Interview with Animator/Filmmaker Tim Ballard (OH MY…)

 OH MY… played to rave reviews at the June 2018 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Tim Ballard: My friend Michael is a San Francisco area musician who asked me to make an animated music video for one of his songs. The song made me think of a sort of dream journey, and I wanted to depict themes and images that had been in my mind for awhile – environmental apocalypse, indigenous cultures, the desert toad.

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

I worked on this in pieces over the course of a year – much longer than I anticipated. It was a sort of learn as you go process with the technical aspects of the various adobe software platforms.

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

Imaginative resurrection.

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

Mostly as I said above, the technical aspects of getting the watercolor effect to coloring, learning the ins and outs of a larger scale project than I was used to in the past. Also – time and money were tight, of course.

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

I felt disappointed that it seemed to have only elicited a bad acid flashback for most people and didn’t resonate or make sense in a dream logic sort of way as I had hoped. Many of the images were from sort of personal imagery, but I’d hoped it would make some symbolic sense to some people. If not, I hoped people enjoyed the combination of image and mousic.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Believe it or not there were no drugs involved in the conception or execution of this animation (besides coffee and whiskey).

I’ll do my best to answer below, forgive me if it is a little long!

It was a combination of the feel I got from the song itself and vignettes or motifs I’d had swirling in my mind for a long time before.
The song, for me, conjured up a sense of flying and floating and a sort of journey that climaxes in awe, but also speaks of some sadness or difficulties being transcended. I added to that the themes I’ve mentioned above: apocalypse, wastelands, the writings of Zhuangzi, an interest in indigenous cultures and ethnobotany, an interest in what I guess I’ll call “the ontology of imagination” and, (as someone in the audience correctly pointed out) the Sonoran desert toad.

Because it seemed to not translate well to the audience, I’ll summarize the narrative here: basically, the main character starts off in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, looking exhausted and alone. Then he finds a cave entrance with mysterious petroglyphs that leads to a subterranean lake where there is water and spirit guides in the form of three animal headed beings waiting to greet him. An elixir is given and he sinks into a dream journey/ sinks into the lake. He’s brought up from the depth to the lake surface which becomes the same wasteland desert surface. He awakens after passing over the dormant, dreaming frog in the soil. He rises and flies towards a distant city that is populated with creatures having a ceremony of some sort. I turns out it was a ceremony to coax water and life from the dead dry land. Raindrops begin to fall. Then he awakens on the lake’s edge at the same time the frog awakens under the earth. The story is bookended by the moment the water hits the soil, awakening life from the dead land.

The Sonoran desert toad fascinated me when I heard them in the desert after a rain and someone told me they are hibernating under the dry desert soil most of the year and suddenly arise when the rain comes to mate and sing in the rainwater ponds. Also in this time of year, flowers and plants you never assumed were there, burst through dry, cracked soil with a vigor that is as inspiring as it is beautiful. Obviously it seems like a sort of Lazarus-esque resurrection. In my imagination I liked to think that the toads spend more of their life in a dreaming state down under the soil than in a waking state and that the dream state was more real for them than the waking state. Then a few years later I heard that they have a hallucinogenic mucus which only added to their mystique for me. So, in my mind, the world represented in the animation is like a manifestation of the toad’s dream, and the completion of the ceremony reawakens life in the dead land in the way imagination can reawaken vitality in our personal lives.

So there are a few layers of dreams – I was inspired by Zhuangzi’s story of the butterfly dream on this part – and for better or worse I wanted it to be a little ambiguous.

Anyhow, the basic theme is in the hope that even in desperate times we can still find life and potential beneath the surface with which we might be able to manifest a rebirth or resurrection of sorts.

So, yeah, basically an acid trip.

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

Hmmm. Probably Milo and Otis or The Road Warrior.

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

It certainly makes it a lot easier and very streamlined. I appreciate it.

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

I’d like to choose one of my favorite songs but in reality it is probably the “Happy Birthday Song” or a Christmas carol like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

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

I am hoping to start a series of short, 3min or less, animated documentaries about food and cultural history – how a single ingredient or dish can tell the history of a culture.

oh_my_2

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Advertisements

Interview with Screenwriter Rene Collier (MISTAKES)

 June 2018 Winning 1pg. Screenplay.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Rene Collier: Stan wants his father to purchase a used car for him. But Stan wrecked the last car his father bought him. Stan tries to convince dad to buy this one in spite of his past mistakes.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama

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

It’s one example of a true-to-life tale of a typical struggle that happen between a teen and his parent. It’s relatable to most of the population and therefore fulfills the need for inclusion of multiple demographics. Besides, it’s fun and witty to watch.

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

Past Mistakes.

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

Somewhere in Time. I’m a sucker for a great love story.

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

25 minutes. It was an assignment from a screenwriting class I was taking online at the time. Actually, the criteria was to write a 2-page script and it had to be about money. When I sat down to write, this story wrote itself in one draft. Then, to make it acceptable for this competition, I spent an additional ten minutes to edit it to one page for this competition.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written one actual short story, a sit-com, a TV episode, and 4 additional screenplays.

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

What You Won’t Do for Love, by Bobby Caldwell. I never tire of it because it reminds me of my ‘favorite’ former boyfriend.

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

A simple edit. And it was hardly an obstacle.

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

Film making in general. I love the entire production process.

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

This is my first entry. It was easy to sign up and the fee was quite reasonable. Plus, I thought a table read prize was unique and fun!

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

A) In conjunction with the online class I was taking it was listed as a competition site. It was at the same time I finished “Mistakes” that I saw it. I thought it was a terrific ‘preparation meets opportunity’ co-incidence and could not pass it up.

B) Actually, I thought the first winning notification I received was fake. I didn’t believe until the 2nd notice arrived and I clicked on the link and watched the video of the table read. Then I was thrilled and excited and ready to embrace the experience.

 

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Matt Barnes
Albert: Allan Michael Brunet
Stan: Jarrod Terrell

******

Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: Kimberly Villarruel

Camera Op: Mary Cox

Interview with Screenwriter Nevada McPherson (PIANO LESSONS)

June 2018 Winning LGBT Short Screenplay.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nevada McPherson: It’s a gay teen romance set in the rural South of the 1950’s.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Teen romance, coming-of-age, drama.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It touches on universal themes of love, friendship, trust, and acceptance. It also shows that although things have changed for the better since the time this screenplay is set, there is still a long way to go before many accept the LGBTQ community as truly equal, especially where I live in the US. This screenplay should be made into a movie because film is a powerful emotional and persuasive medium and the more varied representations of gay characters seen in films, the better. Some of the characters in PIANO LESSONS are willing to leave their comfort zones, while others are not, and it can be a lesson to all that one’s experience of life expands or shrinks according to one’s courage. Stepping up for what you believe in is worth it.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Character driven.

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

Since I’ve taught film classes for many years, there are several films that I’ve seen many, many times and that I love to share with students, such as Run, Lola, Run, Network, Citizen Kane and Bonnie & Clyde. My favorite that I’ve probably seen the most times is Sunset Boulevard. There’s so much Hollywood history wrapped up in that film, and if you look at what was going on in Hollywood at the time it was made and even in the lives of the people making and acting in the film, you’ll find it’s something of a Hollywood “Rosetta Stone.” As many times as I’ve seen it, I always hope for a happier ending for Joe and Betty, but if that were so, it wouldn’t be a true film noir, would it? For me, a huge fan of noir, this one is in a sub-genre of that style, Hollywood noir. Joe Gillis is one of my all-time favorite characters, and to me he is the patron saint of screenwriters.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Since 1994. If that sounds like a really long time, I suppose it is! I got the idea returning to New Orleans from the first ever Austin Film Festival, wrote the script, and I’ve been through countless drafts since then. Needless to say, it’s evolved a great deal over time. I’ve written many screenplays since this one, but I always come back to it, and I’m encouraged that it’s won or placed in several contests (this is the first reading, though, which is quite awesome!). This draft emerged after my residency at Squaw Valley Community of Writers Screenwriting Program, where I worked on a new draft under the mentorship of screenwriter Tom Rickman (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Everybody’s All-American).

How many stories have you written?

Over a dozen screenplays, two short plays, short stories, a short screenplay, and a full-length play. I’ve adapted one of the screenplays into a novel, and three of the screenplays into graphic novels, including PIANO LESSONS. I wrote my very first story in the sixth grade – I remember that there was a vampire in it, and it ended in a cliffhanger. After that I was hooked on writing.

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

Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy.”

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Endings are always difficult for me; it took me several drafts to arrive at this ending!

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Creating visual art, reading, and going on road trips with my husband Bill, a retired speech professor, and our rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi.

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

Very positive. I find Film Freeway to be a very user-friendly platform and a great way to track contest submissions.

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

Since PIANO LESSONS is a gay teen romance, I was drawn to the LGBT Toronto Film Festival, and excited at the prospect of the script being read by actors! The feedback I received was invaluable: insightful and constructive. I recommend this festival to writers wholeheartedly.  

 

Genre: LGBT, Drama

Junior Jordan has a talent for shooting at targets and a mad crush on his new piano teacher, Conrad. In the 1950’s rural South. that’s enough to get a boy into trouble.

CAST LIST:

Pastor: Rob Notman
Conrad: Allan Michael Brunet
Narrator: Matt Barnes
Junior: Jarrod Terrell
Elsie: Lauren Kristina Maykut
Thelma: Meghan Allen

******

Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: Kimberly Villarruel

Camera Op: Mary Cox

Interview with Screenwriter Fabian Martin (HALFWAY TO MARS)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Fabian Martin: My screenplay is about “Lucy”, a transgender, whose ambitions to complete her transition leads her into a “hellhole” which she fights to crawl out of.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The genre my screenplay falls under would be LGBT and Thriller.

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

Although LGBT films are on the rise, there are very few LGBT films that feature Latino characters. Last year’s academy-award-winning foreign film, “A Fantastic Woman” illustrates the fact that there is a thirst for such stories.

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

How about a hyphenated word: self-preservation.

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

Wow, that’s a tough one. However, I’d have to say whenever “Shawshank Redemption” or “Seven” is on television I will sit and watch them through.

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

I worked on this particular screenplay for four months but did a few months of research beforehand.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written over fifty stories and over twenty screenplays.

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

Another tough one but I can always listen to “Lovely Day.” That song always puts me in a good mood.

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

No real obstacles but doing thorough research was important. Because I was creating a transgender character, it was important that I got it right so as to not misrepresent the transgender community.

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

Apart from writing, my other passions are health and fitness and traveling.

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

I love FilmFreeway. The submission format is very user friendly unlike others.

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

I know the Toronto community is both film savy and LGBT-friendly so it was important for me to enter my screenplay in a community that respects this particular genre. In regards to feedback, well, you did a reading of my screenplay….what can be better than that! I hope to parlay this recognition into a film version….I’m looking for investors!!

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Genre: LGBT, Drama

Lucy is a transgender in the process of transitioning, determined to see it through at any and all costs. So when an opportunity arises to accelerate this process, she seizes it unabashedly. This decision though casts her unwillingly into the dark, violent world of prostitution and the ruthless, cold-blooded drug-dealing pimp behind it who goes by the name “Soup.” Here is where Lucy’s real transformation begins as she fights to escape Soup’s relentless grip and free herself from the dangerous vestiges of a debt she cannot pay.

CAST LIST:

Summer: Kyra Weichert
Narrator: Matt Barnes
Lucy: Rob Notman
Rocky: Jarrod Terrell

******

Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: Kimberly Villarruel

Camera Op: Mary Cox

Interview with Screenwriter Linda Hullinger (REAL TIME DENIAL)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Linda Hullinger: After falling asleep while reading about doppelgangers, a woman awakens to a disturbing display on her security camera screen.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Supernatural Horror

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

For those who enjoy watching Twilight Zone type of stories, it is short enough to be a filler for anyone looking to create that type of anthology.

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

Eerie thinker

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

House on Haunted Hill (1959 version)

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

It took me a of couple days to write it.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written four features and eighteen short screenplays. Also, I’ve written two TV pilots, two middle-grade novels, one young adult novel, three mystery novels, and over twenty short stories.

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

“Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince

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

It was a bit challenging trying to keep it under one page without losing its eerie vibe.

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

Black and white horror movies. My favorites are with Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price.

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

It’s always been an excellent source for locating a variety of contests, and I especially appreciate their reminder emails when the deadlines are approaching.

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

The opportunity to have one of my screenplays read by actors.

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Matt Barnes
Jill: Lauren Kristina Maykut

******

Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: Kimberly Villarruel

Camera Op: Mary Cox