Interview with Filmmaker Andre Sitolini (THE COOK AND THE CHEF)

THE COOK AND THE CHEF played to rave reviews at the March 2019 Comedy & Drama Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andre Sitolini : I wanted to make something very stylistic. I wanted clouds grounded to the horizon and the sky to never be blue.

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

About 5 months of intensive work. The intro alone was a month of work.

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

Sizzling Hot!

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

Having to decide which scenes to cut and which scenes to keep in.

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

Overjoyed! I’m glad everyone liked it!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I actually wanted to tell a different message. It was going to be about having more than just passion to be good at something.

Originally the Cook was suppose to lose and learn about not judging the Chef for his apathetic appearance.

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

It’s rare that I’ll watch a film more than once but anything incredibly stylistic and colorful is always something I keep coming back to.

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

It was really great having to make only one portfolio and submitting to multiple festivals. I’m not really the producer type so it help me get into more festivals then I would have bothered.

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

Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha is my favorite album of all time, but for the entire production of my film I limited myself to only listen to songs with an accordion in it.

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

I became an animator to create an animated series about Superheroes, but now I want to adopt it into a comic format!

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Interview with Filmmaker Damien Starr (I’LL BE FINE)

I’LL BE FINE was the winner of BEST FILM at the December 2018 COMEDY Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Damien Starr: This was a student project and the restriction was to have it within 3 minutes. I wanted to challenge myself in a couple of ways, firstly to write a story featuring a woman as my main cast. This was a first for that, and secondly, making a film that required no on set audio, because of budget and limitations. Thus, I’ll Be Fine was born. The film, as you know, explores the communication of a deaf person through text. It opened my mind to everyday life of a deaf person and how they perceive themselves and the world around them.

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

1 week.

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

Struggle and acceptance.

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

Having a three person (including the actress) crew!

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

The first screening of this film didn’t go so well as she doesn’t mention at the end that she’s deaf. Rather, it’s left to the audience to make that connection. However, only 30% got it. 70% of people did not understand the film. As such, I changed the wording in the text bubble to reflect that. So while it’s now “on the nose” as someone described, it’s understood and enjoyed by many more people. As such, when I saw that many more loved this film in this round of feedback, I was moved and it gave me validation that this was a good film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I usually make films with bigger budgets and lots of VFX, but for this, I wanted it to be simple and focus on character and story, and all of the emotion that comes with that. Along with the restrictions of no on-set audio, I wanted to have a story of communication conveyed by text graphics. A story about a deaf person fit exactly what I was looking for. I researched strongly about deaf people and their day-to-day struggles with life and was inspired to make this movie.

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

It’s a tie between Titanic and Beauty and The Beast (1991).

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

I like FilmFreeway, no complaints there.

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

Mr. Brightside.

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

I’m fundraising for a sci-fi thriller feature film about a physicist that is kidnapped in a desolate house and has to uncover the mystery of how she got there. I placed in a screenwriting competition, and received high scores from coverage services so I’m really excited for this!

Interview with Producer Lester Greene (I GOT A CALLBACK)

I GOT A CALLBACK played to rave reviews at the December 2018 COMEDY Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lester Greene: The whole Me Too movement sparked this film, especially the Terry Crews story of him being sexually assaulted by that high powered agent.

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

It took about a week for the writer to put it together on paper, and then about a month to rehearse and then we begin filming a month after that.

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

Hilariously, thought-provoking

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

We had to battle a car alarm going off non-stop during the film shoot. Luckily, the editor was able to remove it in post production.

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

It was a proud moment. I felt like a true professional having his work reviewed and dissected. It was nice to see that many of the viewers understood our point of view. I create art so that people can gain something from it, and I can tell that your audience appreciated our film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We wanted to create something in the vein of the Me Too Movement with a slight twist.

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

Above the Rim, Friday, Love & Basketball

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

Dear Mama – by Tupac

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

I just wrapped on two new films, “The Last Fishing Trip” and “33rd Road” both filmed by the same cinematographer who shot “I Got a Callback,” Chris Fox. And I’m getting ready to write a new comedy series.

Interview with Filmmakers Hope Carew & Allison O’Conor (MR. NICE GIRLS)

MR. NICE GIRLS played to rave reviews at the September 2018 COMEDY Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hope Carew & Allison O’Conor: We are real-life best friends who love making comedy. We make each other laugh constantly, so it felt natural to write something together. What started as stand-alone scenes about parties we’d been to eventually turned into Mr. Nice Girls.

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

From the idea to the finished product, we made our 6 episode web series in about eight months.

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

FUNNY FRIENDS

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

Neither of us had ever directed a film project before. Navigating co-directing with two first-timers was definitely a learning experience.

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

We were pleased with the feedback! We’re glad folks enjoyed the montages and love the idea of Hope and Allison having to run from a train.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

We thought our characters should run a business together, to give them a shared motivation and an impetus for hijinks. Hope’s mom actually sold fake ID’s in college, so she was our inspiration.

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

Allison: Honestly it’s probably Hercules. Or Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice.
Hope: The Sound of Music!

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

We have no qualms with FilmFreeway. The festival submission process definitely gave us college application flashbacks, though.

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

Allison: Sorry by Justin Bieber.
Hope: Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride from the Lilo & Stitch soundtrack.

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

We’re writing Mr. Nice Girls as a half hour pilot right now! Individually, Hope is in the process of editing her first short film and Allison has been working on her second web series, The Very Hot Show, which can be found online now.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sam South (EAT JEREMY)

EAT JEREMY was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August 2018 Comedy Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sam South: Comedy has always been my favourite genre to write and this idea has been floating around for quite a while. I’ve made 4 short films so far and am learning something new from every experience. We had the location, the equipment, the friends we could call in for favours ready so just needed to find the time to make it and the perfect actors to cast. I’ve always been drawn to silliness too. The seriousness of a situation met with the silliness of how to go about it. Eat Jeremy was a real opportunity for me to find that balance and I think I found it. I’m so happy with the outcome and what we have and it has inspired me to make a lot more films in this way.

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

I can’t actually remember writing the initial first draft of the script so probably years. I always think it’s really important to leave time from writing something to return to it much later so you have fresh eyes and can see what would and wouldn’t work. From the time of actually having the final draft of the script and actually filming it, perhaps a couple of months including post production. I realise how rare this is but things just really seemed to come together for this one.

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

Post-apocalyptic silliness if I can get away with post-apocalyptic being one word… The situation we have is serious but that’s all. The characters carry the rules of the film in how silly they sound and how serious they’re taking the situation. They’re still in this moment before the drama and distress a post apocalypse would bring. Jeremy hasn’t been eaten. In their minds they’re not cannibals yet so can look at things reasonably and speak openly about it. With this the audience can relax and enjoy the post-apocalyptic silliness these characters project without meaning to at all.

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

Probably my own doubts about the location. I really loved the script and was very proud of it but was too worried about the particulars (traffic noise on the balcony when it’s supposed to be a quarantined London) to get it done sooner so for a couple of years wrote it off as something I couldn’t do successfully. My friend and DoP Adam suggested we go the other way with it and have constantly terrible noises of the apocalypse going on which worked really well and gave a great background noise to the film.

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

Incredibly humbled and proud. I’ve never had that happen to one of my films before and was really pleased with the audience’s reaction to it. It’s a great idea and I loved watching the video of everyone’s thoughts and comments on it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wanted to find that perfect in-between moment where it’s still too early into what seems like the start of a post apocalypse to panic, but late enough to consider the possibility of turning into cannibals. The film starts with the first suggestion of cannibalism and how crazy or not so crazy an idea it is. I was really attracted to this moment where it could be spoken about in a seemingly silly manner and I wanted to explore how bizarre I could take it without going over the top and losing the audience drowning in too much silliness.

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

This is the hardest question here for sure. I am definitely a repeater of favourite films but I’m going to cheat and say the tv series Band of Brothers. It’s my favourite thing I’ve ever seen on screen and watch it every year. It started so many people’s careers and I’ve been addicted to it as a series since it came out and I saw it in 2001. It’s incredibly well made and was way ahead of its time and I believe was the inspiration behind Saving Private Ryan. Not enough people have seen it and I’d recommend it totally!

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

FilmFreeway I’d recommend fully as an amazing platform to get any project out there and shown to anyone and everyone. This is the first year I’ve really put some money and effort into submitting my short films and it’s paid off a lot. It’s so easy to use and all the biggest festivals are there as well as the niche film festivals that will cater for so many different styled projects. I’ll be using it for every short film I make from now on.

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

There’s a Manchurian band called The Courteeners who did a song called ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ which I became addicted to and listened to on repeat during uni. It was my favourite song and they even played at our final year prom night. Now whenever I hear it it’s a big nostalgic blast back to uni days and is probably the number one song I’d take with me if we were doing desert island discs.

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

I have about 6 short films I want to make at the moment. Some of them 30 seconds, some of them aren’t even on a finished first draft yet. Anything can happen right now but I want to work hard to make a couple of short films before the year is out and take it from there. I’m still in a writing phase but 2019 we will be filming again. Filming what? No idea yet. But there is a lot more to come.
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Interview with Filmmaker Eugene Lehnert (THE OUTER BOROUGHS)

THE OUTER BOROUGHS played to rave reviews at the August 2018 COMEDY Film Festival in Toronto.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’ve been making the series as a low budget web-series. I wanted to make something bigger to show off the concept. I tried to make an episode about a creature that lived in the toxic waters of an EPA superfund site in Brooklyn but it was too expensive. So an episode about Witches was easier to make.

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

It’ probably took about a year.

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

Supernatural hijinks

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

Working around everyone’s schedules.

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

Terrified but then relieved and happy.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:


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

My friend pitched me a witches episode after I could not raise the money for the Creature from the Gowanus Canal episode.

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

Back to the Future

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

I like Film Freeway. I find it better to use than Without A Box.

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

A toss up between Weird Al’s “It’s Christmas at Ground Zero” and “Yoda”.

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

Remastering an old film for Amazon Prime called “Armageddon for Andy”. Then writing. I’m broke and paying off this thing so it’s tough to make anything.

Interview with Filmmaker Gabriel Renfro (THE FUTURE RICHARD DENISONS)

THE FUTURE RICHARD DENISONS was awarded BEST PERFORMANCES at the February 2018 COMEDY FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Gabriel Renfro: I thought it was a funny idea that appealed to a universal human question: what if I take a different path in life? In my career? My marriage? etc? And it had a fun visual challenge, featuring the same actor playing off of himself. This idea was something I hadn’t seen before, that I wanted to see. I also found that I could make it in one room basically for no money, which is what I needed to do as well.

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

The initial spark for the idea was given to me by my buddy Jacob Kindberg, who has a shared story-by credit on the film, and then I developed the concept further to write the script. The script was written very quickly, probably in a weekend, but then I revised according to the notes of my brother and some good friends of mine. Then the casting process involved two casting sessions, it took awhile to find the older Richard Denison. Young Richard Denison is a good friend of mine that has been in several of my films. I did two three-hour rehearsal sessions with the actors. The shoot was 4 days over two weekends, and then I spent about a month editing and three weekends on the sound.

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

Funny, mind-bending

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

The visual gag of having the same actor playing off of himself brought a number of challenges, both in production and in post.

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

So excited. It was fun to watch people talking to each other about something that I had worked so hard on and that was a creative expression of myself. It was even better that the audience seemed to really enjoy the film.

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

My friend Jacob Kindberg and I were talking about a question that exists in Christian philosophy between God’s predestination of all events and human agency (or free will). How can God predestine all of human history, and yet humans still have agency/choice? We discovered that there is actually a middle way of understanding the tension between those two positions called Molinism (from which the character in the film Molins gets his name). Molinism comes from the sixteenth century Jesuit priest Luis de Molina, who said that God foreknows every possible universe that can result from every human choice. So yes, humans do have free will that to some extent limits God’s predestination, but God foreknows all possible universes that would result from human choice, and chooses the universe He sees fit.

So that got us thinking along the lines of alternate universes, and the idea that someone could, like God, see their own possible futures that resulted from their choices. From there it was about relating a super heady idea to a universal desire, because everyone asks, “Am I taking the right path in life? What will happen in the future if I choose A rather than B?”

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

It’s a toss up between Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can and the Farrelly Brother’s Dumb and Dumber. Catch Me if You Can is one of the best examples of the type of movie I would like to make, and Dumb and Dumber is just the funniest movie ever made.

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

FilmFreeway is the best film festival submission platform that I have used. Their searching tools and festival ranking tools are super helpful.

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

Metallica’s Fuel with the San Francisco orchestra playing behind them. I play it on repeat when I go running.

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

My wife and I just had our first child a few weeks ago, so I am enjoying the magical and exhausting experience of being a new parent. I am writing the feature script for The Future Richard Denisons and writing another feature about my older brother’s year in a behavior modification camp in Western Samoa when he was 17.

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