Interview with Filmmaker David Lykes Keenan (BODIES OF WATER)

BODIES OF WATER was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2019 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

David Lykes Keenan: The story is based on a pivotal moment in my life. As shown in the film, it was the moment when I found the courage and opportunity to reach out to the first person that I was ever able to come out to. In my case, he was straight (this is intentionally left open to interpretation in the film) but we developed a very close friendship that last for a couple of years before it crashed and burned.

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

Altogether is was about three years.

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

First love.

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

The completion a script that satisfied me and my closest supporters.

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

I was very impressed with how attentive the viewers were and how small details (like the old PC in the office scene) and the subtleties of Ellar’s performance were noticed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This is pretty much the same answer as #1. It is well known that first screenplays are very often auto-biographical.

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

Blade Runner.

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

Of the two, FilmFreeway and WithoutaBox, I much prefer FF. It seems to be better at notifying when the submission status changes and I like how it remembers payment information so I don’t have to enter it every time.

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

Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd

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

I hope so. I have been working on a feature screenplay (your festival table read part of it awhile back). I also have a new short that would like to make soon.

Thanks for your support.
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Interview with Filmmaker Michael Davis (HINDSIGHT)

HINDSIGHT was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2019 ROMANCE Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michael Davis: What motivated me was getting the opportunity to tell a story that plays backward. I also thought it was a really interesting character study on people and relationships. It seemed like a unique and exciting challenge. I had never done anything like it before, and I hadn’t seen many things like it.

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

It was a long process from when the idea first came up to its completion.
I pitched this idea to my film school, but it was rejected. Several months passed and after my production team wrapped the second season of our web series, TGC, I decided I wanted to make it on my own. Once that decision was made production and post-production were wrapped up in about a month.

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

Reverse, and revealing.

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

The most significant obstacle was figuring out the technical aspects of the film playing in reverse. I knew that was happening going in, so I had to break the story down backward as well as forwards. We had to plan the fighting very carefully knowing it would play backward. It was like constructing a dance, and I wanted to make sure the story and motives were slowly revealed.
Then in post-production, I had to edit the film forwards to make sure it played out in real time, then reverse it. It was an odd challenge and a completely unique experience.

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

I was a bit anxious before I pressed play, but it is also a really enthralling experience and a privilege. There is so much you can learn with audience reaction and interaction.

I loved watching the reactions and hearing the feedback. It’s exciting and gratifying when you spend a long time trying to highlight certain points, and the audience and announcer pick up on them.

It was also great that people liked the credits with the balloons. That was a late idea I came up with while editing.

This was certainly one of the best parts of this experience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had a random idea of a couple fighting in reverse. I thought it would create a weird hypnotic dance. My initial premise was about an engagement gone wrong. But once Meganne Kocher got involved we started talking about a lot of things we could do with the premise.

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

That is a tough question to answer. I’m a huge film geek and own way too many movies. But a film I have seen several times and know I will keep watching forever is Park Chan-wook’s Stoker.

The cinematography is breathtaking. Every single shot is like an oil painting come to life. The story is filled with symbolism and every time I watch it I pick up on a new layer I hadn’t noticed before. It’s such a sinister and beautifully constructed film.

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

FilmFreeway is a fantastic platform for independent filmmakers. The whole trajectory of my career changed with FilmFreeway, and it allows me access to so many great opportunities. During our three days of principal photography, I would have never imagined that I would be answering questions, getting feedback, or even dreamed that the film would win awards. I highly recommend fellow filmmakers check it out.

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

I love music, but I don’t think it would be a song, and it wouldn’t just be one. I have an extreme amount of trailer tracks on my iPod. If a trailer I like comes out, I will download the track and listen to it on repeat all day long. Listening to trailer tracks have helped inspire me and sometimes help me come up with ideas for films or plots. I also listen to a lot of film scores.

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

I have been working on several new exciting projects.

For the last year, our team has been working on the third season of our anthology web series “The Grimoire Chapters”. Season 3 is subtitled Rem and is focused on nightmares and sleep disorders. It has two timelines in the 1960’s and 1980s. This season has won over 50 awards, we are all incredibly proud of our success. Episodes 1 – 5 of TGC:Rem are now online, the final episodes are in production.

Watch Here: https://www.thegrimoirechapters.com/

I also just finished a single person crew horror short called “Identity Theft”. I wanted to see what I could accomplish with just myself and my camera. The film has been submitted to two festivals so far and won Best Short Film from both, which has been extremely exciting.

If you enjoyed “Hindsight”, “Lock Your Doors” is an award-winning horror short that was finished a few months after Hindsight. It also stars Meganne Kocher and Ronnie Daily.

And Hindsight 2 (working title) is still in the works.

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Interview with Writer/Actor/Producer Judith Eisenberg (THE SECRET LIVES OF TEACHERS)

THE SECRET LIVES OF TEACHERS played to rave reviews at the February 2019 ROMANCE Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Steve Anderson: I was a high school history teacher and I wanted to make a short film about my years of teaching. I was lucky enough to retire early because of a teacher buyout the district was offering but there were a few older teachers who didn’t want to leave. The school was their domain and life. The teacher who worked next door to me was a civil war enthusiast and she spent 3/4th of the US history curriculum on the civil war and summarized all the rest of the wars and historical events into one month. She also loved loved men in uniform and went to the civil war re-enactment at Gettysburg every year. I also knew so many older single women who had given up on ever having a partner and/or romantic relationship.

My co-writer and co-producer Aaron Seever and I had made a number of short films but never had the chance to work on one together. So Secret Lives was our collaboration. We had taken years of acting classes and workshops together in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

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

It took almost two years

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

Quirky and romantic

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

Our budget was the biggest obstacle. It was always ready to explode and we had to keep reining it back.

Also finding locations within our budget.

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

I loved how the audience clued in to middle-aged people falling in love. Bodies get old but the spirit in the bodies remains the same and despite outside appearances to young people always retains the desire to be cherished, seen and loved.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

From my years of teaching high school history and from my teacher friend who loved the civil war and men in uniform and from my own desire to find romance and love despite my
quirky nature.

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

Wizard of Oz

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. They have been so cooperative. A couple of times I prematurely sent in a submission only to discover my film did not qualify because of geographical location or date it was made and they reimbursed my money.

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

Stay with me
Tupelo Honey
Hey Ho

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

Always a new film!!! Or the seeds of a new film.

Or if anyone wants to cast me as an actor in a film playing a blue collar character that would be great!!!!!

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Interview with Filmmaker Cameron Kostopoulos (PERSON(A))

PERSON(A) was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2019 Experimental FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Cameron Kostopoulos: I was fascinated by the idea of the persona, and the separation of the persona from the body. I wanted to portray the human identity as one that is understood through action and repetition, a daily set of behaviors and mannerisms that create what we believe ourselves to be.

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

The entire process spanned just over 6 months.

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

Playfully introspective.

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

Believe it or not, the biggest obstacle was in working with those damn mannequins. They were constantly crashing, falling apart, limbs breaking; it was a nightmare.

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

Appreciative, both for the time that the audience took in seeing my film and responding, and for the opportunity to screen my film in such a venue.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

PERSON(a) came to me while stumbling across Jackson Pollock’s “The Mask”, a work centered around his Jungian approach to art and psychology. Wanting to translate this portrayal of philosophy into a contemporary medium, I decided to use similar tropes and aesthetics as Pollock to create a story out of the paint.

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

Life of Pi, without a doubt.

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

It is a very useful tool for organizing projects, submitting, and receiving responses, even for different films, on the same platform.

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

Svefn-g-englar by Sigur Ros.

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

I just wrapped an experimental piece entitled “Requiem”; Currently, however, I am in development for a VR experience to be premiered in an installation later in 2019.

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Interview with Producer Lester Greene (I GOT A CALLBACK)

I GOT A CALLBACK played to rave reviews at the December 2018 COMEDY Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lester Greene: The whole Me Too movement sparked this film, especially the Terry Crews story of him being sexually assaulted by that high powered agent.

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

It took about a week for the writer to put it together on paper, and then about a month to rehearse and then we begin filming a month after that.

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

Hilariously, thought-provoking

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

We had to battle a car alarm going off non-stop during the film shoot. Luckily, the editor was able to remove it in post production.

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

It was a proud moment. I felt like a true professional having his work reviewed and dissected. It was nice to see that many of the viewers understood our point of view. I create art so that people can gain something from it, and I can tell that your audience appreciated our film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We wanted to create something in the vein of the Me Too Movement with a slight twist.

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

Above the Rim, Friday, Love & Basketball

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

Dear Mama – by Tupac

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

I just wrapped on two new films, “The Last Fishing Trip” and “33rd Road” both filmed by the same cinematographer who shot “I Got a Callback,” Chris Fox. And I’m getting ready to write a new comedy series.

Interview with Filmmaker George A. Velez (MR. E, P I)

MR. E, P I played to rave reviews at the December 2018 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

George A. Velez: I wanted to make a film in a very fun genre that everyone is

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

From idea to finished product, I would say the project took around 10 months.

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

I would say the short is fun and heartfelt.

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

The biggest obstacle was trying to film the whole short in a day. We succeeded but what a challenge.

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

It was surreal to hear people talking about my short because the only feedback I’ve gotten was from my peers. It was great to hear the audience and their interpretations because it’s interesting to hear what people get out of the experience.

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

The short was originally part of a larger piece and I really wanted to see this world and these characters in a physical space.

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

There’s so many but possibly “Jaws”

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

Applying to FilmFreeway has been a positive influence for the most part. It’s easy to navigate and very in-depth.

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

“Purple Rain” by Prince

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

I’m currently finishing two feature film scripts and in pre-production for my next short, Eavesdroppng.

Interview with Producer David E. M. Maire (THE HOBBYIST)

THE HOBBYIST was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the November 2018 Thriller/Suspense Festival in Toronto.

  1. What motivated you to make this film?

This film was a requisite graduate thesis project for George Vatistas at the School of Visual Arts, which is quite a motivation in and of itself. This story was chosen because George’s previous short film had also been an adaption of a Fredric Brown story, and he wanted to continue working with that same source material. On my end, I found George’s passion infectious, and thought the piece had great story and aesthetic potential for the silver screen.

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

George would have started researching and writing the first drafts in the Fall of 2015. Through SVA, I was able to meet George and was brought on in December 2015. Pre-production lasted about three months, as we shot in March 2016, and completed post in the Fall of 2016. From there, it was sent off to festivals for consideration, and we started screening for audience’s world over in Winter of 2017. So about 1.5 years from concept to screening.

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

Timeless wisdom.

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

Hands down, the biggest obstacle was finding and locking an aesthetically and budgetarily appropriate location. This usurped the vast majority of our time during pre-production, and we visited dozens of tentative stores, shop fronts, basements, back rooms, but to no avail. In this time, I kept my grandparents informed of the project I was producing, and the location I was spending so much time hunting for. Slowly, I was able to get them accustomed to the idea that we may need to film in their basement. This concept was not greeted lightly at first, but after two months of reassurances, I was able to wear them down, and we got to shoot in their basement! This freed up enough funds to let us rent out a small herbalist’s boutique for an evening to double as our character’s apothecary.

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

First thing I did was share the URL with my parents hahaha It was thrilling to watch, and pinned a huge grin on my face. The audience was very kind, and I was quite happy they enjoyed the concept and positive message so much.

Watch Audience FEEDBACK Video: 

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

This is a question for Fredric Brown, as we adapted our short film from a 1961 short story of his by the same title!

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

Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games”, specifically his own Americanized remake, over 4 dozen times.

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

I appreciate the simplicity of the platform – it feels much more user friendly than WithoutABox ever did. Yet, I think there is a lot of room for improvement. The simplicity seems to allow these ‘fake’ festivals to emerge, which charge ridiculous submission fees without any proof that the projects will be considered, let alone screen to a real audience. With over 7000 festival listings, there is an argument that the filmmaker should do more research into the festival’s they’re spending their money on, but FilmFreeway is absolutely complicit in providing a platform that allows predatory behavior, especially if they do not have a system of checks and balances in place to catch swindlers and protect filmmakers (that being said, I’m not very familiar with the background checks FilmFreeway performs when new festivals are trying to sign up). Also, I think their search engine algorithms need an overhaul. With such an extensive festival library, one would also expect their search options to be well curated, but instead they are quite limited, to such as degree that I’m often unable to find results for even basic word matches. My last gripe with FilmFreeway is about peer review system, which I find more inhibitive than it is probably intended to be, and I don’t believe it should be used, let alone exist, as our business is one of art and subjectivity, rather than one in which a simple service is fulfilling a demand. This is definitely a subject I’m passionate about, and I could go on for pages, but will refrain myself. To close off this diatribe though, I must mention that WithoutABox leaving the market absolutely makes FilmFreeway the best submission tool at a filmmaker’s disposal, but there are plenty of other platforms to check out that offer competitive submission pricing, including but not limited to FestHome, ReelPort, and ClickForFestivals.

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

Impossible to make an educated guess, so instead I’ll say that the album I’ve listened to the most times in my life is probably Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory”.

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

Following “The Hobbyist”, I produced “Mariposas” for director Adrian Carey (who happened to have edited ‘The Hobbyist”) which shot in the Summer of 2016, and hit the festival circuit about a year later, where it is still making the rounds, having accumulating over 70 Official Selections so far, including from Dances With Films, Orlando Film Festival, and The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. This 3minute super short film is also an adaptation, this time from Argentinean author Samanta Shweblin’s short story by the same title. The story lives in magic realism, following a boastful father who prattles on superficially about his daughter to another parent in the school pick up line, but is unable to perceive her when it matters most.

The most recent short film I’ve produced is ‘My Daughter Yoshiko‘, which follows a Japanese mother coming to terms with her daughter’s Autism diagnosis. This story is based on true events, and we successfully crowdfunded the majority of the budget. Writer + Director Brian Blum’s last film “Blood & Water” was BAFTA nominated, so we have high hopes for this short film on the festival circuit, and are actively waiting to hear back from top tier festivals as to where we will hold our World and International Premieres!