Interview with Filmmaker Sean Janisse (LOCOMOTIVE 8 – ENCORE)

LOCOMOTIVE 8 – ENCORE played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Experimental Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sean Janisse: I’ve wanted to make my own short film for a while now, but never felt confident enough with what I’ve written. I knew I wanted to make a space romance but just couldn’t get the pieces to fall in the right place. I was planning it based on the idea that I would have to animate it alone so I knew I wanted to keep it short and simple. That’s when I was listening to my friend’s recent album when the song Encore jumped out at me and I felt like I could already picture the video. It all kind of clicked in. So I thought, I’m going to try out a music video and play with that format.

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

It all started about 4 years ago. Half a year of boarding it out then rehashing it and sitting on it, then it stayed there for around a year until I reached out to the super talented Andrés Landazábal to Art direct the short. After that it really took off and was completed, animation and compositing, within a year.

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

Space Love

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

It was definitely putting in the hours to animate it. So many nights I’d sit down at my computer after work and look at the pile of shots that haven’t even been started yet and wonder why I was doing this to myself.

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

It sounds like they enjoyed it which is a huge relief!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video of the Short Film:

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

I’m a huge romantic comedy fan and I love the sci-fi genre so it really stemmed from that. And when I sat down to start boarding I just went off the mood and tones in the song and tried to let that dictate what happens in the story. The title “encore” also prompted the idea of doing things over again which became the core idea of the short… I don’t know French so hopefully it didn’t completely contradict the song.

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

I think When Harry Met Sally.

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

It’s super easy and straightforward. This was my first time using this service and it made it a breeze.

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

Siberian Breaks by MGMT.

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

I’m working on writing a live action short film with an old teacher and also an animated web series that I’ve been thinking about for a while. We’ll see what comes first!
locomotive_8_encore_6.jpg

Advertisements

Interview with Filmmaker Penny Lee (THROUGH CHINATOWNS’S EYES: APRIL 1968)

THROUGH CHINATOWNS’S EYES: APRIL 1968 played to rave reviews and was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the October 2018 FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Penny Lee: I wanted to tell the story about a minority group that was impacted by a national tragedy during a turbulent time of civil rights history. There
have been many books, films and reports written about the Black and White experience but nothing about the Chinese American experience of that time. I felt it was necessary to produce a film to give the Chinese American voice to this subject.

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

It took about nine months from idea to finished product.

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

Identity Impact

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

The biggest obstacle that I faced in completing this film was finding free time to work on it. I am a full-time freelance film/TV editor and I could only work on the documentary in the evenings, weekends and in between projects. Although our film was funded by the 1882 Foundation and a small grant from the DC Arts & Humanities, the budget was still an obstacle. A lot of the work that was performed on this film such as the writing, shooting and editing was done on a pro bona basis. The archival and stock footage was expensive and the majority of the funds went to pay for that. Needless to say, this was a passion project and I didn’t make any money.

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

I was very impressed by the audience participation and knowledge. I can see from watching their feedback that they were paying close attention to the details especially when they were able to recollect some of the dialogue in the film. I thought that was awesome!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video of the Short Film:

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

I wanted to create an oral history documentary film that would preserve the history of Washington DC’s Chinatown. The area has been decimated with progress and the once thriving Chinese community has dwindled to a few restaurants and even fewer residents. I was searching for funding when the 1882 Foundation
approached me to help them produce a film.

So in addition to funds provided by The 1882 Foundation, we received a grant from the DC Arts & Humanities for us to produce this film but one of the requirements stated that the film had to include race relations as a theme. After brainstorming with the President of the 1882 foundation, we decided to produce a film that would focus on how the Chinatown community faced race relations in the 1960s and what impact the civil disturbance had on these people following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

I have seen the Sound of Music the most followed by Avatar, however I do enjoy many other films such as The Joy Luck Club, The Notebook, Wonder Woman and Crazy Rich Asians. In addition, I enjoy watching Games of Thrones on HBO.

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

I enjoyed using FilmFreeway as a submission platform very much. It was easy to use and I like the many choices and selections available for filmmakers to pick and choose to submit our film. This platform made it easy for filmmakers to visit festival sites and learn more about each festival before making a selection.

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

I would say I listen to Top 40 Pop songs the most followed by oldies as my second choice in music. I enjoy Contemporary hit radio songs to keep up with the times. Other times I listen to oldies where I can actually sing along because I know the words (ex. Beatles, The Temptations, and Motown too).

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

I am currently working on a feature documentary film “A Tale of Three Chinatowns” that explores the survival and role of Chinatowns across the USA by examining how they’ve adapted to social, economic and political changes. This film will look at three Chinatowns in varying stages of contraction and expansion and the forces influencing their current states. It will also cover the history of these Chinatowns and their unique characteristics each local community has developed over time.

Interview with Filmmaker Graeme Bachiu (WHY WE PUSH?)

WHY WE PUSH played to rave reviews at the October 2018 Documentary Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Graeme Bachiu: The motivation for making the film was twofold: first, I wanted to enter a 60 second documentary contest and second, I wanted to tell a bit of a story about Ric without going too far down the rabbit hole.

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

This took probably about a month in total. Production took 1 half day and post production was maybe a day or two.

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

Running math.

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

The biggest obstacle was shooting the running scenes as I don’t have the stamina to keep up with Ric with a camera. We had no gimbal or anything like that, just a C100 and my friend’s truck with a small jib in the back.

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

I was surprised at how they were able to clearly make the connection between the physical and the mental I was trying to show, so that made me happy. It’s kind of a weird film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

Just in speaking to Ric about these complex math problems and also hearing about how he would run to sort of go over the equations in his head. Something about that was interesting to me.

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

Oh geez, I don’t know. I am really bad at keeping track of what I watch or anything like that. I’m a dad of 3 year old twins so I’ve seen some kids movies over and over again…other than that, maybe Treasure of the Sierra Madre or Genghis Blues?

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

It’s fine. I get rejected more than I get accepted but I’m not really in this for any other reason than to see what other peoples’ reactions to my films are. I don’t expect to make any money on weird short docs, so I don’t have much of an opinion.

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

Again, I don’t really know. I guess iTunes would probably tell me that but I tend to listen to whole albums fairly obsessively for short bursts (especially while driving) and then move on to something else? Actually iTunes says that Uncle Pen, an old Bill Monroe bluegrass song covered by Stephen Stills’ Manassas band is number 1 in my library. So there you go.

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

Since I made this film (which was last year) I’ve produced 6 episodes of a doc series on local songwriters in Southern Ontario, a short film about a photographer friend, multiple corporate doc projects and I have a number of projects in the development stage. Some of these upcoming projects include more local songwriting episodes, an animated documentary about ancient giants buried along the Grand River, a verite short doc about creativity and destruction as well as a pilot for some work on dancing therapy for elderly and palliative patients. I’m busy.

Interview with Filmmaker Jessica Chung (SUSHI MAN)

SUSHI MAN played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jessica Chung: This was my thesis to get my animation bachelors diploma.

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

It took me about 10 months.

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

Unexpected and playful.

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

Because I wanted to work on the story so much, I didn’t have much time to focus on the animation. So for me, the biggest obstacle was to move on from animation to start the rendering process.

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

I love how there were so many different opinions ans views about the story. Thank you so much you guys!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

I wanted the story to be very interesting and to have two main opposite characters that would somehow work together out in the end. I went through a couple of different options until I thought about a man that cuts fish for a living. At this point, I thought: “Oh, ok. Let me do a fish vs. man type of story” But, I ended up thinking of evolving the fish into a mermaid to add a romantic element.

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

I think it is between “Lilo and Stitch” by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, or “Modern Times” by Charlie Chaplin. xD

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

I think FilmFreeway is very convenient and easy to use.

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

Phew! This one is a hard one.. I would say it is “Let’s Groove” by Earth Wind and Fire. It was my alarm for probably two whole years in High School.

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

Working on a couple of exciting new projects that include music videos and animation in a feature film.

sushi_man_1.jpg

Interview with Award Winning Filmmaker Sreejith Nair (THE COLOR OF ME)

THE COLOR OF ME was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the September 2018 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sreejith Nair: This approach to the topic of racism and insecurity really came from the fact that I am Indian, but I am born and raised in America. Here in America, people look at me like I am a foreigner, but I don’t feel like one. In India, I don’t look like a foreigner, but I feel like one. I face a lot of judgment from other Indians when they find out I don’t speak Hindi, or I don’t watch Bollywood films that often, or that I have limited knowledge of Indian customs or traditions. Throughout my whole life, it seemed like I was a part of two worlds, but never completely belonged in either of them. I often questioned “how Indian” I really am. Some of my friends joke around with me by saying “I fail as an Indian.” Are there certain things I’m supposed to be doing just because I’m Indian? I have often questioned, “What if I was a black person” or “What if I was white?”, would my life be so different? Could I still be the same person if I wasn’t Indian? What if my skin could change color? So I wanted to write a story that asked, “If I am a person of a different race or ethnicity, how much is my race supposed to define me? If I am a person of color, can I still have the freedom to be whoever I want without worrying about representing my ethnicity?” I want this story to show that you can be anyone, no matter what color you are.

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

1 year of writing
2 months of pre-production
6 days of shooting
1 year of editing
5 months of post-sound

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

Racist fairytale

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

Directing 5 actresses to play the same role, and directing one actor to act along aside 5 different woman as if she was the same person. I don’t know of any other film that uses this technique of having multiple actresses play the same role, so it was my chance to come up with new directorial skills.

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

The comments that I really loved was when an audience member said, “I can relate to this movie”. That comment really showed me that this movie accomplished it’s mission of addressing the issue of racism while still being a fantasy film about a girl with a curse. And just listening to the audience talk about scenes in the film and connecting it to their actual life really raised my spirits and made me believe we did a film that is important.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

When the idea became about a girl who changes skin color, I immediately wanted to do a fairytale. She grew up with this curse and believes that not having white skin is considered ugly. When you have a character who is experiencing something supernatural, you have to have a regular person to serve as the entry point to introducing the supernatural element, otherwise the audience may not be able to follow it. I didn’t want the main character to be Indian like me, I wanted to step out of my own box for this film, I decided to make him an adopted African-American. Having my main character, Lewis, be adopted was a reflection of how I’m an Indian man raised in America, so we both have the insecurity of being raised in a community outside our skin color. With that, you have a story of two characters, with two different upbringings expressing their views of the world, and in this case, how your skin color is perceived.

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

The entire Godzilla franchise, is my favorite movie franchise of all time.

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

I love FilmFreeway, I use it all the time. It’s a very quick and easy way to find festivals and submit to them. I recommend it for all filmmakers.

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

I don’t necessarily have a favorite song.

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

My ultimate goal is to get this in front of as many producers as possible and hopefully make The Color of Me feature film.

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

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.