Interview with Filmmaker Cornelia Volk (ANIMALS AT THE BORDERS)

ANIMALS AT THE BORDERS was the winner of BEST FILM at the October 2021 ENVIROMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Well, my nature documentaries have been focusing on transboundary conservation areas (or so-called Peace Parks) for more than 15 years now. The idea of Peace Parks was born in Southern Africa after the fall of the Iron Curtain, with the aim to bring together countries through the topic of the common natural heritage. Countries that had been at war before, on different sides during the Cold War. For 30 years now, scientists, environmentalists, communities have been working hard to strengthen and reconnect habitats and migration routes. We observed these processes for many years. And now, we see a turnback of this opening all over the world. We see walls and fences pop up everywhere for different reasons.

So, for me it was a kind of must and a natural consequence of my previous works to have a closer look at the impact all the new obstacles have on vulnerable wildlife populations.

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

For a nature documentary it was an incredible short time, to be honest. With the whole editorial and production staff of the TV station MDR that produced the film, we started in February of the year – and aired it late October.
But I had the advantage to know one of the scientists who appeared in the Croatia/Slovenia story – Gjorge Ivanov – for more than 10 years, from a previous documentary about the Balkan lynx in 2011.

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

Two words??? Puh…:
Borders? No!

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

Of course, lack of time is the biggest obstacle for nature documentaries in general, but for this in particular. If you have just 5 days in the remote area of the Sonora desert in Mexico, just 5 days in Bulgaria and not much more in Croatia/Slovenia, you have to be a bit inventive. You can’t count on outstanding animal footage. You have to count on the human protagonists who carry the story, which is theirs in the end. I think we were very lucky with our protagonists – and I am very grateful for that!

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

I was really moved, that the people were surprised and also touched by the topic. Stimulated to think about it. I am glad, that we obviously not only found a language for us here in Europe, but something rather universal, which is not so easy, I think.

In all the audience remarks together, I found my intention, my mission very much seen and mirrored. Wow. Really a special experience!

I was also glad about the fantastic remarks about the camera work, the editing, also about the narration that was probably not understood literally but appreciated sound-wise… Yes, I had some wonderful colleagues around me to make this film!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Well, somehow, slipped into filmmaking during my studies of German literature and political science, I had some learning-by-doing-years, and in a moment, I couldn’t keep my hands off documentary filmmaking.

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

Wow, what a question … Mmhhh. Maybe “Léolo” (long time ago …). Or “Carol” (more recently)

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Showing films on festivals is the best for us filmmakers. It is the only way for us filmmakers to see, if our work catches the interest or not. And it is always a great experience to answer childrens’ questions, to hear questions that are going much farther than the topic of the film, to discuss with the audience, I just love it. Of course, we all missed the “live” experience in these two COVID years. But you and so many festival makers did such a great job to organize hybrid festivals, to provide special content like podcasts, interviews, the audience comments! Really fantastic.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I would say: pasta. In all variations. I could definitely eat pasta every day …

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

I am working on several projects at the moment. All of them are in a development stadium, so difficult to talk about …

Interview with Filmmaker Drew Petrimoulx (CARVING A NEW LIFE)

CARVING A NEW LIFE was the winner of BEST DOCUMENTARY SUBJECT at the October 2021 DOC Shorts Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

A lot of my work had been canceled due to the pandemic. And I was back in my hometown of Tampa riding it out. A friend from high school and I started working on some shorts. We both knew Dan and had seen on social media that he was making these chairs. We thought it would be cool to document the process. But as we started shooting, we realized there was so much more to it.

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

We started shooting in June of 2020 and released it in March of 2021.

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

New Life

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

Figuring out the right balance of Dan’s story and the chairmaking.

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

I’ve read a lot of comments about the film. But this was so much more personal. I really enjoyed that.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I spent 10 years in TV news. Each story is sort of a mini film. But eventually, I realized I needed more time to develop and tell the type of stories that I am passionate about. So I embarked on this new journey.

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

Probably Dumb and Dumber, ha! But that’s not the type of answer you’re looking for here. I will say that I’ve watched Ken Burns’ Civil War series over and over. The writing, music, and David McCullough’s narration are all so beautiful. And it’s about such a wretched subject. I just can’t get enough.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Well, I love the video feedback. Definitely keep that. It’d be cool for filmmakers to be able to do live q&a’s with audiences. That’s always a lot of fun.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Whole Maine Lobster, steamed with butter. Preferably two.

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

We’re actually working on another story about addiction and recovery. This one is about a former IV meth and heroin user who got clean, went to law school, and rose to the top of her class. She ended up representing a Black trans woman inmate who was abused by guards. She took the case to federal court and won!

Interview with Filmmakers Harrison & Matt Thane (A COMMUNITY UNDER FIRE)

A COMMUNITY UNDER FIRE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the October 2021 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

The fires were all around us, it was apparent to myself that ordinary people were stepping up and doing extra-ordinary things. I felt this needed to be documented, as i was part of the “Mongarlowe Mozzies” i was able to be part of the action as well as film the heroic actions of the women and men who fought the fires. It is their story.

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

The fires raged for over seven weeks in my region of Braidwood NSW Australia, I filmed for that entire time and slightly after. Harrison Thane my amazingly talented son (don’t tell him I said that) (no its ok you can) (prob would make me look good?) then edited it to what you have seen.

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

Selfless People

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

I felt that filming people under duress was sometimes intrusive. Gaining trust from my fellow firefighters was something i was worried about but in the end they trusted me to represent them as you see them on screen, normal people helping out.

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

It made me quite emotional. The fires and the upheaval they caused, the memories live just under the skin still. The fact that your worldwide audience found the film watchable and liked it is very humbling indeed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I started making 8mm films in my early teens , always loved film. Harrison Thane my son is the primary film maker these days, his work is outstanding (I’m his dad, so I can say that.. but it is!)

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

Besides “Napoleon Dynamite” (no seriously I like it) I enjoyed “My Octopus Teacher” and “Val”

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Your doing a great job, please keep doing what your doing. its very much appreciated.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Sushi

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

We are working on a longer version of “A Community Under Fire” as well as twelve 5 minute stories “The Bushfire Chronicles” what we learnt from the devastation and what we can do better in the future when confronted with events such as the bushfires.

Harrison Thane lives and works in Kenya, he also has a number of Humanitarian film projects under way.

Interview with Filmmaker Patricia McCormack (MYRTLE)

MYRTLE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the October 2021 WILDsound Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Myrtle is an adaptation of a play, the premise had struck me as having great dramatic potential, so I asked Megan Barker if she would be game to develop the story together and make a short film.

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

Around 2 and a half years. I suppose as this was my first film (and I haven’t been to film school), each phase took longer as I learnt the stages of putting a film together as I went.

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

Dark, dramatic.

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

Not having a Producer till 1 week before the shoot, I was pulling everything together with no idea how I was going to complete the project, then Shaheen Schleifer agreed to come on board and Produce and she carried the project forward from that point.

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

I was so delighted by the depth of response, how enthusiastic people were and the fact that some said the film stayed with them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I decided I wanted to make films or at least try to make a film about 3 years ago. This is my Directorial debut.

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

Probably Meet Me In St Louis, I was obsessed by that film when I was little.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think this Festival has been great but when it is a virtual experience I suppose the opportunity to network with other filmmakers would be nice.

9. What is your favorite meal?

That really depends what day it is but I’ll say Roast Chicken.

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

Yes I have several projects on the go but my next short is a dark family drama, set around one day again, and we’ll be filming that early next year.

Interview with Filmmaker Barbara E. Guertin (LOVE IN TRANSIT)

LOVE IN TRANSIT was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the October 2021 Under 5 Minute Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Being a part of the LGBT+ community, I really connect to and value representation, and I appreciate when projects celebrate people from all walks of life. This is a huge part of how I decided on the story for my student film! The most important thing about my story is that it could be about anybody, but it’s not. This story is about lesbians, it’s about women of colour, it’s about women with different body types; and the reason those details are important is that they AREN’T important. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but there are so many stories about minorities that are about their struggles as minorities, but not nearly enough just about them as people. I want to erase the idea that straight, white, cis, able-bodied, and neuro-typical is the default, and I tried to make my film reflect that.

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

The Course I took was a one year intensive program, and we spent about half of it developing our films.

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

Gay / cute

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

Exhaustion. My class was the first at Vancouver film school to be entirely online due to the pandemic. I live with my parents and my workspace was confined to my dark bedroom in the basement; so a mixture of no natural light, isolation, constant screen time, lack of sleep, and dealing with my type 1 diabetes made the production of this film feel impossible at times.

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

I’ve never smiled harder! It makes me so happy to see others enjoy my film, and get something out of it. Everyone was so kind and they’re reactions to my film made the long hours worth it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I actually wanted to be a stage actor for a long time, but I wasn’t fully sure. Then I went to the “science of pixar” exhibit at Science world, and watched a video that claimed that “animators are the best actors”, and I was sold. I immediately started getting a portfolio together, got accepted into VFS, and here I am!

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

Either Newsies or Hello Dolly! I’m a sucker for musicals.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

So far all of my festival experiences have been lovely! I can’t really think of anything I would change.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Easy. Paella. Hands down.

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

I was actually employed at Yeti Farms Creative immediately upon graduating! No doubt thanks to my little film! I am mostly doing small personal projects to hone my skills, but I have a few ideas bouncing around that I’d love to make a reality.

Interview with Filmmaker Karl Nussbaum (GHOST DANCE FOR AMERICA)

GHOST DANCE FOR AMERICA was the winner of BEST EXPERIMENTAL Film at the October 2021 Experimental Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I was motivated to make this film by the 2016 US Election and the rage I felt after that orange piece of shit won.
I was also motivated by the racism in our country and America’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the destruction of the Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans during the birth of our country in 1800s. And how these twin tragedies continue to impact America politically to this very day.

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

About a year and a half.

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

Poetic rage

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

A fear of being accused of cultural appropriation.

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

Wow, people really had some good insights and understood my techniques, strategies and the emotions. I felt recognized and appreciated as a filmmaker, which is a very powerful and emotional feeling. There were some suggestions regarding the subtitles that really I wish I had done (ie: larger and longer subtitles or voice overs). But I’m not sure the audience saw my over arching connection of the violent birth of America and the current political landscape. It is only apparent in one visual / subtitled moment showing the confederate statue that the Neo-Nazis rallied around in 2017.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

When I was around 13 or 14.

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

Not sure – maybe ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Printed articles / interview.

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

‘Ghost Dance for America, 1890’ is the first film of a trilogy about America. The second (completed) film is, ‘Phantasmagoria, 1945’. The next film/installation in the trilogy is entitled, ‘The Weather Inside Us’

I look forward to getting that project started right after I finish a longer film for a installation in China this year, entitled ‘Ghosts in the Cloud Forest.’

I’ve also been commissioned in China to make a short film about Celadon, a Chinese tradition on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.

Interview with Filmmaker Eric Benjamin Parson (Big Basin Will Never Be The Same)

“Big Basin Will Never Be The Same” was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the October 2021 ENVIRONMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

This was supposed to be a very different film. Originally the film contained only the “before” footage – Big Basin State Park in all of its natural beauty. A musical love letter, a celebration of life. I had written about 10 minutes of powerful, motivating, and uplifting music to accompany the film when I left in August 2020 to hike the 210-mile John Muir Trail in the Eastern Sierra. Two weeks without cell phone service, totally off-grid, I end my hike at the summit of Mt. Whitney, which incidentally has cell phone service. Take my phone off airplane mode and I am bombarded with notifications – Calfornia is on fire, the Santa Cruz Mountains are on fire, Big Basin is on fire. My heart sank and I was gripped with anxiety about my beloved hometown and favorite place to run. I knew the film had changed forever.

The idea to do the split screen came naturally after realizing the loss of the place while also possessing documentation of the park prior to the fire. Having extended takes while running meant I could capture the same run again in the transformed environment and sync in post. Simple and direct was the goal and the result.

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

About a year. The shooting and editing were done in December 2020 but it took another few months to compose and record the music. Composing the music was the hard part because I wanted to honor the place as well as the grieving process I was going through.

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

Grief meditation

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

Figuring out the responsible way to release the film. I wanted to avoid any type of destruction porn-type aesthetic thay might inspire instagram influencer types from accessing these fragile lands to post photos of the admittedly dramatic looking landscapes for social media clout.

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

It completed a circuit for me to hear strangers without a direct connection to Big Basin or even the experience of living through California wildfires talk about their experience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I’ve off and on made informal films but this most recent push was inspired by my relationship to solitude in nature and my desire to create art about that experience.

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

Probably not something I would be proud to share to cinema nerds, haha.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

More critical feedback maybe? Loved the positive feedback but also comfortable with constructive criticism.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Big salad

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

I would like to do an artist residency at a National Park, filming and composing the soundtrack for a film that celebrates public land while advocating for direct action in response to the climate crisis.

Interview with Filmmaker Doug Werby (NO TRICKS)

NO TRICKS was the winner of BEST FILM at the October 2021 WILDsound Film Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

I’ve been working in the commercial and corporate filmmaking space for decades, at first as an editor, then as a director-editor and I was really feeling the need to challenge myself creatively and producing a narrative project from start to finish seemed to be the answer. I got into this business to tell stories visually. I’m a visual learner and thinker. I turned to the commercial market because I was good at it and it paid well to boot. But making commercials and corporate did not fulfill the creative bucket. Narrative filmmaking is what makes my heart beat faster and what turns me on, at this point in my creative development, is seeing a complete vision and telling it from start to finish.

Stories that matter to me, perhaps have meaning to others and that hopefully entertain as a whole.

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

I had been flirting with this idea for about eight years after hearing an NPR Storycorps radio show about a man who recounted a similar situation. This story about a man named Julio Diaz turned out to be my inspiration. But from actual adaption (scripting) to final HD output, about 5 to 6 months. Being in the film business I have lots of production connections and thought this was the project to start pulling favors.

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

Unexpected empathy.

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

Biggest cost: renting the Cal Trans train station in SF for three hours. Hard pill to swallow when self financing. But was worth it.

Removing an entire scene that took a half day to shoot. Killing your babies is always hard.

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

I love this concept. It is the one festival that really gives back. It’s so valuable to hear what others have taken away from the experience. This is the second audience feedback film I’ve entered, the first was for my second short called “Motorbike Thief” and I found the feedback for both films validating in terms of the themes I was trying to convey. It made me feel like “yes”!, it was worth the time and effort needed to put them together. No other festivals that I’m aware of do this. So thanks.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Summer of 1976 (yes, I’m older) when I started running around my suburban Boston neighborhood in my grey sweats raising my hands after each hill I climbed humming the theme to Rocky. At that moment I realized; if a movie can make me feel this way… well then, I’m in.

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

I rarely watch movies over and over again but I must say more recently I get a kick out of watching Elf every holiday season. I just love the tone and Will Ferrell’s optimism and humor.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I feel like a year end, round up, of Audience Feedback winners in an in-person film festival would be cool. Being able to meet with the audience judges and answer their questions.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Foie gras pithivier with dates; it’s a savory pastry filled with a thick slice of foie gras, duck breast, and duck sausage, glazed in a sweet-savory sauce made with dates. Only place I’ve found who makes it perfectly is The Clown Bar in Paris France. Where I am right now;)

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

I would really like to continue with this theme of “A matter of kindness”. We now have, No Tricks and Motorbike Thief… both based on real life incidents; Where all our stories have the potential for being extremely violent, but through a single act of kindness, a bad situation is turned around for a good. If we could do a series of three short films (all based on real life situations) per half hour, package eight of them up and sell them to a streaming service, I would be in heaven. Dream project! There is not enough positivity out there in content creation and it should be our job to spread the love.

Interview with Pianist/Vocalist Morgan-Paige Melbourne (WHERE DO I GO?)

WHERE DO I GO? was voted BEST FILM at the October 2021 MUSIC Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We all have some form of a “coming-of-age” story that still holds true to who we are to this day, and that subject itself was one of my motivations to make this film. Initially, Tapestry Opera invited me to perform improvised music to accompany a dancer, and they gave me the freedom to pursue the filming/production which ever way I wanted. Since the music that I compose is heavily influenced by our humanism with the need to explore our journeys mentally, physically and emotionally, I wanted to take the opportunity to do something more than just a pre-recorded performance. With the tremendous help from Michael Mori, his fabulous ability for storytelling and direction truly helped in bringing it to life!

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

It took us about a month and a half.

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

Self Discovery

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

For me, I personally found that things flowed fairly smoothly with this film; almost as if it was truly meant to be! The story, the heart of my vision was brought to life with the incredible help and insight from every single member of the team. Even with some changes that were made over time, we were able to make those accommodations to put everything together.

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

I was honestly overwhelmed with delight! I was so elated (and still am) by the way they described how the film made them feel!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I have always been a major fan of film scores and soundtracks. The way music can heighten the viewers experience has been something that I thoroughly enjoy. When I was given the opportunity to accompany silent films for the first time (both semi and entirely improvised) back in 2019, it got the ball rolling for me and I discovered my niche in creating music for short films be it experimental or traditional.

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

I can’t detail just one, however, there are three films that I have seen the most which inspired me in the first place: Prince of Egypt and Hercules (Disney’s animated version) primarily for their soundtracks, and Pan’s Labyrinth for the story arch and unapologetic fantastical world.

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

The team at Tapestry Opera submitted via FilmFreeway’s online platform, however I think that it is very helpful that there is an accessible platform available for submissions!

9. What is your favorite meal?

Sushi

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

I have a few pre-recorded shows/concerts coming up, currently in the process of co-writing the music for a mini tv series as well as a sound art exhibit in the works for a contemporary art museum.

Interview with Filmmaker Ryan Osmond (THE GHOUL)

THE GHOUL was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the October 2021 CRIME/MYSTERY Film Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

It was meant to be directed be a friend of mine who had asked me to come on and DP it for him. So I was deep into that side of things while also chasing some actors I had access to. Long story short, we’d locked actors and locations and he turned to me and said he needed to pull out. I though it was done until he offered it to me if I wanted to go for it. Directing is my ultimate goal, so I jumped it, found my own DP and went for it. The fact that it was period and you got to play with a time other than now made it really fun and motivating.

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

From pre to post probably 5 months. Final export was then 9 yrs later.

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

Aussie Noir

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

One day of an actors single track of dialogue, with no chance for ADR

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

Cringing and delight. I’m very critical personally so even today I have faults with it, so the fact that the reactions were great and that they connected with it meant a lot.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Really young, I was always at a cinema as a kid. My parents hated me sitting in front of the TV, or the fact I’d recite a line before the character. It wasn’t until I was in high school that the facilities were made available to me and another student and I were making feature length movies on tape to tape. That’s when it cemented which was I was going.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Single film is hard, it might have to be a tie between Star Wars, Back to the Future or Indiana jones. Ghostbusters and Goonies would be pretty close to.

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

Submission platforms have come along way and I’d have to say, especially now with streaming, FilmFreeway was great and easy. The fact is packaged for you to add you project and supporting materials, find a festival and submit & pay, makes really stram lined and easy. Back when I started submitting for festival, you’d be running DVDs off and posting then internationally. It’s also a bit addictive, scrolling the festivals seeing what might fit the film.

What is your favorite meal?

Thai

What is next for you? A new film?

COVID’s made it interesting when it comes to films, there’s a few ideas in development, a survival feature, that’s designed to be shot with minimal cast and crew and then a Drop Bear creature feature currently on the funding circuit. The Ghoul was also designed to have a bigger story that was fleshed out, so maybe a revisit down the line.