Interview with Filmmaker Freya Billington (TERMINATED: TEETH & TINDER)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Freya Billington: It was a reflection on a very tough time in my life nearly 10 years ago when my husband left and my front tooth fell out at the same time. I couldn’t believe having suddenly and unexpectedly become single again I was ‘back on the market’ as an older woman which is hard enough to feel attractive as it is without not even being able to smile properly. Life moves on but as it did I have found myself having conversations with so many women who ended up in very similar situations and I wanted to make something about that.
In truth I HAD TO MAKE THIS FILM – I am nearly 50 and am not going to apologise for talking about difficult, embarrassing, truthful things anymore.

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

A couple of years but thats mainly because I am a single parent, work full time as a Uni Lecturer and do freelance consulting/ teaching on the side, so my time is very limited. I shot the interviews on the train and got ‘little freya’ made a year before I managed to get enough money to actually shoot more and pull it all together.

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

Personal Obnoxious

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

Sharing such personal information.

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

Its both great and hard. Always lovely to have positive feedback but never easy to hear people not getting it or enjoying it BUT ultimately to know people watched it in a cinema in Toronto, completely out of any context I know or without any prior knowledge is rather wonderful. It is an AMAZING thing you are doing.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Talking to students about whether I should go on Tinder or not!

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

Wonderboys or Bombay Beach

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

It’s fine – always hard to gauge if you are targeting the right festival.

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

IN YOUR EYES Peter Gabriel

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

I am in development a new more traditional narrative film called SERVICES and in conversation with a couple of different people about a possible podcast or radio drama along the lines of older women talking about Tinder.

Interview with Filmmaker Deeptanshu Sinha (SIEGE)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Deeptanshu Sinha: Like all my previous films my crew and I set out to make something which would push every crew member to their creative limits. We usually attempt things which we haven’t executed before or are doubtful of executing. Hence, I took the decision to make a VFX heavy film as we had never done it before. Finally after a lot of brainstorming I got the perfect story I wanted to tell. A story about a man in search for peace only to realise that it cannot be found.

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

It took me around 15 months to make this film.

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

Magnum Opus

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

Every day was an obstacle. It took us 15 months as we entered a territory we had no idea how to execute. We had just around $4800 to execute the entire project so we were short on crew. Hence, we wore multiple hats to complete the project. I was the Writer, Director, Production Designer, Sub Editor, Media Manager whereas my DOP also contributed in Production Design alongside Rotoscopy and DI Colorist. We had only two, 20 year olds who did 95% of the VFX. As nobody in our school had done a VFX project we barely got any support from the school and were on our own without any mentoring. Faculty calls to take over the project due to VFX delays was a nightmare but managing those prepared me as to become a better filmmaker for the studio environment.

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

Firstly, I was so thankful to the people who watched my film and took the effort to give feedback to us. My reactions were as anticipated. The audience completely got the things I wanted to convey to them and also left them thinking with questions which would make it a worthy second screening for them to get those questions answered. I am thankful to the festival for including the feedback section. Its a major plus.

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

I personally was going through a phase in life where I was trying really hard to find peace only to realise that it can never be found. We have to make peace with reality. Hence, I decided to extrapolate this idea and make a layered narrative to tell this story which would be relatable for many audiences worldwide.

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

I honestly don’t have a single film to answer this. As I watch the high rated films once in the cinemas and when at home I try to find the low rated films and give them one viewing.The reason for this is that the low rated films teach you things that one shouldn’t be doing when they make a film. There is a saying, how will you know what is sweet until you haven’t tasted sour.

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

FilmFreeway for filmmakers is like shopping on Amazon. Just add to cart all the festivals you want and hit go. It has made the process such easy. Will just reference THE DARK KNIGHT for this. “FilmFreeway is not the hero we deserve but the one which we need right now”.

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

I have heard Hans Zimmer’s TIME the most in my life. It falls under background scores but I think that’s the only one I can think of. Every time I play it, it emotes different feelings. The score is simply timeless.

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

I am making a feature film with a studio now. It should be done by 2020 end or by the 1st quarter of 2021.

Interview with Filmmaker Alejandro Cabrera (THE SLEEP OF THE RIGHTEOUS)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alejandro Cabrera: Initially I wanted to try new things (for me) in terms of film language, blocking, camera movement and the use of subtle imagery that allow the viewer to find new readings in a second view. It was going to be just an exercise. But then while writing the script I found how deep the distrust of the Mexicans is in their authorities, how great was the temptation to take justice on your own hands and the great danger that that entailed. I came across the huge dilemma that was hiding behind all this: If a vigilante, in his desire to find justice, made a mistake, would he really be willing to submit himself to justice? Or would he look for ways to justify his mistake by claiming that he was basically doing the right thing?

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

About a year and a half, but most of that time was spent waiting for some funding to arrive -that never arrived-. Once we decided to wait no more it was a pretty fast process.

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

I wouldn’t dare to do that. I wouldn’t know how to do that without sounding awfully pretentious.

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

Money. It’s always the money, isn’t it? The budget was almost zero, so we had to settle for borrowed equipment, a hit-and-run Guerrilla filmmaking style, shooting almost exclusively with available light, having practically no rehearsals,… None of these are really my thing.

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

That was amazing. Fellow filmmakers only comment on the technical aspects of the film, while the audience were all about the theme and the nuances… And they mentioned things that made me feel that -despite the lack of resources- the story touched some strings on them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Actually the idea came to me while re-watching Steven Spielberg’s Munich. There is a scene in the film were the protagonists have to kill an alleged responsible of the Munich 1972 Summer Olympic Massacre, but you can see their hesitation because there is no way they can be certain that this sweet Arabic Literature teacher is actually a mass murderer. So they kill him but they -and the viewer- have to remain in doubt if they did not actually kill an innocent man.

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

Difficult question. Quite possibly Raiders of the Lost Ark,… but it could be Alien, Jaws, Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Untouchables, Taxi Driver, The Shinning, Trainspotting, Seven, The Matrix, Fight Club… There are dozens of movies that I re-watch every year. But I must admit that most recently I find myself often watching and re-watching all of David Fincher’s filmography.

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

It’s great. It simplifies the process, enormously. I like things clean and clear. I don’t like to waste time and energy with tiresome submission paperwork.

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

Another difficult question. I don’t know. Surely something by Queen, Dire Straits or Pink Floyd, but for some reason The Animals’ The House of Rising Sun is the first song that comes to my mind.

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

I have just finished the first draft of what I expect to be my first feature, an Action Crime Thriller in the vein of Cape Fear. I’m also working on the pilot of a female-led Crime Thriller mini-series, and I’ve been asked to write/direct an Action short film. So it seems that 2020 is going to be a pretty busy year.

Interview with Filmmaker Paola Bernardini (SOLITAIRE)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Paola Bernardini: I visited the Italian Embassy in Brazil and had the opportunity to shoot something there. I didn’t know for how long that opportunity would last for so I had to act quickly. I was craving to tell a story there, I was motivated by the challenge of making something on the spot, without a crew, just Wayland Bell and I, brainstorming ideas, shooting, acting, and editing together. Wayland is an incredible filmmaker and the only person I could think of that would to be crazy enough to do this with me.

We were optimistic that we could pull off making a short film that looks and feels as if a full production team was involved by ourselves.

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

We worked on it on and off for about a year. Everything took us longer since we were only two and doing this on our free time.

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

cute and psycho

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

Pulling off a film like this was itself an obstacle but I decided to look at it more as a challenge I was giving myself as filmmaker. That was what kept me going, the stubbornness that it had to be done and it had to work.

The first big challenge was in post, we were still kind of rewriting the film while trying to finish within a deadline. It should also be said that many emotions come into play when you edit yourself in a film you’re not sure is going to work. Towards the end, we were so sleep deprived and got cabin fever. In some ways we mirrored the film and Wayland ended up quitting. After that, my second biggest challenge was finishing the film without him.

Showing the film to an audience and seeing their reactions like at this festival, really makes it all worth it.

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

I flew to Toronto from NY to attend the festival so I was there to hear the audience’s feedback about my film. This was the first time I was able to sit in a room while people give their honest opinion, especially since Matthew insisted that no one knew I was sitting in the audience. I was nervous the whole time but it was very interesting and I wish I could experience that more often. I would absolutely do this again.

It’s definitely a treat that everything is filmed and I can look back at feedback afterwards. Thank you for that.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We arrived at the Embassy without an idea, we had a few scenes we wanted to create but they weren’t attached to a story. Very untraditional way of doing things.

We thought that the moment we both walked the grounds of the Embassy, a genius idea would strike. Unfortunately, we bounced off too many ideas for a couple of days. I blame the Embassy, for being so massive and every room being a place you just must shoot in.

“Can you imagine living here by yourself?”. This was a question that was asked a lot and how we ended up with this idea. I think in the end we followed the initial feelings the location gave us. We felt luxurious, spooked, and deserted. I think all those elements made it in the film.

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

Probably films by Totó, an old Italian comedian.

Then Scorsese, Spielberg, Hitchcock and anything with Roberto Benigni I’ve rewatched a lot. It’s too hard to pick just one!

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

I love how easy the platform is and that it includes reviews.

When I am planning where I will be submitting, I really have to look into what the festival is about, what they have shown in the past, just to see if your film fits that festival. All the information is right there for filmmakers to view.

The reviews are great when you encounter a festivals you never heard of before.

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

Anything by Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.

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

I am working on a short documentary called “What Were You Wearing”. The film is about victim blaming from the point of view of real people who have experienced sexual assault. Those accounts will be intercut with a fashion show where models will wear the recreated outfits that people wore the day of the assault.

The film seeks to deconstruct the widespread misconception that survivors are somehow responsible for their assault. By showcasing the multiplicity of outfits we hope to demonstrate that sexual assault is only the result of the violent actions of the assaulter.

The goal is also to send a clear message to those who might not think that questions like these are detrimental and insinuate blame on the victim.

This documentary is fiscally sponsored by the New York Women in Film and Television. Donations for the making of this film can be made here: https://www.nywift.org/what-were-you-wearing/

We are looking to interview people who have experience with sexual violence. If you’d like to part of this project or simply learn more about it, please email me directly at wwywfilm@gmail.com

Interview with Filmmaker Thomas F. O’Brien (PHOTOS IN THE RAIN)

PHOTOS IN THE RAIN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the November 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Thomas F. O’Brien: I was compelled to share the photographs I found to the world, especially when it started to rain. I remember raindrops hitting me on the face as I quickly moved them down the street to my house. I knew they were special, and that when given the chance I would give them more honor than sitting in the rain.

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

The idea was borne in January 2013, the opportunity came about in October 2017, so 4 years and ten months from pillar to post per se. From the time my Directing class group heard my pitch to when we completed the edit was about three weeks.

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

Art love.

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

Getting the daughter to send pics of the photographer, James Belsanti, after I interviewed her…she was moved by seeing the display of her father’s work, and needed time to process it all. We only have the one pic of him, in the film, and what’s cool about that is he’s wearing a red jacket…Al Avis, Vice-President of the Chicago Area Camera Club says in a phone interview that James Belsanti said to, “get somebody in a red coat to stand in your photograph.”

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

I loved it! It was the best response I’ve heard. Hearing people who “get it” is a wonderful feeling to behold.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I feel like I didn’t come up with the idea, that it was something already thought of and I was just the vessel for it! When I read the syllabus for the Directing class and saw a documentary was an assignment I began putting it together.

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

It’s a tie between “Grand Canyon” (1991) and “Cast Away” (2000).

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

It’s a relief to be able to do something so effortlessly in the distribution/promotion process.

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

“Ventura Highway,” by America (my first 45 rpm, many moons ago).

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

Since then I have co-wrote/directed/acted in a feature that is now on Amazon (“Rainy Carolina” [2018]). I wrote two TV pilots, a sitcom episode, and am working on three screenplay projects. I plan to direct one of those on a small scale as a sizzle to get funding for the bigger scale.

A final word: My son and I went to the Grand Canyon last week. It was a wonderful father-son experience, and on the drive to Las Vegas to fly back home I discovered we had won “Best Music!” This was doubly exciting because my son had stopped playing music for the last few years to work as a carpenter, and his song was the end credits song in the project. I’m hoping it planted a seed in him to want to continue with his musical talent.

Interview with Filmmaker Juan José Patón (S)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Juan José Patón: My motivation was my team. I was looking forward to making a horror project that had touches of the best horror movies from the 80s and fortunately I had a team that wanted the same. Verónica Cervilla had a striking screenplay, Rocio Garcia-Pérez has a beautiful and sensational cinematography, Alberto Martínez is a master of FX, and our amazing cast was exactly what we needed.

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

It took us about a year.

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

Intense and diabolic.

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

As in any other independent production, I think the main obstacles were our budget and the time we had to carry out the project.

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

It was pure happiness. After all, the audience is the target of our creations.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea originally came from a short tale by our screenwriter Verónica Cervilla. She showed it to me and I saw the huge potential it had to become a short film or even a feature in the future.

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

I don’t think I have a clear answer for this question. The films I like the most are Predator or The Thing (among many other) and I may have seen them a thousand times.

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

I think that FilmFreeway is the best and most efficient platform that I’ve ever used to send my works.

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

Probably it’s some theme from a John Carpenter film.

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

My team and I are working in a very interesting project related to Edgar Allan Poe’s tales. Also we’re attempting to turn S into a feature film.