Interview with Filmmaker Jake Michael Shannon (SAMMY THE SALMON)

SAMMY THE SALMON played to rave reviews at the April 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jake Michael Shannon: We made this film during the Australian plebiscite vote for same-sex marriage. During this time there were a lot of negative messages in the media coming from both sides of the argument. What I wanted to do, was to create a story that humanised the issue in a comedic, lighthearted way.

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

I wrote the first draft of the script years before we began production. But when we found out the plebiscite, we thought that it was the prefect time to dust of the idea and bring it to life. From that point on it was incredibly quick. We had three weeks in pre-production, three days shooting, and three weeks in post-production.

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

Jovially absurd.

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

Trying to get the salmon to talk was an interesting challenge. What we managed to do was a mix of practical and visual effects. I attached a green pole to the bottom of the salmon’s mouth, then I would move the pole in time with the actor’s voice-over. In post-production we took the pole out of the image so it looks like it’s talking on its own.

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

I felt like my heart was about to explode. Almost bringing me to tears, it was wonderful to hear people connecting with the film. It really meant a lot to me. Thank you.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was on my computer late at night. I found myself on a deep-dive of Wikipedia, and ended up on a page that had a list of all the animals that exhibited same-sex relations. Much to my surprise, salmon not only engage in same-sex relationships, but can change their gender. I found this incredibly interesting, and what’s worth noting is that as humans, we impose these things with unnecessary social baggage, compared to the animal kingdom where they are completely amoral and natural. I found this fact about salmon both absurd and insightful, as we could learn a lot from salmon as a species.

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

I’d say it would be Jurassic Park. I think I wore out two VHS tapes back in the 90’s.

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

I think its a wonderfully streamlined platform that makes the process much easier on the submitter. I really like it.

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

Solitude is Bliss – Tame Impala

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

I have a film that is coming to the end of its festival run. I have just finished a another film, which is about to enter the festival circuit, and I’ve begun writing on another project.

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Interview with Filmmaker Scott Fredette (THE WANDERING WOLF)

THE WANDERING WOLF was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the April 2020 Documentary Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Scott Fredette: Yoni Wolf, lead singer in the band WHY?, has a podcast by the same name. We wanted to give it a visual compliment to his Wandering Wolf podcast. I travel (or traveled) for a living for commercial, branding and storytelling work, and had a very similar take as Yoni. And we invariably end up in the offbeat parts of cities we visited. And we were curious by nature, and explorers so this travelogue is an experiment into showing how we experience places. Ultimately, we want to evolve on this into a series, where we visit and explore the underbelly/undercurrent of 2nd tier cities around the country and world…places you don’t travel to as tourists. And through the eyes of artists in the art/music/youth scene, we want to experience what the locals cherish about each city.

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

It took rough 5 months and 20 days to actually make. We think we can do it in two weeks now. 🙂

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

Underbelly travelogue.

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

Money. Always money. Not having it just makes everything 3x as hard, from asking for favors to having to do so much shit by yourself. Filmmaking is collaborative.

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

“Wow, I didn’t know Cincinnati was so cool.”
We both know our craft, so we got a lot of praise on the content and how it was done, from visual to audio. People said it was fun to watch.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

As stated above, this was a visual compliment to the Wandering Wolf Podcast.

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

Weird, I dunno, I always seem to watch Shawshank Redemption when passing by it on TV. And don’t underestimate a ROM COM with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts? Which one? All of them.

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

Super Simple. Love it

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

Probably GRAND DARK FEELING OF EMPTINESS by Bonnie Prince Billy or that Don’t bring me down song by ELO

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

Working on a beauty commercial Campaign. Continue experimenting with short films, and trying to get 13 episodes of the WANDERING WOLF.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sandy Parker (ALIENATED)

ALIENATED played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Female Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sandy Parker: I was getting the feeling that some festivals mainly wanted stories about young people getting molested. A moderator at a pitch session I attended said, “These are the stories that need to be told,” and I thought to myself, “Oh no, not again.” I know there’s a lot of evil in the world, and it needs to be called out. But frankly, I also think you can have a very compelling story without someone having to get molested, and in a way, I feel like there’s an element of rubber-necking involved in using that kind of shock value, and that it’s almost a cheap shot. In fact, I think the real challenge would be to write a truly riveting story involving a couple of elderly shut-ins. But anyway, I was feeling annoyed, so I thought to myself, if you guys want a molestation, I’ll give you a molestation: Alien Molestation! That was my original title! I sat down and wrote the first version of the script in about an hour just to get it out of my system. So basically, I wrote this script out of frustration.

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

After I wrote the script, I set it aside. And two week after I wrote it, Trump was elected, and I thought, oh no, I can’t do anything with this script because it will look like a political commentary on fascism. A year later, I was invited to enter a short script contest, and I figured enough time had gone by since the election that I could enter this script and it wouldn’t appear to have such a strong political overtone. At the end of January 2018, I learned that my script had won the contest, and the prize was having my film produced! I was given a $5,000 budget, and was able to raise another $2,000 through word of mouth. Casting was held in mid-April, costume fittings and rehearsals were in the first week of June, and we filmed for two days, on June 8th and 9th. Editing began about a week after that, and we brought our sound designer into the process in mid-July. Around that time, we also began working on our poster, music, end credits, and our title card, which was pulled from the poster. Our goal was to finish in time to enter the New Orleans Film Festival, which ended up being our premiere screening.

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

Twilight Zone-esque

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

Our biggest challenge was the alien masks! We knew we would need to augment whatever masks we got with special effects makeup, and we
already had a very talented special effects makeup artist on our team. We were originally looking at an $800 prosthetic mask. My producer told me we could only afford to buy one of them, which would mean having to rewrite the script so that we never saw more than one alien in any given shot. I decided to check out the offerings at an online costume shop, and saw rubber masks that had the kind of alien face I’d been envisioning, and they were only $38 each. I ordered three of them, and when they arrived, I couldn’t believe I ever considered the $800 ones! But then I put one on and was immediately so hot and uncomfortable in my air-conditioned living room, I was just about ready to slit my wrists. I’m glad I had that experience, because it made me aware of what I was asking of my alien actors. On the day of the shoot, we were able to keep them in an air conditioned building right up until the moment we were ready to film them. The poor guys had to wear their masks for several hours straight, and they could barely breath or see. They were real troopers!

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

I was amazed. I didn’t expect feedback from so many people, and I didn’t expect it to be presented as a video. Honestly, it made me feel like a rock star! I hadn’t expected to get such positive feedback!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

There was this movie, The UFO Incident, starring James Earl Jones, that aired on TV when I was a kid. I was just kind of hanging out in the same room while my mom was watching it, and I got sucked into watching it, too. It was actually pretty frightening, at least for a child. It told the story of Barney and Betty Hill, a couple who claimed, in the sixties, that they had been abducted by aliens while driving on a highway at night. They had no memory of it, but they knew there was a period of several hours that they couldn’t account for. Betty was having strange dreams, so they went to a psychiatrist, who recorded his interviews with them while they were under hypnosis. I was scared on road trips for years after that. Anytime we were driving home at night from visiting grandma, I was sitting in the back seat, looking up at the stars, and hoping to God the aliens weren’t going to come get us.

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

I think maybe Silence of the Lambs – but mostly the second half! This isn’t something I plan. Now and then I’ll discover that it’s on TV, or once I even walked by a public outdoor screening. I always come along when it’s right in the middle, and I just cannot tear myself away. The way the story plays out and wraps up, with our heroine really gathering her courage and defeating the bad guy, is just so delicious.

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

Honestly, the whole submission process can be so tedious, I rarely enter any festival that doesn’t use FilmFreeway. I love having everything set up on my profile so that all I have to do is make my selection and click “submit.” Even then, there are the tasks of sending in the files if my film gets in, and making an announcement on social media, and occasionally sending an email to cast and crew with all the latest news. I don’t have a PR person, so I have to be a self-starter and do it all myself. I appreciate anything that makes the process a little easier.

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

What an interesting question! I don’t think anyone has ever asked me this. I’m sure there are several that are way up there, and if you think about it, the songs I know from childhood have had more time to be repeated over the course of my lifetime, right? But I’m gonna say it’s the song Frank Sinatra by the band Cake. I used to play it over and over on a cassette tape in my car, back in the nineties. There’s something fascinating and beautiful in the lyrics.

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

I’m writing a feature-length script, or actually several, but this one is a coming of age story set in 1950’s New Orleans about a 13-year-old Italian-American boy named Dué. Dué hangs out every day after school at a camp that he and his friends built in the swamp. Dué is trying to find a priest outside his parish to whom he can anonymously confess his crush on a nun, which he knows is a pretty big sin, but when he discovers the body of his own murdered priest, his granddad has to protect him from the killer, who has now gone after Dué. It’s actually an adaptation of a novel written by a local New Orleans author, and it’s a really sweet story with a lot of humor. I’m hoping to direct it myself, once it’s safe to work on a movie set again.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sergey Vlasov (SOBA-CHAN’S MORNING)

SOBA-CHAN’S MORNING played to rave reviews at the April 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sergey Vlasov: The motivation for the film was the old script I had and finally decided to make. There was a festival in Japan that I wanted to participate in, so I chose this script as it was sharp and simple.

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

From the moment my friends told about the festival and I decided to make the short to take part in the festival, to the completion of the film it took three weeks.

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

That’s a hard one…
Routine uncertainty…may be…

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

The production went so smoothly. I cannot believe I could make a film in 3 weeks. My previous films took me 6-12 months. So no obstacles whatsoever for this one. )))

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

It was soooooo heart-warming. People understand it, people enjoy it and people will remember it. I have to say this is the best reward.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I just head this idea of the triangle, and I thought what would happen if I change the lover for a girl (in original script it was a man). I did it and I liked the new vibes of the film.

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

Eeeemmm… It might sound strange but it is Robocop (1987) I saw it more than 300 times.

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

Filmfreeway is the best platform. The design, the interface… It’s just out of a competition.

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

Emmm… probably Who wants to live forever by Queen.

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

I have already filmed another 5 minutes short and now writing my first feature.

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Interview with Filmmaker Johann Vorster (CAPITAINE)

CAPITAINE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2020 Documentary Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Johann Vorster: My love for the outdoors and fly fishing. There are not many pristine places like in the film left I the in the world. Film also serves as awareness I the hopes to protect through eco tourism.

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

All in all about a year. That part of Cameroon is really hard to get to. Travelling there took almost 5 days. We explored the river and its surrounds whist filming just over 2 weeks. The editing you do in between paying jobs, not the best as you lose some momentum in the process.

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

Water Elephant

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

Charging camera and computer equipment deep in the bush is difficult.

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

It was great to hear that non fishy fans enjoyed a fishy film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Collaborating with like minded friends, like African Waters, who’s main objective is to use sustainable sport fishing to create long-term meaningful and positive changes to the people, fauna and flora in here remote areas.

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

Wayne’s World

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

It’s simple and works great.

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

Anything from Pantera.

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

I am finishing up on a Cheetah conservation based film. It still needs a name.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sunny Wai Yan Chan (GODSPEED)

GODSPEED played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Under 5 Minute Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sunny Wai Yan Chan: Godspeed is a thesis film for my master’s degree program. I wanted to grasp this opportunity to make something personal to me. Eventually, I decided to dig deeper in the relationship with my family. We care about each other, but it is usually less direct and less obvious. I thought it would be interesting to describe such bonding in a visual way.

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

I started pitching the idea in October 2018. Production started officially in January 2019 and the finished product was released in May. That is a little bit more than half a year.

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

Family love

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

Rendering. There are a lot of close-ups in the film which required a lot of rendering time. Some shots took about 110 minutes to render one single frame. We did a lot of tests at the school’s render farm to get the highest quality possible under its limitation of maximum 120 minutes per frame. Huge thanks to Brian, Yuna and Aster for helping me out with the rendering.

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

I was happy that my film resonated with people all over the world. Watching and listening to them talking about it makes me even happier. To me, this is the best reward I could ever achieve.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The film is about family and is heavily inspired by my childhood experiences. I was born and raised in a traditional Hong Kong family. Lucky enough, there were no disastrous events or moments of life and death. Just like every other kid, I lived a mundane life with ups and downs that revolved around school exams, family quarrels and summer holidays. These aspects of life may sound trivial to most people, but they were extremely important to me as a kid. When I was in elementary school, there was this robot toy that I wanted so badly but it was a bit expensive. I kept asking my mom for the toy but she never agreed to buy it. I felt as if this is end of the world. Looking back at this incident now, this is something I could only experience as a kid. I re-visited my other childhood memories and I learned things that do not matter much to adults actually matter a lot to kids. This is what I wanted to achieve in this project – a simple story that is emotionally amplified through the eyes of the child protagonist because saying goodbye to his mother matters to him a lot.

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

Toy Story. I had a VHS tape of this film when I was in elementary school and I re-watched it countless times. Coco is the film that I watched the most in theaters. I watched it 4 times – 2 times with original voiceover and 2 times with Cantonese voiceover.

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

It is very convenient and I like it. I was worried about searching for festivals at their official websites from Google but FilmFreeway totally solved this concern. It is also great that I only needed to create the profile of the film once for submission to all festivals.

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

“I Believe I Can Fly” performed by Yolanda Adams, David Foster and the Soul Children of Chicago during the Concert for World Children’s Day in 2002.

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

Definitely a new film. This time I wanted to do it slowly. I am learning a lot as a junior animator right now in an amazing studio. Eventually, I want to incorporate the knowledge and skill I acquired into my next animation project, hopefully again with my team.

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Interview with Filmmaker Hailey Abernathy (FLOOD)

FLOOD was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hailey Abernathy: This film was motivated by personal experience…not necessarily with my family but just something I generally witnessed living in southeastern United States. I felt that other people needed to see what this type of behavior does to a person and possibly even sympathize (empathize?) with an LGBTQ+ character.

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

It took me a while to get the idea to paper, but once I did, it only took a few weeks to complete the script. Raghav, the DP, Sun, 1st AD, and I only had about a month left of living together once the script was finished, as we were currently all living and working together at the time. Our (semi) final day of shooting was actually our final full day of living in Boston together before we all went back home.

Filming took two weekends but the toughest part was editing, since we were no longer together. We also had to reshoot the outdoor baptism scene because our first attempt was a complete failure. All in all it took about a year to finish.

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

personal, powerful

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

Our biggest obstacle was definitely filming the outdoor baptism scene. Raghav, Caroline, the lead actress, and I drove to Virginia from Boston to shoot this scene around this time of year and tried to shoot it in the Atlantic Ocean…yeah that didn’t work out. So eventually the scene had to be shot in a lake in Georgia in August but I wasn’t even there for it! Caroline and Raghav happened to both be there along with some other trusted filmmakers, and they were able to get it done. Side note, I trust Raghav with my life so this wasn’t a problem for me.

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

I was nervous to hear what they had to say but the more I watched it, the more confident I felt. I really enjoyed getting the feedback.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea really came from experiences I saw around me. I wanted people to be able to feel for a character that maybe they wouldn’t traditionally feel for. And I didn’t want to tell the age old story of coming out, parents don’t support but child eventually finds happiness because that’s not always the way life works and I wanted people to know this. I want others to understand that a family’s disapproval can destroy someone’s life inside and out.

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

Star Wars Episode IV…if we’re being honest.

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

I like FilmFreeway for the most part because it saves me the trouble of going through website after website after website. However, it can be overwhelming and sometimes hard to find the best festival for each unique project.

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

Wow, I am going to probably be cliche here because I just really don’t have an answer to that one 😦 Raghav and Sun would DEFINITELY have great answers to this question.

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

I wrote another LGBT short and was supposed to shoot it on March 28 and 29 but sadly, that was not possible due to coronavirus. We still have our actors lined up and most of our locations, but we have no idea when we will be able to get back to normal (just like everyone else). I am very confident in the script (WAY more confident than I felt about Flood) so I am excited to see where it goes.
Raghav just wrapped shooting on a short called “Impersonal” which I think will be phenomenal. He was DP for that film, as well.

Raghav and Sun are both such incredible, creative people and I know whatever is next for them will be beyond amazing. I’m hoping we all get out of this mess soon so I can see them SHINE.

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