Interview with Filmmaker Mark Garcia (THE ARTIST)

THE ARTIST played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mark Garcia: I first met Mauro while running a camera on his first film he directed titled, The Recall. One day just Mauro and I went to grab some night shots and during the hour long drive to the location Mauro started telling me about his history as a concept artist and all the work he had created. I was SHOCKED to hear all the incredible works he had created for Major Motion Pictures and couldn’t believe one man had created all these pieces from his imagination. I knew from that conversation I wanted to interview him and create a piece to share with the world. It is the first time I was completely happy to be stuck in awful LA traffic so I could just listen to all the fascinating stories Mauro was sharing with me during the drive.

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

From shooting to final edit took about a month but it was over a year from the time he shared his stories with me to the short being produced.

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

Beautiful Mind

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

The biggest obstacle was making sure I created a piece that Mauro would be happy with. I wanted to make it ALL about Mauro and make sure the edit was organic with the content we shot. I wanted the audience to TRULY feel they were in the Mauro’s creative studio just as I was during the filming.

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

The audience feedback video was AWESOME! It was incredible to see people in a movie theatre in Toronto watching THE Artist. I saw smiles and people fully engaged in the piece. I heard a couple people refer to it as “beautiful” and that made me feel incredible because Mauro, his work and his creative genius is nothing short of beautiful. Thank you for screening the film and the awesome people of Toronto for viewing it. BTW Go Raptors!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I just wanted to interview Mauro and see where it would take us.

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

That’s a tough but good question. Hmmm I would have to say Goonies, Inception, Gladiator, Sixteen Candles, Jaws, Rocky IV, Top Gun.

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

FilmFreeway is INCREDIBLE! It is actually a fun platform where you can easily pick the festivals and submit. Whoever created the platform is genius!

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

I am a big Eminem and Lil Wayne fan so the song, “No Love” is easily one of my favorites! It has been on repeat for YEARS! lol

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

I have a couple short docs in the making. Check back with me in about 2 months and I will let you know. ;). And again so much thanks and appreciation to you, The Documentary Short Film Festival, Toronto and the people of Toronto! I am truly honored and blessed! Thank YOU!

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Interview with Filmmaker Marina Ziolkowski (BUT YOU LOOK SO GOOD)

BUT YOU LOOK SO GOOD played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marina Ziolkowski: My own story was the starting point. I thought it was important to talk about the loneliness and frustration that people with invisible illness experience.

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

I started to write in September 2018 and finished the post production in March 2019 so 7 months!

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

Unusual – necessary

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

The editing ! Switching from “the dream” moments to reality and make it work!

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

I was happy that people understood exactly what I wanted to say! It’s not easy and they understood the message! I’m very grateful for this video.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Like I said before my own story was the starting point. I thought it was important to talk about the loneliness and frustration that people with invisible illness experience.

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

Some like it hot » Billy Wilder, It was my favorite film as a kid!

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

My producer sent it… But I think it’s great!

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

I have too many! Sorry I can’t!

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

I just finished my new short film and I hope it will do a lot of festivals like this one!

And I’m starting to write the feature !!!!

Interview with Filmmaker Manchhiring Tamang (A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HIMALAYAN SHEPHERD)

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HIMALAYAN SHEPHERD was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Manchhiring Tamang: My motivation to make this film roots from my familial and cultural ties to the village. I was born in the village and grew up surrounded by shepherd practices and as I grew older I saw the apparent changes to shepherding practices due to modernization. While I still resided in Nepal, I was very involved in the media and would conduct research and write articles on the indigenous peoples of Nepal. This further influenced my decision to make this film as I would like to share to the world a practice that may not be so popularized in media but is still captivating to learn about before the practice may potentially die out. I hoped my film would preserve a slowly vanishing profession.

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

I first conceived this idea after a worrisome conversation with my grandfather ten years back. He was telling me shepherding is slowly dying off as more and more people go abroad. Forward to 2018, I had settled in America and become somewhat financially stable in order to pursue my dream. With the support of employers and friends, I went to Nepal and completed the project within a month.

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

Culture preservation.

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

The biggest obstacle that I faced in completing this film was the weather conditions. The weather would constantly going from clear skies and sunny to cloudy and rain. This made it very hard for us to have an on-track shooting schedule since the weather could change on us anytime.

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

The audience feedback for my film made me feel very grateful. I am thankful that so many people enjoyed the film that I hoped would preserve my village’s dying custom. I am feeling very motivated by the feedback and for receiving ‘best film’. I hope to continue with filming and produce more films.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Ten years ago, my then 98 year old grandfather and I had a conversation about the dying custom. Because I had ties with the media, in that moment I thought a great way to preserve this custom for future generations would be through a documentary. Ever since then I had always wanted to make a film on shepherding practices.

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

I watched a Nepali movie from 1991 called “Chino”. It was the movie of the year and I watched it six times.

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

I believe FilmFreeway is a golden platform. It allows small film makers to screen to an audience in order to get feedback. Just being able to screen my film to an audience is something I am very grateful for.

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

I must have listened to Nepali classical singer Narayan Gopal’s song “Kehi Mitho Batagara” the most times in my life. A true love song.

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

Next for me is another film on the story of a migrant from Nepal. I am creating this film to explore the American dream he and millions of others have.

Interview with Filmmaker Juha Flilin (DIVINE CONSULTANTS – THE BEGINNING)

DIVINE CONSULTANTS – THE BEGINNING was the winner of BEST VISUAL DESIGN at the July 2019 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Juha Flilin: I wanted to create meaningful and diverse content for the youth. Divine Consultants is not only an adventure with comedy elements, but a growth story in a corrupt and divided world. Our young hero, Joy, must defy her own moral insights to expose the mystery. She loses everything, but rises from the ashes and faces the wrath of the gods. We still bring a positive message: Joy can beat the corrupt system!

‘Divine Consultants – The Beginning’ is actually written as a Web Series. The format and style are not of a typical animated short film because I want to make sure the young audience will find it.

The main character, Joy, lives in a divided world. For some people, this world is utopia, the ideal society, and for others, dystopia, the perfect opposite of the ideal society. Joy belongs to a discriminated minority, rumored to spread a dangerous disease. She tries to merge into the mainstream.

The significance and analogy of Joy’s story can be sought in today’s world, where distorted power structures take the power from the individual and divide society into artificially opposing groups.

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

It has been a long process. I started writing the first DC themed short film back in 2012. Then it turned into a series script in 2015. In 2016 I produced and directed an animated short film called ‘Job Interview’ that was based on the same story world and main character. The short film did really well at film festivals around the globe and it helped me develop the next stages of the project. Even though we had success of ‘Job Interview’ I wanted to change the visual style from 3d to 2d. The production of the ‘Divine Consultants – The Beginning’ motion comic took 16 months, because we had to re-write and redesign quite a lot in between the process.

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

Motion comic.

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

First obstacle was funding it. I managed to get the Finnish National Broadcasters on board and resource some self financing towards the production costs. Once we got the funding together the next obstacle became the story. The first production draft was not engaging quickly enough and some concepts were not clear. However, we were in production and thought we must finalise the pilot to get first feedback, which helped us to evaluate the work done as well as assess the necessary improvements. Finally, we realised that we had to rewrite everything again and there was various re-writes in that process. The re-writes made us think bigger and open up the story world as well as the characters.

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

I was really excited to hear and see how well the audience picked up the underlying themes and meanings of the film with such confidence and understanding. Really impressive!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea was born from the need to explain the events and conditions before the main character Joy has to enter the corrupt afterlife (in the next series in development). Me and my writers had created a complex and rich afterlife where Joy struggles against some more and some less divine enemies. To tell about Joy’s background I needed to make a living world that is aligned with the afterlife.

It was clear that the world was going to be dystopian and corrupt. I wanted to avoid stereotypical dystopian views and therefore looked closer to the living life of my young adult children. Joy’s life needed to become mainstream or being casted out of a group seemed like a driving force – and her growth story became about understanding that these external things won’t help her family’s problems. In the end, Joy ends up at a point of no return – she can’t be what others want her to be, but she has to find her own identity.

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

Most likely it is ‘Being John Malkovich’ which I used to watch a lot back in the day.

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

FilmFreeway is my favourite platform without a doubt. I use other platforms too, but generally I would prefer to be able to submit all my film information in one place as it takes quite a bit of time.

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

This is a difficult one! I have always liked so many different artists and styles of music: Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’ as teenager. Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ in my twenties. Sizzla’s ‘Rise to the Occasion’ in my thirties and now in my nowadays it’s probably 2pac feat Dr.Dre ‘California Love’ as it’s turned into our local BBQ anthem. However, to go to sleep my go has always been Erik Satie’s ‘After the Rain’.

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

I’m still producing and directing more episodes of the Divine Consultants motion comic web series until the end of the year. At the same time we are developing and financing a fully animated sequel for it, which will be in more a traditional TV Series format (13×11′). The TV-Series will twist the dystopian world to another level and our hero Joy will have to fight even bigger and more dangerous obstacles in a corrupt, privatised afterlife. The working title for the series is ‘JOY ETERNAL, a Divine Consultants story’.

Interview with Filmmaker Heather Harris (CRUSH)

CRUSH was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August 2019 LGBT Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Heather Harris: I am very fascinated by the human mind and psychological thrillers. In all of my films I usually have some aspect of mental health involved in the story, so I wanted to make a film about psychosis and someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, a struggle I know too well myself. I also identify with the LGBTQ community thus wanted to portray a queer relationship in some aspect in this film as well.

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

From idea to finish this film took about one and a half to two years to make.

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

mind fuck

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

Definitely the editing process, I think because we were rushed for time there was a lack of footage to choose from and my style wasn’t coming across at first. Our first editor, Rommel had to leave early and then I talked to a few editors who couldn’t really pull off the final product until I met with my final editor Jeremy. For a while I thought the film was a lost cause until I met Jeremy.

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

It was a little rough to watch for me personally as some people got it and a lot of others didn’t however I really appreciated the last man interviewed with the degree(s) in psychology as I feel like he got exactly what I was trying to convey and exactly what the message of the story was.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I watched a lot of films about doppelgängers.

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

I once saw Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine five times in theaters.

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

I love FilmFreeway it is so much easier than using other platforms in my experience.

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

Haha I don’t know really but I know I listened to “My Happy Ending” By Avril Lavigne non stop as an adolescent

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

I am currently working on two feature scripts and have a feature in development.

Interview with Filmmaker Frankie De Leonardis (FLOATING)

FLOATING was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August 2019 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Frankie De Leonardis: I’ve been dying to get into film making all my life. At some point a fellow filmmaker pointed out all my scrips and ideas were too wild, with too many resources. He said you should do a short film with just two characters and a single space. I took it literary.

Also I wanted to explain that life is unexpected, you never know what’s coming up next.

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

It took me ten months. two days to write a week and a half to correct a month and a half of pre-production (we had to build the space module), two days of shooting and the rest is post-production.

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

Life’s unexpected.

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

Filming with wires was a huge challenge, we couldn’t predict how slow each setup is. It made us leave behind ten shots (all the views from the other side). Also money, being self-founded we had to think everything so much so as to get the results we wanted with the money we had.

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

An absolute smile, I wanted to hug them. The film is a genre fluid film and I’m always worried people will be let down or disoriented by the constant mood changes of the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

That is a mystery. I started writing after reading Elon Musk sent a Tesla to space and I kind of thought what if the Tesla he sent crashes something on space. From there it was really fluid and it all came out in one seating. Then I went back to tune up dialogues and jokes.

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

Maybe Mary Poppins, but I am an addict I watch so many films hundreds of times. C.R.A.Z.Y. is one of them, also EVENT HORIZON, BIG FISH. I could make a list of thousands.

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

I love FilmFreeway, I actually hate when some festivals make me go to another site. They have such a great design, friendly UI, clean, and fast.

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

Peace Train by Cat Stevens
Colorblind by Counting Crows
Space Oddity by David Bowie

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

I have so many projects and so little money! Haha.\

1. “The Limit” A dark/comedy feature about a small unprotected village in Argentina (1978) that receives the news of war against Chile and goes bananas.

2. “Ash” A dark/dramatic comedy feature about a family’s decision to burn their late father against the extreme religious wishes of the Grandmother.

3. A comedy short about a supermarket employee living such a routinary life, she believes to be trapped in time.

4. A comedy/sci-fi short about a pizza delivery boy who gets to deliver a pizza to god.

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.