Interview with Filmmaker Barbara van Rijn (THE CURE)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Barbara van Rijn: As a daughter of a Pharmacist I am brought up with the belief that herbal and traditional medicine is not to be trusted. After living in Ghana for a while, I realized that people in Ghana look at this very differently. I wanted to know more, the reasoning of people using herbal medicine vs orthodox medicine and how this affects their life.

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

I was planning to only film a short TV item, finishing in 2 weeks. I ended up taking 5 years to finish.


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

Emotional and impressive

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

It was difficult to find the right balance in making this a story about ‘the people using traditional medicine’ and all facts and figures that are known about this topic. I could have gone on an on doing more research, more filming and make it more of an investigative documentary. However it was always meant as a small story about people using traditional medicine. So sometimes it was hard to hold on to that initial goal but still find the right balance of giving information to satisfy the viewer.


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

I often agreed with them and their feelings after seeing the film. It was great to have people giving feedback on the film, it gave me a lot of positive energy!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was working at a local TV station in Ghana as an advisor where the doctor of ‘The Cure’ was advertising this drug live on air. That stirred a discussion between me and my Ghanaian boss by then, he believed the drug was a real cure, and I was very doubtful. Once I started following the doctor and his patients it became such an emotional journey that wouldn’t let me go.

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

Documentary: Google baby

Film: Blackbook (Dutch film)

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

It makes it very easy to apply and gives a good overview of the possibilities. Perfect.

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

Meadowlands – The African Mama’s

No one – Alicia keys


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

Hopefully yes. I have a topic in mind, also coming from West Africa. I started the research. First I have to make a firm decision to really continue documentary making and make the switch from fulltime corporate film maker to making documentaries. This festival actually gave me some confidence boost to focus more on documentaries.

Interview with Filmmaker Jeremy Abrams (FIGHTING CHILDHOOD CANCER)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jeremy Abram: The Vanderslice family were friends of my wife, and when I saw a social media post that included a photo of Louie looking out of the window from his hospital room at Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia at a crowd of people who gathered for a candle light vigil with a poster that said “Hope”, it peaked my interest to start following his story, and I fell in love with the family and their love for their son.

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

Their father (Joshua) reached out to me and told me the Roc Solid foundation was going to be constructing a playground in their back yard in honor of Louie and to bring joy to their family. He had seen some of my video work and asked if I would ever consider documenting this event for them. Not only did I agree and feel privileged that he even asked – I assembled a team of videographers/photographers to volunteer their time to help cover the event. We started filming at 6:30am until 3pm, and it required around 70 hours of filming, photographing, archiving and editing.

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

Always hope

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

Having to take breaks in editing to gather my emotions.

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

I was bracing for impact on technical critiques, only to be relieved that everyone absorbed the overall story and that it resonated with an authentic human experience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea was there, the challenge was to strip it down to the bare bones to make it a potent story without unecessary clutter.

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

Braveheart

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

I have submitted previous films to various platforms – but FilmFreeway was the simplest that actually delivered valuable critique and feedback. It was well organized and proactive.

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

Woman with the tatooed hands, Atmosphere

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

I currently work full time in IT, and do freelance video production projects for pleasure as they arise.

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 Jessica Chung (SUSHI MAN)

SUSHI MAN played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jessica Chung: This was my thesis to get my animation bachelors diploma.

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

It took me about 10 months.

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

Unexpected and playful.

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

Because I wanted to work on the story so much, I didn’t have much time to focus on the animation. So for me, the biggest obstacle was to move on from animation to start the rendering process.

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

I love how there were so many different opinions ans views about the story. Thank you so much you guys!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

I wanted the story to be very interesting and to have two main opposite characters that would somehow work together out in the end. I went through a couple of different options until I thought about a man that cuts fish for a living. At this point, I thought: “Oh, ok. Let me do a fish vs. man type of story” But, I ended up thinking of evolving the fish into a mermaid to add a romantic element.

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

I think it is between “Lilo and Stitch” by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, or “Modern Times” by Charlie Chaplin. xD

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

I think FilmFreeway is very convenient and easy to use.

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

Phew! This one is a hard one.. I would say it is “Let’s Groove” by Earth Wind and Fire. It was my alarm for probably two whole years in High School.

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

Working on a couple of exciting new projects that include music videos and animation in a feature film.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sean Wehrli (GLENDALE)

GLENDALE played to rave reviews at the August 2018 Experimental Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sean Wehrli: I have a major passion for visual storytelling, with film and music videos at the top of that list. This project specifically came out of a major draw to the music and then a desire to feature our shared hometown of Detroit. We wanted to give a voice to the crime statistics of Detroit.

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

6 months. Very long, but since it was self-funded I took as long as I needed to get it right.

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

Detroit Passion

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

I’d say the most frustrating moment for me was after reviewing 1st cut of the video and seeing how much it sucked. Then trying to find a solution that kept people entertained for a full 6 minutes. The answer ended up involving me going back to Detroit and shooting insane amounts of B-Roll. Really featuring the location as a character is what brought it home.

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

Wow, thank you for doing this. Reconfirmed my suspicion that the power of my video is in the mood and that some of my story elements potentially went too far.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I started with Detroit. Then went to the fact that Detroit has ranked highest in murder for many many years. Then I made the link between crimes of passion and love.

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

I haven’t kept a tally, but Blade Runner? Or more likely one of the disney movies I watched on repeat as a kid: Toy Story or Aladdin?

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 superior to withoutabox (more user friendly), although still tons of garbage to wade through. You realize after that only about 10% of your submissions were worthwhile festivals. The reviews do help though.

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

In My Place by Coldplay?

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

I just turned my next music video to the label yesterday for the band Beta Radio.

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Interview with Filmmaker Zena AbdelBaky (ALL THAT REMAINS)

ALL THAT REMAINS was the winner of BEST FILM at the September 2018 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Zena AbdelBaky: The goal of this film was for viewers to think about it after it ends. To be in a conversation and think about the truthful subtitles between all the words being exchanged. It was hard to not make this film, it felt like a pressing matter that needed to be exposed and experienced.

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

Less than a month.

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

Uncomfortably real.

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

Getting inexperienced actors, building enough chemistry for the audience to then feel the tension, awkwardness, and self-awareness they have around each other; and to try and get the audience invested in them in such a short amount of time. The biggest obstacle also happens to be the reason i loved making it.

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

First off, I’m so grateful that there’s a video to see how the audience reacted to my film, since I couldn’t be there, that was all I wanted to see. Just the fact that people took the time, watched the film, and shared their opinions about it in such an uplifting environment, it gave me goosebumps. I quickly paused the video and ran to get my father to watch it with me, my heart was beating pretty fast, not gonna lie.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was inspired by daily conversations one has with everyone they choose to interact with. The truth is that some people are bad at hiding their initial intentions they try to sugarcoat or change in one way or another, and in this one example, I felt like I could see right through them, read their body language, and understand what is going on between the lines. And from that, I came up with the idea that the subtitles would be what is being said between the lines.

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

The films I love the most, I try not to watch them too often. There’s a magic to the scene construction and storytelling that takes one out of their reality. The more one watches a film, the easier it is for their brain to deconstruct it, in turn, taking away the magic. With that being said, the film I probably watched the most simply due to the fact that I got introduced to it at a young age and that it is a brilliant film, is ‘Catch Me If You Can’ by Mr. Steven Spielberg.

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

I think that it’s absolutely genius, it saves a lot of time and energy to submit to several festivals each having their own requirements, on FilmFreeway, it’s a click of a button. One also avoids being ripped off since the platform is trusted and credited. It also introduces filmmakers to festivals they didn’t know about, giving them larger opportunities to showcase and share their work.

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

According to my iTunes most played, it’s ‘The Only Ones Who Know’ by The Arctic Monkeys.

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

After the making of ‘All That Remains’ I wrote and directed another film called ‘The Fairest of Them All’ which i’m very proud of as well; and am in the process of writing a mini web series, which I’m very excited for.

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