Interview with Filmmaker Imelda O’Reilly (TUMBLING TOWARDS HOME)

TUMBLING TOWARDS HOME was the winner of BEST DOC CHARACTERS at the July 2020 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Imelda O’Reilly: I have a dear friend Malcolm Adams who is an Irish actor and we wanted to create a project together. I wasn’t sure what film we would make, and I didn’t have a huge budget. The process began by interviewing him but eventually a story within the story began to unfold as we chatted about his decision to move to New York in 1989 to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.

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

The whole process probably took a year and a half as I decided to work with an animator Damarrius Thompson to fill in Malcolm’s backstory in New York in 1989. The animator was working on many different jobs and so it took a while to create this aesthetic element within the film.

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

Escaping dreams!

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

I would say lack of funding. You need three things to make a film, time, money and imagination. Often you don’t have all three of these elements so in the process the lack of funding can delay finishing the film. Often you spend more on postproduction than on production so each stage in the filmmaking process can be costly. We also shot in Ireland and New York so that delayed the process of filming during the production stage.

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

I absolutely love that WildSOUND takes the time to film the audience’s responses to the film. WilldSound FEEDBACK is the only festival who takes the time to visually record the audience feedback and then provide it to the filmmakers.

This is a very personal story for Malcolm Adams and not an easy one to tell so having the opportunity especially during a global pandemic to hear responses to the film is amazing. It gives you the impetus to keep going, telling impactful stories and making films.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I myself am an Irish immigrant and I wanted to explore the relationship one has to leaving and returning home. In Ireland when Malcolm immigrated a lot of Irish people immigrated because there was a lack of employment for the younger generation.

As Malcolm Adams mentions he leaves home because he felt he couldn’t pursue acting in Ireland at that time because it wasn’t a place, he felt he could experiment without failing.

He had to leave in order to embrace failing in the pursuit of his dreams. The reasons one leaves a homeland are complex, a part of me wanted to explore this contradiction.

Every time you make a choice in life you lose something, and you gain something it was the contradiction of these two opposing forces that drew me to exploring this subject matter. That combined with chasing the ghosts of one’s past is always compelling to me to explore as a filmmaker.

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

My choices in film changes and I return to films for different reasons. Most recently I watched a German film titled Toni Erdman. It was about a relationship between a father and his daughter.

I’m attracted to films with interesting characters. At first this film moved slow for me but after inhabiting the lives of the characters, I kept mulling them over in my head. That is a true sign the film resonates on a deeper level.

The director was female Maren Ade. In terms of a film I’ve returned to most in my life, there is more than one. I like Sprit of the Beehive, Taxi Driver, Metropolis, Naked, The Mirror, Post Tenebras Lux because those films capture a cinema of loneliness and isolation.

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

I like Film Freeway, it is an excellent platform to submit your film as you post everything on the site and it makes the work of submitting your film much easier.

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

I have one album that I love listening to in the morning, and it’s Something Else by Cannonball Adderley. Often music reminds me of certain times in my life, and playing those songs takes me back in time.

I had three albums that I listened to while living on 8th street and Avenue B in the East Village in the late nineties. The albums were, Cat Power, The covers record, Nirvana Unplugged and Cannonball Adderley. It was a very creative time in my life, so it reminds me of all the amazing memories I had when I lived downtown in NYC. I also loved listening to The Jam, Style Council and The Cure at a different time in life.

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

I have a feature film titled We’re the Kids in America that the screenplay was an official selection for L’Atélier Cinéfondation Cannes International Film Festival in 2018. I have a US and an Irish co-producer and hopefully we will have the opportunity to shoot it at some point in the future. In addition, I am working on a short narrative film titled Love at White Rabbit.

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Interview with Filmmaker Cate Celso (KING OF THE ROAD)

KING OF THE ROAD played to rave reviews at the July 2020 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Cate Celso: After seeing Rick perform I was impressed by his energy and how he lit up his audiences. Getting to know him and all his layers I found his personal journey inspiring and wanted to share that with others.

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

It was about 9 months from start to finish. Seven in pre and production, two in post.

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

heartfelt journey

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

We definitely wanted to capture as much of Rick’s performances as we could so I would say sorting through 24 hours of footage/interviews to tell Rick’s story in 25 minutes was definitely a challenge to completing the film.

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

Smiles and gratitude. The fact that film lovers took the time to watch and comment on King of the Road was humbling. Very pleased that the film inspired the same sentiment I felt watching Rick and making the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve always been interested in hearing people’s stories. After meeting Rick and being inspired by his resilience, his ability to juggle a day job and a passion career while overcoming such personal obstacles… living your passion as a creative while having to be in a day job that may not be creative. The balance, the strength, the focus, the inspiration to just move on through and do it – share your unique talent, your gifts- I wanted to share that inspiration with others.

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

As a filmmaker I am always watching films over and over again- one of my favorites is After the Wedding directed by Susanne Bier.

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

I find the platform easy to use as a filmmaker. You are one step removed from the festivals itself but for convenience sake it’s easy to follow and submit.

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

Too many to tally which one I’ve listened to the most- currently consistently listening to Eminence Front by The Who.

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

Yes! We are currently in a modified production schedule of A Bold Journey, my next short documentary film. Hoping to be ready by summer 2021 for the festival circuit. Following the journey of Tom Bold, a 77 year old hiker, maverick and adventurer from Sonoma, CA.

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Interview with Filmmaker Kayleb Lee (LE COUP)

LE COUP was the winner of BEST FILM at the June 2020 Romance Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kayleb Lee: My motivations for the film is a combination of seeking creative storytelling methods and metaphors. With the circumstances being if I only had two actors, one location — how can I tell a unique story? So I wrote “Le Coup”, translated to French as ‘The Shot’ and an anagram for Coup(le), so the metaphor of the film being “one shot” and their shot(s) in their own relationship.

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

It took 1 month of writing, tweaking, and planning. Our production was 2 days: one for set-up and the last day for filming. However, editorial took 3 – 4 months, getting the sound, editing, and pacing to what we felt was right.

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

Relationship Stories.

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

Editorial. Engaging the audience through mostly sound was much more difficult than anticipated. It provided a different challenge and respect for the art of sound designers and music editors.

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

Surprised. Honored. Blessed. Much of the previous reactions were from peer student filmmakers and the criticism focused on technical nuances. So to hear from an audience that my intentions in story and cinematic creative goals were ingested makes all the hard work of my team and I worth it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was actually accidental, while I was brainstorming alongside my motivations. I went to sleep, but awoke to my neighbors fighting and arguing. It clicked and sparked me to write around that moment.

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

The Fox and The Hound on VHS.

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

I believe FilmFreeway is a valuable source for independent filmmakers today. It’s also a place where you can discover other artists and see how a film or subject plays in a variety of communities. I think our generation is blessed to have such a platform, it’s not to say things are easier than before, but that opportunity has grown.

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

This is a hard question, I listen to a variety of music depending on what I’m doing. When I write, sometimes I listen to classical music and other times, depending on the story beats, I’ll find a melody that matches to find that emotion.

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

Right now, I am actually part of the Academy’s Gold Program. It’s a talent development and inclusion initiative. I’m focused on improving my filmmaking and working on developing another short. It’s between Subli(mind)al and Cupid Hates You. One dives in mental health and identity, while the lather explores a person who loves love.

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Interview with Filmmaker Chun Yao Chang (A POEM IN BAMBOO)

A POEM IN BAMBOO played to rave reviews at the June 2020 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Chun Yao: It was my thesis film that I cooperated with my partner Xufei. We were Computer Arts majored students and we were so excited to make an animation that the story is love related, a little bit creepy but touching. And the more I dive into the process, the more I am in love with it.

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

A: It takes about eight months from the concept to finishing. It can be longer if the invisible time is included, like the time finding the inspiration, the animation, editing and layout idea and CGI technical experience…etc.

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

A: Love matters

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

A; I would say it is the combination of communication and limited production timing. The project has many new ideas either on the story side and technical side. The team wants the best visual quality, so we discuss a not, trying many possible solutions with the resource and timing we have. That is pretty hard to me and I am glad things turn out to be good.

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

A: I am very happy and glad that the language barrier did not influence the viewing experience too much. I feel grateful seeing all these feedbacks. It means a lot to a director knowing how the audiences think about this film and it push me to keep going.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

A: The story is adopt from a Chinese novel “菉竹山房”that talk about the love tragedy in the older generation. Our team find the story very interesting, so we take the big idea and reveal it with different characters’ interaction and a more powerful ending which is more connected to ourselves. We believe that Some people do not die, they rise with the spirit and live in our memories.

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

A: I enjoy watching Interstellar and Inception very much. They all have their main missions to accomplish but the part that Matthew or Leonardo try their best to connect with their lovers is the most touching part to me.

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

A: I think it is very convenience that save me lots of time on submitting the paper work. It is also very organized, which allows me get the general information easily by just going to one website and reach out for more details after.

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

A: I like “These Woods” by Llara very much. Her music is very refreshing and has
been inspiring and encouraging to me as a human who might face ups and downs in live.

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

A: Yes. I am planning another short which is also talk about the love between a couple and the journey they been through. It would be another simple life style but full with meaningful relationship that is small but matters a lot. I am looking forward to this project.

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Interview with Filmmaker Jonathan Levy (UNLEASHED)

UNLEASHED played to rave reviews at the WILDsound Comedy Festival in May 2020.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jonathan Levy: This was my first, so part of it was just wanting to make a film. I’m surrounded by great actors many of whom are also friends and wanted to make something with them.

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

It took 9 months.

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

dog man

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

Believing I could actually get a crew and production in order in New York City, where everything is complicated!

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

I actually found it really uplifting and strangely encouraging, and incredibly diverse. Everyone highlighted different moments, but there were also so agreed upon favorite parts which is actually really helpful for my future work and things to keep leaning into.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was hanging out at Nick(the actor who plays Nate) and he had to leave me and some friends at his apartment while he went on a wild tour of NYC for a night of dog sitting, feeding and walking and I thought it would make for a fun story.

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

Raising Arizona

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

Very easy to use and I would imagine saves days if not weeks of my life in a more manual method or on a less organized site. A little expensive, but otherwise I like it.

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

“Burned” by Buffalo Springfield

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

Yes, I’m working on a weed horror film.

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Interview with Filmmaker Matthew Richardson (HALLELUJAH)

HALLELUJAH was voted BEST FILM at the LGBT Feedback Film Festival in April 2020.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Matthew Richardson: I experimented once before with combining circus arts and LGBTQ issues through film, and the response and support was so incredible that I wanted to create more. So I began brainstorming different concepts. While I was visiting LA one summer, I was shocked by how many protestors at LA pride were using their faith as a means to spread hate. The protest signs they used and things they said were unbelievable to me, and I couldn’t get the experience off of my mind. The idea of someone using their own faith, to make others feel terrible seems so backwards and I wanted to create something in response to this. The idea for the film came pretty quickly after that experience.

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

About 9 months.

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

Gentle. Reflective.

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

Honestly the entire project was smooth sailing. It was surprisingly easy once things started moving.

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

It was really moving for me to see honest reactions from the viewers. It gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, and appreciation that my work meant something to these individuals. To see genuine feedback that was so positive and supportive, meant the world to me that day.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was at the airport in Montreal, when the idea came to me. I knew the two artists I wanted to use for the acrobatics, and knew that I wanted to address religion and the way it affects the LGBTQ community. Just with that concept alone, there’s so much that can be said. The isolation and rejection we feel from organized religion can be so damaging. And I wanted to give a gentle response to those who don’t understand what that must feel like for us. So while I was thinking about this in the airport, the idea developed quickly. Of course it evolved over time, but the initial idea struck very quickly. And then I began contacting the team I work with to start the process.

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

Dracula Dead and Loving It. lol.

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

I had a great experience, with no complaints.

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

Arrow by The Irrepressibles.

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

Yes I have 2 new film projects in the works! The situation with Coronavirus has delayed things, but they are coming eventually!

Interview with Filmmaker Sean Parker (WORD ON THE STREET)

WORD ON THE STREET was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2020 COMEDY Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sean Parker: We’ve made films together for about 20 years, including a lot of silly, low-key sketches for YouTube, and with Word on the Street, we wanted more of a showcase piece.

Before we made this, we’d taken a lot of time off from our creative projects to do client work apart from each other, and we each “leveled up” our skillset. So there was a strong desire to get back to doing our silly thing together in a way that showed what we were currently capable of.

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

We wrote it in 2014, where it lingered for a while on our “shoot this someday list.” We ended up shooting a version of the film the following year, but it didn’t turn out great due to poor planning on our part. It stayed in limbo for a few years until fall 2018, when we took an opportunity to get the team back together to reshoot. In July 2019, post-production was finally done!

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

Sean: Rhyming noir.

Austin: Pronunciation masturbation.

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

Our biggest obstacle was trying (and failing) on our first attempt to make the film in 2015. It really all came down to a lack of pre-production and trying to do too much of it ourselves.

We didn’t have our original location well-scouted, so the environment gave us iffy sound conditions. We had no means of bringing in lighting, so our “murky noir” looked more like incomprehensible shadow soup. There were also no storyboards or shot lists. We were just flying by the seat of our pants and not allowing ourselves the time and thought to be careful and deliberate with our creative choices.

We could have completed post on what we got, but we just liked the concept too much to let it it out into the world with the haphazard execution it had. So we made the choice to throw it all away and start over with an intent to fix everything we did wrong, with a better-planned vision and a slightly bigger team of talented pros.

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

Oh gosh, it was absolutely wonderful. Our hearts filled with warmth at the kind faces and thoughtful critiques spilling from the screen. Receiving that feedback video was very special and a truly one-of-a-kind experience for us. Even though we couldn’t be there, the Feedback Festival has given us one of the greatest gifts we could ask for as filmmakers. So, thank you very much.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This way of talking (building on rhymes for as long as we can) is something we do for fun with each other a lot. I guess it comes with the territory of having a twenty year history with someone that goes back to middle school — you just end up having a lot of weird little private games, that over time become less private. So it felt natural to go “Oh let’s just take that aspect of our friendship, but turn it into a narrative.” In the spirit of that, we cast Conor Eifler to play opposite Austin, who happens to be another longtime friend from our middle school.

We also really like doing period pieces and letting people dress up all fancy for it. So I suppose we just took a bunch of what we liked — an ambiguously 30s/40s time period, rhyming games, and wonderful friends new and old — and put it all into one cohesive film creation.

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

Austin: One of the Indiana Jones movies. Raiders or Last Crusade.

Sean: Probably O Brother, Where Art Thou, but if TV specials count, then definitely Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (a family holiday staple).

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

Film Freeway’s quite nice. It’s certainly consolidated the delivery process and made it much simpler for festivals to get what they need without requiring each filmmaker to manually email in their film info, media kit and screener.

This was the first time we’d done much in the way of festival submissions since our feature Coup de Cinema in 2011 (back in the era of Withoutabox.com), and the times sure have changed. Fortunately, it made our lives easier in this case.

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

Austin: At the risk of sounding full of myself, I’d have to say it’s the music I compose. Not only because I have to listen to it a lot as I’m creating it, but the music I try to make is the music I like to listen to.

Sean: Probably something from Peter Gabriel, like “Growing Up” or “Secret World.” Been waiting oh so very patiently for his next release.

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

Yes! We just completed a comedy-horror feature script that we’re moving into pre-production soon. It’s a really fun story about two lifelong friends in the business of making places haunted (with actual ghosts), and trying to fix their flawed relationship while dealing with a job gone awry. (And there’s no rhyming.)

We’re currently building a great team as we make little tweaks for draft 10, so we’ll soon be looking for investors and people we can pitch to. It’s something we’re really, really excited to make and share with the world.

Interview with Filmmaker Alan Brennan (THE INTERVIEW)

THE INTERVIEW was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the March 2020 Comedy Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alan Brennan: Long time listener, first time caller.


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

Way way too long. Years. Slow, long years.

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

Shit day.

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

We had a nightmare in post production. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did.

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

It was great – always nice to get positive feedback!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

First lesson of writing is to write about what you know. I know hangovers.

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

Wow, I’ve never really thought about this before. I want to say something like La Grande Belleza, or Vertigo, or a PT Anderson film. But I guess it’s got to be one of those films I watched on repeat as a kid. Something like Star Wars, or Rocky, or the Karate Kid…Okay, now I’m embarrassed – Rocky 4 may be the film I’ve seen the most in my life.

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

The ease of use is great, the infinite number of festivals is overwhelming.

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

Probably something by the highly talented Rhob Cunningham, a good friend of mine whose music I stole for the closing credits of the film.

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

We’re currently working on a breathtaking, ground-breaking, and genre-defying feature film.

Interview with Filmmaker Lee Manansala (KHADIAH AND PAULINE)

KHADIAH AND PAULINE played to rave reviews at the February 2020 ROMANCE Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lee Manansala: It’s weird – I love being in Paris. It’s my favorite city, and I’m content to just wander the city and meet with friends, etc. But I’m also big on being productive, not being idle. So in the November of 2018, with airfare to CDG being so low, I wrote something for my actor friend Hadia to act to in, something I could produce with former students of mine based in Paris, and once everyone was on board, we all just went for it.

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

I booked airfare to Paris and asked Hadia if she wanted to work on something before I ever started writing, and I think that was in June or July of 2018. We shot in November, and I finished post in January of 2019.

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

Parisian lovers?

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

Just the uncertainty of it all. We didn’t rehearse until the day we shot the film. I didn’t even meet Colombine, who played Pauline, until we shot the scene.

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

I loved it. I was in the audience near the front row, so I wasn’t able to see who said what. One comment was unfavorable, and it really put my “I don’t want to make movies that everyone likes” motto to the test, and honestly, I really don’t. I know that it’s a very narrow space in which I like to create things, and that means it’s not going to reach everyone. But when it does reach someone, it tends to resonate and it becomes memorable and hopefully important to the viewer. I love that idea.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve always been interested in the idea of why people wear certain things, and I think the stories behind our style of dress can be rich with subtext and meaning. The conversation in Khadijah and Pauline was adapted from a feature I am working on – it was always meant to be about vulnerability and loss, but the fact that it’s a woman telling the story adds to the story the idea of coming out.

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

Probably Seven Samurai. At this point I just put that movie on as a sort of comforting white noise, even though it’s a sort of filmmaking I may never attempt.

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

I am conflicted about this, so I may have a different response tomorrow. But today I feel the proposition of a centralized site for every conceivable film festival is very fair, but it helps to look at it from this perspective – film festival programmers aren’t necessarily looking for the highest quality work, but work that will add value to their festivals. It’s not that your work isn’t good, it’s just not a fit for that particular festival. In that sense, my feelings aren’t hurt by how transactional the process feels.

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

Ma Mère l’Oye – a suite composed by Ravel based on several fables.

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

I expanded the Khadijah and Pauline into a three-part short film called “One Year of Khadijah and Pauline”. I’m mulling over the idea of premiering the film on a curated online site, but I still have romantic feelings about premiering it in a theater. I’m currently working on the script for a feature length film partially based on this story. Honestly and embarrassingly, I fell in love with these characters and I don’t want to say goodbye just yet.