Interview with Screenwriter James Hughes (THE HITLER PARADOX)

Winner of BEST SHORT SCREENPLAY at the July 2018 Screenplay Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

James Hughes: Simply put, Two time travelers, from different origins, find themselves in conflict as they debate how to handle bringing Hitler to justice. The idea of going back to “deal” with Hitler is not a new one, in fact, it is often a question of morality as to when you should if you could. So this common goal brings the two travelers into contact and conflict with one another. Each having very different means to an “end” for him, with one wanting Hitler to stand trial and the other wanting to personally execute him.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy, Sci-fi

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It’s a longshot, but if it were to be made into a movie, I believe it would be because of the opportunities it holds within it. The opportunity to watch talented actors bring the characters and their far-fetched debate to life, the opportunity to design an authentic look and feel to the world around them, and the opportunity to have fun while doing what you love, making films.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Outlandish Squabble

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

I watch a lot of movies, I must say, but if I have to narrow it down to one particular film I’ve happily watched, again and again, it would be “The Jerk” with Steve Martin. Made six years before I was even born, I remember watching it with my parents growing up, so a combination of nostalgia and a comfort in comedy have made it one of my favorite films.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I first had the idea in late 2016, but like most of my work, it had to bounce around in my head for awhile. I started writing it in April 2017 and finished the final draft in October 2017, so around 7 months, but most of that time is spent waiting for the next bit of dialog, description, or direction to smack me in the face while I worked on other projects.

7. How many stories have you written?

Quite a few actually, a dozen different short films, some original comic book scripts, a web series script(6 episodes currently), and I have recently started working on my first feature script.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

My favorite song is always changing, especially since I find so much character and story inspirations from listening to music. Currently, I’d have to say my favorite song is “Content” by Joywave, but if you ask me again in a few months, it will most certainly be different.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

My biggest obstacle has always been myself, can I stay motivated, focused, can I fight the thought of this project “Just doesn’t work”? Am I wasting my time? Shouldn’t I work on something more feasible? My inner monologue has always been my biggest critic, but as long as I can answer the questions, I move forward.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Aside from writing, my passions include raising my son, performing comedy(Stand up and Improv), and drawing(shameless Instagram plug, @Gohztilla).

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

I have used a few different submission platforms and I have to say, FilmFreeway is my absolute favorite, clean and clear UI, with any and all information and links easily available to me.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I wanted to enter this festival mainly due to the emphasize on the written word, so much so that you would do a table read for the winner. The feedback was great and thorough, but the best moment for me was watching the reading, to see the actor(s) snicker or hold in a laugh at something I’ve written just makes me feel great. A small(.01%) of the feeling I want when everything about this project is said and done.

 

 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy

Two time travelers find themselves in conflict as they aim to bring Hitler to justice, although in vastly different ways.

CAST LIST:

Eva: Tayna Bevan
Hitler: Scott McCulloch
Narrator: Kate Fenton
Tiom: Danilo Reyes
Jonny: Michael Lake

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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 Winning Screenwriter John Dummer (FORGET-ME-NOTS)

July 2018 Winning Sci-Fi/Fantasy Screenwriter.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

John Dummer: Spiritual entropy. When the universe presents you with an existential threat, an event that will surely obliterate you and everything that gives this world meaning, what do you do?

Do you dig a grave, or do you plant a seed?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Because I believe it will sell tickets? The hope is that it will be a great ride. The tale poses some intriguing and fundamental questions, and should fuel some lively arguments on the way home from the theater.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

“What’s next?” Meaning both “What the heck happens next onscreen?” and “What, if anything, is next for the human species?”

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Jaws.” Two tales of surpassing horror.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

They’re all different. This one took ten months, though I will continue to noodle on it until the next one pulls me away.

7. How many stories have you written?

Not a ton. I spend a lot of time cultivating seeds till I find a good one, then I nurture the hell out of it. Seems to work for me – three scripts have made the Nicholl semifinals so far, the last one finishing in the top 30.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Occasionally I’ll stumble across the perfect mood music to play in the background as I write a particular story.

On my first script, a rom-com about a mismatched young couple who run off to Loch Ness in search of an old salt who claims to have touched the Monster, I wore out the groove on Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” “Sail away, sail away, sail away…”

For “The Moonbeam Fisherman”, a coming-of-age tale set in the summer of ’69, about a troubled youth who comes to believe an old fisherman may be a marooned interplanetary visitor, Acker Bilk’s “Strangers on the Shore” filled my head with just the right vibe of nostalgia and loss.

“Forget-Me-Nots” is very much about haunting vocalizations. An appropriate backing track would be an otherworldly chorus of hoots and calls and plaints – an alien version of the Voyager recording on speed.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

This was not the hardest script to give birth to. As a former programmer with a lifelong interest in evolution, I’ve been reading obsessively about A.I., the nature of consciousness, transhumanism and what might come next for the hairless ape. So the raw material was close at hand. The trick is to guide the audience through such rarified realms without overexplaining.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Climate change – the consequences are so enormous it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. Also really good carrot cake. Whatever it takes to face the day, right?

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experience working with the submission platform site?

FilmFreeway is great for learning about contests and keeping submissions organized. They’ve done a good job of standardizing the submission process. Some contests do better than others at updating “judging status,” but that’s a minor quibble.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

Mainly it was the chance to hear the work performed.

Feedback is always much appreciated, the less varnished the better. I’m never more likely to see something afresh than when I consider the POV of someone with whom I disagree.

 

Watch the Winning Screenplay: 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama

A grieving astrobiologist and two uninvited guests await a supernova explosion that will destroy all life on Earth. A mysterious plant threatens to bring matters to an even swifter end.

CAST LIST:

Newscaster: Julie C. Sheppard
Audrey: Tayna Bevan
Narrator: Kate Fenton
Evan: Scott McCulloch
Girl: Samantha Carly

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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 Dazhi Huang (NIGHT LIVE)

NIGHT LIVE played to rave reviews at the April 2018 Experimental & Music FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Dazhi Huang: This film is my graduation thesis, In the month when I was brainstorming for the script, two unfortunate incidence happened: One was the Pulse shooting, the other one was a white policeman killing an unarmed black man. I was traumatized by both event, and I was also fully aware of their social effects which magnified by social media and live streaming. I had this impulse to put my takes to these two incidents into my upcoming film, but u sing a more lighthearted, entertaining way, in order to portray it authentically to myself, to make it fit for the environment that I live in.

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

It took around 3-4 months

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

Night Live

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

Finding the actors and coordinating the schedules of the crew(I didn’t actually have a producer this time so it was really tough and annoying)

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

I discovered a lot of new things that I never knew about my own film, so I was amazed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

During the creation period of the film, I had a tough relationship with my father, so some parts of life naturally blended into fabrications

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

Week End by Jean-Luc Godard and Persona by Ingmar Bergman and Friends the sitcom

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 platform

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

The times there are a changing by Bob Dylan

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

I wish, I’m going to grad school for film directing

night_live
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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 Kaitlin Creadon (FOR THE LOVE OF THE CHILD)

FOR THE LOVE OF THE CHILD played to rave reviews at the March 2018 DOCUMENTARY FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kaitlin Creadon: With the wonderful opportunity to make any type of film I desired through my schooling, I had the chance to turn this once-in-a-lifetime event into a documentary. Creating this personal documentary was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I knew it was a story I truly wanted to share with the world. A big motivation for completing this film was the hope that someone else
going through this will see it, and that the film will help them through their own journey.

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

I started working on the concept in August of 2016 and it took about a year and a half to produce and edit. Even today, I am still working on BTS as I just have a wonderful goldmine of footage still to share.

How would you describe your short film in two words?

True love.

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

The biggest obstacle I personally faced was overcoming my own fear of being on camera. It is a very personal story, so I knew right from the beginning that I would have to be on camera and talk about my experiences. It was difficult for me at the time, yet I am so glad I put that aside to become an integral part of my own documentary.

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

Excitement, yet surprisingly defensive. Nonetheless, the was extremely interesting to hear the audience’s take on the documentary!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Like I mentioned, through the MFA thesis process I had the chance to work on a film of my choosing. Ultimately, I landed on documenting this experience. Meeting my birth mother in person was something I knew I wanted to do, and this was a great way to do it. I reached out to the adoption agency The Cradle, then Tabitha (my birth mother) Collette (birth aunt), and Robbie (half-brother) and his family, to see if they would be interested in being a part of this as well. I received overwhelming support. It all started to come together, and we began filming!

Even if I hadn’t used this footage for a documentary, I feel so blessed the entire process was caught on camera as it is hard to remember everything that happened in person!

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I think it has to be Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it on DVD, but the thirteen-year-old me saw it a record seven times in theaters!

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

The submission process for this film festival was quite easy! The Documentary Feedback Film Festival made me feel very comfortable right from the get-go.

What is next for you? A new film?

Currently no films on the docket, however I am a new Adjunct Professor at DePaul University, where I received my MFA in Directing! I am looking forward to seeing what this new journey has in store for me.
for_the_love_of_the_child.jpg

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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 Adriana Falcinelli (DYING FOR A LIVING)

DYING FOR A LIVING played to rave reviews at the March 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Adriana Falcinelli: I decided to go back to University and do a film degree course as a mature student and one of the units was to produce a short documentary of 10 minutes or less. I managed to squeeze an extra 3 minutes into mine as my tutor thought it was good enough! We had to pitch 3 possible ideas to the class and the Shaun undertaker idea was the most popular.

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

About 10 weeks.

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

Thought-provoking, funny

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

Structuring a coherent story from all my footage, that is, condensing 8 hours down to 10-13 minutes and depicting Shaun as closely as possible and not wanting to let him down or be disappointed in the end result. I wanted to make something that he would be proud of as he had given himself freely to be in it so honestly, but you never really know and have to let people react in their own way.

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

I felt immensely pleased and proud that an audience in another country was watching my little film. I enjoyed the comments very much and thought they were fair and considered.

Both myself and Shaun were happy with the comments and took the feedback as positive.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had known Shaun as a friend for about 2 years beforehand and he always had interesting stories to tell about being an undertaker and embalmer. He is a good talker about many different topics and so when they asked us on our course to make a documentary, I knew he would be a good subject, all I had to do was ask and luckily he said yes to being followed around by me and my camera for a few hours every weekend!

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

Probably Goodfellas. Though more recently I’ve been watching several documentaries non-stop on loop.

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

It’s good for me because it’s easy. I can upload stills, prizes, official selections, write my bio on the film page and it’s all there in one place. Entering festivals is straight forward and you can keep track of all your submissions.

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

That’s impossible to answer, I can like one song and play it on loop 10 times in a row depending on my mood and what I’ve bought recently.

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

Yes I’m working on an exciting new project, a feature length documentary – it’s an engaging portrait of how a charismatic 26 year old Czech-based porn actress is inspiring different women across the world to discover and embrace their sexual identities in a new and meaningful way. It’s a story about the female fans of Tracy and how they have overcome personal struggles in their lives such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem by connecting with Tracy as a person, her work and each other online via the fanbase. Two fans have even met in real life and are getting married this year in Quebec. I want to make something showing the positive aspects of porn rather than the negative we’re so used to seeing in documentaries and reported about.

Or you can use the official 500 word version which sounds more ‘official’:

“Adult entertainer Tracy Lindsay challenges the stereotype of the ‘damaged’ porn actress with her humour, intelligence and optimism. Tracy’s professional commitment to exclusive girl/girl scenes has created a devoted fan base, making important emotional connections with fans via her work and social media interactions.”

Through fan stories we understand Tracy is a kind of therapy, how she helps them overcome personal challenges such as depression, low self-esteem and to accept their sexuality.

An uplifting and engaging story exploring women’s sexuality, their relationship with pornography and how they over-turn conventional wisdom that pornography is solitary and shameful in the internet age.

dying_for_a_living_movie_poster.jpg

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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 Costume Designer Luciano Capozzi (Paul, Apostle of Christ)

In was an honor chatting with with extremely talented artist Luciano Capozzi about the craft and art of Costume Designing.

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was wardrobe something you were always passionate about? Was “working in the movies” something you dreamed to doing one day?

Luciano Capozzi: I was born in Marino, a small town just outside Rome. I think that as a child, I was immediately interested in show business (laughter)…I always loved everything that had to do with dance, songs, and drawing…it’s for this reason that after my primary school I chose an institute of arts.

It was just in the 80’s (the years of the best success of the “Made in Italy”) when many young boys like me dreamed of becoming a stylist. In those years I was designing jewelry and immediately I realized that it was much more intriguing for me to design accessories thinking about the different types of people that would be wearing them. In my mind i think that my love for costumes was born in those years.

In fact, I loved studying the different social types of people, the various psychological personalities, and to understanding what kind of jewelry could best represent them.

After having completed my studies at the State Institute of Art in Rome in 1986, I took part in a Costume Design competition and from 300 applicants, I was one of 15 that were selected for the first ever design course to be given by Giulia Mafai, a famous Italian Costume Designer

Is there is film/TV show or two that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?

I always approach my work with the same enthusiasm and with the same passion, whether it’s a film for the cinema or a long television series … obviously there are projects that I’m particularly attached to…among these, my first international film was an Italian-Spanish co-production directed by the Spanish director Antonio Hernandez: LOS BORGIA a 2006 film that gave me a lot of satisfaction. I won several international awards thanks to it but I like to remember it especially for the synergy that was created on that set between the various departments. Perhaps for the first time, I had the feeling of how much my costumes were loved, appreciated and valued…it is something very important for a costume designer.

Sometimes it happens that even beautiful and appropriate costumes are not valued in the right way

Another project that I love to remember is a television project: TITANIC BLOOD AND STEEL directed by Ciaran Donnely. Also in this case the right synergy between the director and the different departments gave a good result, in fact, the series was considered the best in Europe in that year. It is a clear demonstration of how important teamwork is. I like to think of my work as if it is the performance of a good first violin, in the performance of a larger orchestral work. Especially in these two works I think my style appears, with my personal use of colors and fabric textures, to talk about different characters in different eras.

What type of film (genre, setting etc..) would you love to do costumes on that you haven’t done yet?

I have so many desires…first of all I would like to go back and to tell a story set from the 40’s and 50’s … a Biopic or maybe a film based on a work by Tennesse Williams…this last one would really be one of my dreams…but also a musical, even contemporary, while at the theater I have had several opportunities to try my hand at this genre, I have not yet done with it in the cinema or on television.So…I’m ready to start!

Describe the process of a typical production. How early do you get hired in pre-production? Do you work and report to the Production Designer? Is your wardrobe budget already set in stone by the time you begin your first day?

In general I am contacted for the various proposals by my agency or directly by the producer, of which I immediately get to know some important info…synopsis, setting, duration of the film; once my availability is verified, the first contacts start with the production for a short presentation and then immediately after with the director with whom i immediately start talking about the film.Only after getting acquainted with this last one, i will go back to talk with the production about the budget, and to understand which are the parameters in which we must move our work. Generally for a medium-budget film the preparation is 5 weeks while for a 12-episode TV series it is between 8/10 weeks.

As I already mentioned, the collaboration between departments, with the DP and the Art Director is extremely important to obtain a real good result.

Usually after the first production’s meeting in which the parameters of references are defined, we regularly compare ourselves during the shot.

 luciano-storyboard costume.jpg

What personality trait do you look for when hiring your assistants?

Without question people who are able to be as empathetic, artistically sensitive and generous at work as I am. I could never work, with people who do not live with a great passion.

I have been working with two wonderful assistants for some years, Paola Angelini and Mirjana Panovski. With them I have had the opportunity to create a real and proper team, which I jokingly refer to as a “happy war machine”.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Maybe Snow White and Wings of Desire, but it ‘s difficult to answer. There are so many movies from the heart that I love to see again for pleasure or because it is the source of inspiration for my work. My personal video library has more than 800 titles. So let’s say…if I have had to leave for the mo’on, I would certainly take at least another 5 titles:
Rose tatoo
Death in Venice
Blade Runner
Bread love and Fantasy
The Draughtsman’s Contract

Besides wardrobe, what else are you passionate about?

Definitely traveling…but not necessarily for exotic places or faraway destinations…I’m fascinated by the idea of ​​a journey in places different from these i use to see, and to appreciate new things…even during the journeys, however, one of the first things I look for are the markets, whether they are modern or antique…they are places where you can immediately tune in with the colors, the flavors and the locals and so naturally to perceive their costumes.

What advice do you have for high school or university students who are looking to work in the Costume Department in the movie industry?

 It is perhaps the most complex question…I would advise them to be truly receptive to everything that happens around them and to remember that our work is a job where we bring all of ourselves. I would remind them that each of us has a personal palette of ‘colors’. It is good to understand one’s own and learn how to use it

luciano-costume.jpg

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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 Linnea Ritland (VIOLET AND JUNE)

VIOLET AND JUNE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2018 ROMANCE FEEDBACK Film Festival on Valentine’s Day.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Linnea Ritland: Whenever I look up at the stars I’m flat out terrified. The idea that we’re tiny in comparison to the universe (and that we’re all gonna die one day) doesn’t bring me any comfort (yet)—so I thought I’d harness this terror to try to make people laugh. Plus, I’m extremely bisexual so I’m always interested in exploring and celebrating queer narratives, and just wanted to make a film about lesbians where they don’t die at the end.

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

From the idea, 3 years, but from the first serious draft, about 1.

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

Quirky romcom!

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

We had to re-shoot the entire last two scenes in pickups, which was not only logistically tough but hard to deal with on a personal psychological level—when you need to do pickups it usually feels like you failed, since you didn’t get it right the first time.

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

I was so glad that people seemed to really like quirkiness of it! And proud of the work my collaborators did on the film—especially the music (Patrick Fiore) and production design (Courtney Verwold)!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It started from the visual of a girl having an existential crisis about a chocolate bar (i.e., realizing that it would rot just like everyone she’d ever known and loved), who then goes to take a bus, and a girl sits next to her and starts sobbing. I wanted to explore the idea of someone very analytical and books-based dealing with a crisis colliding with someone emotion-based also mid-crisis.

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

When I was a toddler I used to compulsively watch A Bug’s Life multiple times a day, to the point where my siblings memorized the entire film. I must have seen it more than a thousand times—I don’t even remember the plot or the characters’ names now.

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

It’s so easy and simple! Would recommend to any first-time filmmakers looking to submit to festivals.

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

You know how the old nokia ringtone is based on a Bach song? Probably that one. Or Happy Birthday.

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

I’m currently working on a comedy-drama about a young woman dealing with her father’s alcoholism, who bounces between her unstable home life and a very unstable relationship and eventually finds stability within herself. It’s called “Everything’s Great!” and should be making its festival rounds within the next year. For updates visit linnearitland.wordpress.com!

violet_and_june

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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 Cinematographer Dan Stoloff (Suits, The Americans, Zoo)

Dan Stoloff is one of the top television cinematographers working today. He also DP’d the films TUMBLEWEEDS, MIRACLE and CROOKED ARROWS to name a few. It was an honor interviewing him. Check out his website and list of credits at: http://danstoloff.com/

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was photography something you always wanted to do as your career?

Dan Stoloff: I was raised in Newton, Mass, just outside of boston. I knew from the time i was about 11 that I wanted to be a cinematographer. We had a Super 8 camera and I started making my own films. It was my favorite thing to do, and I decided if there was a way to make a living doing it, I would.

What has been your most proudest work of your career? Or, what has been your favorite project to date?

I would say the 2 final episodes of “The Americans”. I was so fortunate to become a part of The Americans in season 5. One of my favorite shows of all time, and to get the gig was like The Rolling Stones asking me to join the band!

You DP’d a ton of SUITS episodes. A show filmed in Toronto. How are the Toronto crews? Do you like the fast pace of shooting a series like this in comparison to feature film?

I did almost 50 episodes of suits. All shot in Toronto. Love the crews there. Very technically proficient and so polite! I love the pace of episodic TV. Everyday seems unmakeable at the outset and yet daily we rise to the challenge.

The most famous film you probably worked on was MIRACLE. How did you get involved in that project? What do you remember most about that shoot?

I had shot “Tumbleweeds” for director Gavin O’Conner and we had a wonderful collaboration. He fought hard to get the studio to agree to have me on board. I had never done a studio project before and they were justifiably cautious. After many meetings with many execs they finally agreed to give me a shot. What was most memorable about that shoot was the way the project itself mirrored the actual subject. All those kids were real hockey players. The celebration you see at the end of that film was real. The tears were real. The kids puking during drills was real.

Is there a type of film/TV show that you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

I would like to do a period project before electricity existed.

What are you generally looking for in a director in order for you to do your job as best as possible?

I love a director who knows his (her) material. Knows the characters and creates an atmosphere that provides the freedom for discovery.

What do you think a producer/director is looking for when they bring on you to DP the film?

Those are 2 different questions. The answer is as different as the people themselves. All want the project executed efficiently and on schedule and budget. Some directors want visual suggestions, others not. All producers want you to make the day,

What is your passion in life besides photography and film?

I love to surf, hike, kayak, do yoga, mountain bike ride, play guitar

What movie have you watched the most times in your life (besides the ones you worked on)?

The Godfather. The Big Lebowski. The Godfather part 2

What advice do you have for young cinematographers who would eventually like to DP movies for a living one day?

Educate your mind and your body. Go to museums, read novels, see movies, and stay in shape. Often our job is as physical as it is mental. Always get to set early. Be nice to everyone.

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PHOTO from the TV Show “SUITS”
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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 Cinematographer Tristan Oliver (Isle of Dogs, ParaNorman, Fantastic Mr. Fox)

It was a true honor interviewing the extremely talented Director of Photographer Tristan Oliver. Every single film he’s worked on has turned out great. And there’s not many people you can say that statement about! If you don’t believe, simply go to his website and watch some of the short films he’s worked on and see his list of feature credits: https://www.tristanoliver.co.uk/

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was cinematography something you always wanted to do as your career?

Tristan Oliver: I was born and raised in Gravesend in Kent. An unlovely and somewhat godforsaken town on the Thames estuary.

I knew nothing about films or photography as a child. My main passion was the theatre. I wanted to act (or be a doctor or something) My first real contact with the camera dept came when I was acting in a movie. It was something of a Damascene moment and I really threw myself into trying to get into that environment immediately afterwards. I didn’t even own a stills camera when that movie started!

What has been your most proudest work of your career? Or, what has been your favorite project to date?

In terms of feature films I would say ParaNorman. I had a fantastic time at Laika for two years and a very close, creative and rewarding relationship with the directors of that movie. I’m exceptionally proud of how it looks (even if no-one has seen it.)

Can you explain to us what an Animation Director of Photography does?

There is really no difference in being a DOP for stop frame or live action. The ultimate aim is to create something beautiful for the camera. To light and frame according to what you consider to be visually special. I wouldn’t want to make concessions to the medium of animation. That is by the by.

In practical terms, there are a few differences. We typically run a 50+ unit shooting environment which is an enormous amount of stuff to keep tabs on. That’s 50 sets, 50 cameras all running together. I need to ensure continuity and quality of look across that huge mess of stuff.

Other than that the main difference is working into the macro end of the lenses which can severely compromise the depth of field. We tend to work at very tight stops (16, 22) to compensate for this.

You just finished working on ISLE OF DOGS. Can you give us a sneak peak of what do expect?

Unique. Many of his tropes will be familiar to audiences. The flat lighting. The highly symmetrical framing. The art direction and propping. This particular movie is very busy and visually complicated. Compared with Fantastic Mr Fox for example it is really intense viewing. There’s an awful lot going on up there!

Is there a type of film/TV show that you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

I’d love to get my teeth into some American TV drama. The quality of work coming out of the States is astonishing. There’s so much of it and it’s nearly all really good. Well written, well plotted and edited. Everything.

In terms of movies, more live action please. I need a rest from the puppets!

What are you generally looking for in a director in order for you to do your job as best as possible?

All directors are different and as such, what they require from the DOP varies. Wes wants me to exactly put up on the screen what he has in his head. It is totally his vision so my role is very much reactive. With some other directors there is more of a creative collaboration, the role is proactive if you will. Neither is necessarily better than the other as long as you trust the director to bring the movie in.

What do you think a producer/director is looking for when they bring on you to DP the film?

I’d like to think that I’m the best at what I do. I have a huge amount of experience. I’m very professional and I bring on the best, most user friendly crews but essentially what a director needs is someone they can trust.

What is your passion in life besides cinematography and film?

So many. My daughters, my partner, beautiful Swiss wristwatches, restoring my 17th century house, good food, good wine , good company.

What movie have you watched the most times in your life (besides the ones you worked on?

There are lots but probably Kind Hearts and Coronets, the first Matrix and Ferris Beuler’s Day Off. That’s just for fun. In terms of cinematography, I think Conrad Hall was a genius and I can watch Road To Perdition any day of the week.

What advice do you have for young cinematographers who would eventually like to DP movies for a living one day?

Keep learning. Watch movies, read about movies. Who do you like? Why? Think about how stuff has been made. Don’t rely on your innate talent but keep building your technical knowledge, the two together will be very useful to you. And never ever send out a CV for a camera trainee position with your name followed by the letters DOP. It goes in the bin.

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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 Cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, All is Lost)

It was an honor for the extremely talented DP, Frank G. DeMarco, to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a set of questions for this interview.

https://www.frankiedemarco.com

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised?

Frank G. DeMarco: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. After studying abroad in Italy and Austria, I moved to New York City—it’s America’s European city.

Was CINEMATOGRAPHY something you always wanted to do as your career?

I was fascinated by still cameras and had a little Super 8 movie camera as a youth, but I never thought I could make a living with either, so I got a college BA in Modern Languages. I became aware of Cinematography while studying in Florence, Italy during college. When I graduated, I discovered that there were very few jobs for linguists other than working for the NSA. Luckily, I got a gig on a tv commercial and then my life went in the best possible direction—filmmaking!

What has been your the proudest work of your career? Or, what has been your favorite project to date?

Hedwig and the Angry Inch was a big break for me and I am very proud of the work we did on it. I got to work with a brilliant actor-writer-singer-director-punk named John Cameron Mitchell. There were many pressures on us to compromise and make a lesser film, but we held on to the director’s vision and made a wonderful cult film that endures even to this day. We’ve done four films together and each one is very special in its own unique way. However, almost all of the films I have shot are my favorites—I try not to do a project unless I love the script and the director. Beerfest is my favorite comedy, Margin Call is my favorite thriller. Rabbit Hole is my favorite drama. All is Lost is my favorite adventure film. Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey is my favorite documentary. In the TV/Streaming world, I’m proud to say the first 5 episodes of Amazon’s Sneaky Pete Season 2 is the best-looking TV show I’ve shot to date.

Tell us about your working on the first season of MAD MEN. How was the creative vibe on set? Did people know they were onto something and this was going to be a special show?

With MAD MEN, the actors gave everything, the crew was top-notch and the scripts were always good. I loved Dan Bishop’s production design and the costumes were spot-on. Everyone hoped the show would get renewed for a second season, but, on the early episodes I worked on, I don’t think anyone could foresee how ground-breaking and special Mad Men was going to become.

You DP’d the film ALL IS LOST, which is a film with only one actor: Robert Redford. What was that experience like? I’m sure you haven’t had another shoot quite like that one.

All is Lost is a silent film—but with sound. I’m a huge fan of the silent films of Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin and Harold LLoyd. Silent films are storytelling at its most basic level. I definitely used my study and knowledge of silent films to inform how I shot, lit and composed All is Lost. Working with an icon like Robert Redford was a highlight of my career. His Sundance Film Festival opened many doors for me and I got to thank him in person for that. Redford is an amazing “internal” actor—he doesn’t need words. He can convey what’s in his heart or on his mind with his face and eyes and body—he probably could have been a great silent film star, but then we would’ve been deprived of his wonderful voice!

What are you generally looking for in a director in order for you to do your job as best as possible?

It’s great to have a director that knows and likes my work! I look for directors that are collaborative and secure in their own abilities. The best directors I’ve worked with like to have ideas thrown at them. I’ve got many ideas and observations when I work on a film and it is a thrill and honor when the director incorporates some of my ideas into the film. I like a director who trusts me to light and compose the film according to the way we discussed in prep. I like a director who is willing to change everything if he sees a better way of doing a scene—and, even if it’s at the last minute and there’s no more time, I will do everything I can to facilitate that better idea. Most importantly, I like a director who is not only brilliant, but also kind and humble and generous and grateful. We’re all there to help him or her make the best film possible.

What do you think a producer/director is looking for when they bring on you to DP the film?

Producers usually want someone who is easy to get along with, won’t make waves, works fast and doesn’t cost too much to hire. Each director is so unique, but if they’ve hired me then they know they have a partner, a collaborator, a co-conspirator and friend that will help make the absolute best film possible.

What is your passion in life besides CINEMATOGRAPHY and film?

I love music: Debussy and jazz mostly. I bash away on a big 7 foot long Yamaha grand piano every day at home. When I travel I bring my sheet music and rent a digital piano for my hotel room. I enjoy cooking for people: when I filmed How to talk to Girls at Parties in England I hosted a Sunday roast for the director, producers, actors and friends every week. I still do it once in a while here in NYC. I love salt water and tides and am incredibly fortunate to have a little beach cottage on a barrier island off of Long Island, NY.

What movie have you watched the most times in your life (besides the ones you worked on)?

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched the following: Godfather 1, Fargo, Clockwork Orange, French Connection, The American Friend, Breathless, Goodfellas, The Third Man, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Dirty Pretty Things. I live across the street from the Film Forum in NYC, so I’m in that theater at least once or twice a week in my spare time watching non-mainstream films, retrospectives (Bergman this month!) and unusual documentaries—I just saw “Andy Goldsworthy: Leaning Into The Wind”. It is transcendent!

What advice do you have for young cinematographers who would eventually like to DP movies for a living one day?

Early in your career don’t have a mortgage or kids. Have cheap rent and minimum expenses. That way you can take the job you want that will advance your career, instead of taking the job you need because you are in debt or have mouths to feed. Make friends of everyone you meet. Help others. Be positive and hopeful!

 
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PHOTO: Frankie on the set of “How To Talk To Girls At Parties” with director John Cameron Mitchell
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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.