Interview with Filmmaker Gabriel Galand (HORLA)

HORLA played to rave reviews at the October 2018 HORROR Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Gabriel Galand: “Horla” was my thesis project for my Bachelor of Fine Arts and I wanted to make a film which had room for cinematography and production design. I remembered liking the eponym short story by Maupassant and after looking it up, I found that it was in the public domain and that I would be able to adapt me so it rejoiced me!

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

The film took about a year, 3-4 months for the writing process, from the adaptation to the shooting script. We shot in summer and post-production took 6 months as I decided to start editing from scratch after graduation to release a better version.

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

Romantic Horror

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

The post-production was tough. Flaws in the script were enhanced in the editing so I had to take creative steps to find a solution. It involved reframing, using pre-lap sounds and voiceover and FX.

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

I was happy to see that the audience had remembered the character’s names and were able to distinguish plot elements only from the sound design. I also enjoyed listening how people would compare the story and its characters to real life issues.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

See the answer from question 1: I remembered liking the eponym short story by Maupassant and after looking it up, I found that it was in the public domain and that I would be able to adapt me so it rejoiced me!

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

I have watched the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series a lot!

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

I like the filmfreeway platform. It’s easy to use, has a great catalogue and is cheaper than the competition. I actually wrote an article about it a few years back: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/filmmakers-guide-online-film-submission-platforms-gabriel-galand/

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

There are too many to pick just one!

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

I have just directed a new film in America, untitled in true Canadian fashion “I’m Sorry”. It’s about a guilt-ridden mother who makes a grisly confession following the unexpected return of her missing son: here is the trailer. I am also writing two feature screenplays. Happy Niko is an English/Korean drama about depression and assisted suicide, and Entropy is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi which deals with consciousness and human instincts.

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Interview with Filmmaker Danja Politis (ANIMUS PER MACHINA)

ANIMUS PER MACHINA played to rave reviews at the January 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Danja Politis: I always wanted to make an animation that was longer than three minutes on my own. At the time I was still at school and was given completely freedom to work on a project.

Before the first sketch of the animation I made a short loop of rotating gears in a monochrome colour scheme and that was a starting point for the factory in the short.

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

From idea till an early version of my animation it took me two months, including the rendering time but I was still unsure about the editing and order of some scenes that let me put it to the side.

It took nearly a year to pick it back up. At the time I was working on background animations for a band, that was kind of an incentive to finally make it public and send it to festivals but before that I made the final edit.

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

Monochromatic selection

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

The way of telling the story. It should be abstract with no narration but not too confusing or unclear for the audience to lose interest. The part in the story where the balls are getting split through the roundabout and where they travel through different paths was quite head wrecking. It should seem that everything is happening at the same time.

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

I really enjoyed listening to the audience and their thoughts about my short.

I liked that the audience empathized with the balls and their different fates. I gave the balls two white circles that represents eyes, to make them more relatable in comparison to if they were only plain.

I was waiting on the question: Why are some balls picked and some are not? Which I deliberately wanted to evoke with my story. We have an urge to know why something happens, we try to always find a reason to justify or explain certain events. In this short I consciously don’t give one.

One other thing I noticed that my choice of making the animation in black & white stood out. It was a conscious decision to enhance the cold atmosphere and the audience seemed to think so too.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The underlying idea was a metaphor of the process of ideas in our mind. Most of the time we have so many ideas but often only one idea is coming to fruition but how does this selection look like?

So, I started to make a visual representation in form of sketches. One important aspect was that, the selection process has to seam random and arbitrary, that’s why every ball is visually the same.

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

I think that must be the second movie of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’. I am a real fantasy fan. One of my highlights in the movie is the battle of Helms deep, which I always anticipate when watching the movie. The next movie I have seen nearly as often is ‘A Bug’s Life’ by Pixar. I always had a fascination of 3D animation that led me to make my own.

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

It’s a really great platform to find easily and fast various film festivals and makes it easy to send the same film to festivals from one platform.

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

I cannot say for sure because through the radio I must have heard some songs a lot without me knowing. Anyhow, one song I have listened consciously on my devices the most is ‘The Nobodies’ from Marilyn Manson. Which when I am thinking about it, actually influenced me making the short. Often one specific detail or object I have seen somewhere ends up in my own work, which most of the time I notice later when I reflect on it. For example, one of my first assets I made for the animation was a conveyor belt. One can be seen in a specific clip of the music video of ‘The Nobodies’.

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

I started my own studio ‘Umbra Studio’ but I am still figuring out my business plan and working on some projects, on which I cannot share too much information yet.

What I can say for sure that I want to make another 3D animation soon. I cannot say what it will be about, how it looks like and when it will be finished but when I do, I will probably submit it to the FEEDBACK FEMALE FILM FESTIVAL, but time will tell how long it takes.

animus_per_machina

Interview with Filmmaker Andy Brewster (A PIACERE)

A PIACERE played to rave reviews at the December 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andy Brewster: I believe some of our best work as storytellers comes out of processing our own individual experiences. And, for me as music student at college (in addition to being a film major), I wanted to tell a story about the struggles we musicians regularly face at the conservatory level. Anyone who studies music at this caliber is already incredibly self-driven, but when you’re near others also pursuing the very same subject, it is far too easy to become competitive. We start constantly comparing ourselves to each other versus working on improving ourselves and our playing. But, really, this prideful competition and envy is a terribly relatable human emotion and I wanted to say something to the motivations that should be fueling our passion for whatever subject we’re called to.

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

From writing to the end of post-production it took about 8 weeks. Things really moved fast to be able to fit everyone’s schedules.

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

Living freely.

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

Schedules were honestly the hardest part of the project. It was a small crew, but coordinating busy music students, locations, and crew schedules in the midst of a hectic semester is always challenging, especially when everyone is generous enough to donate their time and energy for free.

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

To be honest, I was terrified to open it at first… sharing your work is the hardest and most exciting thing about being a filmmaker. But, it was so fascinating to hear how others really picked up on the film’s integral themes and key moments (like the breaking of the violin). I love this format for a festival as we indie filmmakers rarely get such vocal feedback from public audiences who have no personal connection to the people behind the lens.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The ideas and situations really stemmed from my own personal struggles, thoughts, and doubts as a musician. In high-school especially I went to a really unhealthy place where all my decisions, repertoire choices, performance choices, etc. were all clouded by a craving to be better, noticed, or get that higher chair in orchestra. Instead, I probably would have become a better musician over that time if I had been forced to wrestle with the questions I ask in this film.

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

Probably all three of The Lord of the Rings films. Those were the ones that really inspired me to pursue filmmaking.

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

I love how intuitive FilmFreeway is compared to other submission sites. From setting up your project to filtering out and searching festivals, it really streamlines and simplifies the process.

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

Oh, that’s tough. Probably some solo piece I’ve worked on for a long time. Perhaps the first two movements of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto. Those are some of the most gorgeous works ever written for solo violin.

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

I’m currently finishing producing the feature film Rubaru by Marco Zambrana. (rubaruthemovie.com) Post-production for that should be wrapping up in May. In the meantime, I’m looking to produce or direct another short or two while continuing my film and music studies at Biola University.

Interview with Filmmaker Kayden Phoenix (PENANCE)

PENANCE played to rave reviews at the January 2019 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kayden Phoenix: I grew up in a Catholic church, my mom even sang choir. I’m not religious but the church has always been a powerful influence People turn away from their relatives (even their kin sometimes) and friends because of sexual preference and they use the Bible as their reason. Religion has a huge hand in conversion therapy. I’m a believer in freedom of choice- so to see others being persecuted for being themselves is unconstitutional. I made Penance to turn the tables around on the persecutors and to bring awareness about the horrors of conversion therapy. It’s sadly and oddly still allowed in 35 states. You can legally physically and emotionally hurt another to “cure” them from your rigidity.

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

30 mins to write. 2 weeks prep. 1 day shoot.

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

Dark. Twisted.

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

Not letting the church I shot in know the storyline.

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

I was so happy. I listened to the audience during the film- the gasps and shrills were the best- it means they felt it. I loved the feedback- there was a great range of confused, loved, self-interpretation as to their experience with the church, etc.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Conversion therapy has always gotten me mad, so it wasn’t hard to write the ironic justice side of it.

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

The Lion King

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

I love it. Simple and accessible.

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

Phantom of the Opera “Music of the Night”

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

I’m making a graphic novel, Jalisco, and writing a horror feature.

penance_1

Interview with Filmmaker Raghuvir Joshi (YAMAN)

YAMAN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the Janaury 2019 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Raghuvir Joshi: Yaman was a personal story to begin with. The struggle to separate from my soulmate after having discovered my sexuality was the most excruciating yet rewarding experience of my life . I wrote the film during this time – It was cathartic.

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

It took me about a month and a half to write it. After which I sent it to my producer, Tayyab Madni of Picture Works Australia, who came on board to produce the short. It took roughly 6 months to complete the film once the script was done.

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

Simple but complex.

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

The struggle to be objective to the script as it was immensely personal.

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

Nothing short of overwhelming! When I saw the audience echo and reiterate everything I envisioned and wanted to say through the film, It was the biggest reward 🙂

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was my personal journey that inspired the idea for this film.

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

Recently , I have seen ROMA – by Alfonso Cuaron a lot of times. Every frame is a story!

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

FilmFestival is a great platform for filmmakers. Easy to use and offers submissions to a large variety of International Film Festivals, which gave us the freedom to select the Festivals that suited our films theme.

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

I have listened to the Indian classical Raga – Yaman the most times in my life – the emotion that Raga generates is the emotional DNA of my short film.

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

I am in the process of writing the feature script based on my short film, Yaman .

yaman_movie_poster

Interview with Filmmaker Aimiende Negbenebor Sela (UTOPIA)

UTOPIA was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the January 2019 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Aimiende Negbenebor Sela: I would say what motivated me to make Utopia was my own struggle with race, identity, and self-acceptance.

I am Nigerian (African American) and though I believe this is kind of a taboo subject, it does exist: the idea of the grass being greener on the other side.
Without diving deeply into a subject that cannot be discussed or analyzed in a short amount of time, there does exist that “thing” for a lack of a better word that makes one question, or wonder, if their lives would be better if they were the other…

I read an article a few years back about a civil rights march that several groups of Caucasians citizens were protesting. There was a photo accompanying this article, and in it was a woman holding up a sign that read” you wish you were white.” That’s a strong statement to make. It got me thinking hard about this: do we wish we were white and if we did, under what circumstances? And, it if was possible to be the other under the said circumstance, what would that be like, and so on and so forth. Those unanswerable questions lead to the short film Utopia and the feature-length screenplay that has since followed.

I really believe we all, everyone one of us live very similar lives. Really. We live the same lives, we are just colored differently. So, we should love ourselves and live our truths wholeheartedly. I think it’ll make it a tiny little bit easier to be tolerant when we can see ourselves in others, and love that same self in others because we love that same self in us. Hope that makes sense!

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

— From start to finish, Utopia took about two years to make.

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

— thought-provoking and hopeful.

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

— there were many obstacles that had to be overcome with making this film: from crewing up to getting through each shoot day, and finally completing post-production.

If I had to pick one item to highlight, I think it would be struggling to stay true, or at least as close as possible, to my vision for Utopia given the film’s budget and the fact that I was (still am) relatively new to the industry in Los Angeles. I hadn’t formed a base yet, which really limited my access to resources.

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

— I was in the audience during the screening, so I got to experience/hear the audience reaction first hand, and also via the feedback video, and my initial reaction was “ok.”

Not sure if that’s really a reaction or an acknowledgment…, but it was really good to hear from the people who got what the film was about, as well as from those that didn’t get it and those in the middle.

I really appreciated the gentleman who was touched by the mom reciting The Lord’s Prayer in one of the scenes in the hospital. I was touched by his sharing how that scene was personal for me.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

— I asked the question: under what circumstance can someone live a life like the other they admire, wish they were instead or just imagined was living a better life (however, true or false that belief may be) and I thought a coma! I studied a few coma cases and drew inspiration from them. But, that all came second. The first was two ideas: a black woman wishing she was white, and the fact that loving someone could still get you killed in certain parts of the world (including where I am from, Nigeria) in today’s day and age. Homosexuality is a punishable crime in Uganda.

The story of this beautiful woman, who was attacked for her sexual orientation, ending up in a coma and making herself someone else; someone who in her mind was free to be themselves, living in a part of the world where they could be true to themselves and then waking up and having to make a choice just came to life.

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

— oh, dear. I don’t know. How about I share four of my favorites (I have a ton): The Red Violin, Tsotsi, 12 Angry Men, Midnight in Paris

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

— I think it’s a good platform for filmmakers because you have a large array of film festivals to submit to, some you wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and you can submit projects easily. The downside is also that you have a large array of film festivals to submit to 🙂 Overall though, I am pleased with it.

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

— Everything by Sade.

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

— Yes, a new film called Hermit. It’s a short film about a man dealing with loss.

utopia_6

Interview with Filmmaker Damien Starr (I’LL BE FINE)

I’LL BE FINE was the winner of BEST FILM at the December 2018 COMEDY Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Damien Starr: This was a student project and the restriction was to have it within 3 minutes. I wanted to challenge myself in a couple of ways, firstly to write a story featuring a woman as my main cast. This was a first for that, and secondly, making a film that required no on set audio, because of budget and limitations. Thus, I’ll Be Fine was born. The film, as you know, explores the communication of a deaf person through text. It opened my mind to everyday life of a deaf person and how they perceive themselves and the world around them.

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

1 week.

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

Struggle and acceptance.

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

Having a three person (including the actress) crew!

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

The first screening of this film didn’t go so well as she doesn’t mention at the end that she’s deaf. Rather, it’s left to the audience to make that connection. However, only 30% got it. 70% of people did not understand the film. As such, I changed the wording in the text bubble to reflect that. So while it’s now “on the nose” as someone described, it’s understood and enjoyed by many more people. As such, when I saw that many more loved this film in this round of feedback, I was moved and it gave me validation that this was a good film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I usually make films with bigger budgets and lots of VFX, but for this, I wanted it to be simple and focus on character and story, and all of the emotion that comes with that. Along with the restrictions of no on-set audio, I wanted to have a story of communication conveyed by text graphics. A story about a deaf person fit exactly what I was looking for. I researched strongly about deaf people and their day-to-day struggles with life and was inspired to make this movie.

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

It’s a tie between Titanic and Beauty and The Beast (1991).

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

I like FilmFreeway, no complaints there.

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

Mr. Brightside.

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

I’m fundraising for a sci-fi thriller feature film about a physicist that is kidnapped in a desolate house and has to uncover the mystery of how she got there. I placed in a screenwriting competition, and received high scores from coverage services so I’m really excited for this!