Interview with Filmmaker Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi (LOUD and PROUD)

LOUD and PROUD played to rave reviews at the September 2019 One Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi: I read some news online about the CEO of Doritos saying the company was planning to make crisps for women – specifically crisps that didn’t “crunch” because apparently women didn’t like making that crunch sound in public. There was a lot of backlash on this from women on social media – I also thought it was ridiculous to make gendered crisps. I’m personally not a fan of unnecessary gendered products and it got me thinking about the crazy stereotypes and standards women [and men] are sometimes forced to live with in modern day society.

There’s obviously way more serious issues like sexual violence and the glass ceiling and all that, but sometimes the small details can be just as annoying – every single cog in the patriarchy machine keeps in turning, no matter how small.

I wanted to make a film commenting on that specific Doritos comment, to ignore the patriarchal judgemental gaze and to celebrate women being LOUD and PROUD.

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

Well, in all honesty, this film came into my head all of a sudden, like the images played out in my head. I spent maybe one day in prep overall, one day shooting, and a few days in the edit. It was all dispersed and took a few months because the whole team was doing this in addition to their day jobs. Nobody got paid to make this.

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

Krunchy and free.

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

To be honest – funding. I had an amazing team and the idea was solid. Ideally I would have spent a tiny bit more time making sure the political concept of the film was clearer without explanation. But really dollar bills. I paid for all the costs myself.

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

Initially nervous, until I heard people liked it! I’m happy one audience member felt guilt free about crunching crisps after watching the film!

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

I didn’t….it came to me, no effort needed.

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

Hmmmm…that’s a hard one. Probably classic Disney films or Harry Potter. Beyond the popular titles, I really like the Count of Monte Cristo, which is random, but I’ve watched that quite a few times.

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

Really great platforms, certainly more accessible that other options.

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

Erm, I’ve listened to a lot of Mariah Carey. Also Dessa, my favourite rapper. And currently Jorja Smith.

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

I’m working on a lot!

Film-wise my documentary, Kiana: Stargazing and Spinraza is ongoing. Currently it’s not funded and I’m reluctant to partner with bigger organisations and platforms if they want to dilute the film – my life is extreme and it’d be dishonest to censor it.

I’m working on a new short film Across From The Dance Floor – waiting to hear back on funding for that! – it’s about Keira, a young passionate, bright woman who watches from across the dance floor, as another woman dance with the man she likes, because she’s stuck in her wheelchair and not able to descend the stairs in her way.

Music-wise, I’m working on my hip-hop EP! And getting a voicereel together as a singer. I’m re-entering the music arena after many years!

Interview with Filmmaker Travis Darkow (ELIZABETH)

ELIZABETH played to rave reviews at the September 2019 One Minute & Smartphone Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Travis Darkow: I have been writing, directing, and editing short films since the 7th grade, and had made one other no budget little short before this one. But one night I just really wanted to shoot a new little horror short, so I decided on found footage since it would be the easiest to accomplish with no money, and could be done quickly. I love something about every genre of horror, and it was my first found footage style movie so I was excited that I could create it almost entirely without leaving my house.

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

From writing the short, to filming and editing, it probably took about a week or a week and a half to complete.

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

Dark and Playful.

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

The biggest obstacle I faced was probably the bathroom/emergency exit door scenes, which I shot at my work, while I was on the clock. The other would be having to move my dog around between rooms in my house while I shot all the interiors so he was never seen.

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

I was pretty nervous when I first clicked on the video, but once one of the audience members said that three different parts of my film sent a shiver up his spine, I knew it was going to be alright. It was amazing hearing how receptive the audience was to my little horror film, and hearing what they liked about it, and that the little bits of humor were picked up on the way I intended them to be.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I initially came up with the amateur ghost hunter angle as a format that would fit the style I wanted to shoot perfectly, and then the whole backstory about Elizabeth Whitmore murdering her family just flowed pretty naturally from there.

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

As big of a horror fan as I am now, the films I have seen the most in my life would either have to be The Nightmare Before Christmas or The Sandlot. I watched them religiously when I was younger, and never just stopped.

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

I absolutely love FilmFreeway. It’s so user friendly and easy to navigate and work on, I don’t know where my filmmaking would be if I hadn’t found this platform.

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

It’s tough to say, but it would either have to be Mr. Chainsaw by Alkaline Trio, or anything by Angels and Airwaves.

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

Since I completed Elizabeth in 2017, I have written and directed 14 short films, 2 features, and 7 horror screenplays. My first feature is called Goodbye Tomorrow, and is a horror/sci-fi mindbender about a man who is being cloned and used to test mind control drugs by this shady group within the government that worships this interdimensional being that they call the Dissimulator. Yeah it’s a lot. The feature I just more recently finished is called Bunny Boy, and follows a mute as he wanders around his town that never fully recovered from a tornado, and some of the other odd residents that still call it home. It’s my fan film/love letter to a movie called Gummo that was written and directed by Harmony Korine in 1997.

Interview with Filmmaker Yangfang (Frances) Chen (NINA SAIZA)

NINA SAIZA played to rave reviews at the October 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Yangfang (Frances) Chen: I remember how confused I was when I first encountered the dark side of the world after I became a teenager, so I always want to make a short film to illustrate my feelings of becoming “mature”. This short film is about innocence, violence, and perception. People are more complicated than they appear and they’re not good or bad. They’re just people.

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

It took about half month to make this short film.

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

Complicated
People.

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

The biggest obstacle I faced was filming the abuse scene. It was difficult because I have never actually seen someone abused, so I worked with all of my actors to build a mood and choreographed violence in order to build up the scene that made it into the final cut of the film.

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

My initial reaction was happy. I was glad that my 6-minute short film made my audience have such strong emotional reaction, and they all understood what I am trying to say in this story.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I always want to make a short film about teenagers’ confusion over the world. When I was a little kid, I did not undertand adults at all. The piano teacher in the story is responsible to teach the girl to play piano but ends up teaching her a life lesson about adulthood. I thought it would be interesting to use teacher/student dynamic to show the complexity of humans and the loss of innocence.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I like drama movies. Dog Day Afternoon is the film I have seen the most in my life.

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

I really like FilmFreeway. I think it makes the submission process easier for filmmakers to submit their work to festivals.

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

Imagine Dragons’s Believer. I love Imagine Dragons.

What is next for you? A new film?

I am currently studying at a film school. I will be involved in short film productions possibly next year. This year, I want to mainly focus on my education.

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Interview with Filmmaker Francis Galluppi (HIGH DESERT HELL)

HIGH DESERT HELL was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the October 2019 Horror FEEDBACK Film Festival in October.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Francis Galluppi: We actually had the location first. The house belongs to one of my best friends grandparents and I had been wanting to shoot there for a while. I always wanted to make something that looked like the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” so this was my opportunity to do so.

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

Probably a year from the time I started writing to the time I finished post production.

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

Desert Hell

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

The cars. They never worked. We were so behind schedule because we couldn’t get the cars to start 90% of the time.

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

I wish I could’ve been there to help answer some of the questions but it felt amazing to watch the audience put it together. Especially to hear people’s own interpretation of certain things.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wrote a really short version of this story and when we went to scout the location and figure out all the blocking, there was this van parked outside of a restaurant we were eating at that said “The Apocalypse is coming. Repent or burn in hell”. That was pretty shocking and sort of inspired me to write something a little longer with more religious subtext.

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

I think I watched The Goonies everyday growing up. It was probably one of the 20 movies they had to rent for free at the library so I always would pick that one out.

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

It’s so simple. I love it.

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

Tony Sly “International You Day”. It was the song my wife and I picked for the first dance at our wedding.

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

I just finished post on another short filmed called “The Gemini Project”. That should be going through the film festival circuit next year. I’m working on a feature film now that is scheduled to shoot June 2020.

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Interview with Filmmaker Romén Rivero (NIGHT OWLS)

NIGHT OWLS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the October 2019 HORROR Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Romén Rivero: Since my childhood, I love monster movies, so the idea of ​​making a film of this subgenre was always in my mind.

First, I wrote a lowbudget feature screenplay, but in preproduction I realized that it would be very difficult to shoot with my budget, so I decided to shoot short as a proof of concept and get some recognition that will help me to archieve a bigger budget.

Also, I always wanted to talk about the topic of the lost innocense in a symbolic way, which is in both the feature script and the short film. As a director, for this short I was deeply inspired by the tone and armosphere of the film IT FOLLOWS (2014) that I consider an stylistic tribute to John Carpenter movies, one of my favorite directors. Also, I love the neo-noir aesthetic and wanted to make something with it, so this was the perfect story.

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

Much more than I thought. About 3 months to finish the feature script and 5 months for preproduction, shooting and editing the short.

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

Urban horror.

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

Definitely, the fact of shooting it without crew. I did all by my self: writting, production, casting, production design, storyboarding, directing, cinematography, camera work, sound, lighting, practical fx design, half of the make-up, digital fx and editing. Only music wasn´t mine. Sometimes during the shooting I was really overwhelmed, It was crazy.

Also shooting all the film in night exteriors with wind, cold and street traffic, almost without budget, was very very hard. I had to put a lot of creativity on this film in order to make it works, not only in an artistc way but in production tricks.

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

I love to see people talking about something that one day I saw only in my mind. It’s magical. The feedback in this particular case was awesome. They picked up all the subtext of the story and also the fact that it was part of a bigger universe from the feature screenplay. I wanted more coments and a longer video haha.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

If I had to talk about a specific trigger for this particular story, it was a little incident. One night, I was walking alone throug a deserted avenue of the city, returnig home. No traffic, no persons, all was very quiet, when suddendly a loud noise startled behind me, it was the sound of some skateboard wheels over the paviment. They were three skateboarding teenagers crossing the avenue and they were in complete silence and hooded, so they looked quite sinister. That scare and the image I saw, gived me the idea for the story.

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

It’s hard to know. But probably it’s between Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick) and the french comedy Le Dîner de Cons (Francis Veber).

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

I used other platforms, like Festhome and Click for Festivals from Spain, but FilmFreeway is the best platform for me. It’s free, it has almost every important festival in the world, works fine and the customer support is very good.

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

I don´t know, but in the last years and during the making of Night Owls, I listened a lot to Depeches Mode’s Never Let Me Down Again.

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

I think the next thing is my first feature film. I have finished the third draft of NIGHT OWLS feature (now called NIGHT BIRDS) and tranlated it to English. This screenplay has been recently chosen to be part of the Official Selection in the screenplay competition at the New York City Horror Film Festival 2019. I’m also working with an illustrator in my first comic book project, based on another of my scripts, a horror comedy located in Tokyo, Japan.

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Interview with Filmmaker Yalan Hu (DOLL IT UP)

DOLL IT UP played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Yalan Hu: Doll It Up was one of the projects I directed when I was in film school. I’m always fascinated by human relations, especially what people become in romantic relationships. The need to possess, conquer and destroy is what I like to discuss. The dolls in the film symbolize how a large population of women have been treated in unhealthy relationships, where they were seen as properties, don’t have a voice in the house. Of course, this problem goes both ways, but to this day, on a global scale, women still haven’t been given the same account of respect as their male partners. Victimizing women is not the message for this film, objectification of one’s partner is.

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

It was a 5-page script, from version one to final version 12 it took me about three months to finalize, on and off. I had one full week for pre-production and two days to shoot. Post-production took about 10 days.

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

Realistic, poignant.

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

The search for the perfect lead actor and “actresses”, the dolls, was pretty challenging, but the biggest obstacle was coming up with a shooting plan to fit in the extremely tight schedule. As simple as this film may look, it had about 10 light builds which was very difficult to implement in two days for a crew consisted of film students, some of which had only one year of experience in filmmaking. Thus, as a director, I didn’t have the luxury to try multiple coverage for my scenes, but had to really calculate the exact and most needed shots and stick to them.

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

My heart was beating so fast even before I hit play. I was nervous about how the audience would interpret it, whether they had doubts about the world I created. Amazingly, their comments were exactly what I try to say with this film, – about isolation, objectification of your partner, and how instant modern relationships are. It was truly rewarding to see my film connect with people from different parts of the world, which is exactly the reason I chose to become a writer/director.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The story idea of Doll It Up came to me when I was taking a shower one day. I live by myself, the isolation of urban dwellers got me thinking, would human beings develop companionships with non-living objects? Would it be perfect, or as problematic as normal human relations? Ultimately, it transforms to a satire about relationship issues between the two sexes.

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

La Grande Vadrouille (1966)

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

I found it user friendly, very easy to navigate.

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

Hotel California

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

In the past August, I finished another short film, A Separation, as writer and director. It’s a 15-minute short drama about a Chinese couple in the 90s reunited in the states after a four-year separation, only to find their marriage going through a dramatic change. Meanwhile, another drama short I wrote and directed, produced in Sri Lanka, is in post-production. Both films will be entering festivals this year. Right now, I’m producing a documentary in Florida, U.S., while writing my first feature script on off days.

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