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 Screenwriter John T. Frederick (THE NEED FOR SOMETHING NEW)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

John T. Frederick: A screenwriter, “a bull without balls,” eight days from 60, heads into The Great Southwest, searching for beauty, purpose… and a new story to share.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s an Adventure/Fantasy Road Pic

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Because it’s a warm-hearted and humorous examination of what’s tearing this country apart at the seams.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Humorously serious.

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

“FULL METAL JACKET” – “THE TAO OF STEVE” – “THE FIFTH ELEMENT”

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Four months… with a year between months One and Two.

How many stories have you written?

Thirteen feature-length screenplays.

What is your favorite song?

“I’m here right now, I’m not dead yet”

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

My Self.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Photography, creating “Family Movies” from family videos and photos (I’m working on number eight.)

You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

The platform is easy and free. The problem lies with the festivals and
screenwriting contests they provide easy and free access to.

What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the
initial feedback you received?

A Film Freeway e-mail:

L.A. FEEDBACK provided great feedback for THE NEED FOR SOMETHING NEW… the evaluation read like the person “got” what the script was trying to say and
show. It also stated: “We consider this one of the best screenplay specs in the world.” And seriously… I’d like to know if that’s true!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A screenwriter, a “bull without balls,” eight days from 60… drives into The Great American Southwest, searching for beauty… and a new story to tell.

CAST LIST:

Old Indian: Michael Ruhs
Florance: Bree Ali
Narration: Hannah Ehman
Josh: Shawn Devlin
Gary: Ron Boyd

Interview with Screenwriter Craig Fones (THAT 80S GUY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Craig Fones : Logline: A middle-aged man trapped under hypnosis still believes it’s the 1980’s as he pursues his now divorced, old high school crush.

Hayden Bell with his love of everything 80’s, has his 80’s music and style and a friendly smile. What he doesn’t have is enough courage to face the girl who he always liked, the popular prom Queen, Robin Stassler. And with their 30th high school reunion fast approaching, he turns to an alternative method for dealing with his fears. Hypnosis. As fate would now have it, the treatment may have worked too well as the lovable shy guy now turns into what he once was… a teenager in the 80’s! Now laser focused on making all the right moves with Robin. It’s up to his erratic brother, Brandon Bell to get his mind in order before the rest of the class of 1988 finds out… or worse.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy
Romantic Comedy

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It was an award winning webseries and as a feature it takes you back to the 80’s nostalgia coming back with a smile.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Totally Rad

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Rudy

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

The Tele-script for Web Series took us from April 2017-July 2017. From Outline to sending back and fourth to each other. The Feature Screenplay came about when a Producer wanted to see it in Feature Film format. The feature script took 2 days to complete. I added Season 2 of the Web series and what we didn’t have at time of filming the Webseries.

7. How many stories have you written?

10


8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Melt With You by Modern English


9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Finishing the screenplay was the easiest part because the story was set up in Webseries.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Acting and skiing.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

The site is very easy to load your content. Very happy with submitting on FilmFreeway.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

An awesome festival because it provides you with excellent feedback. 95% of festivals don’t do that.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A Middle-aged man trapped under hypnosis still thinks it’s the 1980’s as he pursues his now divorced, old high school interest.

CAST LIST:

Barbara: Christina Leonard
Robin: Erica Levene
Narration: Carina Cojeen
Hayden Bell: Aaron Maxwell
Brandon: Aaron Williams
Asher: Geoff Mays

Hayden Bell, with his love of everything 80’s, has his 80’s music and style and a friendly smile. What he doesn’t have is enough courage to face the girl who he always liked, the popular prom Queen, Robin Stassler, and with their 30th high school reunion fast approaching, he turns to an alternative method for dealing with his fears. Hypnosis. As fate would now have it, the treatment may have worked too well as the lovable shy guy now turns into what he once was… a teenager in the 80’s! Now laser focused on making all the right moves with Robin. It’s up to his erratic brother, Brandon Bell, to get his mind in order before the rest of the class of 1988 finds out… or worse.

Interview with Screenwriter Lea Ann Vandygriff (The Camping Lawyer)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Lea Ann Vandygriff: A hilarious comedy about a klutzy lawyer, Jim, who decides on a whim to take his family camping at Yellowstone, which is entirely out of his element. He persuades his best friend Josiah and two other families to join them. Josiah is continuously the brunt of Jim’s failed attempts at everything. The quick wit and clumsiness of Jim and the aggravation of Josiah will keep you laughing.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Feature Comedy

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

This screenplay is like Christmas Vacation at Yellowstone. Take a klutzy southern lawyer, add a Latino best friend and there you have it: A love/hate relationship full of laughter.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

As Josiah describes Jim, “Warped with Sprinkles.”

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Christmas Vacation

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

The screenplay, a couple of months. “The Camping Lawyer” is based on an actual trip to Yellowstone with friends. Our group of friends and my husband have given me a lot of material over the years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written a variety of genres: Christmas, Royal, Southern, Western, Rodeo, Drama, Fantasy, Comedy, and Faith-Based. I have six features, four shorts, a TV Pilot and three books. All have multiple festivals and literary awards.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Disney’s “Happily Ever After.” This song inspires me to keep moving toward my dreams. I listen to every word; it seems to be talking directly to me!

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

The character, “Jim,” is based on my husband. I lost him to cancer in 2015. The memories were bittersweet. I hope that this will be made into a movie because it would leave a legacy of laughter and smiles, which is something; he wanted people to remember about him.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I am passionate about my faith; it has gotten me through many struggles. I would not be where I am running after my dreams without the talents and gifts God has given.

11. You entered your screenplay via Film Freeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

I love Film Freeway; they make it easy to keep up with my many screenplays and stats. It is easy to enter the festivals, and they keep you updated on your favorite festivals.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I have heard good things about your festival, and I checked out your credentials. We had a slight bump in the road, but you took care of it promptly. Thank you.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Rebecca: Carina Cojeen
Sydney: Christina Leonard
Narrator: Aaron Williams
Narration: Sean Ballantyne
Jim: Geoff Mays
Josiah: Aaron Maxwell Williams

Interview with Screenwriter Tai-Ying Chi (You Don’t Deserve My Jelly Strips)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Tai-Ying Chi: The story is about a girl who is sexually assaulted by the boy she loves and always wants to be romantically involved with, therefore she doesn’t know how to react at first, and she’s struggled between what her heart really wants and what her heart believes to be right. It also talks about some international students, or even some young immigrants’ insecurities and anxieties they have to face when they firstly come and reside in the U.S.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

When the Me Too movement widely started in the United States in 2017, the cases that provoked most discussions surrounded what had happened on American majorities. It got me think, there must be many other newly arriving minorities, who may have encountered the same situations but had even less resources and know-how to ask for help. Plus, depending on what kind of the cultural backgrounds they were coming from, they may have been dealing with different levels of culture shocks, and feeling lost in telling what’s right or wrong in this new social conventions, and will only be able to grab some sense gradually after time proceeds. (In many stereotypical ideas American society is viewed as much open and complicated in sex and relationships. There’re people who are victimized by this believe, trying to blend in; and there’re people who take advantages on them.) Even when later Me Too became a more common topic and movement in other societies in the world, there can still be subtle and different range of violence in relationships that is hard to be categorized. Therefore, I think making this kind of stories into movies is important.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Sad gain.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Jurassic Park 1993, It was one of the few VHS tapes I owned when I was a kid.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve worked on it on and off, mostly in summer vacation periods, for two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Two short screenplays in English and many more in traditional Mandarin Chinese.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

First of May by The Bee Gees.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

The dialogues were firstly written in traditional Chinese, but for the contest and subtitles purposes, I translated them into English. It was a bit challenging to write English lines that are used among urban youths to give more layers to their personalities, but also preserve the same essences in English as in Traditional Chinese so readers can still get the context of how they talk or behave in the world they came from. Another major challenge was that, I wanted to introduce a delightful Taiwanese dessert into the screenplay to enhance the idea that they had shared childhood memories, which was sweet and delightful just like they used to remember each other, and by what happened to them and the dessert in the end, it also symbolizes they both for the first time really have to graduate from their childhoods. I spent so much time to look for this specular dessert that can be playful, sweet, nostalgic, look pretty on screen, and will also be easy to preserve and handle as props. Finally, the Taiwanese jelly strips.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I like animals and bugs, when I discover a mystery about animals or bugs that I don’t have answer to, I will feel an urge to go online and conduct full research about it. I also like good foods and quality time with family and friends.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

Self promotions, good strategies and management in social media accounts are more important than I thought.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I feel networking is very essential when you want to turn pages into actions. Festival helps with the exposures for artists and builds the network. Apart from that, it is generally just an irresistible feeling of desire to be recognized and have reasons to go to events and have fun!

I look carefully into every feedback I received, but even though there are many good advices, I try to only extract core essences from the feedbacks that I feel can work on my piece without risking losing the attitudes of the project.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A newly arrived International student finally gets to see her high school crush in New York, but the gap between their understandings to their relationship finally forces her to choose between falling in love, or to admit the harm that would draw them apart.

CAST LIST:

Drunk Man: Charles Gordon
Yu-Chen: Wildred Lee
Narrator: Gene Abella
A-Mei: Tiffany Elefano
Lisa: Elizabeth Morriss