Interview with Director James Bowsher (WITHHELD)

The short film WITHHELD (directed by James Bowsher) was the overwhelming winner of BEST FILM at the THRILLER FEEDBACK Film Festival in September 2017. It arguably could be the best short film of 2017! It’s that great of a film.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Matthew Steggles: The primary motivation was that I felt like the idea was interesting and that no one would make it if I didn’t. What kept me motivated was the fact that I had an overwhelming amount of support from friends, family and the crew.

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

The idea to the shoot only took a few months, but the edit took us about a year, as there were various complicating factors. It can be summarised by us wanted to ensure we got it right and whilst there were frequent instances of it almost being ready I never felt happy putting it out into the world.

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

Cruel communication.

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

The biggest obstacle was probably staying faithful to the original concept. The film is meant to be claustrophobic, but when watching the edits you can often think that you have gone too far. In the end it was about reminding myself what my objectives were with the film and making it the most distilled version of that.

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

It’s encouraging to hear the reactions from the audience particularly in regards to how we used Stephanie’s character. Part of what I wanted to do in the film was look at the danger of male gaze and the difficult treatment of female characters in film. However, keeping his attacks on her and his treatment of her separate to the film and its perspective was tricky – especially in the limited time that we had. I think this will probably engender different reactions from different viewers, but this is why the ‘turn’ was so important to me.

 WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video: 

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

An exhibit about phone sex workers by Philip Toledo demonstrated the unexpected breadth of characters in this industry. From there it meshed with ideas I had about performance as the phone was a clear locus for suspending disbelief. I wrote a first draft and from there my friends’ positive reactions to the concept drove me to shoot it.

 What film have you seen the most in your life?

That’s an almost impossible question as I have gone through many love affairs with many films. On balance Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson is one that I keep coming back to.

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

My producer Matthew Steggles did most of the real legwork in regards to festival submissions. He says “The menu navigation and friendly user face is leagues beyond other online submission platforms that I have previously used. With thousands of festivals at your disposal, they’ve made it incredibly easy to organise and keep track of each submission – something that could have taken many countless hours in the past is now a pleasure to undertake. I’ve also found it to be cheaper than most of the other submission platforms.”

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

Feeling Good by Nina Simone is a song that I love and was playing in my house all the time because of my mother.

What is next for you? A new film?

I am starting an MA in producing at the National Film and Television School in the UK this January. In regards to new projects, my collaborator Matthew and I have numerous projects we want to do next and are deciding which one would be best.

 

Interview with director Oliver Park (STILL)

Oliver Park’s short film STILL was the winner of “Best Film” at the April 2017 Horror/Thriller Festival. It was a joy to chat with him about the film and his future:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Oliver Park: I had a dream that inspired the feature idea for STILL and wanted to make a short to raise awareness for it.

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

It took about nine months as I had to spend time working on a crowdfunding campaign for it before filming. After we had the money, we moved very quickly as we had festival deadlines to hit.

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

Sweet dreams.

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

The biggest obstacle with many short horrors is shooting at night. When you’re using a friends house as a location and the sun starts to come up, you’re out of time. We were lucky enough to be able to go back to pick up the shots we were unable to get but t’s never easy when you’re against massive time constraints.

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

Joy! I was so happy that people liked it. You make horror to scare you and just hope it will scare others. I was glad that small things were picked up on like “finish your wine” for example. I agree with the fact that one probably wouldn’t have a shower under those circumstances and I don’t think it’s an excuse that ‘it’s a horror so it’s fine’. If I could go back, I would have put more effort into giving her a reason to get into the shower (she gets dirty from the greasy boiler suit, for example).

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO from the April 2017 Film Festival:

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

I had a dream about a masked figure arriving at my front door…

What film that you’ve watched in the last 5 years has inspired you the most?

There are FAR too many! Great modern horror is hard to find but I am a huge fan of the recent ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’.

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

I love to listen to film soundtracks and classical. Anything by Glass, Newman, Zimmer or Einaudi works and I adore Chris Young (composer of Sinister).

What is next for you? A new film?

There are many things going on right now, mainly feature development, so I certainly plan to make many many more films very soon and rest assured, I will stay in horror for now!

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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 month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.