Interview with Writer/Actor Ben Green (PAPER TRAIL)

PAPER TRAIL was the winner of BEST FILM at the 1 Minute Film Festival in September 2019 in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ben Green: A friend was trying out a new incentive where he asked a group of film makers to each make a minute long film shot and edited on their iphones. The word for that week was ‘Words’ and I jotted down a few ideas and the ‘follow the trail’ one seemed the strongest. I pitched it to Emily Brown (my wife who just happens to be a multi talented director) and she connected with it straight away and knew exactly how she would direct it.

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

I wrote the script a few days before we filmed it. The filming itself took about 2-3 hours and we edited it the same day. It was all quite hassle free as everything was done on the iphone.

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

Poor schmuck

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

We wanted to do the whole thing on the iphone so it was all relatively straight forward. I put the titles on (hadn’t done that before) but it all worked out ok.

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

We were so pleased when we watched the video. It’s such a great thing to do. We’d just woken up and I showed Emily at about 6AM. A lovely start to the day! It looked like it took a bit of time as well. You’d edited bits of our film into your video. Very much appreciated.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wanted to make a funny, film with a spiteful twist. It was important that the main character was enjoying himself only to have the real reason for the post-its come up and slap him in the face at the end.

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

I’m going to put a few down as I’m a big film fan Die Hard, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Twelve Angry Men, Jaws, North by Northwest, The Longest Day

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

Great platform. Definitely going to submit to your festival again if we make something that comes up to scratch.

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

Possibly the Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac or Abbey Road by The Beatles

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

Hopefully making some more short films on the iphone and a web series (all with Emily Brown directing again). I’m also, hoping to finish writing a new sitcom and a film. I’m going to continue to make sketches for my youtube channel too.

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Interview with Filmmaker Scott Meyers (ENJOY?)

ENJOY? played to rave reviews at the first ever Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival in September 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Scott Meyers: My motivation for making this short was. I was in film school and
watching the youth be scammed from the American education system. Its
still bugs me that we have to put a price on education in the good old
US of A. Now I have a degree in film with a $50,000 cloud over my
head. I knew what I was getting into. I just saw 18-20 years olds,
blind to the ways of student finical. Including soldiers with PTSD
looking to get back into school. I added that part into the short
because, one of my friend who returned from Iran. All of these student
finical loans he applied for had crazy % rates. Thank God for his wife
reading over the paper work before he signed.

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

It took about a month of research before I wrote Enjoy?For the
filming part, it took about 4 hours to shoot. That’s about all the
time the school would let us film in that room.

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

Middle Finger

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

Well, the day of shooting my producer didn’t show nor my A.D. SoI
had to think of 30 different thing at once. I’m not kidding neither.
30 things. I had a couple of drinks after that shoot. The day of shoot
I was told that I lost the room.That made my heart skip a beat. But
this what you signed up for.

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

I thought the feedback was useful.


Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I came up with the idea while watching Pink Floyd’s The Wall and
Brazil. I also wanted to leave in the continuity errors in. I wanted
to have the viewer always coming back to the title. Do you really
enjoy this? Any film maker watching this is going to count the
mistakes. I wanted to mess with peoples heads on this short. It’s one
of those that you have to watch twice I feel.

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

Jaws

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

I see it as a Big casino.

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

Santana Soul Sacrifice from Woodstock.

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

We just rapped up Mic Check another comedy short. We’re in pre-
production for Death Weather and Sports which hopefully will be
shooting in Oct.

Interview with Filmmaker Christopher Mack (HOPE IS FRENCH)

HOPE IS FRENCH played to rave reviews at the Comedy Feedback Film Festival in September 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Christopher Mack: Cat poop! 🙂 My cat had pooped in the hallway, and it gave me an idea.

And I wanted to have fun and make a film that explored both hope and despair in a kind of silly way.

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

I wrote it in September 2018. I got the production together and filmed it in May 2019. The edit was finished at the end of September 2019

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

Always hope

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

Time and money. And working with a cat! 🙂

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

Fascinated. It is rare and exciting to get a chance to hear what total strangers took from my film. I think it is very valuable to understand how my film is scene.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Same as answer to one: Cat poop! 🙂 My cat had pooped in the hallway, and it gave me an idea. And I think everyone has had bad days. How we react to the highs and lows is the stuff of high tragedy or great comedy.

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

That’s a hard one. The Sweet Hereafter by Atom Egoyan? Blue Velvet? Not sure. There are too many!

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

It is an expensive platform, and sometimes there is inconstancy between Filmfreeway and the various festivals, but it is great that it exists!

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

I would think it would be a Johnny Cash song

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

Working on several short films! Have a couple of feature film scripts I wrote and I’d love to explore, but I am no good at getting financing!
I am trying to film on a smartphone with an anamorphic lens. Fingers crossed it works.

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Interview with Filmmaker Martin Sofiedal (SIRI WITH A VENGEANCE)

SIRI WITH A VENGEANCE played to rave reviews at the Comedy Feedback Film Festival in September 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Martin Sofiedal: I had done simpler sketches for a long while, and I really wanted to do something really cinematic, and up my game visually. But I knew I still needed a simple setting to make it more doable and affordable, I didn’t want to bit over more than I could chew. I suddenly remembered a sketch I did many years ago, it was also called “Siri with a vengeance” and had the same premise: Siri taking the protagonist hostage with a bomb while referencing the bad guy from Die Hard 3. So I got an added motivation: Can I remake my own short film? Making it better visually and story-wise? The stage was set.

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

As this really a remake the main idea was already there when I started this production, but I did a new draft, adding the whole Android vs Iphone theme which wasn’t in the original, and also beefed up and fit the dialogue to fit my actor, Samuel David, who I knew was going to act in it before I even started writing. We had a couple of days of pre-production, one long production day, and a longer post-production period. As this whole film was made on the side, myself and my crew also had paid jobs we had to do, it’s hard to say exactly how many days we spent on the film. But from the day I wrote the new draft till we had a finished film it took roughly two and a half month, but actual production time was maybe one third of that.

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

Timely absurd.

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

I would say finding the perfect location, because that was the biggest outlier, we had everything else ready, crew and equipment. And we knew we needed a location that had a unique look, had lots of room, and felt more international, since we were basically making an american film. At the same time it is kind of not entirely true that it was the biggest challenge, because we got the tip about this house pretty fast after we started asking around, and it was the first place we scouted. So with a big stroke of luck we found the perfect place very quickly, so maybe it’s more correct to say we thought it would be our biggest obstacle. Apart from that it was the usual challenges, running out of time and stuff like that, but nothing that we couldn’t handle or foresee.

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

Just smiling, I’ve never seen something like that before, and as I mentioned above it was so fun hearing thoughts around the film I hadn’t thought about myself.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wish I could remember, but I believe I had recently watched Die Hard 3, and in that movie the bad guy, Simon, plays a sinister game of “Simon Says” with John McClane through the phone, and at some point I made a connection where I thought “what if Siri did the same thing to a person?”. And I just spun onward from there. As I mentioned earlier, in the original sketch it was only Siri and no Google Assistant (which didn’t exist yet at the time), and the whole thing was that Siri was just tired of all the verbal abuse from the protagonist. I believe the idea to implement Google Assistant in the remake came after talking with my producer Marius (who is a tech-head) who mentioned that there is a big ongoing smart phone “war” between Android and iphone loyalists. And with that I felt the film had more to say than just Siri being angry, now she had a bigger reason to be angry.

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

Probably “Shaun of the dead”. That film has shaped me as a filmmaker. I saw it when I had just started film school, and it just opened my eyes to how much style and unique humor you can have in films.

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

Great! It is so easy use and submit films, so yeah, just great!

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

Wow, impossible question! I have periods where I hear one song more than others, hear is a random small collection (out of many many more obviously):
Childish Gambino – Heartbeat
Maroon 5 – Moves Like Jagger
Timilon – Samma det (norwegian hiphop song made by a friend of mine)
Dean Martin – Heaven can wait
Henry Jackman – The Twelve Towers (Yes, that is from the Uncharted 4 soundtrack, I’m a nerd :-P)

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

I am releasing my first feature film here in Norway on November the 11th, a treasure hunt adventure film called “Benjamin Falck and the ghost dagger”. I am also prepping a new action sktech called “Gumslingers” which we’ll shoot in October, an absurd action short heavily inspired by “Kingsman” that includes lethal bubblegum, I’ll say no more 😉

Siri with a vengeance is online and can be found here:

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Interview with Filmmaker Ralph Klisiewicz (COLLIDE)

COLLIDE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the September 2019 Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ralph Klisiewicz: I have made a few short films and by this point I was addicted to the process of filmmaking. I saw a series of short plays written by Mark Chrisler that have really impressed me and I wanted him to write my next short film. In addition, we wanted to make a film that would play to the acting strengths of Heather Chrisler, who is a Jeff Award nominated stage actor in Chicago. Up to this point I have worked with her on few short roles and a music video. However, we wanted to create something dramatic and a character driven.

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

Once the script was written it took about a year before we could get everyone’s schedule aligned. I remember Heather had a very busy stage schedule. She called me saying she has two weeks free at the end of August to film a project. We rushed through all the prep and got the project ready to film in about a week. Jalen (Lover) and Heather just finished a play at Victory Gardens so it was a smooth transition for them to the film set. Luke (Tim) had worked with me on my previous short film, so I was comfortable with him and he with me. We had three major shooting days at three locations, and a few short pickups. The editing process was rather smooth. At the artist’s loft, where we filmmed the sex scene, we build a quick studio where we recorded the score in three days. In summary, filming and all the post-production was about a 2 month process.

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

Truth Colliding.

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

As always, scheduling! We all have our own projects, jobs, and other commitments so getting everyone on the same page is always difficult.

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

The comments focused mainly on the motives of the main character, Salie. I have gained an appreciation on the diversity of conclusions made about the film’s protagonist. The feedback clearly illustrated that each viewer has a distinct psychology that colors his/her perception of the film. Moreover, the responses also illustrate that our film has layers that speak differently to each viewer.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Mark Chrilser wrote the script. The themes of his plays and other work often deal with interplay of truth and lie.

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

I can’t point to a specific film. However, there are a few filmmakers whose work I have watched repeatedly. The filmmakers that inspire me the most are, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle, and Denis Villeneuve

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

I think the FilmFreeway platform is great. The process is smooth and straightforward.

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

I go through phases where I listen to one particular artist more than others. The range is wide, anything between Chopin, Deamau5, Bjork to Metalica. However, I have likely listen to Nine Inch Nails and Pink Floyd more than anything else.


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

I am making a short sci-fi thriller “The Artifact”. This film will be based on themes of technology, psychology and philosophy. Minds will be literally and figuratively be blown.

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Interview with Filmmaker Raymond Montemayor (STAR WARS: THE TOYS AWAKEN)

STAR WARS: THE TOYS AWAKEN played to rave reviews at the August 2019 FAN FICTION Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Raymond Montemayor: My daughter, Maliya, inspired me to make Star Wars: The Toys Awaken. This is the third film in a series of fan films called Star Wars Toy Stories, the first of which I produced in 2015. After that first film, Star Wars: A Toy Story, Maliya, who was six at the time, said that she wanted to be in my next film. I had no plans to make another fan film, but after Maliya made her wishes known, I couldn’t pass up the chance to make a Star Wars fan film with her.

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

It took three years to complete this film from start to finish. I came up with the basic concept for the film right after I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night, December 17th, 2015. I wrote the script over the course of a few months in early 2016 and began production on April 17th, 2016. I intended to complete production for the 2016 Star Wars Fan Film Awards, but for various personal and work related reasons, I halted production when I realized I wouldn’t make the submission deadline. I restarted production on November 25th, 2017 and submitted the five-minute version of this film for the Star Wars Fan Awards on September 18th, 2018. The seven-minute Director’s cut that was screened at the Fan Fiction Festival was completed in December 2018. So the final edit was completed almost exactly three years from the time I came up with the concept for the film. During the gap in production, I actually made a two-minute film with Maliya, The Rogue One: A Star Wars Toy Story, for Lucasfilm’s #GoRogue fan film contest towards the end of 2016 leading up to the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Although The Rogue One was completed two years before The Toys Awaken, The Rogue One takes place chronologically about ten months after The Toys Awaken.

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

Toys, Adventure

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

One might assume that the stop-motion animation and visual effects were the biggest challenges. Actually, because it was a three year production, the biggest obstacle was completing the performance of the seven-year-old protagonist, Riley. Maliya, who plays Riley, completed all of her shots in April of 2016 when she was seven years old. However, by the time I was ready to shoot Riley’s remaining shots in August of 2018, Maliya was nearly ten years old. It would have been jarring to cut together this film with shots of Maliya at both seven and almost ten years old. Luckily, my younger daughter Nora had just turned seven and was the right age to play Riley. She was happy to get involved and help me complete Riley’s shots. However, because Nora doesn’t look like Maliya, I had to film without showing her face directly to the camera. For a few shots where I needed to get facial performances, I shot extreme close-ups of Maliya’s eyes so we could see her reactions without being able to tell how much older she looks in those shots. So with some carefully planned shots and editing tricks, I was able to pull it off.

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

I was nervous to hear what people had to say, so I was relieved to hear all of the positive feedback. I’m glad that the audience members really got what I was going for in this film. I especially appreciated that they enjoyed the practical effects I used with the stop-motion animation as opposed to using CGI for the toys. That being said, I know I can improve on the story telling and cinematography. I hope to bring everything I’ve learned thus far to my next project and hopefully make an even better film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

As with all of my Star Wars Toy Stories fan films, I wanted to make a unique Star Wars meets Toy Story tale about a Star Wars fan and his / her toys. For this film specifically, I wanted to frame the story around this historical event in Star Wars history, which was the launch of a new era in Star Wars cinema with The Force Awakens. The goal with these new Star Wars films from Disney is not only to appeal to the older lifelong fans, but also to introduce a new generation of kids to the magic of Star Wars. So I felt the right way to go would be to tell the story of a young Star Wars fan going to see a brand new Star Wars movie on the big screen for the first time on opening night. There are a lot of things that go along with that which I try to capture in the film, including collecting toys, watching the trailer, dressing up in Star Wars cosplay, and gathering with fellow fans to watch a new Star Wars movie. Of course, this is all background set up for the real story about a girl and her new toy who are both trying to discover who they are and where they fit in. For these characters, and for me personally, Star Wars is one of those special phenomena that can bring people together.

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

It has to be The Empire Strikes Back. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a Star Wars nut, and I consider The Empire Strikes Back to be a masterpiece. To me it’s simply the best Star Wars film, and just a brilliant film in general.

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

FilmFreeway is a fantastic platform. It has a clean interface for setting up projects, and it has a great search engine to help filmmakers find the right film festivals for their needs. I like that it keeps a history of all past projects, film festival submissions, and the status of each submission for all projects past and present.

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

That’s a tough question, but it’s probably “One” by U2 from their classic album Achtung Baby. That album came out right before I started college. I spent many a night doing homework listening to Achtung Baby, and “One” is my favorite song on that album. In my first career as an electrical engineer, I spent countless days and nights over the span of twelve years in front of a computer doing design work while listening to Achtung Baby, and that has continued in my second career as a freelance motion graphics designer and visual effects artist.

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

I’m currently working on my fourth film in the Star Wars Toy Stories series. It’s called Home Solo: A Star Wars Toy Story. Think Star Wars meets Toy Story meets Home Alone. Both of my daughters are in this film. Maliya is reprising the role of Riley. Nora is also in the film, but she has her own unique character this time. I’m extremely excited for this film because I was able to cast Jamie Costa as the voice of Han Solo. If you don’t know Jamie by name, you may know him from his viral tribute videos a few years back in which he does amazing impressions of Robin Williams. He also does an uncanny impression of Harrison Ford, which he used to great effect in his own Star Wars fan film Han Solo: A Smuggler’s Run. His voiceover work will certainly raise the quality of Home Solo to another level. I’m excited to work with Jamie and to complete this film hopefully in time for the next Star Wars Fan Awards.

Interview with Filmmaker Nesli ERGÜN (KOYUN)

KOYUN played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nesli ERGÜN: It seems a fair share of moral confusion is pervading the world today about women who wear the Islamic head scarf. This confusion is no accident. It’s easy to get away with oppressing women if the general public, and even women underneath the veil, can’t rally behind a unifying consensus that compulsory veiling is wrong. George Orwell said once that the prime responsibility lay in being able to tell people what they did not wish to hear.

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

About 4 months.

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

Critical, Unashamed

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

Whether or not to put my name on it.

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

I was deeply moved. I have never seen anyone (apart from my friends and family) react to my work before. I have not shown this film in Turkey. This film was not selected to be screened in the festivals where I thought it would be most relevant (the Islamic world). I honestly had no idea what people actually thought about what I made before watching the clip you sent. This exchange, what we are doing here in this moment, is maybe the most powerful engagement a filmmaker could ask for. A festival centered on the idea of giving and receiving feedback allows filmmakers to reflect in ways most standard interactions fall short from allowing. As a result, FEEDBACK Female Film Festival is the most valuable festival I have ever had the honor to be a part of.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I don’t know. I’m never good at remembering these things. The only thing I do remember is that I drew the thumbnail storyboard on my dining room table in about 15 minutes.

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

I don’t think I watch films over and over again so I think I’m going to skip this question 🙂

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

If an interaction like the one I’ve been talking about with you guys is possible, then I’ve got to love the platform that made it possible for me to meet you in the first place, right?

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

I sure did listen to Color Him Country by Linda Martell a whole lot.

Also Lhasa, Slowdive, Nina Simone – I mean there are so many to list.

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

I’m building a community center in Istanbul. I want to make a positive impact on the trajectory of the Turkish nation-state by injecting a spirit of hope and wonder in a traumatized, undervalued, economically depressed & culturally polarized population. By creating value in gatherings outside of religious, governmental & educational institutions, I want to enable a much needed critical look at our Turkish experience as community members. Filmmaking will very much be a part of this center. In other words, I’ve just begun.