Interview with Filmmaker Dee Garceau (A MASSACRE IN MEMPHIS)

A MASSACRE IN MEMPHIS played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Dee Garceau: I’m a U.S. History professor who was living in Memphis and heard about a controversial incident that tore the city apart in 1866. It was a racialized massacre that noone talked about. I wanted to investigate. So I created a course around that research, in which students could read the firsthand testimony of witnesses and survivors, and we visited the sites where the massacre took place. This made it real, and these students became the film production team. Because the massacre had been swept under the rug for so long, we felt a responsibility to bring it to light. And because these students were making a film about it, they took ownership in ways I hadn’t seen within traditional academic courses.

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

Four months of research and production plus editing a rough cut– that was our one-semester course. Then a handful of the students continued work on it with me for another semester, scripting and shooting additional scenes and interviews; and finally I worked on the editing for six months after that to create the final cut. These time frames are misleading, however, because all of us were navigating several other courses at the same time. So our work on the film was intermittent during those months, but focused and intense each time we were on it.

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

Unjust massacre.

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

a) Doing the research and production as a course meant that the students and I could not devote ourselves full time to it; we all had to fit it in around our other course responsibilities, me as a professor teaching fulltime, and my students as undergrads with a full course load. So coordinating our TIME for interviews, shoots, voiceover recordings, and editing sessions was a constant challenge. That said, it became a labor of love; we all got so invested in it, we would put in late hours and all-nighters when necessary.

b) A racialized massacre is painful to look at. We (film crew students and I, plus local actors whom we recruited for reenactment scenes) had to navigate our own feelings as an interracial group dealing with a story of violent race prejudice. For African American actors in the reenactment scenes, this brought up hurt and anger. For white film crew, this brought up sadness, anger, guilt, and fear. Working together to tell the story honestly got us through those painful places.

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

I was thrilled to hear people respond to the topic, the cinematic techniques, and the larger questions raised by the film. Some commented on the need to know more about historical incidents like this; others remarked on our uses of fire and water imagery and sounds to tell the story. Still others said it made them reflect on race relations and racialized violence today. I love hearing audience feedback – thank you for making and sharing videos of this!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The early responses to my investigation – “What was that?” “The Memphis what?” provided the idea for juxtaposing the history of denial about the massacre with the actual testimony of witnesses and survivors. The opening scenes practically wrote themselves!

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

The Shawshank Redemption is beautifully woven. Twenty Feet From Stardom, the doc film about back-up singers for headliner rock bands, is compelling. Buck, about a horse trainer who found his way out of an abused childhood, is deeply moving.

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

Film Freeway is an excellent submission platform, informative and easy to use. Thank you Film Freeway!!

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

Oh man, it varies, depending upon what’s going on in my life. “Soundtrack to your life,” right? Sometimes it’s Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Texas Flood;” sometimes its Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World;” other times it’s Eminem,”Lose Yourself;” still other times its The Script, “Hall of Fame;” sometimes it’s Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony;” other times it’s U2, “One Love.”

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

This fall I’ll be teaching a course called “Gender in the American West” at the University of Montana, Missoula — we’ll overturn mythic images of Indians, cowboys, miners, and homesteaders; get into the human stories that prove different. (Unfortunately the format won’t allow filmmaking this time – too bad!). In the future I’d like to offer a course inviting Native American students and African-American students to teach each other dance moves from the powwow arena and from step shows, respectively. Then I’d turn loose teams of both to research something from their history, and to choreograph a dance using both genres to tell the story they’ve discovered. I’d have a third group of students film the whole process and make a doc of it. But first I need to write the grants, raise the money.

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Interview with Filmmaker Alberto Ferreras (LESSON #10)

LESSON #10 was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the Under 5 Minute Film Festival in July 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alberto Ferreras: “Lesson #10” is a comedy about shifting morals. We are living in a world where we are more likely to trust someone who admits to be a sinner, than someone who pretends to be a saint.

The film is meant to challenge our perception of trust and hypocrisy.

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

The short was written in a couple of days. We had a two hour rehearsal, and we shot it in four hours. It was edited in about two days.
from beginning to end, you could say that we spent 4 days working on the short. All the shorts of my “Lessons” series follow the same protocol.

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

Very honest.

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

The biggest obstacle is always climbing the three flights of stairs to my studio with the equipment.

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

I loved the reaction of the audience, and how they acknowledge the great performances of my actors. I believe that good acting starts with a good script, and a an actor who understands it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

My dermatologist—a lovely older lady—usually asks patients about drug use with the same tone and pace as the actress in the movie. For years I’ve been trying to squeeze it into something… and voilá!

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

All that Jazz.

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

It’s a trillion times better than the dreadful Withoutabox.

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

Tough question. Maybe “The Ballad of the Sad Young Man” performed by Rickie Lee Jones.

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

Yes, I have “Lesson #9” in the can and ready for submission. “The Lessons” is an ongoing project.

Interview with Filmmaker David Rawlings (SLASHED!)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

David Rawlings: I’m a huge fan of 80s horror. The cheesier, the better. I grew up on Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees, and always wanted to take a unique stab at that genre.

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

The general pre-production and production took about 6 months. Post Production was initially another 3. However, I wanted to really make sure the audio was as correct as possible. It took longer than I was expecting, so the finished product probably took one whole year to complete.

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

Retro Arthritis

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

The weather. We only had 2 full days to shoot everything and we got rained out for one half of those days. Considering 90% of the shoot was exterior shots, it certainly created a headache to the entire crew and cast. Not to mention that the public park – we were shooting in – closed their public bathrooms at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

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

Really pleased. I was glad to see that audience members really enjoyed it and understood the direction. My favourite moments are when we flashback to the “80s” and it was great to see the audience to get a kick out of that. Thank you for all your kind words.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Being a fan of films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, I wanted to create my own serial slasher killer… but wanted to have fun with it. Taking the idea of an ax-murderer who has aged and not at the level that he used to be, gave me some great ideas for dialogue and scenes. I’m also a fan of the likes of Monty Python and wanted to inject some of that goofy humour and ridiculousness as well.

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

It’s probably a tie between The Goonies and Jurassic Park.

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

It’s really rather simple. Once the film project has been uploaded, being able to simply and efficiently submit your film to a wealth of different festivals certainly makes things less stressful.

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

Bon Jovi – Livin on a Prayer

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

I’m currently working in the UK as a video editor. I’ve got many ideas and scripts for other shorts, and I hope to be back into pre-production very soon.

Interview with Filmmaker Justin Zachary (NOW)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Justin Zachary: Necessity. These days as an actor if you’re not creating your own work then it feels like you’re behind in the game. I also love making movies.

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

About 20 years ago I was doing theatre in Bakersfield, CA. A playwright by the name of Roger Mathey wrote a one act play called NOW. It was just two people in a room talking about memories of their relationship and the crazy twist in the end when you find out that she’s a robot. I loved the story but unfortunately the play was never produced. Cut to, 2011 when I was looking for a project to direct and remembered this story. I called my friend Roger and asked if he still had the script. He didn’t. So, I asked him with his permission could I re-tell the story with my own vision? He agreed and that’s when the initial screenplay began.

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

Daddy issues.

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

I’d have to say the VFX. It was definitely the most costly and time consuming. We went through 3 different artists until I finally landed on one I loved. Lincoln Smith. A God sent.

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

Nervous. It’s always nerve-wracking hearing what people think of your work. Especially something that’s so personal to you. But, after I heard the positive feedback it was a relief that people actually got it!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I took my friend Roger’s original idea of two people sitting in a room talking about memories and the twist in the end then added some personal elements to give it a sense of myself. For example; The Father character is based on my ex Father-in Law. I always felt that I needed to impress him. Maybe it was my own insecurities but, I never felt that I was good enough. My character’s obsession with fixing things is another good example. I always feel that most problems (especially in relationships) can be fixed with a conversation. If you put the right words in a specific order anything can be solved. It’s an idealistic way of thinking that always gets proved wrong.

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

Probably, Caddyshack.

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

It’s great! Simple and easy to submit.

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

“Every Breath You Take” by The Police


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

I’m in the process of writing a few different things. An epic sci-fi post alien invasion film, and a supernatural western.

Interview with Filmmaker Vickie Rose Sampson (YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Vickie Rose Sampson: The main reason is to explore what will be the eventual outcomes of society of the increase in reliance on technology to do even the simplest of things. And how we could become victims of our own inventions.

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

I think it was about 6 months from idea to finished film.

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

Helluva ride.

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

Because we hadn’t done green screen before it created a HUGE issue with both color grading and visual fxs work. We had both green screen and live action driving with sometimes 4 cameras going – a canon 5d, 2 go pros and my iPhone! The green screen was too close to the actor’s face which created a “spill” which had to be cleaned up. I actually have some screen grabs of the “before” and “after” if you want me to send them! I just gave a demo to the Los Angeles Post Production Group about what we went through to get it to look the way it does!

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

I loved that they enjoyed the ride!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

My producing partner and screenwriter, Wendy Fishman, and I were driving to a screening in Hollywood and my GPS told me to turn down this alleyway… Wendy said, “Just go up to Sunset and turn right!” I said, “No! I must obey the GPS!” So then we talked about taking it to its illogical conclusion about what would happen if we “disobeyed” her and that’s how You Drive Me Crazy was born.

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

That’s a tough one! Do you mean a film I’ve seen over and over? All the ones I have done sound editing on because i HAVE to watch them over and over as I’m working on them but I don’t think you’re talking about those! Although, I could watch On Golden Pond (which I worked on) over and over still….Meet Me In St Louis, It’s a Wonderful Life, Citizen Kane,

I rarely watch films more than once because time is so valuable. (with the exception of animated films that my grandchildren want to watch over and over –

like Coco! or Frozen!)
PS I was a Supervising Sound editor for 40 years on feature films – like Return of the Jedi, Pirates of the Caribbean , Ordinary People, Sex and the City (movies) Donnie Darko etc.

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

It makes it very easy to keep track of submissions, acceptances, and lets me find all kinds of festivals I didn’t know about! Though it is a daunting task (and sometimes expensive) to submit and then not get in. We probably need to add about $1000 to a budget just for festival submissions, not to mention any travel costs to actually attend them. I would love to attend them because I get such a kick at seeing how audiences react to my films – that’s the whole reason we do these! But it’s so costly to go. For example, my film is in a festival in Mass. this coming weekend which sounds lovely – on the waterfront, with workshops and screenings but to get there would cost JUST ME about $1500! I could put that into the budget for the next film. Plus, if you do go, there’s never any guarantee that anyone will come see the film! Maybe we’re over-saturated with screenings in LA but sometimes the only people in the audience are the other filmmakers and their friends/cast/crew/family. So I don’t want to spend $1500 to go to a festival where no one shows up! And you can’t ask the festival if they are well-attended, right!? So besides the BIG festivals, you just don’t know if you’ll have an audience!

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

Anything by Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, CSNY… yes I’m from that era! I can’t think of one particular song I’ve listened to over and over! Maybe Scarborough Faire? Suzanne? Suite Judy Blue Eyes

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

Yes! Wendy and I are producing another short called REFLECTIONS – 1 woman – 1 room – 1 transformation. We are doing it as a “pilot” for a possible series. A young woman questions her identity just as she’s about to be married and how her decision affects the whole family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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