Interview with Filmmaker Borja Escribano (EXPLORERS)

EXPLORERS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2020 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Borja Escribano: The desire to tell a story that talks about how many times, no matter how hard we try things, is to fight against destiny when really wants something

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

3 years

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

Visual and intricate.

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

VFX

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

I felt really really excited, I think that the audience feedback is a confidence boost to keep writing scripts and telling stories.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

In a moment that I was thinking leave the cine / audiovisual world

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

Interstellar, Man Of Steel, Closer

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

I think that the platform works very well.

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

Killing me softly (Fugees) / Desafío (Malú)

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

A TV series about Explorers / A short film about the homosexuality in the Spanish post civil war (Franquismo).

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Interview with Filmmaker Greg Osei (SEARCHING FOR WONDER)

SEARCHING FOR WONDER was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the July 2020 Experimental Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Greg Osei: I had several experiences in 2016 that really inspired me to make this film. Two of the biggest inspirations were Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. Both pieces really demonstrated how we can use art and our imaginations to rewrite narratives, replace lost or forgotten ones, and create new ones. I believe that process gives us the power to literally transform our reality. So many other things that year inspired me including Solange’s A Seat at the Table, my exploration of Celia Cruz’s life, and the devastation I felt during the election season. But Beyoncé and Taylor Mac were the biggest influences. I felt compelled to use my own creativity as a way to create new narratives where I felt my story and my history were missing or misrepresented.

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

It was quite a process. I wrote the song back in 2013 as part of an interdisciplinary performance piece I created. I had the idea to make a video with the song in late 2016 and began talking to my friend Abdiel Jacobsen (the dancer in the video) about the idea in early 2017. I got in the studio and recorded the song that year, and then began the process of getting the video made. We finally shot the video in summer 2018 and it was complete by the fall. From the video idea to completion it was about two years.

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

Radical (Re)Imagination

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

Honestly, the biggest obstacle looking back was deciding to direct it myself. I had a clear and specific vision for what I wanted to achieve, but I felt stuck because I thought I needed to find a director that was willing and able to bring that vision to life and was having a lot of trouble finding that person. My blessing came in the form of a director that read the treatment that I’d written and said, “You wrote this treatment like a director. I believe only you can realize this vision and you need to direct this.” I’d directed film before, but I had been afraid to direct this piece because I was also performing in it and it was so near and dear to my heart, but her words helped me find my courage. After almost a year of searching and feeling stuck, that conversation totally jumpstarted things, and within three months I shot it!

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

I was so filled with gratitude. I was really amazed by the detail in some of the feedback. It was really encouraging to hear that the audience was catching some of the nuances that went into the video. When I shared the feedback with my good friend Abdiel, who is the lead dancer in the video, he said “They got it! They totally got it!…You accomplished the message that you wanted to send out, and it’s so reassuring and affirming to hear that from viewers. That’s amazing!” That really expresses how I felt.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Shortly after the presidential election in 2016, I found myself (a Ghanaian-American) in conversation with my good friend Abdiel Jacobsen (who is a native of the Ivory Coast) and another close friend who is an African-American descendant of enslaved people about the ways in which slavery, history, colonialism, racism, and other forms of institutionalized oppression have left many of us feeling disconnected and lost despite our different backgrounds. I had been inspired by the ways in which artists like Beyoncé, Taylor Mac, and Solange were using art to claim the transformative power to write their own narratives about their experiences as marginalized people. At the same time, I was experiencing a sort of revelation around the idea that we carry our histories and our ancestors in our bodies. In particular, I’d been thinking about the ways in which Celia Cruz was a symbol of how across centuries, thousands of miles, and endless experiences of oppression, people of African descent have managed to preserve so much of where and whom they come from, often without realizing it. I was inspired to create a piece of art that spoke to that idea and took it a step further by proposing that we tap into that actively in order to wield the power and the history of our ancestors as we face the realities of today.

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

I’ve literally seen Lemonade at least 50 times! I’m actually big on watching movies I like repeatedly so there are lots of films that I’ve seen a lot. Films like Amelie, Brokeback Mountain, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Waiting to Exhale, Y Tu Mamá También, Memento, Rabioso Sol, Rabioso Cielo. It really runs the gamut as you can see. I’ve also seen the Avatar: The Last Airbender series many times, which I contend is one of the greatest instances of storytelling, worldbuilding, character development, and fictional exploration of timely issues in recent history, all in a children’s show!

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

FilmFreeway made searching for festivals that would align with my work and submitting to them very easy!

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

I’m a musician and a big lover of music, so that’s hard. I’ll say I’ve probably listened to Brandy’s “He Is” and Aretha Franklin’s “Mary Don’t You Weep” more than most things.

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

I’m currently in the process of recording a studio album. Once that’s done, I am planning to produce more films in conjunction with my music as well as interdisciplinary live performance pieces! I’m really excited about the things I’m creating now, and I can’t wait to share them with you all!

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Interview with Filmmaker Johan Stavsjö (SAY YES)

SAY YES played to rave reviews at the June 2020 ROMANCE Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Johan Stavsjö: I wanted to tell a modern love story and drew influences from my past. The film is a combination of three love stories from my personal life. The goal was to make an authentic but also relatable film.

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

About six months from deciding about what to write about to finished product. But the actual shooting was only two weeks.

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

Love hurts.

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

The hardest part was when the film was finished and we wasn’t 100% sure what to do with it. This is the final thesis project from out last year at Stockholm Film School. So when the film was done we had also graduated and therefore we were on our own. We wanted to share it with the world but didn’t exactly know how.

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

It was surreal and wonderful. When making a film, at least I, give it my everything. Therefore to hear people from the other side of the world (it’s a Swedish production) is a thrill. I think I watched the clip about ten times in a row when I got it, and wish I could have been there. The film has screened at about 20 festivals around the world, but as it all is payed from our own pocket we haven’t had the chance to go to any screening. Therefore to be able to experience it from home was amazing.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Again, the ideas for the film comes from my own experience as a prepubescent trying to find his was in this crazy world. Also greatly influenced by past generation filmmakers.

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

I don’t even know, but while writing the script I only watched romantic film and the ones I watched the most then was “(500) Days of Summer”, “The Graduate” and “When Harry Met Sally”.

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 way to easily submit to a large quantity of festival and having it all in one place.

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

Here again, hard to say. Probably a The Beatles song. But like question 7 I answer with by saying what a listened to in repeat while writing the film “Say Yes” which was Elliott Smith. The title of the film was actually a reference from his song “Say Yes”.

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

I have since then been working in Sweden on various production. Until two days ago I worked on Sweden’s second Netflix show while I’ve been writing on two different short screenplays. One of which will be done by September 2020.

Interview with Filmmaker Claire Campbell (WINTER’S BLIGHT)

WINTER’S BLIGHT was the winner of BEST VISUAL DESIGN at the April 2020 ANIMATION Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Claire Campbell: I’d been wanting to make another stop motion film for a few years, because stop motion animation and production design is what I’m really passionate about. Prior to this film I was working in other areas of filmmaking and when there was a window of free time I decided it was finally time to come up with a script for my own project.

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

A long time…roughly 3 years!

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

Bleak, but hopeful.

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

My own perfectionism. I knew the level of detail I wanted to achieve and was determined not to compromise on it. I worked on most of the main elements myself, so it was very time consuming and draining over that extended period, I drove myself a bit insane.

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

It was very moving to hear people talk about my film & to hear that they were also moved by the story. Living in a small city at the bottom of New Zealand is a bit isolating & I haven’t been able to go to any of the overseas festivals to experience how it is received, so it was really incredible to get this feedback.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was racking my brains for a stop motion script idea to submit for a funding deadline. My past experience with stop motion had taught me what were some good parameters to help keep the idea achievable as stop motion such as limiting the numbers of characters and sets, so I had that as a starting block. At the time I was going on a lot of walks, and being inspired by nature & the remoteness of the Otago landscape, so the elements were all floating in my mind and eventually sort of just fell together and a story formed.


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

Probably either Coraline or Fantastic Mr Fox. Both films were released in my final year of study when I made a stop motion film as my main project, so I remember really studying them frame by frame to figure out how they made it all & always go back to them for inspiration.

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

It’s a big help with the festival submission process, bringing it all into the one place and making it easier to manage it all.

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

Temptation by New Order.

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

I’m working on a few more smaller animation & design projects, where I can develop my style without the restraints I imposed on myself for Winter’s Blight.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sophie Francey (BECOMING______)

BECOMING_____ played to rave reviews at the June 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sophie Francey: I am a graduate student at Texas State University, and in my first semester we were asked to make a documentary for our final project in my digital storytelling class. I had always wanted to go to grad school for about seven years, but it was never the right time. When I got accepted in 2019, it was a dream come true. In my first semester, a professor of mine, Dr. Haigh, made us choose a “beat” (meaning a topic) to write a series of stories on. Since this was a dream of mine that I had waited a really long time to achieve, I wanted to make sure everything I did in grad school had meaning to it. I am a part of the LGBTQIA+ community (I identify as pansexual) and I realized that I could not only learn a lot but also shed some light on the community. While researching topics I could cover, I attended a, what I thought was a LGBTQIA+ community organization, meeting to get more awareness on the issues in the San Antonio community. When the meeting had finally started, I realized that it was actually a private transgender support group and that I had misread the website. I was sitting in the front and didn’t want to cause a disruption by leaving so I stayed and listened to the stories of the community members. I was so incredibly moved by the stories by the members in the group. I realized that I, too, did not know enough or show enough support to my transgender brothers and sisters. That is when I knew that I needed to cover my beat stories and do my documentary on the transgender community. Through this group and many others, I had met a lot more people who identified as transgendered. I interviewed them for my beat topic stories and then asked if I could interview them for my documentary. A lot of them said no because it was a tough topic to go on video to talk about. My cousin’s fiancé, Jax, is a transgender influencer and I asked if he would be willing to tell his story after getting so many nos, I was surprised that he agreed. After doing a ton of research and doing this interview, transgender awareness is something that I will support and be active about for the rest of my life. There is actually so much adversity that transgender people face in so many different facets. Between healthcare, career, tv & pop culture, salaries, and much more. I would ask those who are interested in learning more to go to the GLAAD website and search transgendered facts. If you are transgendered and reading this, please know that you are loved and supported. And for cisgender people who are interested in learning more, talk to your transgender brothers and sisters because one of the biggest things I have learned is that the transgender community want to have conversations to bring awareness. They are some of the most loving and kind people I have ever met in my life.

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

I had approximately six weeks to execute this documentary on top of a full-time job and full-time grad school. I would have loved to make it longer but due to time constraints, we had to cap it at nine minutes. I think this film could be a full-length feature film.

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

Purposeful awareness.

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

I don’t want to call it an obstacle but being very sensitive on how to tell this story that did the transgender community proud was the most important thing for me. If it did not support the transgender community in the right way, then that would be heartbreaking. There were a few moments that we needed to take a break for Jax because some of the topics were very hard to talk about. My heart broke seeing this because I had no idea some of the things he had endured. And it was my job to make sure he felt comfortable and loved. So during those moments, I would just riff with Jax and those are a lot of the moments you see in the documentary. Something that Allie told me that means so much to me to this day was that when she saw how I worked with Jax through those tough moments she said that I was meant to be a producer because I knew how to empathize with him.

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

Tears. Honestly. I sent the video to Jax & Allie about halfway through watching the reviews and forewarned them that there may be tears. I was overwhelmed with the love and support for Jax.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

When I learned that Transgendered Day of Remembrance via the support group was November 20th and the due date for my documentary was November 21st, I really wanted to honor the community by making my documentary for that day. I had also learned that a lot of the transgender people remembered on this day are transgender women of color. This lit a fire in my soul like no other. Our black transgender brother and sisters need our support and need our voice for them now more than ever. Black Trans Lives Matter.

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

As silly as this may sound, I really love teenage/young 20s trying to figure it out type alternative films like Juno and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But I also love watching documentaries. Since being quarantined I have actually been rewatching ALL of RuPaul’s Drag Race. So that has kept me pretty busy in the last few months as there are about 30 seasons.

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

This was my first time submitting a film to anything, so I felt the site was easy to use and provided me an opportunity to submit this film to many festivals.

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

This is a hard question to answer as I really do love all types of music. Anything from alternative to country to rap to 80’s dance to house mix mashups. The most recent song I have been blaring is So Emotional by Whitney Houston.

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

Now that I have found a passion of creating documentaries, that is what I have shifted my studies to in grad school and will continue to make more. You can find some of the other mini-documentaries I have made since Becoming ______ on my website http://www.sophiemariah.com.

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Interview with Filmmaker Dara Bratt (I THINK I’LL MAKE IT)

I THINK I’LL MAKE IT played to rave reviews at the June 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Dara Bratt: I met Kat in one of her fitness classes and really loved her boisterous energy, and her relentless passion. When she mentioned she had written a memoir, “I Think I’ll Make It,” I was curious to check it out. I didn’t know the story yet but I knew I had found a compelling subject.

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

I would say it took two years. There was a lot of stop and go with the edit due to everyone’s schedules so we had to be a little flexible.

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

Inspiring resilience

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

Finding the hook and climax for the film, since so much of the story existed in the past. We didn’t know Kat would get divorced during this process!

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

It was so great to hear all the comments. I loved hearing that they saw Kat’s strength found her inspiring.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I first read Kat’s memoir “I Think I’ll Make It” and knew there was a story there.

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

Bleu

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

I think it helps streamline the process and makes the process of applying to film festivals very efficient.

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

Groove is in the Heart

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

I really hope it’s a new film. I have a few I’ve been working on for a long time. Though after watching the feedback, perhaps it’s making this into the feature!

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Interview with Filmmaker Peter Chapman (A KEPT BOY)

A KEPT BOY was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the June 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Peter Chapman: To be honest, my original motivation to create this film was to rid myself of the story. “A Kept Boy” is based on a relationship I experienced with an older woman from 17-24 (I am currently 30). The emotional baggage that came with leaving this abusive relationship while simultaneously introducing myself into the gay community and accepting myself was tremendous. As a filmmaker it felt natural to translate my experiences into a film, and it ended up being extremely cathartic for me. It was a very bizarre process for me because when making a film, you have to put yourself into the mindset of your characters. You need to speak like them, envision life through their eyes, you need to love your characters, and you need to feel empathy for them. This was a huge challenge for me because one of my characters is based on someone who abused me for 8 years and the other character was based on myself and where I was emotionally during that abuse. But once completed I realized I made something that was more powerful than my pain. Any fears of sharing this story vanished and it became extremely motivating for me to use this film as a tool for change.

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

I started my journey of writing this in 2015, so it took about 5 years to fully complete from writing to festival submissions.

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

Raw and dramatic.

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

My biggest obstacle was deciding to write the film. I held a lot of fears with this film because of how personal the story was to me. It wasn’t until I began to write it did I realize how severe my trauma was and my healing process really began. I came to learn my biggest obstacle led to even bigger rewards.

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

I was very humbled by the audience reactions. I could tell the story moved many of them which I was honored about. It was a joy also when someone would mention a small detail they noticed in the film. I think for any director that’s an exciting moment when your audience notices the subtle things.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Personal experiences.

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

To be honest I tend not to watch films more than once.

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

It made the process of submitting to festivals extremely simple and I am very thankful for it.

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

Not sure exactly, but it would most likely be something by Lady Gaga.

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

Within this past year my Boyfriend, Felipe Zapata-Valencia, and I opened Zapman Creative Haus, a production company located in New Jersey. Aside from growing our business I am hopeful that “A Kept Boy” will receive opportunities that will take the film to the next level. I would love to see this story as a T.V. series. I think we need more LGBTQ stories out in this world and “A Kept Boy” is such an interesting perspective to the queer experience it would make a very impactful series.

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