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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Interview with Filmmaker Aram Atkinson (FIREFLIES)

FIREFLIES played at the August Under 5 Minute Short Film Festival in Toronto to rave reviews.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Aram Atkinson: I actually made this film for two specific reasons, firstly that I was just about to go freelance and wanted to kickstart with a narrative based passion project, and secondly for Rode Reel, the online film competition. I had just quit my full-time videographer job at the RNLI in the pursuit of moving forward with my goal to writing and directing narrative work, and I knew if I didn’t make Fireflies I would build up a fear of making any of my original work. Much to my surprise Fireflies has been exceptionally well received, winning Best Drama at Rode Reel, making the shortlist for Best film and picking up a load of other nominations here and there. I put it down mostly to the incredible performances of Ivy-Mae Harris, Ben Elder and Ellie Snow who really brought it to life, and the brilliance of Harrison Bates, Ricky Gane and Jamie Kemp who turned a sheet of material into a magical place. You can actually watch a behind the scenes film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe_O-5UWmMA

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

I had the idea about 2 years before actually making it, just written down in a notebook, so when Rode Reel came up and I was flicking through my ideas, I instantly knew this was the one to make. Writing the voice of a 5 year old girl was a challenge and so I asked Nikki McMullen, a brilliant writer who was a colleague of mine at the RNLI, to help me pull it together. Once we had a script I then had two weeks to get the ball rolling. I was lucky to have the support of Treehouse digital in Bournemouth who let me use their loft studio space over a weekend, so on the Saturday we went about trying to make a tent, buying material and building a-frames, fairy lights and props.

This film relied heavily on set design to be believable and install the sense of magic (it was a massive relief the ‘Fireflies’ light effect actually worked)! I think too inside the box when it comes to building things however, so if it wasn’t for the ingenuity of Ricky, Harrison and Jamie when it came to building the tent, this film simply wouldn’t have happened. I then had about 10 days to edit it before the Rode Reel deadline so all in all it was about a 4-6 week process (excluding the 2 year hiatus from concept)

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

Unashamedly sentimental.

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

The biggest obstacles would be both getting the actors and the final location. The day before the shoot, the actor playing the dad pulled out, so I entered a frantic hunt for someone to fill the role and luckily my close collaborator and friend Riyadh Haque (an incredible writer/director in his own right) put me in touch with the outstanding Ben Elder. I called him and despite the fact he was 5 hours away at a family party, he learnt the script, camped overnight in his van and drove down early in the morning to help make this film possible. I’ve worked with Ben since and I think he’s a phenomenal actor, and an admirable professional.

Similarly, the hospice we were planning to use for the climactic reveal pulled out two days before, but I was sure a hospital would help once they saw most of the film, so I actually went ahead and shot Fireflies without knowing if I would be able to source that clinching shot. So after we shot the tent scene, I quickly pulled an edit together and spent the next few days asking hospitals if they would let me film one quick scene at their hospital, and Poole Hospital were heroes in letting us shoot there, so at midnight on a Thursday evening Harrison and I went and tried to replicate the tent in an unused ward…nothing like some indie filmmaking!

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

It was humbling to see such strong responses! I’ve been fortunate to see Fireflies screened twice and see an audience reaction in person, but this was the first time I’ve been able to hear such academic deconstruction of Fireflies and it’s amazing to hear a consensus I hadn’t even considered. This film is very much told through the eyes of Alice, and as said in the video and podcast, the film would be tragic beyond belief to view it through the dad’s eyes, but I had never actually realised this is what I was doing. I love moments like these, where you discover your own artistic decisions and style by listening to others’ take.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I can’t actually remember how I first came up with the idea for Fireflies, I have a tendency for nostalgic themes and bittersweet situations though. I’ve been asked a few times if it is based on a personal experience and whilst my family has been effected by cancer, thankfully never in the tragic way that it is in Fireflies.

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

You’ve got mail is probably my guilty pleasure, I love Tom Hanks and I’m a sucker for a romantic story. I have a new pen pal because of the Under 5 minute Film Festival so perhaps this will lead to my own You’ve got mail! I’ll try not to put them out of business…

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

I think it’s an amazing platform, one of the few times submission systems are done right. It’s so refreshing having it all in one place and being able to determine the value of festivals by reviews, photos and detailed info!

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

There’s too many to pick. Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley or Adaggio for Strings by Barber really get me though so I’ve probably those two. Although ‘Doin me’ by Mikey Mike is making a strong claim at the moment.

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

Whilst I am incredibly proud of Fireflies, even after 5 years of filmmaking, it is only now that I am preparing to make what I consider to be my first true film. I am in development of a short film that tackles some of the issues in the UK I feel passionately about and is a far bigger challenge than anything I have made before, both in what it is trying to say and the level of execution. I have a crew attached, and am rewriting the final version of the script, whilst also seeking funding, which as we all know requires a lot of perseverance and resilience. But I believe this film needs to be made, and the goal is to make it before the end of 2018, funded or not!

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Filmmaker Eshaana Sheth (THE BUTTER KNIFE)

THE BUTTER KNIFE played to rave reviews at the July 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eshaana Sheth: The film is a response to the variety of people that I encountered after moving to LA as well as the nuances of dating and socializing in the modern age. In 2016, I developed a strange ailment of consistently and exclusively attracting men from the UK into my life (yes, I met the one Northern Irish guy in LA). The summer of 2016 held a strange mix of events; The EU referendum took place simultaneously to the Euro 2016 Championship. Both sort of intertwined and produced a malaise in the air especially with our own American presidential election around the corner. It felt like a paradigm shift, and that kind of uncertainty creates excellent fodder for humor. I’m always interested in capturing how topical ideas and events bleed into the way we relate to one another and how our cultural life is increasingly influenced by globalization and the advent of technology. I wanted to find a way of condensing all that into a short film. I was approached as a writer by Shalini, our producer and lead actress, and came on later as a director and producer. It was my first time directing, but I’m really happy I took the plunge. Our whole team was incredible and made the experience so nurturing.

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

I had the idea brewing, but I ended up writing it when I was sick and recovering from surgery in May of 2017, which provided some time to introspect and look to humor as a way of healing. It was completed in January 2018. So, the whole thing took about a year and a half.

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

Absurd normalcy

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

We had a small team and budget. Trying to get the best production value with logistical and monetary restraints is always difficult. You always say, I wish I could’ve done this or had more bodies in general. But working with a contained story also creates room for play, especially when you have wonderfully talented actors and cinematographers like we did. It’s important as a director to adapt and allow the characters and vision to change. My friend analogized it to the creation of a pot—when it comes out of the kiln, it’s either awful, exactly what you pictured, or not really what you intended but still pretty. Of course, I’m a horrible with ceramics, so I should be lucky for options two or three.

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

I was surprised by how hysterically everyone was laughing; I wasn’t expecting that level of enthusiasm. They were patient viewers and so invested in the work, which I appreciated. I especially loved that the film resonated with people of all ages. My favorite comedy to consume as a viewer is work like Frasier, which feel niche but also accessible and timeless. The diversity of comments made me feel like there was something in it for everyone, which is quite nice to hear.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Without ruining anything, the premise was loosely inspired by a first date I went on, that I kind of tried to make as weird as possible. I used that as a starting point and then just let my imagination snowball from there. I’m one of those people who tries to find the absurdity in banal situations like grocery shopping. I’d almost rather sit in a bit of discomfort and awkwardness than run away, because it’s more fun. I find it difficult to approach organized events like dates or meetings without analyzing how fundamentally odd it all is, like, anthropologically. Ria is probably more like me than any other character I’ve written – she’s confronting but anxious which makes her a cool blend of idiosyncratic and unpredictable.

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

I guess it would have to be either Muppet Treasure Island or Pooh’s Grand Adventure. As a kid, I rented them weekly at our local video store. It was so embarrassing; they used to have them ready for me before I even walked through the doors. If I took childhood out of the equation, it would probably be Clueless.

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

I really like FilmFreeway. It’s very streamlined and makes things simple and organized. I would definitely recommend it to other filmmakers.

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

“Spiderwebs” by No Doubt! I know everyone loves the ’90s right now, but I feel like I have a special claim on the decade, having understood its character at a young age before people were talking about it as a thing. No Doubt is just so emblematic of my youth, growing up in suburban Southern California with two older brothers. As an Indian American, we were floored at the time to discover that Tony Kanal, the bassist with the frosted tips, was also Indian. There were virtually no Asians in media to the point where there was even a rumor circulating in my hometown that Brandon Boyd of Incubus was part Indian because one of his “Pardon Me”s sounded like he had an accent. People were literally reaching for straws. Kanal was the only kernel of hope for brown representation.

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

I have another short film in post-production called The Argument that’s adapted from a play I wrote in college; it’s a relationship drama set in 2012 before the Mayan Apocalypse phenomenon. I’ve also been doing some modeling and getting back into acting, which feels great! I have a few other projects in the works including a series I’m helping my brother with, which is fun because we can yell at each other and still remain related.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Filmmaker Sarah Gampel (THE BUS TRIP)

THE BUS TRIP was the WINNER of BEST ANIMATION at the May 2018 ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sarah Gampel: My motivation for making this film came after a trip I did in Israel and Palestine during the spring 2014. I went there to take part in a Film Festival Bus trip with international film students traveling around Israel showing short films. When I came home to Sweden I was overwhelmed by the experience and the emotions I felt during that trip, so I decided to make a film about it.

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

It took me about 1 and a half year to finish the film. It started out as my graduation project from film school. We had one year to make a short. But I needed 6 more months and so I was lucky to find funding to be able to finish the film, after I’ve graduated.

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

Layered experience

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

The biggest obstacle or challenge during the making the film was writing the script and finding a way to combine both political opinions and personal feelings in a comprehensive way.

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

This is one of the best feedback session I’ve ever had. People were being honest and sharing their thoughts unconstrained. It’s not too common that people share their honest opinion, and especially not when there is some sort of critic involved. And as a filmmaker it can be difficult to hear negative comments about ones film, it puts me as a filmmaker in a defensive position. But the critic I got to hear here made me feel the opposite. I could tell that the audience had really watched my film carefully and given it a lot of thought before they spoke, I could hear it in the way they talked about it. So even if some of them were criticizing parts of my film I can understand what they mean and almost agree with them. It also makes me proud and happy that my film is seen seriously and good enough to get criticized.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

When I came home from my trip in Israel and Palestine I wrote a travel diary, depicting what I’ve experienced during the days. The text was mostly informative and only describing my activities day by day and my political opinions about Israel and Palestine. So when I’ve written the text I felt like I still had a lot of emotions from the trip that I wanted to share, and this became the starting point for the film.

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

I usually don’t re-watch films, but I just re-watched The Never Ending Story from 1984. Think it’s amazing how relevant it still feels and that the film feels scarier the older I get.

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

It’s a great and user friendly platform. Specially the feedback section where filmmakers get to review the film festivals according to how they treat their filmmakers. This helps a lot when you decide which festivals are worth the submission fee.

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

That’s a difficult question. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music and it’s a big inspiration for my filmmaking. But I remember when The Sky Was Pink by Nathan Fake in the James Holden remix-version came out and me and my friends would listen to it at least once or twice a night, either at a party or after hours. I can never get tired of this tune.

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

Two things: First of all my film ‘The Bus Trip’ just got on the streaming platform Seed&Spark. So now everyone who hasn’t seen it yet can stream it through either their website, ROKU och APPLE TV.

Here’s the link: https://www.seedandspark.com/watch/the-bus-trip

I’ve also started working on my next animation short film project. This time it’s going to be a sci-fi saga for kids.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.