Interview with Filmmaker Nora Jaenicke (WHALES)

WHALES played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nora Jaenicke: I wrote the screenplay for the feature version of Whales, the short film, over ten years ago. The idea didn’t let me go, so I decided to make a short film version in order to find the funding for the feature. It is a story that feels very close to me for various reasons. I like films that deal with family issues and psychological thrillers. In writing Whales I wanted to blend these elements into a cohesive story and build a lot of tension into it. I have also always wanted to make a film back home where I grew up in Italy and with Whales it was my goal to develop dimensional characters with interesting inner lives and construct realistic and extremely tense relationships between them. The gorgeous setting of the Italian island stands in great contrast with the dark themes that the story tackles.

Separated by the passing of time and different upbringings, the two sisters unexpectedly find their lives linked back together by the forces of remembrance and forgiveness. How do we forgive and forget, are the main themes that the audience is left with at the end. Is it actually possible to forgive?

Margot and Louise also mark two complementary behaviours, two destinies that start from the sensitive core of family ignorance, while they are censured by the inability to communicate, but also by the somewhat social and religious taboos of the need not to disturb the gruesome and commemorative silence of their mother’s recent death.

The film is a journey into their past, not necessarily a new beginning. Perhaps the realisation that the past can’t be changed and that the most one can do in the present, is to decide, for oneself, whether forgiving or forgetting is even possible.

Each one of the film’s characters has his own version of the truth. The colliding of all these truths is what I find the most fascinating.
The fact that each one of these family members, has a completely different perspective upon what happened.

Although there is (almost) never any visible sex or violence, I wanted the film to feel extreme, as well dressed, well behaved people try to colonize one another with a tenacity that borders on the savage.

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

I was able to make this film thanks to my amazing Producer Darren Cole, who helped raise the initial funds and a very small team. Out on the island it was only me, the Director of Photography, a dear friend who helped assist the production, the actors and the Sound Mixer. We spent two weeks at a very generous friend’s house on the gorgeous Island of Elba in Italy and we shot the film in less than a week. The first week we were busy with organising everything, from the location scouting to rehearsing with the actors.

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

Forgetting and Forgiving.

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

The obstacles were a creative challenge that ended up enriching the experience while allowing me to come up with resourceful ideas. Hunger makes the good cook, is my motto…

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

I found it very refreshing and interesting. Some of the comments I never heard before. All in all it was an honor to hear that my film triggered such an interesting discussion.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wrote the feature version of this short over ten years ago, and I always had a fascination with psychological dramas that border into thrillers. I like character driven films and strong women with interesting inner lives. I have a sister myself so in a way Whales is also a homage to sisterhood.

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

Volver by Almodovar, Thelma and Louise by Ridley Scott, Lolita by Adrian Lyne.

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

I like filmfreeway. Lots of fun festivals out there. The site is very easy to navigate.

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

Maybe “Baby Can I hold you” by Tracy Chapman. But this was in pre spotify times, when there wasn’t such a vast amount of music out there and at ones fingertip.

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

The feature version of Whales which I am developing with my Producers Kim Muenster and Darren Cole.

whales_5.jpg

Advertisements

Interview with Filmmaker Jim Wilmer (WATER)

 WATER was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the August 2018 Documentary Short Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jim Wilmer: In our travels across the planet, shooting commercial video for travel and tourism, we realized that there are a several ‘constants’ in our global environments, the most obvious is water, which takes form in some of most spectacular natural forms- waterfalls, ocean waves, rivers and streams, etc- each of which is accompanied by its own unique auditory imprint of sounds- a natural composition of sights and sounds. We wanted to share these ‘mini symphonies’ and without words to transcend language and culture barriers to share our message.

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

The filming of WATER occurred over a span of 3-1/2 years, however, once we had the content that we were satisfied with the editing and finished film was completed in 30 days.

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

Beautiful-engaging

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

Weather is always a factor when shooting on location, for example we were filing in Iceland for 8 days, but only had 2 days of clear weather. We have had many shooting locations that had to be revisited for clear weather.

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

Every time we experience audience reaction – either in person or on video as you have provided- we are amazed at how engaged the audiences are, and how almost all viewers seem to have a connection to our film. We are so pleased that we have accomplished out goal of engaging our audience and getting them to think about this most precious resource.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This is part of trio of eco-films that we believe will bring awareness to our fragile planet, without words to connect at a base root level.

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

Bladerunner (Ridley Scott 1982)

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 to submit to festivals around the world with a minimum of redundancy or hassle. We love the platform and try to use it exclusively for our film submissions.

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

“White Bird” from It’s A Beautiful Day (1968)

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

We released “Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing)” In January to great response from Festivals (55 screenings and 12 award wins), We are now re-shooitng this in VR for release next January..

 water.jpg

 

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.

Interview with Filmmaker Jessica O’Sullivan (SISTER IN ARMS)

SISTER IN ARMS played to rave reviews at the July 2018 Female Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jessica O’Sullivan: I love female centric films and I love seeing women in roles that you don’t normally see them in and seeing how things play out. I also love conflict within a plot and seeing someone who is trying to make the right decision.

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

– My producer asked to take the idea that I had for a feature length film and change it to short form and with a Pakistan backdrop (based on a video we saw of the female anti-terrorist force in Pakistan) in May 2017, we went to Pakistan in August, filmed in September and the final final editing was completed by mid-December 2017.

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

– Poignantly shocking.

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

– We had such a small budget. I had put aside £5k for it. Which is a lot of money for me. It meant that we could only shoot for 3 days. There were a lot of unknown factors and we were shooting in a tiny village about 3 hours drive from Karachi. We were a long way from anywhere and had to travel over early in the morning and late in the evening. Things inevitably go wrong and they did on this film including the camera breaking down and the actresses over heating. Strangely enough being a women in a tiny village 3 hours outside of Karachi was not one of them. The cast was predominately female as was the 1st AD, the Producer and myself. Perhaps there was strength in our numbers but also the Producer was incredibly strong. In summary the biggest obstacles were money and time. Which probably are the most common obstacles for any film.

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

– The positive feedback was great and I was delighted that the film affected people. I was surprised with some of the interpretations but could understand how an audience could read into things once it was pointed out. Those comments have perhaps been the most informative and constructive and have made me realize how more carefully I need to construct situations and scenes in the future. Both in terms of writing and directing. This is in relation to whether the male Captain had a hand in the ambush and what has been seen as overtly feminine banter between the troops.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

– This short is taken from a feature length script I wrote for a screenwriting module at film school early last year. The feature length film is based on two sisters who join the YPJ, which is a female army in Northern Syria. I came across articles and photographs of these women and girls in an area called Rojava in Syria who were part of a very effective (yet under funded) ground army who are protecting a self-governing area which puts huge emphasis on female participating on all government levels (40% of all boards have to be women). They have been effective in keeping back ISIS, the BAATh regime and several fractions within the rebel army. Yet I had heard nothing about them in this conflict until I came across these articles when I was looking to come up with 3 basic ideas one evening to pitch in class the next day. I just thought it was so interesting. In an area where women are seen as victims and are sadly incredibly oppressed that this is actually happening. The feature length however focuses on the rivalry and complicated relationship between the two sisters. Their relationship to each other and their own individual journeys is the story.

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

– Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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

– I find it quite useful. It’s is great to be able to do all of the major work once in terms of filling out forms and uploading all the media packages. I also like how the platform looks.

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

Pink Floyd, I wish you were here.

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

– I want to make another short within the next few months. A supernatural thriller with its roots in Irish mythology and a mother trying to protect her children.

sister_in_arms_4.jpg

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.

Interview with Filmmaker Anaiis Cisco (BREATHLESS)

 BREATHLESS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Anaiis Cisco: This film was inspired by the killing of Eric Garner which was captured by Ramsey Orta.

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

I wrote the screenplay in 2015 when I began graduate school in Detroit at Wayne State University. In the Fall of 2016, when I entered in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University I further developed the project into my first year film, Breathless. Overall it took about one year to write and develop, then another year to produce, direct, edit, and finish by May 2017.

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

Black Life.

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

Shooting the first weekend in January 2017, the coldest weekend of the year, posed some challenges but I struggled mostly with the ending of the film. Developing this true story into a film, I knew I didn’t want to re-kill a man who we already witnessed dying. I tried out many different ways of ending the film but they all felt like something was missing. I didn’t want the end to feel so abrupt. I wanted to allow the audience a moment to breathe before transitioning into the audio from Orta’s video.

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

I was overjoyed and happy to have such a large LA based audience respond to my work. I love when viewers are able to relate to the subtleties that are very specific to the New York experience. The responses made me wish I was there to respond to specific questions/comments. And while I wasn’t able to attend, the video captured moments that I would have missed otherwise. Thank you.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It came from a class assignment that the class to write a short screenplay using a person from media and another random character to have an improbable connection. I knew that I wanted to use Eric Garner from media, and originally developed the story heavily inspired by Ramsey Orta’s brave act of capturing this killing. I used moments from the video to build the story world. For example, in Ramsey Orta’s video it’s mentioned that Eric Garner broke up a fight. In Breathless, I wanted to recreate that moment with Larry’s character breaking up a fight that we don’t get to see in Orta’s cell phone video.

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

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (1989)

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

FilmFreeway is an efficient way of uploading and updating film projects for festivals of all kinds. I enjoy keeping track of festivals that I have submitted to and one’s I want to keep an eye out for. One of the best features is that filmmakers are able to update a film if they have only submitted a work in progress to meet the deadline.

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

Mary J. Blige – Mary’s Joint

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

I am finishing my next short narrative, GYRL (2018) a portrait of a pre-teen African American girl struggling with an abusive father. Also entering my last year of film school, I am currently in the early stages of production my thesis film, Drip Like Coffee. This short narrative explores Black womanhood, desire, and space, while rendering the Black female body as fluid.

breathless
 

 

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.

Interview with Filmmaker Jia Li (THE CALL)

THE CALL played to rave reviews at the July 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in July 2018 in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jia Li: I was planning to do a collection of horror films that only happened in one location and one night.

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

I came up with the story in a cafe at a nice warm afternoon in San Francisco. And I finished the rough draft of the script the next day. The whole preproduction took 3 weeks, 17 hours on set production. And one month for post production.

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

Colorful, intense.

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

We only had 17 hours for production including preset the studio. It was very tight schedule. It was a big challenge for everybody in the crew, so we need to act fast on set. But we had so much fun during the production.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I was excited to hear all different opinions from the crowd. It gave me confidence for my next project.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We only have one living room studio we can use, and 17 hours for production, so I needed to come up with a story under these circumstance.

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

The shinning

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

I think film freeway makes the process convince for filmmaker to manage their submissions.

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

Recently I am listening film soundtrack for a goodnight sleep, but during daytime I am listening to the Chinese hip hop songs recently.

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

My next film is a zombie post apocalyptic short film, around 30 mins. Hopefully finish the whole production by the end of this year, then catch the film festivals for 2019.

the_call.jpg

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.

Interview with Producer & Creative Director Julie Gardner (THE CLIMB)

THE CLIMB was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lynne Davison: The Climb was Lacada’s first film after I founded the company in January 2016. After 20 years managing productions for others I wanted to branch out on my own to produce engaging screen stories with high production values. Lynne the writer/director and I had known each other for a number of years before we partnered up on The Climb. (Lynne had been a camera assistant while I co-ordinated the pilot episode of Game of Thrones).

Our regional screen agency, Northern Ireland Screen had organised a table read to showcase a handful of short film projects they had developed with new and emerging writer/directors. I was instantly bowled over by the raw power of The Climb’s stripped back simplicity and I knew instantly that I wanted to bring it to the screen.

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

8 months from start to finish. The table read was in February, we waited to film in summer, when we have long hours of daylight here in Northern Ireland, then the post production slotted around the editor’s other ‘big’ jobs at the post house, meaning we were done and dusted by Hallowe’en.

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

Crikey, only two?! Overcoming obstacles.

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

We had two challenges. There’s the usual financial one – how to produce something cinematic on a budget of around £10,000. The other was the physical obstacle of the mountain itself. It could only be filmed for real on a mountain, with real climbing, within the budget parameters which allowed for one single filming day. Taking a crew and cast from the city to the heart of the Mourne Mountains, without any kind of contingency was a hairy prospect. On the morning of the shoot we arrived at the location and were dismayed to find cloud enveloping the top of the mountain. Shooting the script chronologically from the foot of the mountain to the top we were able to turn that to our advantage – it became a beautiful metaphor: as Julia’s mental fog cleared the nearer she reached the summit, so the early morning cloud burnt off as the filming day progressed, finishing in a spectacular golden hour.

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

We were all thrilled to hear the individual audience members’ takes on our story. When making a film we know the story intimately as we’ve examined it from every possible angle. Hearing international audiences getting the nuances of what we’d set out to achieve, outside of our filmmaking bubble, was really heartwarming. It’s genuinely affirmed our belief in our abilities as filmmakers. To know that it hit home as powerfully for the audience was an incredible feeling.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This idea was inspired by the true story of a climbing friend of Lynne, the writer/director.

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

There are two films, both firm joint favourites. The filmmakery answer is Jean Luc Godard’s ‘Pierrot Le Fou’ which blew my mind when I first saw it as a teenager. Poetic, astonishingly beautifully shot, by turns political and cartoonish, it’s the film that literally and figuratively exploded the artform of cinema for me. The other is Jaws. You can’t beat Jaws, it’s just the perfect entertaining film in every way.

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

FilmFreeway’s platform is an absolute gift to filmmakers. To have so many incredible international festivals reachable at the touch of a button would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. We are so lucky to have it, and I am certain that it has opened the world of festivals that would previously have been out of the reach of new and emerging filmmakers.

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

Just one? I’ve really eclectic musical tastes, so I’ve pulled up my Spotify history to check – it looks like it’s Iron Maiden’s ‘Brave New World’. People who don’t know me very well are always surprised to find that I love me some heavy metal.

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

Yes. I’m am very lucky to be able to say I’ve got films coming out my ears at the moment! Excitingly I’m currently in pre-production for a new BBC one hour drama, which will be airing around Christmas time. Continuing with the indie films I have four shorts on the slate for the autumn. Three of them have come through the same scheme as The Climb, and I’m really looking forward to working with some more exciting new writing/directing talent. The fourth, Port, is one I’ve co-written and is based on a really cool underlying short story by the Nobel prize-winning author Heinrich Boll. I’ve two feature films winding their way through the development and financing maze.

I’ve also just recently successfully crowdfunded £10k to allow me to produce and direct a rock documentary pilot, Parental Advisory, which has been a passion project for a long time. Inspired by John Olson’s 1971 LIFE Magazine photographic essay featuring rock stars at home with their parents, ‘Parental Advisory’ is a rock biopic series with a twist. Offering a candid portrait of world-famous rock musicians, and the music world, through the eyes of the person who knows them like no other – their mum or dad. It’s a celebration of talented kids who dare to succeed outside the system.

I’m also really looking forward to be holding the inaugural Northern Ireland Short Film Awards at the end of the month. This is something I’ve been inspired to set up as a chance for us all to celebrate the best of short films locally, as well as a fun social night to connect filmmakers and talent who, often working in isolation, form part of our vibrant filmmaking landscape here in NI.

the_climb

_____

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.

Interview with Filmmaker Jamie Shannon (THE LEGEND OF RASPUTIN)

THE LEGEND OF RASPUTIN was the winner of BEST FILM at the July 2018 Family FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jamie Shannon: I have always found Rasputin fascinating character, being the first tabloid character in History. Around the time i wrote this we had our own Rasputin … “Rob Ford” Who became infamous the world round. I think it is very interesting the way people make these people out to be bigger than life examples of there worst fears, or they become huge fans. I read a book about Rasputin where there was a sign on the door saying “no talking about Rasputin!” But of course they did, like we can’t stop talking about Trump at the moment or whoever captures our projections. It is an enigmatic quality, that sort of mix of disgust and fascination and amazement that captures people imagination in times of trouble, and mine!

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

It took quite a whole just because i had my whole career going on at the same time – so between 3-4 years.

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

persnickety enterprise

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

Post sound! i will always have a greater respect for the art of sound, it is truly the other half of film making. It is the secret part of the film where all of the feeling lies and all the oversights will be paid for!!

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

I feel so proud any time anyone laughs, so that was lovely to see and feel that.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I read just five of the dozens of books, watched two of the many films and ate Raspoutine while I wrote.

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

Fantastic Mr. Fox 🙂 2. Ghostbusters

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How was your experience?

It’s good. Sure is an expensive part one should budget for in the beginning. My producers suggestion was to pay $2000 for film festival submissions.

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

Couldn’t get bored of.

the_legend_of_rasputin_1
_____

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.