Interview with Animator/Filmmaker Susan Shulman (PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES)

 PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the December 2017 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Susan Painter: I have a love of music especially the blues and it was inspired by the actual musician Jack Dappa from New York City. I heard his song and it inspired me.

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

3 months of crazy drawing and experimentation.

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

Blues Soul

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

Not having enough technical expertise.

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

I was delighted and thought what they said had merit. It was really great feedback. As artists we need that feedback to continue in our dreams. It’s very important.

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

Again, its my love of music that was the impetus for this concept. Of course I do love cats too!

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

That’s a tough answer but I think what has influenced me in the past was the classic Disney movies like Fantasia and the old black and white felix the cat.

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

I love it. It makes my life easier in submitting!

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

Too many to name but for sure Muddy Waters, I got my mojo working.

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

I just completed a new one called In Our Memories Forever. I hope to submit it to you again this year. It is 2.5 minutes long, I can’t seem to stick to 1 minute. It is about heritage and immigration to Canada in 1900 by boat. I hope you will like it.

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PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES, 2min., Canada, Animation
Directed by Susan ShulmanCool alley cat meets old blues musician and they tour together

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Interview with Animation Filmmaker Ina Conradi (CHRYSALIS)

 CHRYSALIS was the winner of BEST ANIMATION at the December 2017 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ina Conradi: The idea for Chrysalis started in 2014. I have followed up the abstract and surreal structure of my earlier war film Elysian Fields (2013) and continued developing the story about life and death, around the theme of perseverance, metamorphosis and immorality. I wanted Chrysalis to install hope and to reflect on many topics such as life’s purpose and the human desire to explore the inner workings of the mind. However the idea of metaphysical quickly expanded to topics such as evil, dehumanisation, totalitarian governments, and environmental disasters. The quintessence legend of a butterfly summed up all of the ideas well.

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

Two years- which is inclusive of stereoscopic 3D version of the film. The funding for the project was awarded in late 2014. The research and story board was done in January/Feb of 2015. Animation production started in 2015 March in tight collaboration with co-director and animation veteran, Mark Chavez, founder of Giant Monster- the animation/game company, and with Joshua Tan founder of CRAVEFX -the best VFX studio in Singapore. The sound effects and music were done by IMBA Interactive, led by Jeremy Goh.

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

Surreal journey

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

The biggest obstacle was time and budget. We all work full time on other commitments and the project was put on hold few times. The budget was tight to cover entire original story board for the film.

The film had 11 chapters depicting the surreal journey of a monk. (Part 1 Conscious mind, Part 2 The Descend, Part 3 The Field, Part 4 Influencing the Field, Part 5 Chaos, Part 6 Dystopia, Part 7 Dehumanization, Part 8 Nefarious, Part 9 The Ascent, Part 10 Warriors and Survivors, Part 11 Integration)

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

It was absolutely rewarding to hear the feedback and reactions of the audiences. Movie creatives on Chrysalis really want to know if their film do “wow” the audience. It is so valuable to see that the Chrysalis does sustain and build audiences’ involvement.

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

I have been living in South East Asia in Singapore for the last 12 years. I am fascinated by diversity and unity of all the cultural traditions. There are hundreds of ethnic groups with their own distinct languages and culture. Many of religions are based on the idea that spiritual and supernatural powers constitute and heal the material universe. The original idea for the film was inspired by the monk that would undertake mystical journey to the worlds inhabited by spirits.. very often film has been mistakenly identified with Buddhism. Some Buddhism references in the film are just an umbrella for all of sorcerers, magicians, and priests. The film does not adhere to one or another religion. Rather to human desire to explore the spiritual.

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

I am big fan of Rydley Scott’s movies

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

FilmFreeway is fantastic platform for submitting the films and recording the acceptance rate. There are many useful tools within the platform on how to navigate through various film categories. FilmFreeway allows for filmmaker to work independently and to take the role of publicity team allowing for as much marketing and publicity mileage as possible.

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

I can be more specific about movie scores – Interstellar by Hans Zimmer

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

Currently I am collaborating with my partner Mark Chavez, who was also co-director/producer on Chrysalis for a recently installed large scale urban media platform in Singapore called Media Art Nexus (MAN). The 2m by 15 m long led wall is installed at the Nanyang Technological University Singapore in a very public setting and seen by thousands of passers-by daily. It features real time animated works and video art by local and international artists. In addition to premiering our works in Tokyo for SGIO Tokyo last august we will be organizing two major events – one with ArtScience Museum in Singapore and another with famous Elbphilharmonie Philharmonic Hall Hamburg Germany, featuring novel experimental animation done for MAN.

 

 

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CHRYSALIS, 7min., Singapore, Animation 
Directed by Ina ConradiBased on an old legend about the butterfly’s struggles the film is the symbolic metaphor of rebirth after death and fascination with the human innate drive to survive.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Interview with Animation Filmmaker Marleia A. Alfaro (BARRY THE BLOBFISH)

BARRY THE BLOBFISH played to rave reviews at the December 2017 ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival.

 
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marleia A. Alfaro: It’s so difficult to come up with new characters that you’ve never seen in animation before. The story of Barry the Blobfish came about and motivated me to finish because it is a 100% original story, written be myself, of a character that no one else has seen before. I love animation and storytelling so in the hardest times of making the film, this thought, the idea and the story itself and what it represents kept motivating me to make it a reality.

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

I made the screenplay in sophomore year of college, back in 2011. I conceptualized it for a children’s book, but had the drive to major in animation, which it later became and finished as my thesis film for graduate school in May 2017.

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

Different, and quirky

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

Learning throughout the process was a challenge. In school my animation skill began to grow and develop so in some shots I’ve seen my improvement where in others, it feels very stiff to me now. Also as a director I had to focus not only on animation, but getting the textures, lighting, and environment to work in rendering, which I fortunately had the help from teachers and other more talented students.

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

I was nervous in the beginning, but it made me feel great that everything was so positive. I’ve always wondered what others thought about my film watching it while I wasn’t around. It’s not polished or at any professional high standard, but I spent 3 years making it work as an animated film, so of course I want people to like it.

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

I had seen an article on the world’s ugliest animals, and the Blobfish was one of them. When I saw it I had to write a story about him. It kind of came to me with some help with ideas from my sister. We decided he’d be sad and lonely, and have only one small, seemingly insignificant friend, and turned into a simple, fun adventure with a simple message of sometimes you can try your hardest and not reach your goals by yourself.

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

I can probably recite the entire Lilo and stitch film by heart, I’ve seen it so many times. It’s a childhood favorite.

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

It’s incredibly easy to find festivals and submit to festivals via film freeway. I never would’ve thought I could be a part of so many great festivals, and meet so many people who love animation and telling stories like I do.

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

I have a very eclectic collection of music. While working on animation I love listening to instrumentals or score; songs that don’t have words in them, just because it keeps me focused and in the proper mood. When working on Barry, I would always repeat Tabula Rasa by Calum Graham. It’s just guitar, but its very uplifting.

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

I have ideas for new short films and animations. I try to think of something every day. Most of them have been about animals or underwater animals.. but I’m hoping to come up with something simple first just to keep the flow going.

 

 

BARRY THE BLOBFISH, 2min., USA, Animation
Directed by Marleia A. AlfaroBarry is a fat ugly fish that can’t swim and lives at the bottom of the ocean. He longs to live on a beautiful coral reef at the top of a tall, tall cliff.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

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Interview with director Anthony Bennett (MY LITTLE BROTHER)

Anthony’s short film MY LITTLE BROTHER was the winner of BEST FILM at the September 2017 FAMILY FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Anthony Bennett: The film was originally made for Tropfest NZ and the theme for 2017 was ‘flame’ – I interpreted this through merging two ideas; the danger of fire to children and cyberthreats spreading like fire around the world. I decided to have my eldest son narrate the film as he’s a greater reader and tell the story of his little brother, who also had the easiest role in the film with no acting required!

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

About two months

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

Today’s generation

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

Time to polish the narration soundtrack – we were away on holiday with another family in a large shared house and for several days leading up to the submission deadline, the only way I could work on it was to get up at 3am to finish the audio mix (when I was guaranteed total silence)

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

Really surprised and delighted! To hear the detailed comments was very inspiring and it means a lot more knowing how knowledgable your audiences are. It was very humbling indeed and also helped be more outspoken when reviewing other films

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s close call between Star Wars (the original) and Jaws….probably seen them at least 7 or 8 times over the years through childhood

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I discovered it by chance as my last film used Withoutabox…..I really like FilmFreeway and so definitely was a great discovery!

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

Probably anything by Boards of Canada…..they have an incredible talent of putting together tracks that are timeless which you can play a hundred times, have a break then go back to it with the same joy of a new track and never grow tired of…….I edited a special video to their track SixtyTen as a personal tribute to the World Trade Center so that track I’ve probably played back over 100 times

What is next for you? A new film?

I’m working on writing a short film and also the outline for a feature film

Interview with Animation Director Peter Zhaoyu Zhou (KARMA)

Peter’s short film KARMA played to rave reviews at the September 2017 Animation & Family FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
 
Peter Zhaoyu Zhou: I always want to be a storyteller that can deliver meaningful messages to my audience through my works. Back to 2013, I read some news and articles about environmental pollution in one of my classes, “air smog pollution” came into my eyes and became my research project. The issue has become very serious which is significantly affecting people’s health especially in China (I am originally from China). Other than that, environmental pollution and climate change have been affecting this world day by day and the consequences are serious. I was thinking the reason and cause of those issues. One major cause is the abuse use of industrial production, which has brought certain cost to use nowadays. A research subject dramatically became the initial idea of this story, and I thought it is such a great idea to make an short animation about environmental pollution to tell people the cost of it and the importance of environmental protection. What motivated me to jump into filmmaking is that I really want to express my thought and get it to be known. This film is a perfect start point. 
 
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
 
I had the story back to early 2013, while I was in school busy on other projects, the actual production started on 2014. KARMA is actually my first year film but it took two years to make. 
 
 
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
 
Oh My…
 
 
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
 
Time. Time is the biggest obstacle I faced in making this film. We had a deadline for the 1st version. However, by that time I couldn’t finish the film because the render took so long. Therefore I submitted a previs version with all animation blocked out and shots layout. After that, in summer 2016, I resumed the production by consolidating the character animation and the look of the film with designing stylized forest and water simulation, which were another hard parts. Water is very hard to make and look good so I collaborated with another artist to use Houdini to create real simulation. 
 
Mentality is another aspect, making animation, especially with large amount of vfx works is hard. Making a good story is the start the point, after having the storyboard, character design, and even blocked animation with shots layout are just a setup for the next step, when we jumped into vfx, lighting, rendering, and compositing, everything became unpredictable. Especially for rendering, we had a lot of shots that have water, and because of the refraction and reflection, it took 2 hours to render a single frame. It was very time consuming and we had to use the whole summer to render the film, by not giving up and keeping focus with strong mentality in those sleepless nights. 
 
 
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
 
Couldn’t be happier. I am very glad to see the audience got my message and thinking deeply into my subject. That’s also my initial vision to make this film. 

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video: 

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

 
I love watching all kinds of films, as long as they inspire me. If I have to choose one film or director that would be James Cameron’s Avatar. Other than his top films Titanic and Avatar, I like him as a director because he is so innovative and ambitious. An ambitious director with strong spirit to keep creating works to another level. I feel these invaluable characteristics are crucial to me when I grow and create. 
 
 
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
 
FilmFreeway opens a big door for us. It’s such a convenient platform to submit films without searching online for those festivals all around the world. 
 
 
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
 
All songs from Coldplay. 
 
 
10. What is next for you? A new film?
 
I just finished my thesis film LAST DANCE, it is an experimental motion visualization film about a romance from ancient China – Farewell My Concubine 霸王別姬, in a way of Peking Opera – a traditional Chinese performing arts. The film has been nominated for the best Alternative film in this year’s Student Academy Awards and doing well in festival-running. Right now I am working as a designer at Imaginary Forces and thinking about a new story for short animation. 

 

Interview with director/animator Nick LeDonne (HANGING)

Nick LeDonne’s short film “HANGING” played to rave reviews at the March 2017 Animation Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nick LeDonne: I was motivated to make the film after almost attempting to hang myself back in 2014… I know this is starting off cheery. But later in 2015 I had transferred schools and felt somewhat secure in my life. So I wanted to try to re-tell my experiences in the hopes that it would resonate with someone else. To both show someone that they are not alone in what they are feeling and illustrate what suicidal thoughts feel like to those who have never experienced them. It also helped me validate those negative experiences that I felt were holding me back. I wanted to make something that would turn my negatives into a positive for someone else. So I could say I had to go through ‘this’ so that I could pick myself up to be able to help someone else up going through the same.

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

It took me about six months. This was during my junior year film production class in college. We had one month to storyboard the film at the end of the fall semester. Than about 5 months of production in the spring semester.

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

Hang ON!

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

Oh gosh. Well I was fine during the first month of storyboarding. It was sad to “re-live” all of these memories that brought me to almost killing myself but I was able to look forward through it. But at the very start of the animation production, just after christmas my dad passed away of a heart attack. It completely threw me off my “secure, I can do this feeling”. Once that happened things in my life just escalated. I was grieving over his passing trying to handle that. Than we found out our banking situation got messed up. We had to sell and move from my family’s childhood house. We were packing, cleaning, painting, replacing walls, showing people in and out, the whole deal. Than when I wasn’t doing that I was animating this 6,000 hand drawing film documenting my suicidal thoughts and how I wanted to kill myself back in 2014. Animating for myself is essentially trying to “get in character”. So you sit down at your desk thinking for 24 frames per second what would a suicidal person do? What did I feel when I was suicidal? What events pushed me to suicidal thoughts? After 5 months of that I can honestly say it will probably be one of the hardest moments of my life. When I started the film I had this stable life and family. By the end everything was different. My house was completely empty packed into boxes, my dad wasn’t there anymore, and all I had was this film about suicide. It just became this situation that everywhere I turned something was falling apart.

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

Oh gosh again. Really emotional. I mean I put so much of myself into the film. And to see the initial man’s reaction. And the initial audience’s reaction. Just that they got it. And it hit them. To think I was some student in Philly making some pencil marks on a piece of paper and than a year later in Toronto people are being impacted by my work. It really is a surreal experience. To be able to physically see and hear the audience feedback was really was rewarding to me too being that the film was so personal.

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO:

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

Well most of it was straight from my personal experience. I took the step by step moments of how I broke down, to finding the belt, building the noose, the torn thoughts, stepping into the noose about to attempt to the stop. Just step by step retold it. But the thing that pulled me away was the guilt of what my death would do to my mom. So infused throughout the story I thought of this mother character desperately trying to pull her son away. And when I was suicidal I felt this outer urge pushing me to make the noose. I remember saying out loud “this is wrong” the entire time I was building it in the closet. But my body just kept moving. So I created this fog “character” that would drag and pull the son into the noose. So the mother and fog became this battle for the voice of reason within the actual events of my personal story.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Hmmmm. I’ve probably seen Monster’s University the most. I know. Really sappy for the depressed suicidal film director. But MU came out just as I was going to college myself. I was initially rejected from all my top choices and had to do the whole, take a year off and try again routine. I eventually got into my top choice college the next year on my second try. But to see Mike Wazowski stumble and fall in college really hit a cord with me. Especially after growing up watching the original Monsters Inc movie and than getting all these rejections from art colleges. Than all of a sudden I finally got accepted to my top school. I’m finally going to college and What?! Mike Wazowski is going to college too in a new movie! Ugh. It just hit me in the heart. Than my college experience kinda went south once I started. But it’s all good now. Wazowski went to college dropping into the mail room worker spot at the end until he got to Monsters Inc right? So I think I’m still on track with him.

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

Oh gosh anything Bruno Mars. “Just the way you are” makes me melt. I know really sappy. I would also mention Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold” especially live too. That was my go to song when I was animating “Hanging”. So many feels in it.

What is next for you? A new film?

Well right now I’m finishing up my senior year in college. I’m animating my senior thesis film “Silent Night” which will start touring festivals this summer. Can’t say much about it because I want it to be a surprise. But it’s about Christmas. After that, I graduate and start moving into the animation industry. So shameless plug if anyone wants to get in touch with a spunky young animator who’s good at emotional scenes and makes poor hair choices, let me know. And I’ll certainly be excited to see my next short take another shot at the FEEDBACK Film Festival!