Interview with Filmmaker Brenden Dannaher (A QUICK LOVE STORY)

A QUICK LOVE STORY was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the February 2020 ROMANCE Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Brenden Dannaher: Another short film that I was lined up to direct fell through. So I decided to produce my own short film myself. I had four different ideas in mind. This idea got the best reaction and also happened to be the cheapest to make.

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

Approximately 10 months from the initial idea to completion of the film. Six months of that was just letting the ideas gel.

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

Romantic silliness.

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

Finding the right actors. It took us a while, but it was so worth it. Andy and Nicole really lifted the script to another level.

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

I was just happy that they enjoyed it and appreciated it. I was glad that others shared my sense of humor.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Like many people, I get a lot of online surveys. I think I got one too many. Some of them started threatening to punish me in some way if I didn’t complete them. So my original idea was that a woman from the survey company would appear in this guy’s life and not go away till he completed the survey. And then the word “complete” evoked the phrase “You complete me” from the film Jerry Maguire. And then I realised that if the woman was the survey, he could literally complete her and I knew straight away that it was a romantic comedy. So then it had to adhere to the conventions of the romantic comedy genre, and I tried to make it as funny as I could.

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

Vertigo (30+ times).

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

I like it. Once you’ve supplied all the relevant info, it makes it very easy to enter festivals.

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

This is a really hard question to answer. I think there are two songs that I have chosen to listen to more than any others – Velveteen by Transvision Vamp and Blue Monday by New Order.

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

I have some feature film scripts that I am working on. – a couple of comedies and also a couple of horror films.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sarah Baptist (STARTING LINEUP)

STARTING LINEUP played to rave reviews at the February 2020 Documentary Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sarah Baptist: I went to the overflow area of Jurassic Park for Game 1 of the Raptors playoff. I instantly became friends with the two men behind me in line. There was something really unique about the community. Strangers were friends. The next time I went back, I brought a camera and I tried to capture it.

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

It took two months.

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

Basketball community!

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

The lineup was right beside a highway. The audio really needed to be

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

It was great. I just want to keep getting better at the craft of short documentary films and hearing the audience reactions helped me learn what I should do for the next film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I came up with the idea for the film when I was the Jurassic Park viewing area.

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

The Wizard of Oz.

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

It is a convenient way to submit films.

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

Sturgill Simpson – Breakers Roar

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

I would love to make another film. I’m really interested in telling stories from people we don’t hear from and who may be misunderstood.

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Interview with Filmmaker Shantel Hansen (HER TURF)

HER TURF played to rave reviews at the February 2020 Documentary Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Shantel Hansen: This started back in 2014 when I conceived of the idea of filming women in male dominated sports. Here in the United States, this wasn’t a topic talked about or filmed that often until recently there are more conversations over all about women in male dominated spaces in sports, professionally, and workplace. When I discovered women in football officiating, I knew that there had to be stories to uncover, document, and share. What I didn’t know was how I was going to do it. As a first time director and producer, it took over four years to make this documentary come alive. There have been a lot of ups and downs. A lot of highs and low moments. Looking back, I can’t express how grateful I am to see it all come together in a way that I could have never imagined in a million years. These three incredible women that I filmed along with an amazing film crew (Annice Canday, Tangela Mitchell and Mary Podesta) took a HUGE chance on me, as a rookie. I knew what I lacked in experience (I didn’t go to film school) I could make up with heart, passion and dedication.

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

2014-2019

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

Real and Inspiring

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

Honeslty, it wasn’t having a limited budget. It was getting access to film these incredible women. And when I did get access it was sometimes limited.

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

BLOWN AWAY. The audience feedback is priceless. I love how this documentary has a diverse audience. Anyone can watch it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I knew that I wanted to film something/someone/topic focusing on subculture(s) that impact the larger culture(s) unknownly. Officials and refeeres do that. They are a subculture that is marginalized in that they are in-between the game, players, coaches and fans. You see them (typically when it’s a call that you don’t like or agree with) but you don’t know who they are, why they are there on the line of scrimmage or why they do it.

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

I’m a mix bag. Big time. I watch crazy pointless series to serious stuff that is at Sunday and Hot Docs.

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

This was an overall a great experience to have FilmFreeway as a portal to submit my documentary and keep track of everything.

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

I listen to everything!

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

I have several projects in pre-production and one heading into production in the summer of 2020. I’m going to build out the concept of fiming more women in male domianted sports including a bull rider, sky diver, jockey, smoke jumper, and drag car sisters. I’m also working on another series filming women that are attempting to do online dating in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

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Interview with Filmmaker Ignacio Lasierra Pinto (FIRST COMMUNION)

FIRST COMMUNION was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY and BEST PERFORMANCES at the January 2020 European Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ignacio Lasierra Pinto: I wanted to make a film that opened certain moral issues and did not necessarily offer an answer. I guess like everything I’ve shot, it was out of necessity. The need to tell this story.

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

I wrote the script for “First Communion” in 2011. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. For years I was rewriting to improve it. Finally, I spent a year looking for adequate financing to be able to roll it well. Since I shot the short, it was another half year in post-production. It has been a long process, but it was worth it.

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

A short film that invites you to ask questions and offers few answers. I would also say that it is a short film that can be morally uncomfortable.

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

The main obstacle was finding the truth in the eyes of a girl. Luckily, we found her in Andrea Fandos. Andrea had never acted in anything before. Now she is a young actress with a promising future. She has a lot of talent, spontaneity and freshness. And she has truth in her eyes.

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

I loved seeing how the public has appreciated our short film from so far away. Although thousands of kilometers separate us and that we culturally belong to different places, I am surprised to see how universal issues transcend borders and countries. It has been a great experience to hear the opinions. As if we had been there!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was after watching “The Communicants” by Ingmar Bergman. Hence the title. Although the story has nothing to do with it, the viewing of Bergman’s film questioned me in such a way that I needed to write almost in response to what the film had caused in me. It was the starting point. That and wondering what would happen in a family where two very different positions regarding God could be confronted at a time as delicate as the death of a loved one.

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

I recognize that perhaps the one that has marked me the most and that I usually visit once a year is “12 Angry Men” (Sidney Lumet, USA, 1957). Although the one I may have seen the most time, for having grown up with it, is Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, USA, 1993). The first time I saw it, I was 9 years old and since then it has fascinated me. I grew up with that film!

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

As a filmmaker, such a platform exists is essential. Thanks to FilmFreeway, you have the opportunity to show your work on the other side of the world. And to get that work to the public.

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

I usually listen to the same groups and I like very different music. At times I listen more to one type of music or another. I could not say which. I am quite eclectic musically and I recognize that I like almost all musical styles.

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

I am currently preparing a feature film project. The trip I’m about to start is long term, so hopefully it will be next. I do not know if before filming this film I will shoot another film or not. What I do hope is that it will be soon. For a filmmaker, there is nothing better than a shoot!

Interview with Filmmaker GG Hawkins (AN ASPIRATIONAL SPACE)

AN ASPIRATIONAL SPACE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival in Janaury 2020.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

GG Hawkins: There were a few things that got the ball rolling on An Aspirational Space. First and foremost, I wanted to try my chops at writing and directing before leaving my job in the podcast world. I had been playing around filming with Andrea Raggio (who plays the lead in AAS), Hilary Seeley and Eva Victor on a project called Lili Podato, which we would film in my apartment at 8am on Sundays. I knew I loved working with these women, and wanted to see what we could do with a larger crew.

I had also gone through the Marie Kondo process myself, and mused on how easily one could spiral out of control with something like tidying. Especially if you live alone. That inspired the story of An Aspirational Space.

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

About a year.

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

Self help?

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

Time. We had an ambitious shot list — 145 shots two locations in two days! In pre-production, Producer Kyle Scott and I would laugh late into the night over (often a few beers deep) about the sheer volume of work we had to do. But our Director of Photography, Adam Volerich, moved like a well-oiled machine, and our wonderful Assistant Director, Renata Soares, kept us on schedule. We did have to cut and consolidate, but that’s all part of the creative puzzle solving!

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

I love when folks recognize the sound design and score. Working with Haley Shaw, who created all original music, was one of the highlights of the process. Coming from the podcast world, I’m a bit of a sound snob. I loved working with Haley and Hunter Berk, our post sound mixer, to create a film where every sound is designed to make you feel uncomfortable. Ari Aster’s Hereditary was a huge inspiration from a sound perspective.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I went through the Mari Kondo process myself the year before, and one day, I went to a 9am screening of Hereditary. When I came home to my apartment, I made a smoothie, and thought: Living alone is creepy. And then the idea came to me.

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

28 Days Later.

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

This was my first time going through the submission process. FilmFreeway streamlined everything!

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

Let Me Alone by moow

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

We finished shooting Break Cute, a dark wrote and director, over Thanksgiving. It stars Joanna Hausman (Bill Nye Saves the World) and Jimmy Wong (Mulan). I’m also developing a pilot.

Interview with Filmmaker Eric Rusch (PICTURES OF LEO)

PICTURES OF LEO was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY and BEST PERFORMANCES at the January 2020 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eric Rusch : I had had this idea for a feature length film for many years. I’m not really a filmmaker, so I never thought it would actually get made.

Then in 2017 I studied film acting at the Stockholm University of Dramatic Arts. As a part of the course we were encouraged to make our own short films, just to better understand the whole process of film making. So I dusted off this old idea, started to write the script and worked with preproduction at the same time. It was supposed to be a small and simple project but it kept growing and I had a lot of fun making it.

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

I started writing in August 2018. We shot the whole film for six days in the end of November. I did all the editing and sound mixing during the holidays. Did some pickups and had a first screening in mid January. The film premiered at Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival on March 31st 2019. At that time I knew nothing about color correction, so the first color corrected version was actually screened in Toronto on January 13th 2020.

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

Warm, contemplative.

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

It had to be a zero budget film. So I really depended on the kindness of strangers, as well as of friends and colleagues. Everyone was so helpful and I’m so grateful for that.

While writing the script I realized I needed someone to play the young Nicholas. So I had to find an 18-year-old, who looked like a young version of myself, who could act and who would be willing to kiss another guy on screen. Without pay. I was so happy when I found Oscar through a casting company. If he hadn’t turned up I would have rewritten those scenes completely.

I wanted to shoot a scene in a hospital. I looked everywhere, and a week before shooting it was the only location I still hadn’t found. Then suddenly the manager of a psychiatric ward called and told me they were temporarily closing one whole floor off to paint the walls. It would be empty for a few weeks. We only needed an afternoon. They let us use it for free!

I was determined to do as much work as I could myself. I wrote the script, played the lead, directed and produced the film. I did the casting, location scouting and planning. I also did the cinematography, editing and sound mixing. I watched hundreds of tutorials on YouTube. Not kidding. I had a lot of fun. I certainly learned that good planning is essential. But I will never make a film this way again.

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

This is my first short film so I’m still blown away by the fact that people I don’t even know have seen my film.

I was very happy to see that the film raised some interesting questions, like “who lived the true life and who didn’t” and how Leo’s choices are no less valid given his situation. And “even a country as progressive as Sweden still has those stories” was also something I really wanted to tell.

And who wouldn’t be ridiculously happy when someone likes your film?

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Pictures of Leo is very loosely based on actual events which at the time raised a lot of questions about making life changing choices. To me the film is a love story first of all. And the story about a man rejecting love out of fear for what other people might think has always stayed with me. Also I wanted to try to tell a story where one of the main characters (Leo) is not really in the film.

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

Probably The Big Lebowski (1998). Or Victor/Victoria (1982).

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

Seeing that this is my first film, I was very happy to find FilmFreeway. I thought I would be googling myself to death. But FilmFreeway made it so much easier to find and choose festivals and submit my film. Quick and simple.

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

Enjoy The Silence by Depeche Mode. Without a doubt.

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

I work as an actor, mostly with children theatre. I am on tour right now with a stage musical for really small kids. This summer I will be in a production of Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter at Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby, Sweden.
My husband Christian Arnold is also an actor and a filmmaker. We love working together. He has written a script that we are planning to make into a short film in the near future.

(Christian made the short film Chricke which was screened at your festival two years ago: https://lgbttorontofilmfestival.com/2018/02/25/short-film-chrickle-7min-sweden-lgbt-experimental/)