Interview with Filmmaker Julia Trofimova (EULOGY FOR DENIS K)

EULOGY FOR DENIS K was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the December 2018 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Julia Trofimova: I’m very intrigued by the question of the truth – how would it look like if everyone knew everything? Would this world still exist? Or a lie is a protection tool invented by God. The film is my attempt to talk about it.

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

I’ve been looking for an idea for quite a long time, but once I found the script and decided to produce and direct it, it took me 4 months.

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

Accept reality

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

It was actually pretty hard to find the fine line between comedy and drama. It’s very subtle, when you are talking about serious things like death, loss, lie, betrayal, but I needed to find the comedy edge to it. So casting and performances were the biggest challenge.

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

I was very pleased. I realized it does not even matter if the feedback is positive (though it was) but it’s just so precious and surprising to hear people talk about your own film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was looking for a dramedy with particular themes and I came across a wonderful script by C.J.Wells. We worked at the script a bit more together and then I was ready to direct it. Cassie is a real goddess of dramedy, I think she feels this genre very well.

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

There is a Russian film that we watch every year on Christmas Eve. It’s called “The Irony of Fate”, and it’s a dramedy as well. It was shot in 70s but it’s still somehow very modern and subtle.

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

It’s the most convenient platform I know.

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

“Smells like teen spirit” by Nirvana.
One of my kids plays this song now, so I’m sure I’ll listen to it even more:)

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

— Yes, I shot two more short films and will send them to festivals soon.

Interview with Filmmaker Paul Charisse (UNCLE GRIOT)

UNCLE GRIOT was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER at the December 2018 Fantasy/Sci-Fi Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Paul Charisse: This short was developed from a feature we are making called “Stina & the Wolf”. It’s developed from a single scene we thought would act well as a vehicle to distill a lot of the ideas we explore in our feature script into a small and affordable format (and also function to help promote our funding of the full feature of course!)

We wanted it to capture the atmosphere and approach we intend for the final feature, as well as hint at some of the main themes the film deals with. Part of our design for the feature and short was to try and find that difficult balance between helping the audience understand ideas we want to explore, but also painting a rich enough palette that they can draw their own conclusions, some of which may not have even occurred to us as filmmakers. I’m a big believer that artists put more ideas into their work than they realise, so particularly in the editing process, we moved things around a lot to create new meanings and juxtapositions in an intuitive and reactive way that I tried not to over analyze. I think this can access deeper, more subconscious meanings, and is very much the working method of my filmmaking heroes such as David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg. I love films that use rich emotive visual and narrative elements to take you into the emotion space of a character, without being overly didactic or literal, giving the audience just enough ingredients to make sense of story elements and visual motifs so they can stitch together things from their own experiences. (This does of course require a certain amount of effort from the audience and challenges expectations, so is not to everyone’s taste!) I’m also a big fan of this magical realism approach in literature, by authors such as the fantastic Kelly Lynch, where meanings are hinted at and stories unfold full of sympathetic resonances and juxtapositions that can draw out different things from different readers.

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

The feature has been in development for 6 years. The resulting short took about one and half years to complete.

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

magical realism

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

The biggest obstacle was a technical one, getting the right level of detail and realism so that we could create the “hyper realism” we wanted for our aesthetic. The plan was that at moments it looked real and others strange and dream like, with certain visual elements idealised beyond reality. There are no shortcuts to this, and it required a lot of time and effort creating high fidelity facial animation, cloth simulation, grass and tree simulation, motion capture and animation and shader and matte painting. This is easier if you’re working on a multi million pound budget project with a crew of hundreds (I used to work as an animator in Blockbuster VFX) Most of the work on this was done by a small team of about 8 of us, and we made the film in a university with students and myself (a lecturer) Our biggest obstacle for the feature as a whole is getting it funded and finding a producer to help us with this. (Pretty much the same as every filmmaker in history I imagine!)

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

I was really excited to hear the different interpretations of the film. It’s actually a relief to hear that people are able to accept the level of ambiguity and try and use the elements in the film to make their own meanings, and they came up with so many fantastic ideas! I was really pleased, as this film was partially a test to see if we could capture a snapshot of what we want the feature to be, and see whether it would work with an audience. (although the feature has a much tighter narrative, but we aspire to give it that otherworldly ambiguity. Again another balancing act)

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The feature (and the short) is inspired by many ideas and many films. I’d say life, death and fate are its core themes, but within that the idea of using storytelling and fantasy as a way of making sense of the apparent chaos and amorality of the natural world plays a big part; also how this relates to the aging process (Stina is very much intended to be idealised youth, where as Griot is the reality of aging: wart, farts, body hair and all!). I love the idea that humans have to wrap everything in a story before they can process it, especially things that are infinite and seem to defy logic, such as death or the physical world beyond our bodies.

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

I’d say Mulholland Drive and Paris Texas have both had about the same level of obsessive re-watching. At least twice a year! Very different films, but both have been massive inspirations.

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

It’s really accessible and useful. I’d use it again.

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

I tend to listen to albums rather than individual songs. The otherworldly and ambient instrumental sides (it’s a double album) of David Sylvian “Gone to Earth” is my my most played. It transports me to another plane, a place beyond language, and I think a place I feel compelled to try and reach through filmmaking for some reason. I love that language is completely incompetent at capturing the experience of music (and film!).

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

I’ve been approached about directing an animated feature in America next year, which i can’t talk about yet unfortunately (although hopefully soon) I’ll also be continuing the process of trying to fund our magical realistic feature, which i’m absolutely determined to make. (I’m having to learn to be a producer at the moment, which is definitely not my natural skillset, if any one fancies joining the team! ) Any one interested in learning more about our feature “Stina & the Wolf” should check out: http://www.stinaandthewolf.net

Interview with Filmmaker Alex Fynn (FORMS)

FORMS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the November 2018 Experimental FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alex Fynn: I was given the opportunity by Red Bull South Africa to create a piece that showcases dance in the most interesting way possible. From my early days in filmmaking, I have always loved dance music videos. Dance, Music and Film provide a medium for expression. I was keen to see what would happen if you gather three creatives from each of these disciplines and have them collaborate on a project. The film is about collaboration and the immense possibility created when working together.

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

It took about 3 months, from conception to post.

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

Audiovisual Explosion

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

Time! We choreographed and rehearsed in about 10 days, we only had one day to shoot this film and then we packed a lot of post VFX in there which took some time to create.

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

First of all I couldn’t believe that my film was screened to an audience in Toronto! I was beaming with excitement and happiness. You spend so much time as a creative thinking about all the little details and meaning behind every element in your film, and to see an audience from another country entirely watch your work and point out all those details and more is incredible. It has really motivated me to keep creating and keep telling stories!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main message is about unity, unity through dance, unity through collaboration – so we created a world where unity is not allowed. As a young creative, you need to rise above the idea that some goals you set are not achievable. I believe anything is possible with the help of the right people. I wanted to showcase attitude and synchronicity within the performance, beautiful cinematography and realistic looking VFX to take the viewer into another world for a few minutes. The film is set in the future and is definitely inspired by my love for narratives created within games. By the end, the rebels escape and the riot police are left looking at the statement “We are one” which the rebels have set up. I leave it up to the viewer to decide what that means to them.

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

The 1st Matrix – I watched it so many times!

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

I think the FilmFreeway platform is absolutely fantastic. It is easy to use and has plenty of great works on there to check out. Everyone I have spoken to from FilmFreeway is so sweet and helpful with a genuine goal to assist filmmakers in getting there work seen and I think that is remarkable.

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

Samba Pa Ti – Carlos Santana (my mom had it on repeat in the car as we drove to school each morning for years)

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

I have just left my full time job to start a film production company which is very exciting. I’m currently working on a long form project at the moment, it’s a 52 minute documentary about a very popular marathon in South Africa, The Two Oceans Marathon. I’m planning to do some traveling as well and look into ways that I can work abroad for a while and gain some international experience.

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!
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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.

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