Interview with Filmmaker Stephanie Knöbl (PEPITA & MAX)

 Stephanie Knöbl was the producer and co-director of the short film PEPITA & MAX. It was the winner of BEST SOUND DESIGN at the September 2017 Festival for Family.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Stephanie Knöbl: For a long time we have been dealing with the topic of the representation of Living Traditions. For children, there are few stories / films in Switzerland that tell about old knowledge, which is still lived very actively. In order to make the topic easy understandable for children, we sought the essence of this old Swiss tradition and interwoven it with a fictitious story.

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

About 2 years. We did not have any templates or previous projects of a similar kind, so it took some time to go through possible variants of storytelling and design/animation, in order to finally decide on this path.

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

edutaining

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

The financing. The production of animated films in Switzerland is quite expensive and at the same time there are minimum wages of the employees – especially the artistic employees – which should be kept (which of course is to be supported).

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

It was the first adult reaction to our movie in public. We felt honored that people are focused on thinking about our work and discussing it.

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

We collaborated with a scriptwriter from Vienna who wrote the story based on our research, sketches and first ideas. The idea that the little boy Max comes from another country (Madagascar), who comes back to Switzerland and gets to know everything here with the help of his cousin is partly autobiographical.

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

Probably the german series “Sendung mit der Maus” – first as a child and now together with my own children.

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

To be honest I miss the comparison. I can only say that I find it a good platform to prepare his work for Festivals and to connect with festival organizers.

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

no idea. many many Songs. but probably not even one of my favourite Songs but something like a german childrens song.

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

We are currently working on a transmedia-project for children. Here, too, stories about different Swiss traditions are to be told. On an app, children can then get to know about the traditional peculiarities and the people who live these customs through animation short films, doku clips and games.
 

PEPITA & MAX, 6min, Family/Animation 
Directed by Rahel Ilona EisenringPepita and Max have all sorts of adventures. Monsieur Raf, Max’ toy giraffe, is always with them. When Max loses Monsieur Raf while hiking, the little boy can’t find sleep. Not even the Alpsegen, the lullaby of the mountains, which is meant to protect animals and people on the alp, helps. The peculiar tradition gives Pepita an idea: what works for Swiss alp-cows could also save a giraffe through the night.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

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Interview with Filmmaker Mike Johnson (OCEANIC ALIENS)

 OCEANIC ALIENS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the November 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mike Johnson: A few years ago I fell in love with scuba diving and the underwater world. Being a filmmaker, my goal quickly became making underwater video a staple of my business, so I invested in dive training and underwater camera equipment. Now, I rarely dive without my camera. In the dive world Kona, Hawaii is known for the pelagic blackwater dives and this was very high on my “list”, as divers often refer to their bucket list of dive sites. In mid 2016, I booked a shoot on the big island of Hawaii and decided to stick around after the work was over to dive. Having no experience with pelagic blackwater diving I really did not know what to expect from the footage, so I went into the whole thing with no goal other than to have a good time. The experience itself, and later the research, are what ultimately inspired me to create the film.

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

Due to the logistics of pelagic blackwater diving, I did two dives while in Kona – each about an hour long. After that I spent about three months doing research on the species I had captured. This is not a topic one can simple “google” and expect to find results. It took a lot of digging and fact checking to be certain the information I had compiled was accurate. From there I spent two weeks writing and editing the film.

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

Life Changing. The information I learned during the research and discovery phase of this project absolutely changed my life, or more specifically my way of thinking. Oceanic Aliens contains a minuscule amount of information on the topic of plankton. I found it absolutely amazing how important plankton are to the entire planet, and even more so how little the public, and even science, knows about these creatures, and more importantly, the ocean.

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

With the ease of access to the internet and underwater cameras, there is a lot of misinformation to sift through online. Divers and snorkelers often encounter various species of zooplankton, posting pictures and video online to various outlets. More often than not, I found these to be mis-identified. Scientific resources often listed species by name, but included no reference images. With the goal of creating a traditional nature documentary, I knew my information had to be spot on, so I spent a lot of time cross referencing and fact checking my research.

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

Its great to see people learning something new, that they never thought existed. From a filmmaking standpoint, I had a few goals in mind with this film. I wanted to create a traditional wildlife/nature documentary, and knowing I had limited resources and footage to work with I wanted to leave the audience wanting to know more – to whet their appetite and hopefully inspire a few to learn more. Hearing this feedback from the audience helps me to know those goals were accomplished.

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

Growing up I always wanted to be an astronaut. Scuba diving is as close to space exploration as one can get on this planet. In fact, NASA trains astronauts to work in microgravity by submerging them in a giant pool. Being just three miles off-shore and 30 feet deep, I really felt I was on another planet while filming Oceanic Aliens. After the dives when I would show people photos of the creatures I captured, few people believed they were real until I showed them the video. Nearly everyone’s reaction was related to alien life.

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

Wow, hard to narrow this down to one. There are three film series that stick out – Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars. I watched each many times growing up, and now that I have kids of my own have introduced them to these films as well. The adventure into the unknown I think is what really draws me in. More recently, I discovered The Lost World of Z.

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

I like FilmFreeway. Its easy to use and provides access to a massive volume of festivals. Definitely a platform I will come back to with future films.

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

Another hard question! I don’t know about one specific song, but the most listened to artist would probably be Fleetwood Mac. My parents often listened to Fleetwood Mac on cassette tape when I was growing up, and there are a lot of good memories tied to those songs.

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

There was a discussion in the audience feedback about how the film left viewers wanting more. It has left me wanting more as well. My goal for 2018 is to begin production for a feature length version that will highlight zooplankton and explore their importance to the planet.

 

OCEANIC ALIENS, 6min., USA, Documentary/Wildlife
Directed by Mike Johnson

Oceanic Aliens is an internationally award winning short documentary that explores one aspect of how little we truly know about planet earth. More is known about outer space than our very own oceans. This short documentary illustrates just one example of a little known class of marine species and their amazing attributes.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

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Interview with Filmmaker Hendricksen Armand (COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK)

COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK played to rave reviews at the November 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hendricksen Armand: I was always aware of cosplay as a subculture from an outsiders perspective but it wasn’t until I was fully immersed in it that I began to understand the full scope of what cosplay was. It was vibrant, it was creative, it was technical, and I thought it was a story that needed to be told.

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

From conception to completion it took about 9 months to complete. Though I have footage in the film from 2014 of the first convention I ever attended. Which was Supercon in Miami.

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

Fun, Unexpected

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

I think trying to coordinate with all the different subjects on the film to tell their stories. Logistically it was a bit challenging because we all had full time jobs including myself. So we had to find a time when we were all available to shoot.

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

I was very happy to see how many people appreciated the topics that were covered in the film. I assume some these people have cosplayed or know cosplayers. That really brings me a lot of joy when cosplayers enjoy the film because essentially, I made this for them.

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

I didnt have to come up with anyting really. I discoverd an artistic, vibrant, community and wanted to share it with the world.

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

I’ve seen a lot over the years, but what always comes to mind is The Dark Knight. I could watch that all day.

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

I’m a relatively new filmmaker in terms of the submission process so I can’t really comment on how things used to be, but I do find it very convenient to submit films on platforms like FilmFreeway. It allows filmmakers to get their work out there without mailing postage and searching thousands of websites to find festivals.

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

Wow. I can’t say I’ve been keeping track. The song I’ve been listening to the most right now is “Stay” by Hans Zimmer from the Interstellar soundtrack.

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

I am currently working on a film at the moment. It’s a project I am very excited about and could perhaps screen at this festival again next year!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film: 

COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK, 20min., USA, Documentary/Sci-Fi 
Directed by Hendricksen Armand

A look into the life of cosplayers who try to shatter the boundaries of reality by transforming themselves into characters from comic books, TV shows, and movies.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

 

 

Interview with Filmmaker Daeryun Chang (CALL COHO)

Daeryun Chang’s short film CALL COHO was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the December 2017 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Daeryun Chang: I made “Call Coho” to have people think about how we interact with other people. I wanted to flip the spotlight away from the usual person of interest to the “supporting player.” In the case of the film, it is the surrogate driver who are often used but who hardly ever gets any attention. What is he like, what does he feel, what life background does he have? I wanted to build a story in very small but revealing pieces around him, the supposed “server,” and his clients who now have the tables turned on them since they are “serving” him at least from the storytelling standpoint.

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

From the inception of the story to the post production of the film, “Call Coho” took about 8 months. The production (the shooting excluding pick up shots) itself was undertaken basically over an intense 36 hours in countless number of locations, often with different cars on a process trailer. While it was fun, from a technical standpoint, it is a demanding shoot. The headache with a driving movie is that we have to be constantly on the move.

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

Inner Peace

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

During the year the movie was made my father fell very ill and it was obvious that he did not have many months to live. Family members had to take turns nursing him and especially going into the pre-production meeting it was touch and go as to when we could actually shoot the movie. But he regained his health for about a week or so allowing me to confidently tell the cast and crew that we could finally shoot it. Sadly he passed away as we were in post-production and he never saw the finished product. I dedicated “Call Coho” at the end of film to his memory and his love of movies, especially westerns.

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

It was quite gratifying to see that the movie resonated as strongly as it did given that “Call Coho” is about South Korea, an unfamiliar profession (being a surrogate driver) and in Korean but with subtitles. It proved to me again that some themes such as the ones that I wanted to evoke such as the banality of superficial vanity and the need for mutual respect are universal. Films, even a short one such as mine, allow different cultures to connect with each other.

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

I was watching a documentary one day about a fast-service motorcycle courier who was raising a young daughter by himself. He made just a few dollars for each delivery and sometimes he took on jobs that required him to ride in heavy rain or even snow. He said he did it because he wanted to make up for his past misdeeds to his parents and the wife who left him by taking good care of his child. He was saving money to buy her a big doll. I adapted that story into mine and converted it into a surrogate driver since I wanted the protagonist to have varied interactions with his different clients that would reveal different facades of Korean society but also through them an arc of “Coho.”

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

“Tucker, the Man and his Dream” (1988) by Francis Ford Coppola. It is one of his lesser known movies but one that I have seen at least 50 times. It revolves around the true story of an innovator like Steve Jobs. I use it to teach Marketing because there are many lessons that can be easily conveyed. But even as just a movie, it has become my favorite film because it has a star performance by Jeff Bridges as Tucker as well as great supporting roles by three of my favorite actors, Joan Allen (pre-Bourne days), Martin Landau and Federic Forrest. The movie has emboldened me to always have a dream and even to dare to make them come true -and it has as I now make movies.

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

I am very happy about the FilmFreeway as it has allowed me to submit movies in a very economic and efficient manner. Los Angeles Feedback is the 12th festival that has accepted “Call Coho,” and so as they say the proof is in the pudding. The movie has been screened world-wide not only in LA (twice) but also in NYC, Ferrara (Italy,), Copenhagen, and Sydney. Needless to say I cannot say enough good things about FilmFreeway.

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

That is a tough question. I think it might be “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor. A really close second (certainly in the last 15 years) is “The Nearness of You” cover by Norah Jones.

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

I have almost completed a romantic-comedy-horror mash up short called “The First Timer” on men’s grooming. This will be my first film to be shot entirely in English -so no subtitles needed! It will be released in the spring of 2018.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

CALL COHO, 16min, South Korea, Drama/Mystery
Directed by Daeryun Chang

Coho is a proxy driver who gets paid to drive other people’s cars so that they can freely go drinking. His clients only think they see a man who is all out of luck but what mysterious past is he actually hiding?

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

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Interview with Filmmaker Nikodem Rautszko (DE GLACE)

Nikodem Rautszko’s short film DE GLACE was the winner of BEST FILM at the December 2017 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nikodem Rautszko: At first, I wanted to make a film in an ice rink at night. The ice rink of my childhood inspired me. It was dark, it was gloomy. I wanted to talk about an emotion (the fear of being alone, without help, in indifference), and a hard social reality, but in a different, original way; that the public feels a emotion before understanding it.

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

This short film was prepared and shot very quickly. I wrote the script in early December 2016, prepared in two months, and shot in late January 2017. Then post production took 2 months. The film was ready in March 2017, 4 months in total.

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

cold and dark

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

We had to shot a second night because it lacked images for the logic of storytelling, and the machine that was cleaning the ice broke down. So we had to clean the entire rink by hand the second night of filming. Time management has also been very complicated.

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

The feedbacks are always very interesting on this film, because everyone brings his interpretation, and that’s what I like.

I’m always surprised and I discover new things I did not know about my own movie. This is the strength of cinema and art in general.

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

The vision of a lonely woman in the locker room of an empty ice rink at night. Then I followed the thread.

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

Fight Club by David Fincher

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

It is a very interesting platform that makes it easy to find festivals that correspond to everyone’s project. It allowed our film to travel a lot.

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

May be “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, or “Last Dayz” by Onyx.

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

I’m working on different short videos for the web, and I’m writing my first feature film, a fantastic and social thriller.
 

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film: 

DE GLACE, 6min, France, Drama/Thriller
Directed by RautszkoAt night in an empty skating rink, a young artistic skater launches on the ice, and begins a training. After a bad fall, she finds herself in blood, alone in the middle of the track. Unable to get up, she calls for help, when the ground starts to tremble …CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

 

Interview with Filmmaker Nikhat Powell (THE BENEFACTION)

 

Nikhat Powell’s short film THE BENEFACTION played to rave reviews at the November 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival. It was the winner of BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCES at the festival.

 What motivated you to make this film? 

This was my thesis film for my MFA in Digital Cinema. When I started, I knew it was my one chance to prove to myself that I can direct. Though I’ve taught filmmaking internationally for over 20 years and made directors of many students, I’d never directed a film myself!

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

Because I had to follow a university program timeline, it took me about 15 months to complete it. My sound design and my color grading work was done abroad while I was in the US. Because of the time difference, any communication was super hard and it took more time than I’d ever imagined!

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

Heart warming!

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

Time difference! I was in the US and my film was shot in India. There is a 11.5 hour difference in time between the two countries. Something that could be easily sorted out in a day of face-to-face time often took many times that amount of time!

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

I enjoyed it very much. It was interesting to see the number of people who were in the audience, and that there were several astute and on-the-nose comments from ‘lay people’. Made my conviction firmer, that language is not a barrier in communication. Just the sub-titles wouldn’t communicate. Body language and human emotions are universal.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve always believed in the concept of ‘pay it forward’. I’ve also wondered what decisions the very ‘upright’ me would take if I had to make a choice between my values and my two boys. It always had to be a drama, because I believe touching the human emotion and making a person think about life in general is very important. It seemed that these things, along with karma (which I believe is an offshoot of the pay-it-forward concept) just came together. It evolved from there into this story!

  What film have you seen the most in your life? 

The Sound of Music, closely followed by The Shawshank Redemption! There are a few Indian films that I love too!

 You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective? 

I wasn’t there in the festival so I am unable to comment on how it was conduted. However, I really like the concept of the audience feedback video that was sent out. It was a beautiful feeling thinking that a lot of people in a room talked about my film, believed in it, and were touched by it.

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

Hmmm… I’ve listened to all kinds of songs, but probably Simon & Garfunkle and Queen have been the singers I’ve loved through all these years. I think Bohemian Rhapsody just might be one of the songs that I listened to hundreds of times.

  What is next for you? A new film?  

Yup! I’ve written the story for my next film. Got through two drafts of it, got feedback from a festival for it, and have to work on it a lot more to make it tighter and smoother. I plan to shoot it in the summer of 2019 in Mississippi. It’s the story how how a young girl helps her grandfather ‘grow up’ and move on in life. Another heart-warming story, even if I do say so myself!! 😀

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