Interview with Filmmaker Roisin Kearney (THE FAMILY WAY)

THE FAMILY WAY was the winner of BEST FILM at the January 2019 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Roisin Kearney: I had produced two short films after having a break from film making. I had found it difficult to work in the industry after the birth of my 3 children. The impact of parenthood on your life is very dramatic and it is a subject not often looked at. I had been on a screenwriting course and one of our assignments was on the subject of an unplanned pregnancy and it went from there, I went on to develop the idea with Nuno Bernardo. Abortion was illegal at the time in Ireland and being hotly debated, a woman had died of sepsis during a miscarriage because a heart beat was detected and the 8th amendment to the constitution (equal right to life of mother and fetus) meant that doctors could not intervene until there was proof that the Mother would die if they did not intervene, unfortunately it was too late by the time they did.

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

It took about six months from the time the first draft was written.

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

Heart v Head

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

Money (of course) as we didn’t have any and locations. People were great and allowed us use their premises for free but it was a lot of work getting them all and keeping to a small budget and timeframe.

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

I was delighted they could identify with the characters, Mother Daughter relationships are universal, and although set in Ireland it was great to see the audience could empathize with the situation and enjoy the comedy as well as the drama.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

While doing a course with Mary Kate O Flanagan.

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

The Rocky Horror Show (I worked in a cinema where it played for years) and The Green Mile (on a lot and always worth a watch)

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

It is the only platform I use. Simple and easy to track what you are entering.

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

Kate Bush Withering Heights


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

I have 3 other films currently touring
Prodigy ( written and directed by Naomi Sheridan)
Algorithms ( Written and directed by me)
No Dogs ( Written and directed by me)

I am also looking at making my first feature film. 

 

 

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Interview with Filmmaker Mahée Merica (A SIGN)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mahée Merica: It’s a pretty silly reason… It all happened during the exam period of my university, and I needed to get distracted. See, people at my uni were really competitive, and always stressed out during the exam period, so everyone is just studying, studying, studying and talking about the exams, creating a pretty worrisome atmosphere on campus. On the opposite, when I am under pressure, I like to do plenty different stuffs to get my mind fresh and relaxed on the actual day of the exam. So I thought it would be the perfect time for me to make a film with some of my friends. I decided to try to write a comedy, because until then I have been doing dramas and experimental, so I wanted to challenge my self and see how it would be to write and direct a comedy that would be both funny and thoughts-provoking.

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

It was very fast: I wrote this film in one afternoon, shot it the following day with my two friends Siham and Thomas who act in it, and then edited it overnight, while Siham was taking care of the music. So we basically made this film in literally two days.

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

Cheeky Fantasy.

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

I would say the cold. We shot it in December, in Montreal. So the temperature was very low, definetly hitting the two digit negative. We had to take lots of breaks during the day to be able to continue shooting in the cold. But the breaks had to be super short, because the sun sets very early in winter, and we had to finish the film before night. As we were only three, and I was simultaneously directing, DOP-ing and recording the sound, it asked a lot of reactivity and organisation from us, but we really had loads of fun!

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

I was so pleased! It’s incredible to see people process your film and debate about it. I put a lot of efforts in everything I do, and I really tried to make the best film possible with the means at my disposal at the time. But this short film was initially just meant to be a small and funny project I made with my friends to distract our selves during the exam period. So seing that people take so much interest in it, truly enjoyed it and even engage in deep discussions about it is just magical. I always aim to provoke thoughts amongst my audience, even with light films like “Un Signe”, and I am really happy to see the spectators understand and react to the themes I wanted to approach, and the questions I wanted to raise. It’s a great motivation boost, and just made me eager to make more films.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Kind of personal experience! I feel like comedy is the most efficient when it is something visual everyone can relate to. When I am a bit lost or stressed out, I tend to see signs everywhere. “If the light turns green in less than 5 seconds, he’ll call me before the end of the week”. I think a lot of people actually think this way. And I know that a lot of us create big fantasies out of small things. We all want to believe in fate. And I feel like we all tend to see our lives as more romanesque as it is, but to me it is not something sad, on the opposite, these believes bring color to our existence. So I thought it would be fun and interesting to make a film that plays with the border between reality and fantasy, and that makes the spectator think about fate and free will.

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

Hmmmm probably Pirates of the Caribbean, as it was my favorite film as a child, haha I know it by heart. But aside from that, I watch Fight Club every 6 months or so, and still discover new aspects of it each time I see it.

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

I think it is actually very user friendly. I really enjoy submitting my films through this platform. You can present your film the way you want to, and the festivals they suggest are all pretty nice.

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

Probably Numb from Linkin Park. I am a huge fan haha

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

I am currently studying at the London Film School, and should get my Masters in Filmmaking by 2021. Right now, I am editing a film I wrote, directed and produced that will be released next April. It is a drama about two friends who want to become actresses. One of them breaks through, while the other has to remain in her shadows. My film explores how the unsuccessful one is torn between her love for her friend, and the envy she resents towards her success, and how she feels guilty for being jealous. I am also writing a documentary that I hope to be able to shoot in May.

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Video Interview with Filmmaker Sashi Arnold & Stephen Gallacher (UNEXPECTED ITEM)

 UNEXPECTED ITEM was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the February 2019 ROMANCE Film Festival in Toronto.

UNEXPECTED ITEM – Response to Romance Festival Feedback from Six Missing Chairs on Vimeo.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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Interview with Filmmaker Erika Kramer (SHE’S MARRYING STEVE)

SHE’S MARRYING STEVE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES & MUSIC at the February 2019 LGBT Film Festival in February.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Erika Kramer: I’ve always wanted to make films that shine light on lesbian characters and on the lesbian experience – I feel that visibility in film/tv is one of the most important methods for progress and acceptance. For this film specifically, I was processing a breakup and trying to understand if I could remain friends with my ex or not. I wanted to explore the larger question of if you can stay friends after a breakup and if being queer adds any complexity to that.

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

I wrote the script very quickly. Then spent a good amount of time cleaning it up and getting smart editors to take a look at it for me. The pre-production was a few weeks then we shot over 5 days – 4 in Connecticut and 1 half day in New York City. I started editing right away and finished that within a few weeks. It was a quick rush to get it out into the world!

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

It’s about love and relationships and how we earn closure on relationships. It’s also about understanding that the world isn’t black and white – there’s a lot that’s gray!

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

Filmmaking is a constant challenge – there’s never enough time, money, people, etc. I think the hardest thing for me, as a first-time director, was remaining confident and in control. I think I did a great job of this, but it was a new experience and it takes a special level of faith in yourself to run a crew. I’m eager to do it again though, so it can’t have been all that tough! 🙂

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

It’s terrifying and humbling and exciting. I just want as many people to see the film as possible. To hear that people not only watched it but were invested in the story and had smart and enthusiastic responses was sooo rewarding. I’m very grateful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I broke up with my first serious girlfriend and it felt like everyone i knew was settling down and getting married. I really just wanted to explore those feelings and that specific time in life.

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

Such a tough question! There are soooo many. I love Sarah Polley’s work – Take this Waltz is an incredible film. As is Stories We Tell. I might have to say Clueless. Amy Heckerling is a genius and that was such a formative film. That’s a nearly perfect film!

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

FilmFreeway is wonderful!

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

I think Sound & Color by the Alabama Shakes – It’s a perfect album and the song’s beautiful.

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

Working on a feature film! In the writing phase now. Hope to be back at the festival soon 😀 

 

 

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Interview with Filmmaker P.J. Norton (EXPIRATION DATE)

EXPIRATION DATE played to rave reviews at the February 2019 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

P.J. Norton: In making Expiration Date, it was important for me to tell a gay love story in which sexual orientation was part of the given circumstances and not the central conflict. I believe it’s important to portray the struggles that members of the LGBTQ+ community face because of who we are, but I also think it’s important to portray the everyday triumphs and struggles that we share with all of humankind. I also wanted to tell a story about a breakup where neither character was portrayed as a villain. I think a big part of coming of age is navigating shifting dynamics in relationships and coming to terms with the fact that sometimes circumstances trump connection.

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

I made Expiration Date as part of a class at NYU so the bulk of the process was relatively short. I spent six weeks writing and prepping, 3 days shooting, and two weeks in post. Then, almost two years later, I re-opened the cut to finalize the sound design and prep the film for festival submissions.

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

Personal. Poignant.

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

While we were shooting, we were surprised to learn that one of the apartments in the building was scheduled to get their floors redone. We had to work with the construction crew and shoot around their work schedule because the noise was insane.

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

Because I’m currently in prep for my next project, I haven’t been able to attend many screenings for this film. So it was truly so nice to hear that the audience responded to elements that we worked so hard to execute on set and in the cutting room. I’m very grateful that the LGBT Feedback Film Festival takes the time to edit and upload the audience feedback videos.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

When I was 19, I fell in love for the first time. The relationship was rewarding and amazing in so many ways, but after almost three years, it was time for it to end. We had been living in different states for over a year, and neither of us was ready to make a serious commitment. We were both young, and we wanted needed to see what else was out there. So…

One night in his apartment, we came up with a plan for the perfect break up (did I mention we were young?). We chose a date (February 17th) that made the most sense given our social commitments and travel plans, and we decided to remain a couple up until that day. And then ….it would be over. A clean break. I would get in my white Kia Spectra (may she rest in peace), hop on interstate 95, and we would no longer be a couple. It was a great plan. In theory. It was certainly a… memorable evening to say the least.

When I started grad school at NYU, I had been wanting to explore aspects of that night in a film for a long time. However, each time I attempted to write about it, I found that I was too close to the experience to see it clearly. So I waited. I made other things. Then, almost five years later, I decided I finally had enough distance to revisit the experience. And here we are.

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

When I was growing up I would watch The Wizard of Oz every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. As an adult, my go to’s for repeat viewing are Young Adult and Like Crazy.

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

I’m just old enough to remember the days when we had to make physical screeners and mail them to festivals… so from my perspective, platforms like FilmFreeway are amazing for filmmakers, especially students and artists just starting out. They make it super easy to get your film out there and even help suggest festivals that might be a good fit for your film.

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

My favorite song of all time is “Landslide”, but I actively try not to listen to it unless I really need it because I don’t want to wear it out.

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

I’m directing a web series called Assisted Living about two personal assistants in New York. We shot the pilot last year, and right now we’re in preproduction to shoot the rest of the first season.

You can watch the first episode here:

https://vimeo.com/307366442 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Filmmaker David Lykes Keenan (BODIES OF WATER)

BODIES OF WATER was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2019 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

David Lykes Keenan: The story is based on a pivotal moment in my life. As shown in the film, it was the moment when I found the courage and opportunity to reach out to the first person that I was ever able to come out to. In my case, he was straight (this is intentionally left open to interpretation in the film) but we developed a very close friendship that last for a couple of years before it crashed and burned.

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

Altogether is was about three years.

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

First love.

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

The completion a script that satisfied me and my closest supporters.

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

I was very impressed with how attentive the viewers were and how small details (like the old PC in the office scene) and the subtleties of Ellar’s performance were noticed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This is pretty much the same answer as #1. It is well known that first screenplays are very often auto-biographical.

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

Blade Runner.

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

Of the two, FilmFreeway and WithoutaBox, I much prefer FF. It seems to be better at notifying when the submission status changes and I like how it remembers payment information so I don’t have to enter it every time.

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

Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd

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

I hope so. I have been working on a feature screenplay (your festival table read part of it awhile back). I also have a new short that would like to make soon.

Thanks for your support.
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Interview with Filmmaker Michael Davis (HINDSIGHT)

HINDSIGHT was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2019 ROMANCE Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michael Davis: What motivated me was getting the opportunity to tell a story that plays backward. I also thought it was a really interesting character study on people and relationships. It seemed like a unique and exciting challenge. I had never done anything like it before, and I hadn’t seen many things like it.

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

It was a long process from when the idea first came up to its completion.
I pitched this idea to my film school, but it was rejected. Several months passed and after my production team wrapped the second season of our web series, TGC, I decided I wanted to make it on my own. Once that decision was made production and post-production were wrapped up in about a month.

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

Reverse, and revealing.

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

The most significant obstacle was figuring out the technical aspects of the film playing in reverse. I knew that was happening going in, so I had to break the story down backward as well as forwards. We had to plan the fighting very carefully knowing it would play backward. It was like constructing a dance, and I wanted to make sure the story and motives were slowly revealed.
Then in post-production, I had to edit the film forwards to make sure it played out in real time, then reverse it. It was an odd challenge and a completely unique experience.

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

I was a bit anxious before I pressed play, but it is also a really enthralling experience and a privilege. There is so much you can learn with audience reaction and interaction.

I loved watching the reactions and hearing the feedback. It’s exciting and gratifying when you spend a long time trying to highlight certain points, and the audience and announcer pick up on them.

It was also great that people liked the credits with the balloons. That was a late idea I came up with while editing.

This was certainly one of the best parts of this experience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had a random idea of a couple fighting in reverse. I thought it would create a weird hypnotic dance. My initial premise was about an engagement gone wrong. But once Meganne Kocher got involved we started talking about a lot of things we could do with the premise.

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

That is a tough question to answer. I’m a huge film geek and own way too many movies. But a film I have seen several times and know I will keep watching forever is Park Chan-wook’s Stoker.

The cinematography is breathtaking. Every single shot is like an oil painting come to life. The story is filled with symbolism and every time I watch it I pick up on a new layer I hadn’t noticed before. It’s such a sinister and beautifully constructed film.

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

FilmFreeway is a fantastic platform for independent filmmakers. The whole trajectory of my career changed with FilmFreeway, and it allows me access to so many great opportunities. During our three days of principal photography, I would have never imagined that I would be answering questions, getting feedback, or even dreamed that the film would win awards. I highly recommend fellow filmmakers check it out.

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

I love music, but I don’t think it would be a song, and it wouldn’t just be one. I have an extreme amount of trailer tracks on my iPod. If a trailer I like comes out, I will download the track and listen to it on repeat all day long. Listening to trailer tracks have helped inspire me and sometimes help me come up with ideas for films or plots. I also listen to a lot of film scores.

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

I have been working on several new exciting projects.

For the last year, our team has been working on the third season of our anthology web series “The Grimoire Chapters”. Season 3 is subtitled Rem and is focused on nightmares and sleep disorders. It has two timelines in the 1960’s and 1980s. This season has won over 50 awards, we are all incredibly proud of our success. Episodes 1 – 5 of TGC:Rem are now online, the final episodes are in production.

Watch Here: https://www.thegrimoirechapters.com/

I also just finished a single person crew horror short called “Identity Theft”. I wanted to see what I could accomplish with just myself and my camera. The film has been submitted to two festivals so far and won Best Short Film from both, which has been extremely exciting.

If you enjoyed “Hindsight”, “Lock Your Doors” is an award-winning horror short that was finished a few months after Hindsight. It also stars Meganne Kocher and Ronnie Daily.

And Hindsight 2 (working title) is still in the works.

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