Interview with Filmmaker Paul Charisse (UNCLE GRIOT)

UNCLE GRIOT was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER at the December 2018 Fantasy/Sci-Fi Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Paul Charisse: This short was developed from a feature we are making called “Stina & the Wolf”. It’s developed from a single scene we thought would act well as a vehicle to distill a lot of the ideas we explore in our feature script into a small and affordable format (and also function to help promote our funding of the full feature of course!)

We wanted it to capture the atmosphere and approach we intend for the final feature, as well as hint at some of the main themes the film deals with. Part of our design for the feature and short was to try and find that difficult balance between helping the audience understand ideas we want to explore, but also painting a rich enough palette that they can draw their own conclusions, some of which may not have even occurred to us as filmmakers. I’m a big believer that artists put more ideas into their work than they realise, so particularly in the editing process, we moved things around a lot to create new meanings and juxtapositions in an intuitive and reactive way that I tried not to over analyze. I think this can access deeper, more subconscious meanings, and is very much the working method of my filmmaking heroes such as David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg. I love films that use rich emotive visual and narrative elements to take you into the emotion space of a character, without being overly didactic or literal, giving the audience just enough ingredients to make sense of story elements and visual motifs so they can stitch together things from their own experiences. (This does of course require a certain amount of effort from the audience and challenges expectations, so is not to everyone’s taste!) I’m also a big fan of this magical realism approach in literature, by authors such as the fantastic Kelly Lynch, where meanings are hinted at and stories unfold full of sympathetic resonances and juxtapositions that can draw out different things from different readers.

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

The feature has been in development for 6 years. The resulting short took about one and half years to complete.

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

magical realism

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

The biggest obstacle was a technical one, getting the right level of detail and realism so that we could create the “hyper realism” we wanted for our aesthetic. The plan was that at moments it looked real and others strange and dream like, with certain visual elements idealised beyond reality. There are no shortcuts to this, and it required a lot of time and effort creating high fidelity facial animation, cloth simulation, grass and tree simulation, motion capture and animation and shader and matte painting. This is easier if you’re working on a multi million pound budget project with a crew of hundreds (I used to work as an animator in Blockbuster VFX) Most of the work on this was done by a small team of about 8 of us, and we made the film in a university with students and myself (a lecturer) Our biggest obstacle for the feature as a whole is getting it funded and finding a producer to help us with this. (Pretty much the same as every filmmaker in history I imagine!)

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

I was really excited to hear the different interpretations of the film. It’s actually a relief to hear that people are able to accept the level of ambiguity and try and use the elements in the film to make their own meanings, and they came up with so many fantastic ideas! I was really pleased, as this film was partially a test to see if we could capture a snapshot of what we want the feature to be, and see whether it would work with an audience. (although the feature has a much tighter narrative, but we aspire to give it that otherworldly ambiguity. Again another balancing act)

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The feature (and the short) is inspired by many ideas and many films. I’d say life, death and fate are its core themes, but within that the idea of using storytelling and fantasy as a way of making sense of the apparent chaos and amorality of the natural world plays a big part; also how this relates to the aging process (Stina is very much intended to be idealised youth, where as Griot is the reality of aging: wart, farts, body hair and all!). I love the idea that humans have to wrap everything in a story before they can process it, especially things that are infinite and seem to defy logic, such as death or the physical world beyond our bodies.

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

I’d say Mulholland Drive and Paris Texas have both had about the same level of obsessive re-watching. At least twice a year! Very different films, but both have been massive inspirations.

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

It’s really accessible and useful. I’d use it again.

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

I tend to listen to albums rather than individual songs. The otherworldly and ambient instrumental sides (it’s a double album) of David Sylvian “Gone to Earth” is my my most played. It transports me to another plane, a place beyond language, and I think a place I feel compelled to try and reach through filmmaking for some reason. I love that language is completely incompetent at capturing the experience of music (and film!).

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

I’ve been approached about directing an animated feature in America next year, which i can’t talk about yet unfortunately (although hopefully soon) I’ll also be continuing the process of trying to fund our magical realistic feature, which i’m absolutely determined to make. (I’m having to learn to be a producer at the moment, which is definitely not my natural skillset, if any one fancies joining the team! ) Any one interested in learning more about our feature “Stina & the Wolf” should check out: http://www.stinaandthewolf.net

Advertisements

Interview with Filmmaker Alex Fynn (FORMS)

FORMS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the November 2018 Experimental FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alex Fynn: I was given the opportunity by Red Bull South Africa to create a piece that showcases dance in the most interesting way possible. From my early days in filmmaking, I have always loved dance music videos. Dance, Music and Film provide a medium for expression. I was keen to see what would happen if you gather three creatives from each of these disciplines and have them collaborate on a project. The film is about collaboration and the immense possibility created when working together.

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

It took about 3 months, from conception to post.

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

Audiovisual Explosion

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

Time! We choreographed and rehearsed in about 10 days, we only had one day to shoot this film and then we packed a lot of post VFX in there which took some time to create.

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

First of all I couldn’t believe that my film was screened to an audience in Toronto! I was beaming with excitement and happiness. You spend so much time as a creative thinking about all the little details and meaning behind every element in your film, and to see an audience from another country entirely watch your work and point out all those details and more is incredible. It has really motivated me to keep creating and keep telling stories!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main message is about unity, unity through dance, unity through collaboration – so we created a world where unity is not allowed. As a young creative, you need to rise above the idea that some goals you set are not achievable. I believe anything is possible with the help of the right people. I wanted to showcase attitude and synchronicity within the performance, beautiful cinematography and realistic looking VFX to take the viewer into another world for a few minutes. The film is set in the future and is definitely inspired by my love for narratives created within games. By the end, the rebels escape and the riot police are left looking at the statement “We are one” which the rebels have set up. I leave it up to the viewer to decide what that means to them.

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

The 1st Matrix – I watched it so many times!

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

I think the FilmFreeway platform is absolutely fantastic. It is easy to use and has plenty of great works on there to check out. Everyone I have spoken to from FilmFreeway is so sweet and helpful with a genuine goal to assist filmmakers in getting there work seen and I think that is remarkable.

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

Samba Pa Ti – Carlos Santana (my mom had it on repeat in the car as we drove to school each morning for years)

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

I have just left my full time job to start a film production company which is very exciting. I’m currently working on a long form project at the moment, it’s a 52 minute documentary about a very popular marathon in South Africa, The Two Oceans Marathon. I’m planning to do some traveling as well and look into ways that I can work abroad for a while and gain some international experience.

Interview with Filmmaker Susanne Serres (ZAYA)

ZAYA was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the November 2018 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Susanne Serres: What motivates me to do this movie is my own experience as a queer black woman who has to do her coming out to her family.

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

Ssince the very beginning of the idea, it took me 1 year and a half. The shooting was made in three full days. The post prod in 2 months.

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

Love Wins.

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

The dance scenes were hard to pick because we had so many choices of good materials. It was hard to choose sometimes.

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

I was very moved by them. It was heartwarming to watch. I want to thank everyone who watch the short film and commented on it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wanted to combine contemporary dance and a coming out story because I felt the need to be represented into a movie and because I am a big fan of dancing even though I’m not a dancer mysel.

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

C.R.A.Z.Y. by Jean-Marc Vallée

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

It’s an amazing platform to showcase movies because it’s user friendly.

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

Cocorosie – Werewolf

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

I am currently in the process of submiting ZAYA the full length version of this movie.

Interview with Film Creator Charles Baran (PELICAN)

PELICAN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the November 2018 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Charles Baran: When I first heard Bryce Kulak’s story song PELICAN – I knew right away that this song had to have a visual experience. The lyrics are just too wonderful and fantastic and seeing the images come to life was basically my motivation. The trick would be how to visually tell the story given the limitations of not using a real Pelican and a real Elephant.

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

We worked on the concept, pre-production, two days shoot, and post production for over a period of seven months.

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

Magical Journey

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

Having the animation feel like a natural part of the story and not something that comes out of the blue.

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

So delighted that they enjoyed the casting, our commitment to telling the story, the animation and the music! Seeing the smiling faces on the feedback video reaffirms my belief that whimsical entertainment can lighten our burdens a little.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I thought long and hard about how we were going to portray the “Pelican”. Once I had settled on the East Village of New York as a location, I then came up with the idea of having a Drag Queen carry a handbag with a fantastic Pelican appliqué on it and the appliqué would come to life and interact with the protagonist of the film, me.

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

John Water’s Female Trouble. I must have watched that film 100 times and know all the dialogue by heart. Divine was a real inspiration for me.

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

It think it’s great and easy to use. Plus I wouldn’t know how to contact these festivals otherwise.

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

Haha. That’s a good one. I listen to a lot of music so it’s always changing. If I had to pick one I’d say Phoebe Snow’s Poetry Man or Bette Midler’s version of Skylark. But I love new stuff too, like Cardi B, Brandi Carlile and Lana Del Rey.

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

Yes, I’m in a new Pilot called “Yes, Mistress” and I just played the Referee in the new series Godfather of Harlem. That was fun. It was a recreation of the legendary 1963 Cassius Clay and Doug Jones fight at Madison Square Garden. The series premieres in 2019 and stars Forest Whitaker and Chazz Palminteri.

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!

 

Interview with Filmmaker Lola Rùi (THE DOOR)

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

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lola Rùi: Show the story you want to tell is always the main engine to make a film. The starting point was to think about experiences of conflict that someone could face in this complex world, in this case leading to the feelings of the character that James Augustus Lee plays in the film, situation with which we could feel identified sometime in our lives.

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

It took around two months. A few days after a phone conversation sharing the idea with the other writer (James Augustus Lee), I took a plane from Madrid to New York, and I was there for two weeks to finish the script, make rehearsals and finding the team for shooting. Then I went back to Madrid for the post- production, which took us a month and a half
.
3. How you would describe your Short Film in two words!?

Uncertainly and conflict.

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

Well, one of the biggest obstacles was the language. Not long ago I started learning to speak English , so communication with the rest of the team was one of the challenges I had to overcome. And of course, directing and acting at the same time required a lot of energy and concentration. However, when you put passion in what you do barriers disappear, and so it was.

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

It was an interesting experience to see how the audience receive the message of the film in different ways depending on their own vision or circumstances, showing that the art is always alive. I love this.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came from a phone conversation between James Augustus lee and I. We was speaking about how sometimes people are unable to face their own fears so the fear take over then all their lives. So we decided to make a film of it.

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

The Godfather

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

It is a platform that really works good. They are very professional offering the filmmakers all the information about Film Festivals for submission and the timeliness of communication is fine. In addition, the platform interface is intuitive and friendly.

It is my first short film as a director and therefore the first time I have to manage with a platform like this and It has been quite easy with FilmFreeway.

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

The songs of Camarón de la Isla, Legend of Flamenco.

I don’t have an specific song that I listen continuosly… but if I have to choose one, I would go to Nana del Caballo Grande (big horse lullaby)

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

A new Short Film that is planned to be shot very soon in Madrid.