Interview with Filmmaker Edouard Paquet (REMOTE)

REMOTE was voted BEST DOC CHARACTERS at the May 2020 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Edouard Paquet: I’ve always been an avid traveler. Both my parents found it very important to see as much as possible of the world and see the differences between places and cultures. Those differences make you understand how the world and its people work. So I’ve always wanted to explore different places but what really intrigued me was isolation. I grew up in a city and then moved to another city, so although I’m an outdoors person and have spent a lot of time in nature, I was fascinated by the opposite of what I knew best: remoteness, where do people live and why! In Europe it’s becoming harder and harder to find spots like these but after spending hours researching and finding Bardsey Island I knew I had to document it!

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

It’s hard to say. I’ve had a sense of this idea for years. I’d say if you look at when we properly started researching, probably about 8 months. It would’ve been possible to do it in less time but the whole crew was busy and no one could work on it full-time. But as a director, I definitely thought about it non-stop every single day for about 8 months.

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

Sensory experience.

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

I could talk about this for ages because it definitely wasn’t an easy film to make. I think the obvious one is that the subject of the film is a remote island. Communicating with the inhabitants is complicated as there’s no regular phone service on the island. So planning the whole shoot was tricky. And the fact that it was an island made it complicated too. We were supposed to spend 2 weeks on the island to shoot the film, but because of the storms the only boat, a private boat, that could pick us up on the mainland was unable to navigate the rough waters and we had to shorten our stay to 1 week.

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

I think I definitely felt some fear and anxiety for the first few seconds because it was coming from people who love watching short films and were talking about something I worked on for the best part of a year. I’m very happy about all the positive feedback and also agree with the not so positive feedback. I noticed someone said that the films didn’t answer enough questions and I actually have the same opinion.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Like I mentioned before, I’ve always been fascinated by remote places. It’s just something I wanted to explore more and understand! Last year I had the opportunity to make a film and went for it!

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

Funnily enough it definitely isn’t a documentary! But it’s hard to say, I honestly don’t know. It goes from French films like ‘La Grande Vadrouille’, that I’d watch with my family all the time, to more famous films like ‘Shawshank Redemption’, ‘Interstellar’, ‘The Hateful 8’, ‘Good Will Hunting’ and many more!

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

It is a great platform that connects people that need to be connected: filmmakers and people who are passionate about the craft and want to showcase the work produced around the world! It’s easy to use and has lots of options.

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

I wouldn’t be able to say … I listen to a lot of different music, it’s very varied, and wouldn’t say that I have good music knowledge. That’s why I made sure I was surrounded by the best composer, and sound designers for ‘Remote’. I knew music, and sound in general, was going to be very important in this film and definitely couldn’t rely on just my knowledge or style.

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

2019 was a hectic year for me. After getting ‘Remote’ done in June 2019 I set off on a trip, driving from Bristol to Mongolia in a small 1-liter car and documenting it. We made a 10-part series, available on Youtube (‘Bristangolia’s Mongol Rally) that took a lot of my time.

So now for the first time in over a year and a half I have time to think about what’s coming next.

I definitely want to make more documentaries. I also want to keep traveling and discovering new places, so the dream is to combine both and telling stories about my travel, experiences, the places I visit and the people I meet.
But before that I’ll be editing a short film in July.

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Interview with Filmmaker Bjarke de Koning (RENOVATION)

RENOVATION played to rave reviews at the April 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Bjarke de Koning: I had an apartment that I was unable to finish renovating and I felt like having a creative outlet and occupy my mind with something meanwhile.

The love story is fiction but the “set” is real.

The apartment that the film is shot in is my own apartment and I was going through a situation like the one in “Renovation” for now about 7+ years (I’m still unable to renovate the bathroom).

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

I had a first draft of the script in October 2015 and the film was selected for it’s first film festival around June 2017 so about two years from start to finish.

We shot over the course of half a year on and off in the weekends. The filming and writing kind of went along with some of the things that was actually happening in real life: Like the bathroom floor being broken up by construction workers.

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

Breaking point

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

That I had set out to express something in a short film while it was happening in my own life. It’s hard because you haven’t fully processed or structured the events but you’re still trying to put it out there in a format. I had a script but the story-line still had to be told from an intuitive position because of the situation. Even in the editing I was still piecing the main structure together as well as possible.

I’d say especially for the actors it was a challenge because they we’re kind of blindfolded creatively and had to just try out different things all the time.

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

I’m very honored that so many people took time to watch the film and give their opinion afterwards. I mean just watching the film is 20 minutes and then also doing a video afterwards about it. I’m truly grateful for that! It’s very interesting to hear other people’s reactions and thoughts about the film. Especially since we were trying to work from a very intuitive place.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was/am stuck with the renovation of my apartment and I thought about how I might be able to use the situation for something positive. I came up with the idea of using the renovation as a metaphor for coming out and I was really very unsure of weather or not that was a good idea. Luckily I was able to get feedback from Danish genius director Asger Leth and he liked the idea and he also was so kind to give me feedback on my first draft. That gave me the confidence to go with my idea.

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

I’ve been re-watching a bunch of great films while being stuck with an unfinished apartment. Some of them are:

The Crash Reel
This Is The End
The Night Before
Search Party
Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Boy (by Taika Waititi)

And a bunch of shows like Silicon Valley (seen the first two seasons 4 times), Last Chance U season 1, Flint Town…

Bu the film I’ve probably seen the most might actually be The Big Lebowski.
I’ve also obsessed about Into The Wild.

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

Great but it’s expensive to submit but that’s just in general.

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

I don’t know if it’s the song that I’ve listened most to in my life but I’ve been putting on “First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining” quite a bit. I find it very encouraging and I never get tired of it because it’s so well done.

10. What is next for you?

Hopefully being able to renovate my bathroom at some point before I retire… (I’m 37 so it’s a joke)

A new film?
Why not 🙂

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Interview with Filmmaker Deniz Campinar (THE REVELATOR)

THE REVELATOR was the winner of BEST FILM at the October 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Deniz Campinar: Oh God, that’s the question, right? And it’s a good one too! As a Turkish girl who grew up in Belgium and went to a Christian school, I could never fully understand the differences between the two worlds and religions I was living in. The question ‘but why?’ never went away. Why was my mother telling me that the Islam is the right religion while the priest at school told us that being a Christian is all that mattered? Growing up in a time where the Islam is so hated (and I can’t blame people for doing so) because of terrible people are doing terrible crimes in the name of a ‘God’. How come that things like terrorism is so sad, devastating and heartbreaking to us but people on the other side of the world are celebrating every defeat? That tells me that good and bad is rather a dark, subjective concept and it made me wonder. Belgium isn’t the religious little country that it used to be, it’s hard to be religious when nobody really is anymore. I want to believe but it’s a God damn struggle to do so! (Haha) Because WHY? I saw an interview of Stephen Fry, he answered the question ‘what would you tell God’ beautifully. That was the inspiration of the monologue Mason gave at the end of the film. I wanted to make the devil very likable, I wanted to explore his side of the story we find in the Quran. Wasn’t it kind of harsh to condemn him for eternity because he refused to kneel for something that eventually became a huge disappointment? I don’t know, you tell me. I wanted to explore all those questions and hope I succeeded a little bit. I can write a whole novel about a topic like this, but I’ll end it with that. (Haha)

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

It took us about two years. It was a real adventure (every production is though). Can you believe that we worked on this for almost 2 years but the actual filming part only lasted 5 freakin days?! (Haha) The whole crew turned into zombies by day 5, but it was worth it and I can’t be thankful enough for every single one of them.

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

HOLY SHIT! (Haha)

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

Definitely time! Although we worked on it for two years, we had to get it on film in 5 days because of an unfortunate misunderstanding. It fits with the theme of the movie though, because we went to hell and back!

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

I was pleasantly surprised, I was shocked, because for the first time I realized that people across the world watched my movie all together. That’s crazy! I loved the feedback, It’s nice that people picked up on such small details like the apple and the way we dressed up the devil. There were little Easter eggs spread across the film, it’s nice that people picked up on that! The whole conversation about The Monkees was a direct reference to the story of how the devil got ‘kicked out’ of heaven (in the Quran). The restaurant ‘Sidora’ is an anagram for ‘Dorsia’, the restaurant in American Psycho. I wanted to link the whole Yuppy culture to Mason so that’s where the anagram came from. Stuff like that made it more meaningful to me and I hope the audience agrees.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The writing process was a long and difficult road. I knew I wanted to tell a story that had to do with religion, something that would make the audience ask the same questions, I ask myself all the time. In the middle of the writing process I stumbled upon a story, a script, written by David Lambertson (shout out to this man!). The story ‘The Relevator’ was such a simple yet effective storyline, I immediately contacted David, asking for permission to film his script. But as time went on the story began to change, I added details and removed certain obstacles. The biggest changes were definitely the possibility that the elevator opens in a different setting (moments in Mason’s life), in the original script everything happened in the elevator. And a also the ending is very, VERY, different. I wanted a sad and a happy ending at the same time while still being satisfactory. So I killed off Mason, and there never was a God…

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

That’s a hard question. I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan! Inception (by Christopher Nolan) is definitely a favorite. Every movie Leonardo DiCaprio plays in actually. Leo for life! (Haha). But the one I’ve seen the most in my life… Is actually a series. Every time a new season of Game of Thrones comes out, I watch the whole story again starting with season one! Season 8 is on the way, so I’m starting with season 1 next week! I’m scared because: Valar Morghulis…

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

I like it a lot! It’s so freaking easy to use! Once you put in all the information you can just click away!

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

That’s a difficult one too. I think it has to be a Linkin Park song. ‘Somewhere I belong’ and the whole Hybrid Theory album are definitely the songs I listened too the most times in my life. Since I was 11 eleven years old I’ve been a huge fangirl! Chester Bennington was the first man I ever fell in love with (haha). So yeah… He will never be forgotten. EVER!

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

Who knows… January is the start of something new! It’s too early too share, but The Revelator is definitely not the last story I’ll be telling.

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Interview with Filmmaker Michelle Brand (NOT THE SAME RIVER. NOT THE SAME MAN)

 NOT THE SAME RIVER. NOT THE SAME MAN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the August 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michelle Brand: I am fascinated for a while now with the relationship between time, change, and movement and how they connect and exist together. As humans, we believe commonly that time does exist, because we can see change taking place, so we understand time by spatialising it into stages. This idea can be expressed really well through animation, since it plays with the idea that only through a change happening on each frame, movement, and thus time, is created altogether. So to me, this film was an exploration and thought process of this whole philosophical debate on how time can be understood and perceived.

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

It was my graduation film at University, so roughly 6 months.

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

Time and movement!

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

Finding the right visuals. I had this huge idea that I wanted to explore, that it was in fact too big to put down in any pictures. I had to find the right vehicle to transport such an abstract idea, so I found the river metaphor of Heraclitus to frame it all together.

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

I was very nervous and excited of course. When you go to festivals, it is nice knowing that there is an audience watching your film, but in actual fact it is rare to hear direct feedback. So to hear that somewhere out there are people that enjoyed it and thought about it so much, is very touching.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main drive was that my head was filled about these thoughts about time and movement, and how philosophical concepts can relate to animation theory, which also was my dissertation theme at the time. So it was a combination about thinking about the philosophical concept behind it, exploring how it can be expressed in animation, and then finding the right metaphor to use.

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

I don’t tend to re-watch live-action films that much, so it might be animation shorts that I watch again and again for reference or see at festivals, I’m not too sure to be honest.

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 good how easy and accessible the platform is, however that at the same time can be its disadvantage. As a filmmaker, you can fall into the hole of just submitting to everything that is out there, but a lot of those festivals don’t need to be checked up and approved. So there are a lot of festivals there, that you never hear from again and lack communication and connection with the filmmakers. It is difficult finding the right balance, I suppose…

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

Probably some song that is in my playlist of soundtrack music I listen to while working… Maybe ‘A Wild and Distant Shore’ by Michael Nyman!

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

Yes! I just finished a new film called ‘Synchronicity’ during my studies at the Royal College of Arts in London. Now I will be working on my next graduation film!

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Supervising Sound Editor Donald Sylvester (Logan, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma)

Donald Sylvester has worked on over 100 films in the last 25 years and is considered one of the top people working in the craft of Post-Production Sound today. I asked him a few simple questions via email and he countered with some really insightful and meaningful answers. Enjoy it:

Where were you born and raised? When was working in the film industry start to become a career pursuit for you?

I grew up in the Garden State of New Jersey, where all my core principles were established. My father moved us to Atlanta when I was 11, and it was a wonderful experience during that period – both for Atlanta and for me. It was an unprecedented period of great growth for the city and the awakening of a progressive South – and growth for me personally as well. I dabbled in a lot of stuff, but always gravitated toward music. Frankly the film business didn’t come calling for me until a long, long time later after I moved to California. I reached some level of success before I realized that the music business was a bad idea. My wife, who was a film editor, suggested that motion pictures and I would be a good fit. My skills and instincts fit right in. She was right.

What has been your most proudest work of your career? Or, what has been your favorite project?

For a lot of my years I worked on other people’s films as a sound editor. I learned a lot and loved the people and the work, but I never really thought of those projects as “mine.” I didn’t start supervising in earnest until 2001. I could write a book about each one of those shows (and maybe one day I will!). I did two “Garfields” which were not great movies but working with Bill Murray was really unforgettable. And I supervised and mixed “The Fault In Our Stars,” and that was a wonderful and meaningful experience.

But the film I like the best is “310 to Yuma,” and I like it for so many reasons. I like it primarily because it’s a Western and it’s got guns and horses and spurs and all that good stuff that Westerns must have, but also because it is the kind of movie where every single sound is totally plot- or character driven. As simple as that may sound, it resulted in a very satisfying experience. Plus, it’s a good movie.

In your words, what exactly does a Supervising Sound Editor do?

A director once told me that he really wanted to do everything on his film himself, but now, as a director, he was only allowed to tell everybody else what to do. I’m very sympathetic to that and I try to help the director achieve his goals. I try to get to know him and what he needs and understand the vision of his film. Simply put, I see myself as the sound extension of the director. I make sure he hears what he wants to hear, communicates the story he wants to tell, as well as faithfully executing the sonic challenges he wants to express.

I often like to imagine I’m the creative force behind the soundtrack of these films, but honestly I am only a trussed-up worker-bee, taking directions and challenging myself to deliver something I think is perhaps better than what was requested, as well as hitting the target set forth by the director precisely on the head. There’s also a lot of management duties and schedule-making, but I seldom write about that.

Give us a breakdown of a big budget film like LOGAN. How many people are
working in the sound department in post-production? How long do you and your team have to complete your end of the film? Do you generally work with the same
team?

I am fortunate to work a lot at Fox, where we’ve established an enlightened work flow for me. Our method seems to get results and head off post sound problems as well. I start early on the show during principle photography and as the scenes are cut together by the picture editors, I fancy them up with sound effects and cleaned-up dialogue. Later, when the post editorial is in full swing, I’ll expand my crew to include dialogue editors and sound effects editors. A film like Logan had a healthy budget but didn’t have a long post schedule, so we were asked to work weekends and long hours. In the end, I had two sound designers, two sound effects editors, two foley editors, and four dialogue and ADR editors, not to mention two assistants. This is actually a small crew to bring this kind of film to the mix stage. Much of the work gets finessed at the mix, which is the battlefield trenches for getting all the ideas to gel and finished in time. There’s always a big chunk of the budget for looping, which can be extensive, as well as temp mixing and audience previews. Yes, I like to work with the same people whenever I can, but schedules often don’t permit that luxury.

Is there a type of project that you like to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

As I’ve worked on more and more films over the years, my goals have changed. There was a time I thought I’d like to do a big science fiction thriller, but I’ve actually learned that genres alone don’t make the most satisfying films. What tickles my fancy are films rich on character development with some insight into the human condition. Now, no one goes out and says, “I’m gonna make the greatest human condition film this town’s ever seen!” But if they’re relying on car chases or space battles and they’ve neglected depth of character, then I’m not gonna get too excited about it no matter how “special” the special effects are.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind doing a war movie (mostly WWII for my taste) or even a musical. But musicals don’t spend any time on sound effects, so let’s scratch that one off the list and just say WWII. With characters!

What is your passion in life besides sound?

Sound is my passion, but if you take sound away there’s my great interest in music – but that’s sound too. I’ve often imagined going back into radio (I ran the college radio station WUOG in Athens, Georgia during my college years) but I would only do that if I could DJ a radio show that would blend music and sounds into a cohesive story – but that’s what I do now. So, what I probably like after all that is to travel, because over the years I’ve really enjoyed travelling and recording sounds and sound effects in interesting and distant locations. But … that’s sound again.

What movie have you watched the most times in your life?

I assume you mean what movie have I voluntarily watched most often that I haven’t worked on? Because when you work on a film you actually watch it hundreds of times until you memorize every frame of it. And that concept prevents me from watching most movies more than once or twice. However, my favorite movie would have to be “Withnail and I,” which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but ticks all the boxes for me.

What advice do you have for people who would like to do what you do for a living one day?

I would suggest that if you want to get into theatrical movie sound then you should make sure you’re ready for the long hours and hard work, and then you should find people who are currently making films (or shorts or TV shows or documentaries) and offer to work for them for FREE. Just get your foot in the door and do anything and everything you can to get familiar with the process and begin to focus on the area where you want to work. And one day (if you still like it and it likes you back), somebody will say, “Hey, you should be getting paid for this stuff.” Then you’re on your way.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Composer Jeff Russo (Emmy Winner FARGO TV series)

 Jeff Russo is one of the most talented musicians and composers working in the industry today. His list of credits in the last 9 years is loaded with successful TV series and movies. In the last 2 years alone his has composed for the series Bull, Legion, Counterpart, Star Trek: Discovery, Lucifer, and his Emmy winning work in Fargo. It was an honor chatting with him one afternoon in his office while he was taking a break.

Matthew Toffolo: Where were you born and raised? Was music something you always saw yourself doing as a career?

I was born and raised in New York City. As far as I can remember, I loved music and it became apparent to me that this was something I always wanted to do – to be a musician. From middle school on I was always playing in bands. It’s something I was better at than other things. I was better at music than math or science for example. And I loved it too! It was obvious very early on that this was what I was going to do.

Are you from a family of creative people and musicians?

My dad was in fashion. He died when I was very young so I’m not all that familiar with what exactly he did. My mom was a homemaker. Not a huge fan of music, but very supportive in my passion for it.

So you’re in high school – where did you think you were headed as a musician?

I always wanted to be in a Rock Band. Rock and Roll was my drive! I was in a band for 25 years. Only 9-10 years ago did I change careers and think about composing.

What was your first composing job? And how did you get the job?

In 2006, my band took a break from playing and I had to figure what I had to do with my life. A good friend of mine, Wendy Milette, was working on a couple of television shows and asked me to come by. I watched what they did for a bit, and then they asked me to come to work. Watching what they did got me intrigued and eventually they asked me to write music cues for them and from there I was hooked. I worked for them for about a year and a half and eventually I got hired as a composer for my first job which was a TV show called THE UNUSUALS. Then things took off from there.

Noah Hawley was the showrunner of that show, and also the showrunner/creator of the TV series FARGO. So you guys have a relationship?

Yes. Great one. He called me up in 2013 and said he’s doing a series based on the FARGO movie and told me I’m on board. Then we got to work.

How did you prepare for doing that show? Did you go back and watch the original film?

I didn’t see a need to. I just read the scripts and looked at the emotional places in the script. Saw that the same tone was involved.

You were nominated for an Emmy for best music composition for the first two years, and eventually won the Emmy last year for your work in season 3. What is the Emmy winning experience like?

It’s a feeling is disbelief. The Emmy sits on the shelf in my office and it’s a crazy reminder. The feeling going up there and accepting the award is hard to describe. That moment – incredible. People will now say to you, “You’re an Emmy winner”. People have that in their minds from now on. My peers acknowledged me. It’s an honor.

What are you currently working on right now as we speak?

Season #2 of LEGION. And a Mark Wahlberg films coming out this summer (MILE 22, directed by Peter Berg). It’s been a lot of fun working on that film.

Besides the films you’ve work on, watch move have you watched the most time in your life?

Empire Strikes Back. I’ve seen it over 40 times.

Is there a type of project that you would like to work on that you haven’t yet?

I’d like to work on a Western.

What advice do you have for people who would like to work as a composer some day in the industry?

Most important thing is for someone to create their own voice. We are all unique and original in our own way so we all have a voice. Find it. It’s the only way to move forward.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.