Interview with Filmmaker Adrian Ramirez Leon (ACCOMPLICE)

ACCOMPLICE was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Adrian Ramirez Leon: Back then I had just finished the first draft of a bigger project I was writing on, a feature. I thought that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to first do a short film of the main themes of that feature script as a proof of concept so to say, about the feeling of paranoia and of being followed.

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

The writing was very smooth, after only two drafts I was already quite happy with the result. And for the lead actors, I already had Erwin Janke and Paula Utrilla in mind when I was writing the script. Erwin had already worked with me in our short film “Mirror Shards”. He liked our collaboration that much that he flew over to Spain for a week to shoot “Accomplice” – and sip a Mojito on the beach after the shoot. It took us three filming days and around two months of editing until it was completed.

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

Hitchcock-esque Mousetrap

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

Filming the dark alleyway scene. It was a one shot and difficult to coordinate as every time we started shooting, some people appeared in the background out of nowhere to ruin the take. In one take, a man was climbing unto a balcony in the background to retrieve a suspicious bag. That looked so surreal that I had to cut it out from the final version. I’m quite happy with the final result of that scene though.

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

It made me quite happy. It’s always nice to get some feedback for your films, more so if it’s constructive feedback. It’s interesting to see how other people perceive your film and whether you succeeded with what you wanted to convey or not.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came to me after thinking about how I could turn the feature I had previously written into something slightly different, but with the same essence. Finally, I got my main inspiration from Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a train”. I experimented with that scenario and thus, “Accomplice” was born. Originally, the main character Angela would chat up Alex on the subway or on a train, like in Hitchcock’s classic. In the last minute, we changed it to a park, as that was easier to film and didn’t alter much of the rest of the storyline.

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

I think that would be the film “Hook”. It’s not the best film on earth, but for my little childhood me it was. I must have seen it about a dozen times, that and the Lion King.

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

It’s very comfortable and straightforward to use. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get your film out in the world thanks to platforms like FilmFreeway. You can now be a filmmaker and distributor at the same time.

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

Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2, so beautiful.

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

I’m currently working on another short film that takes place in a self-help group setting, but instead of anonymous alcoholics, everybody there believes that they are vampires. I’m not sure whether to shoot it in London or Málaga yet, as I’m about to move back to England’s capital this summer, but it’s going to be a lot of fun either way.

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Interview with Filmmaker Robbie Lemieux (THE WOODS)

THE WOODS played to rave reviews at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Robbie Lemieux: This short film is a proof-of-concept for a feature film that I’m developing. Although the short is about different characters in slightly different circumstances than the feature, the intention was to create a short and scary piece that conveys the tone and explores the world of the feature.

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

I was about a year into writing the feature when I decided to make a proof-of-concept short. Once I made that decision, it took approximately four months to complete the short — from writing, through pre-production and production, to final cut and delivery.

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

Atmospheric and scary.

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

Budget is always a big obstacle. The challenge was to create something that felt professional, on an extremely low budget with a small crew. Most of our budget had to go to location and transportation – so we needed to be creative with the remaining resources we had to make the film look good and work.

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

I was pleased to hear that the audience found the film compelling, and that they each had different reactions; that the film called up different memories or feelings for each of them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was based on the feature film screenplay, which is all about how people handle an unknown threat that they cannot understand. The short took elements from the feature film, to create a standalone piece.

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

Definitely “Jurassic Park” – the film that inspired me to become a filmmaker when I saw it at age five!

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

It’s amazing to have a platform that helps me discover festivals, and easily submit to them. The filmmaking process will always be a long and hard struggle — but at least FilmFreeway makes the festival process more straightforward and painless once your movie is complete.

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

Everything by Fleetwood Mac.

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

The feature film for “The Woods” is in development, and I am also writing another horror feature — with a new short film set to shoot in Fall 2019.

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Interview with Filmmaker Jasper Bronkhorst (BLOODBURN)

BLOODBURN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jasper Bronkhorst: It is my first short that I have written and directed, so I chose to work in the ‘safety’ of a genre (thriller/suspense) to learn technique and built a network of talented creative people. But my overall motivation was the answer to a simple question: am I capable of directing a movie?

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

Around one year, but not full time of course but working on different drafts and looking for a good cast, crew etc.

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

Suspenseful fresh

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

Staying true to my original intention, because everybody in post production had their own idea of the intention of this film. I sometimes really had to fight to keep it ‘mine’. This was the most difficult part of the process.

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

You know, that big stone you feel in your stomach ;-). I feel very lucky that it was well received and that the audience ‘got it’.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had a very small budget, so my original idea was very simple: big story, small table.

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

This changes constantly, but for now I would say Blue Velvet by David Lynch (’86).

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

It’s all quite new to me, but the first thing that comes to mind is the sheer amount of film festivals all over the world: it’s just mind boggling. Other than that, everything works really well.

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

The Rainbow, Talk Talk (’97)

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

A new film indeed. I can’t really tell a lot about it (don’t want to spoil, sorry!), other than that it is in pre-production and will take place in the near future.

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Interview with Filmmaker Rachel Econ (WIDOW)

WIDOW was the winner of BEST ACTION FILM at the May 2019 Action Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Rachel Econ: I grew up in Southern Arizona so it’s hard not to make a western when you have all that history in your backyard. My goal as a filmmaker has always been to create narratives with strong female characters at the helm, ready to face down whatever fate throws at them. I’ve always felt women in action/adventure movies always get the short of end of the stick. Our arcs are always learning to how to hold gun or learning to stand up for ourselves, when in reality those characters are already stronger and braver than they are given credit for. I figured what better place to start than with the male dominated western, a genre based on an era where you had to be pretty tough to survive.

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

It took about a year and a half from inception to finished product. It was about 6 months with writing and pre-production, then six days of shooting, and then another 6 months or so of post.

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

Brutal Romance

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

I’d say the biggest obstacle was getting the coverage we needed with only a few key crew members. We shot in Arizona but most of us we’re from Los Angeles. It gets expensive and complicated the more people you have travel so we had to be selective about who we brought and how many we could realistically needed. I’ve always felt that if we had a bigger crew we would have been able to really give the scenes the proper coverage that they needed.

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

I always get nervous whenever my film screens. I have so many things that I notice that I wish could’ve changed or done differently but that comes from watching the film a million times. It was great seeing people watching it with fresh eyes and just seeming to really enjoy it. It really gives you the warm and fuzzies knowing you’ve made something people enjoyed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

“Widow” is actually a proof of concept short for a feature I’ve been developing for some time. I’ve always been in love with The Dollars Trilogy by Sergio Leone. I thought it might be interesting to depict the life of a ‘Woman of No Name’, a female outlaw trying to survive and navigate a world that’s not friendly to her. What would her life be like? Would she fall in love and with who? Would she ever be able to leave that life behind? The story just sorta flowed from there.

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

Probably Kill Bill, both Volume 1 and 2! I’m a huge Tarantino fan.

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

It’s nice! It makes the whole process easy and gives you access to a lot of festivals you may not know about! You can also see reviews which really helps you find out what festivals are really worth submitting to!

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

Love Me Two Times by The Doors. My dad is a big Classic Rock buff so I grew up with the Doors playing on the way to school. I still love just about everything they ever made.

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

I’m working on developing my next project, which is another proof of concept for a horror feature I’ve written! As well as trying to get the feature version of “Widow” off the ground. I’m hoping to start production in late 2020!

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Interview with Filmmaker David Bradburn (BEFORE YOU WOKE)

BEFORE YOU WOKE played to rave reviews at the May 2019 FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

David Bradburn: I had been wanting to get some experience writing and directing an action film and also, I had wanted to work with Christian Litke. From there I started to draft a script with the resources I had in mind.

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

Because our budget was so small our post production took a bit longer than we hoped, but from idea to release was about 8 months. We shot the entire film in one day.

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

Female Blacktion


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

Money, it’s always money. We did also have a massive snow storm the night before and filmed on one of the coldest days that winter. We stole the exterior location and between the extreme cold and the cops showing up that made that part of the shoot difficult.

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

The reaction has been positive, and we are often asked if there is a feature version. There is not. I wrote this as a stand-alone piece. But would happily make the feature if the resources are there. Overall the audiences are impressed we were able to tell an action story in the within the confines of short film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I cast the film before I wrote and knew both my budget and resources, so I was able to tailor the idea to resources. Once I had the first draft done, I realized that the themes of taking control of one’s life and the oppression of black women by white men were both present. I did my re-writes around those ideas and took much of the dialogue from Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

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

I think Cry Freedom, but Brickis up there too.

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

I like it better than Withoutabox

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

I checked my stats on iTunes and I think it lied. I don’t really know different times I listen to different things. Over the years Rush, Counting Crows, Dolly Varden, Jason Harrod, and Johnnyswim have been the most listened to music.

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

I have several scripts. I will make the next one I can afford to make. Some are shorts some are features. Currently, I have a short film, “Family”, the is just beginning its festival run.

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Interview with Writer/Producer Rana Sowdaey (CAUGHT IN THE SPOKES)

CAUGHT IN THE SPOKES was the winner of BEST FILM at the April 2019 Drama Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Rana Sowdaey: I was motivated to make this film after experience bike theft. Haha!

So my bike was stolen, and it was at the time, a big part of my life… I moved to Vancouver (I’m from Geneva where I was doing an internship after living in Toronto) with just my bike and suitcase. I had one good friend for the first few months so I biked around a lot and explored… I took huge day trips alone on my bike with music in my ears and my camera. After that bike was stolen- I bought a better bike- but it took me a while to get over it… the loss of my teel peugot racing bike. …. Sometimes I double take at other cyclists riding teel colored bikes. But I really like my new bike now. And I have some good friends who’ll ride with me in Vancouver now ( 3 years later).

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?I guess two full years from the idea to the finished film.

2 years.

It was my first film. I did it with the help of some friends in the production program which was parallel to the journalism program I had just graduated from..

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

Quirky and dry.

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

The budget. Making film costs money and I was just out of school so I basically put all that was left of my savings into location rental, equipment rental, insurance, FOOD for crew etc etc: 2.5k. Our DOP chipped in 1k on top of that ( for some more fancy equipment) and our lead actor chipped in another 500 or so for distribution. Their support was huge. Producing a film involves a lot of moving parts and cost money.

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

I was incredibly touched at what the Toronto audience had to say in this video…. so grateful that it was made- thank you again for that!… I haven’t gotten a lot/ any feed back from STRANGERS- I think maybe they got it more than my own friends or family. I felt understood and again – so touched.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Similar to question 1- I got my bike stolen, and it was all I could think about! I actually wrote 5 or 6 different stories, first draft including chase scenes and car accidents…. but that was beyond my budget.

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

Kill Bill 1, Lost in Translation, Space Jam.

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

I think it’s an amazing platform. Specially to new filmmakers- the site gives you a beginners sense of the film distribution world, which is incredible valuable. Now I work for a production company in Vancouver and we also use the site.

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

My music is super varied. Soffi Tukker’s, Hey Lion recently hit the top.

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

I’m currently working on two short films and just finished another short. One short I’m working on is inspired by my experience in the film industry and the relationships I’m encountering from a career perceptive. Although writing is not my strength … producing is! I recently produced another short film with a talented director named Jerome Yoo which was selected my Telefilms Not Short on Talent, and was taken to Cannes. Currently producing another short film for another talented writer named Ben Johnstone. Again I get to do casting, locations scouting, pulling the team together, grant writing on this one, etc.

Besides passion projects I’m working in the industry as Producer’s Assistant and get do work in production, development, marking and distribution.

This was my first film which I wrote and produced just as I was stepping into the film industry. In the last year I’ve connected with some really talented people – including production designers, artists, composers, writers, directors, location managers, etc. With the help of team and insight from some awesome people, the shorts I’m working on are getting better.

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Interview with Filmmakers Marlon Perrier & Keisha Richards Lafleur (THE TALK)

THE TALK was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the April 2019 Drama Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marlon: Social Media. And seeing all these police videos. Also, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. Their deaths were a big factor in me coming up with the idea of The Talk.

Keisha: I was motivated to make this film by the share impact it will have on those affected as well as give everyone something to think about.

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

Marlon: I had the idea for The Talk almost a year before actually shooting it. But when I connected with my co-director Keisha, we were able to complete it in about three months.

Keisha: The Talk took only the first quarter of 2018 to complete.

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

Marlon: Thought Provoking.

Keisha: Intensely heartfelt

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

Marlon: I would say for me, it was finding the right team. I was supposed to complete The Talk sooner then I did but my original partner had to bow out. But when Keisha came on board, she already had a team in place and ready to go. Also, directing and producing at the same time starring in a film. This was my first time doing that. It can be overwhelming. I learned a lot.

Keisha: The biggest obstacle was having to wear most of the hats. Which can be difficult for any film maker.. and yet it’s a valuable tool to have.. so that when you have a strong team to build with, you then know how to communicate appropriately.

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

Marlon: Curiosity, excitement, anticipation. Just seeing the different point of views.

Keisha: It’s a conversation starter.. l loved the change in perspective we heard..

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Marlon: With the popularity of Social Media, we’re seeing more and more of these police videos. In particular, involved African Americans. Often times unarmed. I thought…as a person of color, how do you prepare your children for what they may encounter and how do you to teach them to protect themselves in those situations. And I just started writing from there.

Keisha: Marlon came up with the amazing storyline. I wanted to help bring it to life.. We brainstormed for a month to see how we could send a strong message.

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

Marlon: The Matrix is a game changer for me. You can watch it for the action or the Kung Fu. But it’s also philosophical, there are religious undertones in it. There are a lot of hidden gems in that film. I also love Training Day, Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Fight Club and The Dark Knight.

Keisha: I love the movie BEACHES!

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

Marlon: I love Film Freeway. It’s easy to navigate. I’m able to keep track of all my submissions. It’s very convenient.

Keisha: I like that there is no learning curve to the website. It’s so easy to get around.

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

Marlon: That’s a tough question. I’m a big fan of music. It helps me write and brings me places. I’ve gotten so many of my script ideas from listening to music. But growing up, I was a huge Michael Jackson and Prince fan. Most of the songs from the Purple Rain and Thriller albums.

Keisha: Purple Rain By Prince is my all time favorite

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

Marlon: I’m currently working on a feature film script. A romantic comedy along the lines of Hitch. And I have an urban drama script as well. I plan on shooting trailers for both films in order to find funding to shoot them. Possibly get it to Netflix or Amazon. Also, I will continue auditioning for more television and movie roles.

Keisha: Definitely, a new film.. 😉

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