am playing, it’s my job to tell my characters story without judgement.

I tried to do that, and to be as honest to Eva (my character) as I could, and act exactly what was on the page.

How did you become attached to this project?

Tim Kent ( the director ) and I had worked together beforehand at Pinewood Studios. We discussed the possibility of doing a film together.

Tim introduced me to Daniella Gonella (our wonderful producer) at DG Productions. We then all had a meeting in Soho London with the very talented writer Matthew Arlidge, who had worked in television for many years and had written for one of my favorite BBC drama series Silent Witness. Matthew had also recently launched his bestselling crime debut Eeny Meeny. He agreed to write a short film specifically for me which I was delighted about and very flattered.

We then worked extremely hard to make it happen.

Coincidentally, James Friend BSC, (director of photography) BAFTA award winning, Rillington Place, who had just shot Matthew’s episodes of Silent Witness agreed to shoot the film.
An amazing team.

How would you describe your short film in two words!

Psychological thriller!

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

Time restraints were challenging. We used very high-end cameras and lens from Movitech at Pinewood Studios. The end result is fantastic, but when you use such high-end equipment things move very slowly. It takes 3-4 people to move everything. Also the interiors were shot in a cottage, so it was very tight for space.

Also Christmas! Kate Plantin CDG (casting director) who was amazing, was phoning agents to confirm actors when they had closed for Christmas, it was crazy.

And Budget, you never have enough money!

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

Of course as an actor, I was very happy to hear they liked the acting! I smiled at the comment regarding the ‘leaves on the trees’ we shot the film during winter, just after Christmas, and we did have leaves on the trees!

Feedback is great, and it’s important. I think it is always very interesting to hear feedback from people, industry and non industry professionals.

I think film is an observer of life. Everybody loves to watch a film. But we all feel so differently about what we see when we watch a film. It was interesting listening to what they had to say, how an idea resonated, or how the film made them feel. For me film making is magic, full of twists and turns, highs and lows, to quote the film director Danny Boyle, ‘to be a filmmaker, you have to be relentless. You have to be psychotic in your desire to do something and keep working. People always like the easy route. You can’t, you have to push very hard to get something unusual, something different to stand out.’

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video of THE PROWLER:

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Very difficult question as I have films for different moods! But I would say these films are in my top ten of most watched.

The Godfather and Deer Hunter, Star Wars. Street Car Named Desire and Annie Hall, Some Like It Hot, Singing in the rain. Cinderella, and the Fox and the Hound.

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

Clair de Lune- Debussy its the first thing I learnt on the piano, and reminds me of so much. But I also love Stevie Wonder.

What is next for you? A new film?

Yes I’m working with writer-director Daniel Yost (co-writer Drugstore Cowboy) co-writing and playing the lead role in Melody’s Tune, a project where I will play both the negligent mother of a homeless nine-year-old and the girl’s imaginary good mother. “ I can’t wait!

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Don’t Call Me Shirley – Best Movie Scenes (AIRPLANE)

AIRPLANE was one of my favourite movies growing up as a child. It was a film that our 1980s household owned on VHS, so it was an easy pop-in to the VCR whenever I wanted to giggle. (The other films we owned: Steel Magnolias, Lethal Weapon 2, and Big.  I have no idea why we owned these four specific movies.)

This scene from the film always made me laugh and still makes me laugh today:

Interesting enough, as a child I had no context to the spoof of the comedy. That is was making fun of the 1970s AIRPORT franchise, plus other iconic and pulp cultural references of the time. I just liked the comedy. How these actors were performing in a thriller/drama, while the audience was the only ones in on the joke.

Take a look at this scene. No actor is “trying to be funny”. They are just saying the lines that they were given while the tone and direction forces everyone to laugh. I feel that these films must be extremely difficult to direct because the there is such a fine line to tip-e-toe in the tone. They must keep the film grounded in reality to the comedy punchlines are so profound.

Leslie Nielsen, who utters the iconic “Shirley” line, went on to more “parody” fame with The Naked Gun franchise, is a master of the  “I am doing comedy by doing drama” acting technique.

I know there are other spoof films out there, but they don’t feel as smart as the AIRPLANE! movies, or the Mel Brooks films that pioneered this type of comedy. Or, perhaps I’m getting old and I don’t get the new films.

All I can say is that I was up in the middle of the night last week as my newborn daughter didn’t feel like sleeping and AIRPLANE was on the television. And I laughed as much as I did when I was 6 years old when I first saw this movie. AIRPLANE holds up and stands the test of time. That’s the bottomline.

Surely you cant be serious - Airplane

Interview with director/actor Nicole Jones (FOUR DAY WEEKEND)

Nicole Jones’ short film “FOUR DAY WEEKEND” was the overwhelming winner of “BEST FILM” at the February 2017 Romance Film Festival. She not only directed the film, but also starred in it as well. A definite true talent.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

I was motivated by a desire to see complex characters on screen about mature people over 35. I was tired of seeing middle aged people, (often times middle aged women,) portrayed as very stereotypical and one dimensional.

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

Nine months. I just counted right this second, it took exactly as long as it takes to make a baby!

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

Complex. Love Story. (Can Love Story count as one word?)

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

Creating a 23 year-relationship, with no rehearsal, between two actors who just met. Our lead actor, whom I was extremely lucky to get, (Ben Koldyke,) is a well respected, working actor who kindly lent his talent to our film. But because of his extremely busy schedule, he and I were not able to meet until the day we started shooting. Since this was a character driven film about a couple married for 23 years, the challenge was making that seen authentic with a man that I had literally just met. (I decided to act in the film with Ben so that I could improv and rewrite as needed in the moment.) The most important scene, which was the last one in the film, was particularly challenging because so much was riding on it. So once everyone was ready to go, I cleared the set, had Ben come in, we rehearsed for exactly 30 minutes, then I called the crew in, and we shot. Fortunately Ben is so talented, I was able to just work off of him, and we nailed it quickly.

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

Tremendous gratitude. I wanted to make a thought provoking film, that is morally ambiguous, therefore watching the audience debate it made me feel like I had really accomplished my goal. Is it a love story, or is it the opposite? That is up to you to decide. There was a young man who did not think it was a love story, in fact it made him uncomfortable and sad. I felt his point was very valid. But then there was an older woman around my age, (I’m 46 now,) who saw it as a love story, which I personally agree with her. Yet both opinions are correct for the person who said it. It all depends on who you are and what stage of life you are in.

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO of the Short Film:

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

I am lucky to have found true love at the age of 40. I’ve been with my husband now going on six years. Having this experience as an older woman really changed the way I view love. Though this short film is NOT based on a true story, I could really understand this woman’s perspective. Loving someone so much that wanting them to live a full rich life is more important to you then following any social norm. “I’m not in love with my marriage, I’m in love with the man I married”, is a line that when I wrote it, I thought made the most sense to me. That was an idea I wanted to explore in a film, and by making it a couple who had been married for such a long time, I could really play with that concept.

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

I watch “Being There” a lot. Chauncey Gardiner AKA Chance the Gardner is my spirit animal.

What is next for you? A new film?

I am about to go up to West Marin County with Jeanne Tyson, (the cinematographer who shot Four Day Weekend,) and film a documentary about the local radio station up there, KWMR. This documentary is also about this community and their listeners who are the coolest, mellow, most bad-ass, people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I’m pretty sure Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski is real, and he is retired up there. The radio station is putting me on air to read from a script I wrote, pitch an outline, and get feedback for my next project from this amazing audience.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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Interview with Actor/Screenwriter Bronwyn Szabo

Bronwyn Szabo’s short film played at the December 2016 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival to great success as the audience really responded to the movie.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Bronwyn Szabo: I was motivated to make this film because I was hooked on the story of this woman moving on from a past love, and I finding the humour and joy in tragedy.

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

BS: From idea to finished product, it probably took about six months from the time I wrote the script to the time it was done being edited.

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

BS: In two words, I’d describe this short film as sweet, and sad.

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

BS: The biggest obstacle in completing the film was finding the right team, and then getting everyone’s schedules to coordinate when there’s no money involved!

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

BS: At first I was scared to hear the audience’s reactions haha, but I was grateful to hear that people recognized the good directing and editing work that came from Karena and the crew, and pleased that they appreciated our creative use of limited space, and pleased that that one woman completely understood the message in the story!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film:

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

BS: I came up with the idea for this short film when I was trying to write something for another short film contest about “dreams” and was taken by the idea of being haunted recurring dreams, and how sometimes they parallel repeated things we do in waking life, such as revisiting the same places over and over again.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

BS: I’ve probably seen Clueless too many times to count!

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

BS: Up next for me is the short film “Angela and Lila” in post production with the same director, Karena Evans, and then working on developing my new comedic web series, “Tight-Knit”

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Actor/Director Samantha Neyland (WHEN STRANGERS TOUCH YOUR HAIR)

samanthaneyland.jpgSamantha Neyland co-directed and starred in the short film “When Strangers Touch Your Hair”, which was showcased at the Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival in December 2016. The film received rave reviews from the audience. It was an honor to chat with her about the film and what’s next for the beautiful and talented artist:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Samantha Neyland: I made this film as a way to work through the insecurities I had always lived with but until 2016 was too afraid to talk about.

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

SN: From start to finish, it only took six weeks. The initial idea was scary and I knew if I didn’t march forward at full speed it would never get done.

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

SN: Honestly Real

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

SN: Casting! I ended up having to re-cast one of the roles a week before and another role the night before!

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

SN: I loved the comments that were made. This film was made with the intention of getting people to think and talk about something that is so often forgotten.

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

SN: This film was based on true events that had happened very recently and were still very much fresh in my mind at the time.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

SN: Probably Finding Nemo. I was so obsessed with that movie as a kid and I know I’ve seen it at least 100 times.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

SN: My roommate and I are actually working on a script right now that we hope to shoot early 2017. It’s the complete opposite of When Strangers Touch Your Hair: a comedy, 100% made up, and over-the-top characters. That’s what makes it fun!

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.