Interview with Filmmaker Tomislav Vujcic (CHAMP)

RISK was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the May 2019 LGBT Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Tomislav Vujcic: We wanted to depict homophobia in sports in the hopes of contributing to a more open society and promote tolerance in sports in general.

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

From the the idea to the finished film it took almost 2 years. The idea evolved into the finished script in about a year. The shooting itself took 15 days to complete.

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

Homophobia Sports

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

One week before we planned to shoot the final fight scene with the big cage, the location cancelled us. Flights for the actors already paid, 70 extras playing the audience for the scene and the crew waiting for a final answer. We were desperately looking for a new location, and with just two days left before the shoot we managed to secure one. But then, a lot of the extras had changed their plans, so we couldn’t get all the crowd shots. We had to solve it in post, by mixing in scenes of an actual fight audience.

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

It was so exciting! Nobody expected that kind of ending.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

A friend of ours was talking about making a film about MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). But we did not want to make just a martial arts movie.

We then came up with the idea to include a taboo topic in this sport.

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

Gladiator, Welcome to America, Gattaca, La Haine

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

It is a very good platform for filmmakers. Very intuitive interface, helpful reviews and information about each festival.

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

P.Diddy and B.I.G. – Victory

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

We plan to bring Champ to cinemas as a feature film and are also working on 2 other feature film ideas.MATOGRAPHY at the May 2019 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sophie Black (SONGBIRD)

SONGBIRD was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the May 2019 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sophie Black: Songbird’s writer, Tommy Draper, had the idea in the back of his mind for a while; then he heard Janet Devlin’s cover of The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’ on Spotify, and because Janet’s story (discovering her voice and her confidence through ‘The X Factor’) was so similar to the story Tommy wanted to tell, he started writing Songbird, and he built his script around her. We were very lucky that Janet agreed to take the lead role in the film!

Tommy told me about his idea for Songbird during a road trip (we were travelling back from a film festival in 2015). As a massive fantasy fan, I literally begged Tommy to give me and my film company, Triskelle Pictures Ltd., the rights to make the film. I think I wrote him a massive ‘pitch email’ as well! I think the story’s quite unique: it’s tonally similar to The Little Mermaid and other classic fairytales, but it’s set in the modern-day world of indie music, so that makes it really special.

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

After completing the first draft of the script in Autumn 2015, we were then shortlisted for Creative England’s iShorts scheme in January 2016. Although Songbird didn’t progress any further with that scheme, it gave us confidence in the fact that the project had legs – so we brought producer Laura C. Cann on board, and vowed to make the film in any way possible. We then had two very successful crowdfunding campaigns, and shot the film in August 2016. Songbird was in post-production for just over a year (partly because of the many incredible VFX shots we needed for the film), and was finally completed in November 2017, before we started submitting it to film festivals. So, between Autumn 2015 and now, it’s been a big commitment for all of us!

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

Voice discovery. I would say ‘magical journey’, but that might be too generic. Songbird is about finding your voice, in more ways than one, so ‘voice discovery’ it is!

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

Funnily enough, it was the weather! We had every type of weather thrown at us during the shoot, starting with scorching heat (a lot of the crew got sunburnt in the process!), and then ending with a torrential thunderstorm on the final day of filming. We were shooting the film’s ultimate battle scene at the time; it was Scene 17 in the script, and those two words strike fear into the crew’s hearts even now, because the weather was so severe that day.

We were filming in the woods, and it rained constantly between 6am and about 5pm: our set flooded, things threatened to blow away, the cast and their costumes kept getting soaked, and we feared for the camera kit. I actually had to cut the scene in half in order to get everyone off location quicker, but you can’t tell when you watch the film – annoyingly, the rain looks kind of beautiful in the final footage!

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

We’re always a bit nervous when people watch our films, because we never know how they are going to react. We always hope that they’ll like it. But my crew and I were really grateful for the kind of words of your audience, and we’re so glad that they enjoyed watching the film. Songbird’s music has been popular throughout its festival run (it won two awards before you kindly gave the film ‘Best Music’), so we were half expecting that your audience would enjoy that element of the film, but we were really touched by their comments about the film’s editing and its general aura as well.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

See question one.

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

My favourite films are actually the ones I watch the least. The ‘Lord of The Rings’ trilogy made me want to make films in the first place, but I’ve probably only watched each film twice – I like those films to stick in the back of my mind like fond memories, so that they never grow old in the face of modern technology. That way they can stay perfect forever.

There are a lot of indie films I’ve watched multiple times – films like ‘500 Days of Summer’, ‘Breakfast Club’, ‘Empire Records’ etc are always great for a bit of easy viewing. I also used to watch ‘American Beauty’ every time I directed a film, usually the day before the shoot, to inspire me – and I watch ‘Stealing Beauty’ every summer, so that I can daydream about the Italian weather (it’s currently raining here in England, even though it’s June!)

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

I think it’s great. The layout is very user-friendly, and it’s great to have everything available to you in one place. The built-in press-kit function is also really useful; you know your film is going to be presented well to festivals, from the get-go. I’ve used other platforms in the past, but I can’t really fault Film Freeway (apart from the fact that there’s a few lower-quality festivals on there, but you get that everywhere).

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

It depends on my mood and what I’m doing at the time. I listen to music every day, and every time I hear a new song that I love, it gets played on repeat until I know it thoroughly. I’ve just done that with Hayley Heyndrickx’s ‘Untitled God Song’ and Lucy Rose’s ‘Nebraska’, if you need two examples.

Music is incredibly important to me, particularly when I’m in pre-production on a new short film. Tommy Draper and I create a playlist on Spotify or YouTube for every new film we’re writing, and that helps to set the tone and pace for our screenplays. It’s also very informative to try and imagine what kind of music each character would listen to. I then send that music to my actors, very shortly after I cast them, so that they can get in the same headspace.

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

My team and I are in pre-production on two new films right now: a ‘Poison Ivy’ / Batman fan film (because she was a childhood hero of mine), and ‘Lepidopterist’, which is a gentle sci-fi film about a female scientist who smuggles a specimen out of a lab. We’re also in development on a fantasy thriller called ‘The Barn’ (working title), about a young man who abandons his ex-girlfriend when he discovers she is pregnant with his child; he then becomes trapped inside a magical building, which forces him to physically face his fears, with a new threat hidden behind every door. The Barn is one of our biggest projects to date, and it’s one which we’re really excited to get started on – we’re just in need of some extra investment before we can make it happen. You can find out more about all of these projects on the Triskelle Pictures website.

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Interview with Filmmaker Marat Narimanov (BIG BOOOM)

BIG BOOOM played to rave reviews at the June 2019 LA Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marat Narimanov: It’s the desire to witness the great events that happened billions years ago and that are still happening right now.

To be able see all those processes in a short period of time and from the distant point of a cool-headed viewer, that’s pretty much unemotional, just witnessing and stating the facts.

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

I’d say pretty long. The idea first came to me about 5 or 8 years before I started to make this film.

I finished all the animation within a year, then I had to wait for about 2 years for the sound design and the music to be accomplished.

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

Fast and nice. Because I wanted to make my film short, fast (in terms of real time to the cinematic time ratio) and nice.

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

Working with the other people on a 0-budget basis is really time-consuming. You should be ready to wait literally for years for some things to get finally done.

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

It was very interesting. Some ideas were fresh. I’ve already had a lot of feedback before from different people, but here the audience had some fresh ideas. It’s very interesting.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was after I got equainted with the old Hindu doctrine about the creation of our universe, I noticed it was pretty much like the Big Bang theory. And the Hindu concept is even much more advanced that the now-days scientific one, because it tells that the existence and non-existence (dissolve) phases of universe follow each other infinite number of times. The universe is born from the seed and returns to that seed after the cycle is finished. The grand cycles are called the Brahma’s breath. So, my journey into the world of this animation film started with that ancient Vedic theory and with the word “Breath”. Then I thought it would be nice to combine both theories – ancient and modern in one film.

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

It’s probably Wong Kar Wai’s In the mood for love. It’s still a mystery for me HOW to make a film like that. I can watch it a hundred of times and never get bored.

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

It’s the best platform ever.

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

Probably, it’s Caravan played by Fanfare Ciocarlia. I’m always happy to hear it and occasionally dance while listeting to this song.

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

Yes, it’s alreay done, just have to wait for the sound design and music to get finished 😉

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Interview with Filmmaker Josh Jackson (A ROOMBA’S TALE)

A ROOMBA’S TALE played to rave reviews at the June 2019 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Josh Jackson: Honestly, I hadn’t made a film in a year or so, and wanted to MAKE SOME MOVIES DUDEY!!! You ever get that itch? Like it’s pretty damn fun. Artistically fulfilling, all that jazz. So yeah, that’s pretty much why I made it.

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

I had the stupid idea for a Roomba film like……a while ago. I think we shot it in December 2017 and finished it in like……..July 2018? I don’t even know, man. There was a long pause in post-production because I was lazy and working a full time job. Gotta survive before you thrive, my mother always said. Just kidding, she never said that.

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

Dumb idea.

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

My biggest obstacle was probably just getting over myself and making something. You know how, as artists, we can be so precocious about our work and, “oh my, it must be PURRR-fect!” Especially if you haven’t made anything in a while, you feel like your ART represents YOU and your value as a person. It doesn’t. I had to block those annoying voices of self-doubt and focused on having fun.

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

They were all pretty spot on. It was really insightful! The girl who said she didn’t laugh once…man, I gotta work on that. One guy talked for a while about how it could be seen as making light of domestic abuse. I don’t even know how to respond to that.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wish I had a good answer for this. The honest truth is that I saw my roomba and thought, “what if it were alive?” The end.

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

Gee…maybe Frozen? I freaking love Frozen.

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

FilmFreeway is great because it caused WithoutABox to get its act together. Like seriously, it was so cumbersome to submit a film through that platform. FilmFreeway comes along and is like the cool new kid in your school.

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

Probably worship music. I love Hillsong, Bethel, etc. It calms me down when I’m anxious.

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

I run a webcomic that has almost 100k followers on Instagram called @tubbynugget. We just sold 300 plush toys through a small business that my girlfriend (Jenine Pastores) and I set up. She was also the producer and co-writer on Roomba. So yeah, I’m probably out of the film biz for now. It isn’t very profitable for a guy like mewho makes little indie short films. But webcomics….man, it’s fun. You get to tell stories (which is the reason I fell in love with filmmaking to begin with) but on a smaller, faster scale. When I get back to filmmaking, it’ll probably be a Tubby Nugget movie. So stay tuned. Enough about me though. How are you doing? Are you doing okay? You can message me on Instagram at @joshuadrewthis if you ever just like, I don’t know, wanna talk about life or something. Did I mention I’m really bad at interviews?

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Interview with Filmmaker Julio J. Irizarry (ELPIDA)

ELPIDA was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the June 2019 LA Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Julio J. Irizarry: The motivation came from wanting to create a passion project in collaboration with my friend and co director Charlie from San Francisco. Also, being from Chicago and planning to travel to the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest to film was very motivating in knowing we would get the best production value from our locations.

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

3 long years.

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

Universal Hope


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

The biggest obstacle I faced was matching the post production value with the production value of the amazing locations we captured that helped tell the story. Being my first short film, I felt I owed it to the story to make sure it had great visual effects and that it was colored and sound designed the best.

Another obstacle for me was wanting the film to be perfect. This was a bit of a downfall for me which severely delayed the film due to wanting the top post production experts which we did not have a budget for. I almost gave up and never released it. In the end, through a lot of adversity and learning on my own, I ended up editing, coloring and sound designing the film. We were also able to budget just enough to license the right visual effects that helped propel the story. It was a huge challenge overall, but I believe it made me a better filmmaker and gave me the confidence to direct bigger films in the future.

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

I was excited and a bit nervous not knowing what people would think. And hoping they got something out of it whether it was an emotion or were inspired after watching.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main idea of the story was inspired by my friend Julia from Portland who is the woman explorer in the film. She is a wanderlust who travels the world so it was fitting to have her in the film. The deeper meanings of the film from what the voice over is saying, to hope, and the sci fi angle is inspired by my personal experiences and wanting to create unique stories that have not been seen before. A huge inspiration for me as a filmmaker is Christopher Nolan so I like to incorporate hidden meanings, multi layered substance, and non linear story telling into my work as well.

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

It’s a tie between The Dark Knight and Inception. And surprisingly, I actually only really see a film once, and revisit it years later unless it’s for a film study. I like to be surprised again just like a first time viewing.

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

I think it’s amazing! I feel it really is an open freeway to know about so many great festivals like yours, and having the chance for my work to even be noticed is everything I could ask for as a filmmaker.

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

Time – Hans Zimmer

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

Just recently finished directing a short film for an iPhone challenge. Other than that, what’s next is to continue studying and developing in my craft. I am leaning towards commercial directing at the moment. I believe bringing my experiences and passion of narrative storytelling into that field will only help me grow as a director.

This will also give me the ability to produce frequent content in between bigger film projects. I aspire to direct a feature some day, or even a longer short film before then. I am huge on creating something unique, so It may take a bit more time for me in between films. I look at Director’s like Tarantino and Nolan who only have a handful of films, and I am in that same mindset of creating quality over quantity.

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Interview with Filmmaker Colin Gerrard (ELI)

ELI was the winner of BEST FILM at the June LA Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Colin Gerrard: I believe it has a timeless appeal coming from the moment we all make a decision regarding our own motives, without thinking of the consequences for others.

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

10 months

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

Survival & Equality

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

Having the right cast.

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

Wonderful. Feedback from people who have just seen your work, whether it be constructive or critical, is always helpful in my eyes. Especially when its immediately after they have just viewed the film…then its real and from the heart.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

A friend of mine brought up the original story to my attention. After getting the rights to film it, we went about updating the story to a point we felt that it was more in keeping with current attitudes in society today…although in retrospect, not much ever changes as human beings have the worst track record when it comes to learning from history.

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

Cinema Paradiso

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

Great. They have streamlined the process to a point that its just the click of a button, after the initial setup of your film on their site.

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

10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’

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

I have 2 new shorts in the works as well as working on a new script for a series.

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Interview with Filmmaker Ciaran R. Maidwell (THERE’S STILL GOOD)

THERE’S STILL GOOD was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival in May 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ciaran R. Maidwell: There’s Still Good was inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk “The danger of a single story”. In it, she says “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

The social landscape of South Africa is littered with stereotypes, and it keeps us from making meaningful personal connections. Before someone has even opened their mouth, we have already assumed everything about them.We wanted to create a new story, a story that encouraged people to see beyond their single story of other people.

We also wanted to normalize the queer relationship by treating it as incidental, as a non-event.

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

Roughly 6 months.

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

Faux pas

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

We had to re-shoot both the beginning and the ending of the film once we’d figured out where the focus really should be. It was difficult to plan and execute this on our tight schedule, and to co-ordinate with the actor’s schedules. In the end, this obstacle was our greatest opportunity, because it allowed us to deliver a stronger film with a more unified theme.

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

I was surprised at the varying interpretations that the film received. It was interesting to hear how people who are not familar with South African culture and South African history experienced the events of the film.

I particularly noticed how each character meant something different to each person – for me, this highlighted the theme of the film itself. The way you experience the world and the way you experience other people is informed by the stories you’ve heard about them, or about people like them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The story itself is based on the lived experience of my university roommate: She was from Rwanda, and because of this people in South Africa expected certain things of her (that she speak an African language, that she have an African name etc.) People were surprised, even upset, when she did not meet these expectations. She hadn’t known there was anything wrong with her until other people tried to apply their story of Africa to her.

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

Mistress America (2015) directed by Noah Baumbach

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

FilmFreeway is a great platform for independent filmmakers. It helps put the filmmaker in control of their film and its screenings in an intuitive way, and breaks down the submission process so that both the filmmaker and the festival can easily communicate their expectations to each other. It’s been an invaluable resource for There’s Still Good.

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

Manhattan – Gallant

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

Television! TV series have become part of our everyday lives. TV series allow much more room for character exploration and development. So we get to live with these characters. I’m interested in how this can be used to expose people to different lives, to new ideas, to stories they hadn’t even considered.

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