Interview with Directed Eric Shahinian (FOREIGN SOUNDS)

Eric Shahinian’s short film played to rave reviews at the September 2017 CRIME FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto. It definitely stirred a great conversation. This was one of those films that was made for the FEEDBACK Film Festival format.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

The film was motivated by a real situation I experienced when I was with a friend and we heard distressing sounds coming from a neighbor’s apartment. My inclination was to separate myself from it, while my friend took a very different stance and immediately wanted to help.

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

Since this was a student film made with a minimal budget, post-production took a long time, especially the sound design, because it’s such a crucial element of the story. From script to completion the film took nearly a year because I had some other projects that came up during post-production.

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

Foreign Sounds. (I wish this was better, sorry).

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

The biggest obstacle faced during the film was the sound design because it was such a crucial element of the story and I did not get all of the sound on set, so I had to set up multiple ADR sessions and really refine the details of the offscreen dispute.

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

It’s not easy to judge how well an idea is going to translate, so having the audience feedback is very grounding even if they aren’t singing your praises. It was great to see people respond to it and in some cases to see that my intentions came through. It’s always interesting to hear people having such different reactions and bringing their individual subjective viewing experiences.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Video of the short film:

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

The idea came from a real situation very similar to the characters except that I was with a friend. We took very different responses to hearing the sounds of our neighbor’s fighting and I thought that instinctual opposition was interesting. It was also never clear to us exactly what happened, which further complicated the question of how much we needed to involve ourselves in strangers lives. I really recreated the film very closely to how the situation unfolded in a way of processing it and exploring the conflicts that we both experienced in that moment.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s a toss up between Punch Drunk Love and Ghost World.

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

I love filmfreeway, it’s so much easier to navigate than withoutabox in terms of the layout and the search functions. I love being able to include a vimeo link as an online screener. I’m a fan.

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

I’m not sure, I go through periods where I obsessively listen to certain songs until I can’t stand it anymore and then find a new obsession. Recently I’ve been listening to the Silversun Pickups, they have a song called “The Go Inbetweens” that feels tonally similar to a feature I’m writing so that ones been on loop.

What is next for you? A new film?

I made two more shorts after Foreign Sounds. The first was a dark comedy about an emotionally codependent sister who breaks down when her younger sister gets the chance to move out. It’s a weird movie and hasn’t been accepted to many festivals but it was fun to try something new. My thesis short film is currently on the festival circuit and has been screening globally. It was influenced by the relationship between my grandparents and is about a caretaker who is forced to confront his limitations. I am currently torn between two feature scripts that I’m trying to decide to move forward with as a first feature.

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Interview with Filmmakers Ellen Babeliowsky & Kris Geens (MOTEL MOTEL)

Played at the October 2016 CRIME/MYSTERY Festival – Winner of Best Cinematography at the Festival.

 Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ellen Babeliowsky & Kris Geens: Everything! My whole life I wanted to make films and so I feel very happy to make this first one! There’s no dramatic story that really needs to be told, I’m not trying to move people or to bring a particular subject to peoples attention. I just wanted to take you on a visual trip and play with your mind. In a surrealistic way.

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

It took me 2 years. I took my time to create the story and to find out how to realize it. Also the post production took a lot of time. I was lucky to work together with an awesome post production team and I wanted everything to be perfect. There are also a lot of complicated special effects but we took our time and that turned out for the best.

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

Fucked up!! 😉

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

Getting the film funded was not that easy. I was very sure about what I wanted and I wasn’t going to compromise. So we had to be very creative to realize this movie. But I had an awesome producer and a fantastic crew! Without them I never would have been able to finish this film the way I wanted to.

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

I really enjoy watching this feedback video!! I think it’s wonderful that your audience liked my film that much, so THANK YOU TORONTO!! I watched it over and over and I really was surprised that one person compared me to Wes Anderson (but really dark). Earlier, my D.O.P. also told me that. I take it as a beautiful compliment. I really love to see the audience responding. It helps me to find my place as a film maker.

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

I have no idea!! It really came piece by piece. It started with an image in my head that I kept thinking about, then a second shot that kept me fascinated, and so on. I created scenes and characters around these shots and later on I brought them together like a puzzle, looking for a story and a plot. That, and also I find inspiration in other films and directors I really like. This way ‘Motel Motel’ became also a little bit an homage to the surrealistic cinema.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

There are a lot of films I keep watching over and over. My favorite is still ‘Only God Forgives’ (Nicolas Winding Refn). I think I’ve seen that film a dozens of times. Sometimes I just watch my favorite scenes, or I play the film in the background while I’m working. It’s a surrealistic masterpiece, a cinematographic piece of art. I can’t get enough of it.

What is next for you? A new film?

At the moment I’m writing. I want the next project to be a feature film and I have a bunch of ideas for a series on TV or Netflix. So now and then I direct music videos. Anyway, for any of my future projects I want to get to peoples imagination. There’s nothing more beautiful to do than that!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

  MOVIE POSTERMOTEL MOTEL, 20min., Belgium, Crime/Mystery
Directed by Ellen J. Babeliowsky

When Hjalmar inspects his room in an old, worn-out motel, he discovers a severed ear in the deep-pile carpet. During his search for the origin of the ear, he stumbles from one strange ocurrence into the next. The mystery of the ear ultimately gets him into a surreal situation, of which he is both the victim and the spectator.