Interview with Filmmaker Hadley Hendon (BLESSING)

BLESSING was the winner of BEST FILM at the November 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hadley Hendon: I found Al Nour through a program I went to Morocco with, Actuality Media. They do preliminary research into a few organizations and the filmmakers get to pick from there. I chose Al Nour because they focus on helping the lives of women, which I feel very connected to. Al Nour is also a community. All of these women make a product together, travel to and from work together, eat lunch together and generally support each other. Showcasing a strong community is important in the times we’re living in where everyday feels more and more like we’re focusing on the needs of the individual and forgetting we’re a part of a larger community.

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

It took us one month to get a solid rough cut which we screened in Morocco for the women of Al Nour, that cut ran about 12 min long. After we left Morocco my team and I continued to work on it, our DP and editor Erica Moon was able to cut it down to 6 min. From when we left to our final edit was two years later.

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

Inspiring women.

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

My biggest obstacle was working through the guilt I felt interviewing these women. I come from an extreme place of privilege. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, went to college in Chicago and on top of that I am an able bodied woman. I saw the pain in their eyes and heard it in their voices as I asked them tough questions, it doesn’t feel good to make someone to talk about their pain. I also felt like I was being exploitative, using these incredible stories for my own personal gain. It was a tough thing to face. I had moments where I thought, “I’m not cut out for this”. What I had to realize was talking through trauma and pain helps us release, helps us move on. I feel incredibly lucky that these women put their trust in me to tell their stories, to talk through the pain with me.

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

Honestly, I was shocked at how well received it was. I was expecting harsher critique. I had multiple people come up to me after the screening and tell me that Najat’s story inspired them. It made them feel something and they thanked me for sharing her story. That’s all I want as a filmmaker. All the discomfort I felt during the filmmaking process was worth it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video

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

As previously stated, I didn’t actually find Al Nour or say to myself “I want to make a film about physically disabled women in Morocco.” In fact if you told me I’d ever make something like this, I would’ve called you crazy. What I will say though is my team and I did a first round of preliminary interviews with all the women of Al Nour, we really wanted to pinpoint a strong story and have that guide us through all the good work Al Nour does. Najat, even with her shy demeanor, really stuck out to us. You can feel this strong spirit inside her just bursting with life. From there we knew we wanted to follow her.

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

Embarrassingly, I’m pretty sure it’s the 2007 Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore work of art “Because I Said So”. But if you’re looking for a more cinematic answer I’ll tell you my favorite film is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, flawless storytelling.

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

FilmFreeway is an incredible resource. Not only is it extremely easy to upload and submit but it’s also a fantastic research tool! Finding fests to attend, networking and submitting has never been easier.

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

Electric Light Orchestra – Telephone Line. I love the drama of it.

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

I’m currently working on producing/directing my first feature film. I also have a few feature length scripts I’m developing! All of these projects are scripted fiction but let me tell you, I am on the edge of my seat waiting for an incredible story to make my next documentary about.

Interview with Filmmaker Mark Garcia (THE ARTIST)

THE ARTIST played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mark Garcia: I first met Mauro while running a camera on his first film he directed titled, The Recall. One day just Mauro and I went to grab some night shots and during the hour long drive to the location Mauro started telling me about his history as a concept artist and all the work he had created. I was SHOCKED to hear all the incredible works he had created for Major Motion Pictures and couldn’t believe one man had created all these pieces from his imagination. I knew from that conversation I wanted to interview him and create a piece to share with the world. It is the first time I was completely happy to be stuck in awful LA traffic so I could just listen to all the fascinating stories Mauro was sharing with me during the drive.

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

From shooting to final edit took about a month but it was over a year from the time he shared his stories with me to the short being produced.

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

Beautiful Mind

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

The biggest obstacle was making sure I created a piece that Mauro would be happy with. I wanted to make it ALL about Mauro and make sure the edit was organic with the content we shot. I wanted the audience to TRULY feel they were in the Mauro’s creative studio just as I was during the filming.

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

The audience feedback video was AWESOME! It was incredible to see people in a movie theatre in Toronto watching THE Artist. I saw smiles and people fully engaged in the piece. I heard a couple people refer to it as “beautiful” and that made me feel incredible because Mauro, his work and his creative genius is nothing short of beautiful. Thank you for screening the film and the awesome people of Toronto for viewing it. BTW Go Raptors!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I just wanted to interview Mauro and see where it would take us.

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

That’s a tough but good question. Hmmm I would have to say Goonies, Inception, Gladiator, Sixteen Candles, Jaws, Rocky IV, Top Gun.

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

FilmFreeway is INCREDIBLE! It is actually a fun platform where you can easily pick the festivals and submit. Whoever created the platform is genius!

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

I am a big Eminem and Lil Wayne fan so the song, “No Love” is easily one of my favorites! It has been on repeat for YEARS! lol

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

I have a couple short docs in the making. Check back with me in about 2 months and I will let you know. ;). And again so much thanks and appreciation to you, The Documentary Short Film Festival, Toronto and the people of Toronto! I am truly honored and blessed! Thank YOU!

Interview with Filmmaker Manchhiring Tamang (A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HIMALAYAN SHEPHERD)

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HIMALAYAN SHEPHERD was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Manchhiring Tamang: My motivation to make this film roots from my familial and cultural ties to the village. I was born in the village and grew up surrounded by shepherd practices and as I grew older I saw the apparent changes to shepherding practices due to modernization. While I still resided in Nepal, I was very involved in the media and would conduct research and write articles on the indigenous peoples of Nepal. This further influenced my decision to make this film as I would like to share to the world a practice that may not be so popularized in media but is still captivating to learn about before the practice may potentially die out. I hoped my film would preserve a slowly vanishing profession.

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

I first conceived this idea after a worrisome conversation with my grandfather ten years back. He was telling me shepherding is slowly dying off as more and more people go abroad. Forward to 2018, I had settled in America and become somewhat financially stable in order to pursue my dream. With the support of employers and friends, I went to Nepal and completed the project within a month.

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

Culture preservation.

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

The biggest obstacle that I faced in completing this film was the weather conditions. The weather would constantly going from clear skies and sunny to cloudy and rain. This made it very hard for us to have an on-track shooting schedule since the weather could change on us anytime.

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

The audience feedback for my film made me feel very grateful. I am thankful that so many people enjoyed the film that I hoped would preserve my village’s dying custom. I am feeling very motivated by the feedback and for receiving ‘best film’. I hope to continue with filming and produce more films.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Ten years ago, my then 98 year old grandfather and I had a conversation about the dying custom. Because I had ties with the media, in that moment I thought a great way to preserve this custom for future generations would be through a documentary. Ever since then I had always wanted to make a film on shepherding practices.

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

I watched a Nepali movie from 1991 called “Chino”. It was the movie of the year and I watched it six times.

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

I believe FilmFreeway is a golden platform. It allows small film makers to screen to an audience in order to get feedback. Just being able to screen my film to an audience is something I am very grateful for.

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

I must have listened to Nepali classical singer Narayan Gopal’s song “Kehi Mitho Batagara” the most times in my life. A true love song.

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

Next for me is another film on the story of a migrant from Nepal. I am creating this film to explore the American dream he and millions of others have.

Interview with Filmmaker Barbara van Rijn (THE CURE)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Barbara van Rijn: As a daughter of a Pharmacist I am brought up with the belief that herbal and traditional medicine is not to be trusted. After living in Ghana for a while, I realized that people in Ghana look at this very differently. I wanted to know more, the reasoning of people using herbal medicine vs orthodox medicine and how this affects their life.

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

I was planning to only film a short TV item, finishing in 2 weeks. I ended up taking 5 years to finish.


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

Emotional and impressive

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

It was difficult to find the right balance in making this a story about ‘the people using traditional medicine’ and all facts and figures that are known about this topic. I could have gone on an on doing more research, more filming and make it more of an investigative documentary. However it was always meant as a small story about people using traditional medicine. So sometimes it was hard to hold on to that initial goal but still find the right balance of giving information to satisfy the viewer.


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

I often agreed with them and their feelings after seeing the film. It was great to have people giving feedback on the film, it gave me a lot of positive energy!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was working at a local TV station in Ghana as an advisor where the doctor of ‘The Cure’ was advertising this drug live on air. That stirred a discussion between me and my Ghanaian boss by then, he believed the drug was a real cure, and I was very doubtful. Once I started following the doctor and his patients it became such an emotional journey that wouldn’t let me go.

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

Documentary: Google baby

Film: Blackbook (Dutch film)

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

It makes it very easy to apply and gives a good overview of the possibilities. Perfect.

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

Meadowlands – The African Mama’s

No one – Alicia keys


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

Hopefully yes. I have a topic in mind, also coming from West Africa. I started the research. First I have to make a firm decision to really continue documentary making and make the switch from fulltime corporate film maker to making documentaries. This festival actually gave me some confidence boost to focus more on documentaries.

Interview with Filmmaker Jeremy Abrams (FIGHTING CHILDHOOD CANCER)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jeremy Abram: The Vanderslice family were friends of my wife, and when I saw a social media post that included a photo of Louie looking out of the window from his hospital room at Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia at a crowd of people who gathered for a candle light vigil with a poster that said “Hope”, it peaked my interest to start following his story, and I fell in love with the family and their love for their son.

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

Their father (Joshua) reached out to me and told me the Roc Solid foundation was going to be constructing a playground in their back yard in honor of Louie and to bring joy to their family. He had seen some of my video work and asked if I would ever consider documenting this event for them. Not only did I agree and feel privileged that he even asked – I assembled a team of videographers/photographers to volunteer their time to help cover the event. We started filming at 6:30am until 3pm, and it required around 70 hours of filming, photographing, archiving and editing.

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

Always hope

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

Having to take breaks in editing to gather my emotions.

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

I was bracing for impact on technical critiques, only to be relieved that everyone absorbed the overall story and that it resonated with an authentic human experience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea was there, the challenge was to strip it down to the bare bones to make it a potent story without unecessary clutter.

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

Braveheart

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

I have submitted previous films to various platforms – but FilmFreeway was the simplest that actually delivered valuable critique and feedback. It was well organized and proactive.

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

Woman with the tatooed hands, Atmosphere

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

I currently work full time in IT, and do freelance video production projects for pleasure as they arise.

Interview with Producer Rebecca Scotti (BUILD RAMPS NOT WALLS)

BUILD RAMPS NOT WALLS played to rave reviews at the March 2019 Documentary Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Rebecca Scotti: Our skate community, namely Nat and Emilio!

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

It took 18 months from idea to release.

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

Still Relevant!

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

We had so much footage, it was challenging to pull out the storyline while maintaining the spirit of DIY skate and the candid commentary of the skaters and their community.

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

At first we were nervous as you can imagine, but when we saw the smiles and heard the positive responses, we felt inspired to continue.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came out of the kids and the skate community.

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

Very easy.

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

We continue to work with the community in Puerto Vallarta and are looking at projects in other skate communities impacted negatively by current politics.

Interview with Filmmaker Cynthia Hunt (ICE FLOW)

ICE FLOW played to rave reviews at the March 2019 Experimental Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Cynthia Hunt: I wanted to make this film for many reasons. I was extremely concerned about how much the weather had changed in the Yukon, where the film was made so I started to tune in the intense beauty of the changing season from fall to winter. I also wanted to project humans as only one life form along a river and let the river be the main character in the film. This proved to be a challenging exercise.

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

C It took a considerable time. The shooting ran through a fall for 2 months and the editing I did on an off for a year. I presented the film and then edited it more, several times.

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

C. River voices.

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

C. My computer is from 2011 and is only a 13” MacBook Pro. The film kept crashing the computer and later I found out that the 13” MacBook Pro does not have a designated graphics card. When I updated the computer this spring it no longer accepted my video .mts files from my camera. The sound was garbled. Eek!

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

C. I found watching the video of the audiences comments very touching. It was lovely to hear the what they said and to see that the viewers got my film. This meant a lot to me. I also loved seeing my family in attendance.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

C. I am a painter and I am completely absorbed by the colours on the water outside my cabin. I could film and paint this subject forever.

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

C. I love so many films, I am not sure which one I’ve watched the most.

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

C. Entering the festival circuit with a film made without any money and trying to figure out where to send it and also how to put together a package is overwhelming. FilmFreeway makes it as easy as possible but this is definitely an area I need to learn more about.

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

This changes depending on the time in my life and my emotions. Right now I love to listen to sounds in nature most of all, in particular bird songs like the American Dipper shown in my film.

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

C. I am painting and dreaming up films all the time. I have a film in my head set in an urban setting and 3 more films in the setting I made this film in. As well, I have some editing to do on other films I shot once I can upgrade to a new MacBook Pro.