Interview with Filmmaker Marat Narimanov (BIG BOOOM)

BIG BOOOM played to rave reviews at the June 2019 LA Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marat Narimanov: It’s the desire to witness the great events that happened billions years ago and that are still happening right now.

To be able see all those processes in a short period of time and from the distant point of a cool-headed viewer, that’s pretty much unemotional, just witnessing and stating the facts.

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

I’d say pretty long. The idea first came to me about 5 or 8 years before I started to make this film.

I finished all the animation within a year, then I had to wait for about 2 years for the sound design and the music to be accomplished.

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

Fast and nice. Because I wanted to make my film short, fast (in terms of real time to the cinematic time ratio) and nice.

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

Working with the other people on a 0-budget basis is really time-consuming. You should be ready to wait literally for years for some things to get finally done.

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

It was very interesting. Some ideas were fresh. I’ve already had a lot of feedback before from different people, but here the audience had some fresh ideas. It’s very interesting.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was after I got equainted with the old Hindu doctrine about the creation of our universe, I noticed it was pretty much like the Big Bang theory. And the Hindu concept is even much more advanced that the now-days scientific one, because it tells that the existence and non-existence (dissolve) phases of universe follow each other infinite number of times. The universe is born from the seed and returns to that seed after the cycle is finished. The grand cycles are called the Brahma’s breath. So, my journey into the world of this animation film started with that ancient Vedic theory and with the word “Breath”. Then I thought it would be nice to combine both theories – ancient and modern in one film.

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

It’s probably Wong Kar Wai’s In the mood for love. It’s still a mystery for me HOW to make a film like that. I can watch it a hundred of times and never get bored.

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

It’s the best platform ever.

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

Probably, it’s Caravan played by Fanfare Ciocarlia. I’m always happy to hear it and occasionally dance while listeting to this song.

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

Yes, it’s alreay done, just have to wait for the sound design and music to get finished 😉

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Interview with Filmmaker Julio J. Irizarry (ELPIDA)

ELPIDA was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the June 2019 LA Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Julio J. Irizarry: The motivation came from wanting to create a passion project in collaboration with my friend and co director Charlie from San Francisco. Also, being from Chicago and planning to travel to the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest to film was very motivating in knowing we would get the best production value from our locations.

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

3 long years.

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

Universal Hope


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

The biggest obstacle I faced was matching the post production value with the production value of the amazing locations we captured that helped tell the story. Being my first short film, I felt I owed it to the story to make sure it had great visual effects and that it was colored and sound designed the best.

Another obstacle for me was wanting the film to be perfect. This was a bit of a downfall for me which severely delayed the film due to wanting the top post production experts which we did not have a budget for. I almost gave up and never released it. In the end, through a lot of adversity and learning on my own, I ended up editing, coloring and sound designing the film. We were also able to budget just enough to license the right visual effects that helped propel the story. It was a huge challenge overall, but I believe it made me a better filmmaker and gave me the confidence to direct bigger films in the future.

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

I was excited and a bit nervous not knowing what people would think. And hoping they got something out of it whether it was an emotion or were inspired after watching.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main idea of the story was inspired by my friend Julia from Portland who is the woman explorer in the film. She is a wanderlust who travels the world so it was fitting to have her in the film. The deeper meanings of the film from what the voice over is saying, to hope, and the sci fi angle is inspired by my personal experiences and wanting to create unique stories that have not been seen before. A huge inspiration for me as a filmmaker is Christopher Nolan so I like to incorporate hidden meanings, multi layered substance, and non linear story telling into my work as well.

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

It’s a tie between The Dark Knight and Inception. And surprisingly, I actually only really see a film once, and revisit it years later unless it’s for a film study. I like to be surprised again just like a first time viewing.

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

I think it’s amazing! I feel it really is an open freeway to know about so many great festivals like yours, and having the chance for my work to even be noticed is everything I could ask for as a filmmaker.

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

Time – Hans Zimmer

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

Just recently finished directing a short film for an iPhone challenge. Other than that, what’s next is to continue studying and developing in my craft. I am leaning towards commercial directing at the moment. I believe bringing my experiences and passion of narrative storytelling into that field will only help me grow as a director.

This will also give me the ability to produce frequent content in between bigger film projects. I aspire to direct a feature some day, or even a longer short film before then. I am huge on creating something unique, so It may take a bit more time for me in between films. I look at Director’s like Tarantino and Nolan who only have a handful of films, and I am in that same mindset of creating quality over quantity.

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Interview with Filmmaker Colin Gerrard (ELI)

ELI was the winner of BEST FILM at the June LA Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Colin Gerrard: I believe it has a timeless appeal coming from the moment we all make a decision regarding our own motives, without thinking of the consequences for others.

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

10 months

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

Survival & Equality

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

Having the right cast.

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

Wonderful. Feedback from people who have just seen your work, whether it be constructive or critical, is always helpful in my eyes. Especially when its immediately after they have just viewed the film…then its real and from the heart.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

A friend of mine brought up the original story to my attention. After getting the rights to film it, we went about updating the story to a point we felt that it was more in keeping with current attitudes in society today…although in retrospect, not much ever changes as human beings have the worst track record when it comes to learning from history.

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

Cinema Paradiso

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

Great. They have streamlined the process to a point that its just the click of a button, after the initial setup of your film on their site.

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

10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’

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

I have 2 new shorts in the works as well as working on a new script for a series.

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Interview with Filmmaker Ciaran R. Maidwell (THERE’S STILL GOOD)

THERE’S STILL GOOD was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival in May 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ciaran R. Maidwell: There’s Still Good was inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk “The danger of a single story”. In it, she says “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

The social landscape of South Africa is littered with stereotypes, and it keeps us from making meaningful personal connections. Before someone has even opened their mouth, we have already assumed everything about them.We wanted to create a new story, a story that encouraged people to see beyond their single story of other people.

We also wanted to normalize the queer relationship by treating it as incidental, as a non-event.

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

Roughly 6 months.

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

Faux pas

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

We had to re-shoot both the beginning and the ending of the film once we’d figured out where the focus really should be. It was difficult to plan and execute this on our tight schedule, and to co-ordinate with the actor’s schedules. In the end, this obstacle was our greatest opportunity, because it allowed us to deliver a stronger film with a more unified theme.

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

I was surprised at the varying interpretations that the film received. It was interesting to hear how people who are not familar with South African culture and South African history experienced the events of the film.

I particularly noticed how each character meant something different to each person – for me, this highlighted the theme of the film itself. The way you experience the world and the way you experience other people is informed by the stories you’ve heard about them, or about people like them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The story itself is based on the lived experience of my university roommate: She was from Rwanda, and because of this people in South Africa expected certain things of her (that she speak an African language, that she have an African name etc.) People were surprised, even upset, when she did not meet these expectations. She hadn’t known there was anything wrong with her until other people tried to apply their story of Africa to her.

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

Mistress America (2015) directed by Noah Baumbach

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

FilmFreeway is a great platform for independent filmmakers. It helps put the filmmaker in control of their film and its screenings in an intuitive way, and breaks down the submission process so that both the filmmaker and the festival can easily communicate their expectations to each other. It’s been an invaluable resource for There’s Still Good.

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

Manhattan – Gallant

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

Television! TV series have become part of our everyday lives. TV series allow much more room for character exploration and development. So we get to live with these characters. I’m interested in how this can be used to expose people to different lives, to new ideas, to stories they hadn’t even considered.

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Interview with Filmmaker Adrian Ramirez Leon (ACCOMPLICE)

ACCOMPLICE was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Adrian Ramirez Leon: Back then I had just finished the first draft of a bigger project I was writing on, a feature. I thought that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to first do a short film of the main themes of that feature script as a proof of concept so to say, about the feeling of paranoia and of being followed.

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

The writing was very smooth, after only two drafts I was already quite happy with the result. And for the lead actors, I already had Erwin Janke and Paula Utrilla in mind when I was writing the script. Erwin had already worked with me in our short film “Mirror Shards”. He liked our collaboration that much that he flew over to Spain for a week to shoot “Accomplice” – and sip a Mojito on the beach after the shoot. It took us three filming days and around two months of editing until it was completed.

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

Hitchcock-esque Mousetrap

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

Filming the dark alleyway scene. It was a one shot and difficult to coordinate as every time we started shooting, some people appeared in the background out of nowhere to ruin the take. In one take, a man was climbing unto a balcony in the background to retrieve a suspicious bag. That looked so surreal that I had to cut it out from the final version. I’m quite happy with the final result of that scene though.

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

It made me quite happy. It’s always nice to get some feedback for your films, more so if it’s constructive feedback. It’s interesting to see how other people perceive your film and whether you succeeded with what you wanted to convey or not.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came to me after thinking about how I could turn the feature I had previously written into something slightly different, but with the same essence. Finally, I got my main inspiration from Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a train”. I experimented with that scenario and thus, “Accomplice” was born. Originally, the main character Angela would chat up Alex on the subway or on a train, like in Hitchcock’s classic. In the last minute, we changed it to a park, as that was easier to film and didn’t alter much of the rest of the storyline.

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

I think that would be the film “Hook”. It’s not the best film on earth, but for my little childhood me it was. I must have seen it about a dozen times, that and the Lion King.

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

It’s very comfortable and straightforward to use. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get your film out in the world thanks to platforms like FilmFreeway. You can now be a filmmaker and distributor at the same time.

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

Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2, so beautiful.

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

I’m currently working on another short film that takes place in a self-help group setting, but instead of anonymous alcoholics, everybody there believes that they are vampires. I’m not sure whether to shoot it in London or Málaga yet, as I’m about to move back to England’s capital this summer, but it’s going to be a lot of fun either way.

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Interview with Filmmaker Robbie Lemieux (THE WOODS)

THE WOODS played to rave reviews at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Robbie Lemieux: This short film is a proof-of-concept for a feature film that I’m developing. Although the short is about different characters in slightly different circumstances than the feature, the intention was to create a short and scary piece that conveys the tone and explores the world of the feature.

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

I was about a year into writing the feature when I decided to make a proof-of-concept short. Once I made that decision, it took approximately four months to complete the short — from writing, through pre-production and production, to final cut and delivery.

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

Atmospheric and scary.

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

Budget is always a big obstacle. The challenge was to create something that felt professional, on an extremely low budget with a small crew. Most of our budget had to go to location and transportation – so we needed to be creative with the remaining resources we had to make the film look good and work.

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

I was pleased to hear that the audience found the film compelling, and that they each had different reactions; that the film called up different memories or feelings for each of them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was based on the feature film screenplay, which is all about how people handle an unknown threat that they cannot understand. The short took elements from the feature film, to create a standalone piece.

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

Definitely “Jurassic Park” – the film that inspired me to become a filmmaker when I saw it at age five!

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

It’s amazing to have a platform that helps me discover festivals, and easily submit to them. The filmmaking process will always be a long and hard struggle — but at least FilmFreeway makes the festival process more straightforward and painless once your movie is complete.

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

Everything by Fleetwood Mac.

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

The feature film for “The Woods” is in development, and I am also writing another horror feature — with a new short film set to shoot in Fall 2019.

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Interview with Filmmaker Jasper Bronkhorst (BLOODBURN)

BLOODBURN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jasper Bronkhorst: It is my first short that I have written and directed, so I chose to work in the ‘safety’ of a genre (thriller/suspense) to learn technique and built a network of talented creative people. But my overall motivation was the answer to a simple question: am I capable of directing a movie?

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

Around one year, but not full time of course but working on different drafts and looking for a good cast, crew etc.

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

Suspenseful fresh

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

Staying true to my original intention, because everybody in post production had their own idea of the intention of this film. I sometimes really had to fight to keep it ‘mine’. This was the most difficult part of the process.

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

You know, that big stone you feel in your stomach ;-). I feel very lucky that it was well received and that the audience ‘got it’.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had a very small budget, so my original idea was very simple: big story, small table.

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

This changes constantly, but for now I would say Blue Velvet by David Lynch (’86).

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

It’s all quite new to me, but the first thing that comes to mind is the sheer amount of film festivals all over the world: it’s just mind boggling. Other than that, everything works really well.

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

The Rainbow, Talk Talk (’97)

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

A new film indeed. I can’t really tell a lot about it (don’t want to spoil, sorry!), other than that it is in pre-production and will take place in the near future.

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