Interview with documentary filmmaker Jenna Gartlan (MISSING PEACE)

MISSSING PEACE played at the November 2017 Short Film Festival to great reviews. It is by far one of the most unique films the FEEDBACK Festival showed in 2017.

 
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

I was really shocked to learn about Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), but I was instantly intrigued. I have always been interested in ‘fringe’ or unique aspects of people’s lives. When I read more about the condition and spoke to those who suffer from BIID, I realized that their stories weren’t being told properly. The media had been sensationalizing their plight and was more interested in criticizing than helping bring awareness and understanding. I also realized that people with BIID just want to be happy and accepted and I really relate to that and sympathize.

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

I came up with the idea in November of 2015 and we finished the film in the summer of 2016. So about 9 months.

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

Provoking acceptance.

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

The biggest obstacle was filming in two countries on a small budget for a short timeframe.

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

I liked hearing what people had to say, and at the end of the day, there are many things that I would have liked to have done differently but time, budget, and availability of our subjects were tough to navigate.

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

I came up with the idea after reading about BIID in an article.

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

Hot Fuzz (2007) or the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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

I think Filmfreeway helps a lot of emerging artists by simplifying the submission process and clearly explaining what needs to be done.

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

I can Feel a Hot One by Manchester Orchestra

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

I have been working away in the industry while writing on the side. I hope to be working on a comedic web series in the next coming months.
 

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

MISSING PEACE, 17min., USA, Documentary/Drama 
Directed by Jenna Gartlan

Missing Peace follows Chloe Jennings-White and Jeremy as they struggle with Body Integrity Identity Disorder. Chloe wishes to be paraplegic, and Jeremy wants to cut off his hands.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

 

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Interview with Filmmaker Mike Johnson (OCEANIC ALIENS)

 OCEANIC ALIENS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the November 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mike Johnson: A few years ago I fell in love with scuba diving and the underwater world. Being a filmmaker, my goal quickly became making underwater video a staple of my business, so I invested in dive training and underwater camera equipment. Now, I rarely dive without my camera. In the dive world Kona, Hawaii is known for the pelagic blackwater dives and this was very high on my “list”, as divers often refer to their bucket list of dive sites. In mid 2016, I booked a shoot on the big island of Hawaii and decided to stick around after the work was over to dive. Having no experience with pelagic blackwater diving I really did not know what to expect from the footage, so I went into the whole thing with no goal other than to have a good time. The experience itself, and later the research, are what ultimately inspired me to create the film.

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

Due to the logistics of pelagic blackwater diving, I did two dives while in Kona – each about an hour long. After that I spent about three months doing research on the species I had captured. This is not a topic one can simple “google” and expect to find results. It took a lot of digging and fact checking to be certain the information I had compiled was accurate. From there I spent two weeks writing and editing the film.

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

Life Changing. The information I learned during the research and discovery phase of this project absolutely changed my life, or more specifically my way of thinking. Oceanic Aliens contains a minuscule amount of information on the topic of plankton. I found it absolutely amazing how important plankton are to the entire planet, and even more so how little the public, and even science, knows about these creatures, and more importantly, the ocean.

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

With the ease of access to the internet and underwater cameras, there is a lot of misinformation to sift through online. Divers and snorkelers often encounter various species of zooplankton, posting pictures and video online to various outlets. More often than not, I found these to be mis-identified. Scientific resources often listed species by name, but included no reference images. With the goal of creating a traditional nature documentary, I knew my information had to be spot on, so I spent a lot of time cross referencing and fact checking my research.

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

Its great to see people learning something new, that they never thought existed. From a filmmaking standpoint, I had a few goals in mind with this film. I wanted to create a traditional wildlife/nature documentary, and knowing I had limited resources and footage to work with I wanted to leave the audience wanting to know more – to whet their appetite and hopefully inspire a few to learn more. Hearing this feedback from the audience helps me to know those goals were accomplished.

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

Growing up I always wanted to be an astronaut. Scuba diving is as close to space exploration as one can get on this planet. In fact, NASA trains astronauts to work in microgravity by submerging them in a giant pool. Being just three miles off-shore and 30 feet deep, I really felt I was on another planet while filming Oceanic Aliens. After the dives when I would show people photos of the creatures I captured, few people believed they were real until I showed them the video. Nearly everyone’s reaction was related to alien life.

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

Wow, hard to narrow this down to one. There are three film series that stick out – Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars. I watched each many times growing up, and now that I have kids of my own have introduced them to these films as well. The adventure into the unknown I think is what really draws me in. More recently, I discovered The Lost World of Z.

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

I like FilmFreeway. Its easy to use and provides access to a massive volume of festivals. Definitely a platform I will come back to with future films.

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

Another hard question! I don’t know about one specific song, but the most listened to artist would probably be Fleetwood Mac. My parents often listened to Fleetwood Mac on cassette tape when I was growing up, and there are a lot of good memories tied to those songs.

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

There was a discussion in the audience feedback about how the film left viewers wanting more. It has left me wanting more as well. My goal for 2018 is to begin production for a feature length version that will highlight zooplankton and explore their importance to the planet.

 

OCEANIC ALIENS, 6min., USA, Documentary/Wildlife
Directed by Mike Johnson

Oceanic Aliens is an internationally award winning short documentary that explores one aspect of how little we truly know about planet earth. More is known about outer space than our very own oceans. This short documentary illustrates just one example of a little known class of marine species and their amazing attributes.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

oceanic_aliens_2

Interview with Filmmaker Hendricksen Armand (COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK)

COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK played to rave reviews at the November 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hendricksen Armand: I was always aware of cosplay as a subculture from an outsiders perspective but it wasn’t until I was fully immersed in it that I began to understand the full scope of what cosplay was. It was vibrant, it was creative, it was technical, and I thought it was a story that needed to be told.

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

From conception to completion it took about 9 months to complete. Though I have footage in the film from 2014 of the first convention I ever attended. Which was Supercon in Miami.

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

Fun, Unexpected

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

I think trying to coordinate with all the different subjects on the film to tell their stories. Logistically it was a bit challenging because we all had full time jobs including myself. So we had to find a time when we were all available to shoot.

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

I was very happy to see how many people appreciated the topics that were covered in the film. I assume some these people have cosplayed or know cosplayers. That really brings me a lot of joy when cosplayers enjoy the film because essentially, I made this for them.

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

I didnt have to come up with anyting really. I discoverd an artistic, vibrant, community and wanted to share it with the world.

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

I’ve seen a lot over the years, but what always comes to mind is The Dark Knight. I could watch that all day.

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

I’m a relatively new filmmaker in terms of the submission process so I can’t really comment on how things used to be, but I do find it very convenient to submit films on platforms like FilmFreeway. It allows filmmakers to get their work out there without mailing postage and searching thousands of websites to find festivals.

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

Wow. I can’t say I’ve been keeping track. The song I’ve been listening to the most right now is “Stay” by Hans Zimmer from the Interstellar soundtrack.

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

I am currently working on a film at the moment. It’s a project I am very excited about and could perhaps screen at this festival again next year!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film: 

COSPLAY: BEHIND THE MASK, 20min., USA, Documentary/Sci-Fi 
Directed by Hendricksen Armand

A look into the life of cosplayers who try to shatter the boundaries of reality by transforming themselves into characters from comic books, TV shows, and movies.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

 

 

Interview with Director Margaret Costa (MY NAME IS JOAN)

Margaret Costa’s short film was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2017 DOCUMENTARY FEEDBACK Short Film Festival

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Margaret Costa: I thought the topic was compelling and the story needed to be told. The fact that the Catholic Church and the Irish Government profited and abused unwed mothers and their children is unimaginable, yet it happened.

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

From start to finish, it took 5 years.

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

What the?

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

Money.

What were your initial reactions sitting in the cinema and watching the audience talking about your film?

Wow. I was right, this is a disturbing topic and the film is compelling.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK of the Short Film:

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

I met Susan, she told me about her adoption and I started doing research.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably, the Wizard of Oz.

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

I think it’s fabulous.

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

That’s tough. My favorite group is Queen, but if I had to pick one song, it would probably be “Rocks Off” by the Stones.

What is next for you? A new film?

I do have a lot of ideas for a new film, but right now I’m negotiating with a distributor to sell this film world wide and will most likely create a longer version for distribution.
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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto twice a month, and every other month in Los Angeles. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with director Marina Meijer (CARGO)

Marina Meijer’s short film “CARGO” was the winner of “BEST FILM” at the May 2017 European Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marina Meijer: I needed to make a film about the importance of women and love, in an environment where she is absent. So I went looking for places at sea (the birthplace of Afrodite, goddess of love), to find a small men’s microcosm, where only men live and work together, seperated from land and the women in (their) life. And then I met Frans, a rough sailor who had lost his love.

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

I did two months of research, and in this period I lived on several ships to meet different crews and men. After I found Frans, I wrote a filmplan, and then my cameraman, soundsman and me, stayed on the ship for a month to shoot. Our school gave us a 6 weeks to edit the film, and then another month for sounddesign, music and other postproductional things! So I think in total it took us half a year to make the entire film.

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

Waves, Women.

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

The fact that is was my graduation film, gave us quite some limitations in our shooting and edit period. But I learned a lot, so it’s not all that bad… And of course the fact that I did a lot of puking at sea, hehe.

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

It made me very happy..! Some things people said, really touched me. I loved it that although it’s quite a subtle story, some people do feel the emotional layer underneath it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the short film:

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

As a woman, there are places that are almost unattainable for me, places where men are among themselves, isolated from the outside world. This film takes place in such a ‘man’s microcosm’ at sea, a place where men and women are physically separated. It’s a place that intrigues me, because it feels out of balance. It’s a small world that symbolizes the world in which we now live, where the ‘hard’ and strong often dominates, and where the soft and sensitive is still struggling to break through. For me this film is a portrayal of this struggle with feelings. About a man who lost his wife, his unexpressed feelings and loneliness within this men’s world. A small film about the importance of women and love, which becomes even bigger when she is no longer there.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Beau Travail, from Claire Denis or Three Rooms of Melancholia, from Pirjo Honkasalo.

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

‘Maggot Brain’ from Funkadelic or ‘If you want me to stay’ from Sly and the Family Stone. And I still don’t know the lyrics.. Words are not that important to me, i guess.

What is next for you? A new film?

I hope so! Working very hard on a new idea.. I’m very uncertain about a lot of things in my life, but filmmaking is the one thing I’m very sure of, that I really want and need to do.
 
 

cargo_6.jpg

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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 month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with director Paul Zehrer (BEING SEEN)

Paul Zehrer’s short film “BEING SEEN” was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival

 Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

My cinematographer, Chikara Motomura, and I were approached by the director of Lifehouse Agency in Marin, CA, to create a video that would help the community better understand the work they do. Lifehouse has been serving adults with developmental disabilities to live independantly for over 40 years.

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

About three years. We originally made a longer film specifically for Lifehouse that was more of a promotional film. However, in making that film, we became very involved with these individuals throughout the Bay Area and realized that there was a much more universal story to tell.

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

Being Seen

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

We were fortunate to have some funding to make the film, but it’s been difficult finding the necessary funding required to get this out in the world and maintain a website and social media outreach — all which requires enormous amount of time and energy and difficult to get money to support.

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

Very rewarding. Affirmed what we had hoped to achieved by making this film. Thank you.

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It simply evolved organically out of the stories we heard from the people we met and interviewed. It was pretty self-evident that these people had a lot to share and what they spoke about was not about how tough they had it or self-pitying, but rather dreams, desires and ambitions like most people.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I actually don’t have a lot of time to watch films anymore. I very much like the poetic and soulful work of Terrance Malick and Andre Tarkovsky– but few people know of those filmmakers anymore.

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

Probably something I’ve had to play for my son like Baby Beluga or Somewhere Over the Rainbow 🙂 If I had time, I’d listen to more Indian ragas.

What is next for you? A new film?

We are looking to raise completion funds for a documentary we’ve been making about early childhood education in crisis zones like the Gaza and the Westbank, as well as Oakland and South L.A.. It’s a film that looks at alternative interventions that help young children overcome debilitating trauma that often effects them years later as young adults — legacies that too often perpetuate the cycles of violence in those places.

Interview with director Cassie De Colling (GULMARG – PARADISE ON EARTH)

Cassie De Colling’s short film played at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival

 Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

A lot of factors came into play when making this film. I was struck by the situation in Kashmir and I wanted to help create a perspective for the western skier to see I wanted that to strong but also not negative as I am very aware that they are injecting a lot of economy into the area, its a double edged sword. It was a challenge as the topic is a strong one and I didn’t want to use my own voice, as admit I am not an expert on the melting pot of issues that are revolving around Kashmir politically and socially.

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

5 years. It took me about 4 years to find the time to get it to a 45 minute edit which was a really strong piece but I just didn’t feel as though it was balanced. It was also my first film as a observationally documentary and I personally didn’t fee like I had adequate infrastructure in place for a smooth distribution. That is when I decided to cut it down to make it shorter, more palatable to the short film circuit and audiences.

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

Rough Diamond

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

When I returned for Kashmir my parter who helped me film it was particularly difficult and didn’t’t want me to use the footage. I basically had to wait a year for things to cool off before seeking legal advice to negotiate obtaining his permission to use the percentage of footage he had shot. It was very emotionally draining. The story also we really difficult to string together I didn;t feel expert enough to go into great detail about issues, so it was the struggle to set up my scenarios and tie them off whilst not getting too invested. Also maintaining relationships with both Kashmiri people and westerners through out the experience has been tricky, some people see the film as something that could portray Kashmir in a negative way, which it isn’t, But Kashmir is a complicated place, I just want tourist to have some understanding of that when they are making a journey their.

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

It was great. The film has been such a struggle for me to get together. It was lovely that it sparked conversation and considerations to the people in the audience. Especially in Toronto a multi cultural city, in a country that is known for snow and mountain culture.

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I originally set out to Kashmir to do a pro-bono film a documentary on a NGO that were providing Snowboards and training to Kashmir. When I arrived the company was no where to be found and they went silent. I never heard from them. So I was in Kashmir with my partner and I was dedicated to filming something… We had lugged our DSLR’s and filming gear through the military enclosed airport of Srinagar, we had to make the most of it.

The tension with the westerner and locals sort of lays dormant in Gulmarg. I could feel that but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Over the time I was their I supposed I saw and filmed more and more things that proved this to me. So it was just a matter of capturing those the best we could and at the same time making friends and building relationships with the people I interviewed.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I am a bit of a one time film watcher… So don’t know

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

It would be some kind of 80’s Australian anthem. Money for Nothing – Dire Straights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTP2RUD_cL0

What is next for you? A new film?

I am working on a very exciting VR project called Uku360 It is an underwater 360VR project looking at the first peoples of the world connection to the ocean. Check out http://www.360uku.com for more information. We are about to film the pilot in April 2017.