Interview with Filmmaker Nubar Alexanian (RECIPE FOR DISASTER: GREEN CRABS IN THE GREAT MARSH)

RECIPE FOR DISASTER: GREEN CRABS IN THE GREAT MARSH was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the June 2020 Documentary Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nubar Alexanian: For more than four decades I’ve been living along the Great Marsh in Massachusetts and I’ve come to know and love it as both a fisherman and a photographer. I was shocked in June 2017 when I found out that invasive green crabs were decimating this profound and delicate ecosystem, and dismayed to discover that very few people knew about it. Making this film is my attempt to bring attention to this critical issue by creating a narrative experience of what’s actually going on – not just in my back yard, but along both coasts of North America and beyond.

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

18 months.

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

Ecological Catastrophe

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

Shooting a local story means wanting to shoot constantly. So we ended up with an enormous amount of footage.

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

The comments affirmed the reasons for making this film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Honestly, I think the subject chose me. When this happens, I just have to keep up with the content until I find the film.

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

The Matrix

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

Making documentary films of any length is an arduous process. Filmfreeway life easier because it’s a huge help in getting our film into the world.

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

My Sweet Lord by George Harrison

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

Scars of Silence
(working title)
Three Generations From Genocide
A Film by Nubar and Abby Alexanian

Logline: An Armenian-American father and daughter set out to understand the powerful legacy of genocide and the ways that a century of silence and denial has shaped their family and themselves. When your family’s brutal past is denied, how do you make sense of the present.

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Interview with Filmmaker Jordan Brown (PARK AVENUE)

PARK AVENUE played to rave reviews at the August 2020 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jordan Brown: I was motivated to make this film because the social justice system is corrupt and disproportionately targets Black and Brown communities. I have witnessed this first hand with experiences of my peers growing up. As a Pennsylvania native, I wanted to make a film about a part of the system that does not get talked about as much, what happens after someone is released from prison. While this film is not intended to be viewed as a PSA or as an ad by any means, I wanted to somehow include a real source people could go to should they ever need to. Mainly, I just wanted to tell a real story of someone’s struggle to let people in the world know that they are not alone and to let people who have ever experienced anything like this know that this is a real conversation for some people within the United States.

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

This whole film took about a month and a half to create. I created it while at a summer internship in Philadelphia, PA.

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

Unheard story.

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

The biggest issue I faced while creating this film was deciding what would make the cut. Through the company I was working for, I was only given 2:45 seconds of runtime (excluding credits). Given the amount of time given for the film, I had to choose very carefully what was seen on screen.

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

I was very pleased with the reactions. A common reaction was regarding the length of the film and people wanting to see more, and I was thinking to myself how I wished I could have given them more without the parameters I was under, but I am still very grateful that I was even able to create any story at all about this topic.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I felt like the story fell in my lap in a way. I was mainly going to focus on The Center for Returning Citizens in Philadelphia and just talk about what a Reentry Center is, but after meeting John and hearing his story, I wanted to tell his story as the main focus. I felt like it was a more personable approach and made for a more captivating story.

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

I have seen “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006) a countless number of times. One of my all time favorite films.

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

I felt that the platform was incredibly easy to use. I had no trouble and I recommend FilmFreeway to all of my other filmmaking friends when they go to submit to festivals.

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

My most listened to song, and probably my favorite song is “Born Sinner” by J. Cole. It just reminds us that we’re human.

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

Hopefully a new film! I am currently the cinematographer for a documentary about the history of Oakland, California (pending title is “Once Upon a Time in Oakland”). I have had my hands full with this project, but I’m also trying to piece together some films of my own that cover other important issues, and others that are just creative projects to express myself and have a good time.

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Interview with Filmmaker Kurtulus Ozgen (8 POEMS OF EMIGRATION)

8 POEMS OF EMIGRATION played to rave reviews at the May 2020 Documentary Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kurtulus Ozgen: Both my grandparent’s families were refugees. They were forced to migrate from Crete Island (Greece) and Kardzhali (Bulgaria) to Anatolia during Balkan Wars (1912-13). As a descendant of such heritage I was bound up with refugee crisis for a long time. I strongly believe that immigration crisis and the troubles of immigrants-refugees evolves to be the one of the deepest ethico-political issues that humanity faces.

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

It wasn’t an idea at first. It had been a feeling and an intuition mingling in me for some time. Around February 2019 (once again) from the news we all witnessed the poignant tragedy of children, women and men who drowned in Aegean Sea, just hoping for a (better) life. I wasn’t able to endure this cruel fact any more. With a weeping heart I felt the urge to create a kind of “requiem” for all the refugees of the world. So I started to work. John Berger (as an intellectual and an artist) has a strong influence on me and my perception of art. During my research I came across his book (which I had read some time ago) And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos (1984). In the book I rediscovered this poem titled “8 Poems of Emigration”. I had found the voice of the film. The affect I was seeking for… In May 2019 when I finished, I realized the film leaned towards to be a “poetic statement” rather than being a “requiem”.

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

poetic (statement) counter-attack


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

After my decision for making an essay film formed of found footage (and sound) my greatest challenge was finding the right video footage that would do just to the film and just for the film. I had to debate with each video footage over and over again. My visual narrative was structured as an “assemblage” rather than editing. Each plan and the whole film had to be limpid yet affective, be in harmony yet form a counter-image, be honest and (somehow) reflect my political view.

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

I was honored and overwhelmed by the comments of the audience. The audience’s acumen, perception and knowledge was very impressive. I announced the influence of John Berger on me and on the film at the “artist’s statement” (summary of the film), after watching audience feedback, I felt to need to create a “memoriam” for John Berger at the end of the film. I will do in a short period of time.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Also for the last decade Turkey has been accepting immense amount of refugees from Syria because of the civil war. My observations, encounters with refugees and being acquainted with some of them (especially two siblings I had met during my time in AegeanDocs Film Festival 2015 at Mytilene Island) and the unsettling feeling constantly growing in me brought up this film.

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

Many… Sans Soleil (1983) by Chris Marker, Memories of Istanbul (1989) by Hasan Ozgen, Pina (2011) Wim Wenders comes to my mind at first glance. Thanks to Ersan Ocak, I ‘ve been watching Harun Farocki’s films a lot lately.

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

I am very fond of FilmFreeway, it is my only online festival platform.

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

Again Many… A Turkish folk song named Deniz Üstü Köpürür (Foams Above Sea) by various performers, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone, Dance Me to the End of Love (live version) by Leonard Cohen, Temptation by Tom Waits just came to my mind right now.

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

I’m working on an essay film that I call Habitus of Self. This time I mine all my audio-visual material from youtube.com (which I regard as a digital habitus). The film inquires the influence of habitus (family, society, country, system) to the self. The question I am kind of investigating is “is there a choice?”

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Interview with Filmmaker Brian Ng (24)

24 was voted BEST FILM at the May 2020 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Brian Ng: The initial motivation to make this film was the assassination of my uncle on a highway in the Philippines. Up till then I was working on another animated film based on the Filipino Street. But after he was killed it made me question aspects about my personal motivations as an artist and animator. I felt that art and filmmaking should be used to depict an aspect of humanity that is hard to define in any other medium. I asked myself the question “If I could send a message to the world, what would I say?” The answer was 24.

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

I guess because of the content I would have to say I’ve been working on this film for most of my life. The conclusion of this film took 24 years in the making but the actual production and structuring of the content took about a year from 2018-2019. I gathered up photographs and mementos from every year of my life to structure the content that I wanted to animate from.

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

Fragmented Memories

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

The biggest obstacle was looking back at certain traumatic events of my past and trying to represent them in a way that a general audience could understand; then trying to create a written and visual vignette of each year in response.

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

I felt kind of embarrassed, it’s probably the first time that I’ve seen a recorded response to my films on video.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

24 was a film that I started to develop as a result of my mixed heritage and background growing up between Singapore and the Philippines. As a half Singaporean, half Filipino person who moved constantly, I was exposed to certain aspects of reality that formed my being. I saw humanity, corruption, terrorism, inequality, oppression and racism from many different perspectives. I turned 24 years old in 2019 and I thought that it would be cathartic to use the number 24 as a framework to put the most significant experiences of my life into perspective.

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

Synecdoche, New York by Charlie Kaufman

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

I think it’s a good medium to send ideas to a large variety of audiences around the world. It’s a good way of collecting spreading films through.

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

Do You Hear The People Sing from the Musical Les Miserables

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

At the moment I have another animated film that’s in the post production stage called Ryori, which is a stop motion animated cooking film based in Japan. I am also working on the production of another animated documentary called the Absence of Memory, which is based on the experiences of multiple individuals within their conscripted military service in Singapore.

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Interview with Filmmaker Selket Kaufman (A VOICE FOR WHALES)

A VOICE FOR WHALES was voted BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the May 2020 Documentary Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Selket Kaufman: This film has been long overdue. It’s a story that needed to be told and I am honored that I have the opportunity to do so. I am very passionate about this project because it’s close to my heart (Greg Kaufman is my late husband). I feel it’s a work in progress still, but I was happy that I created something I wanted to share for the World Whale Film Festival in Maui, Hawaii 2020. This is also the year Pacific Whale Foundation, celebrates its’ 40th anniversary.

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

I know a similar story needed to be told about Greg’s work and the foundation he started, but once he passed away, I know I had to create something to honor his legacy, it took approximately 2 years.

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

Inspirational Legacy

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

There were many obstacles, I was dealing with the grief of my husband while holding down a full-time job. I have to conduct a lot of research, go through so many archives, hunt down people that knew him best. It took time to acquire all the permits needed to get necessary footage. To take on this film was a challenge within itself because it had to be done right, but it was also a blessing in disguise because I learned so much more about someone I looked up to and it did help me heal.

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

I was blown away, because these are all people I have never met and they had no idea who Greg was, to hear them relay the message I was trying to relay in the film made me know that I did it right. I teared up because it meant so much to hear how it touched so many people.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was a story that needed to be told, there are so many people out there fighting the good fight and it was an honor to be able to tell Greg’s story.

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

I have a lot, I love all kinds of films… Shawshank Redemption, Donnie Darko, Romancing the Stone, The Shinning just to name a few.

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

I like this platform; it’s organized informative and they keep you up to date. It’s an effective tool to find the right venues to share your film.

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

Oh boy, I have a longer list than films for this one. I grew up with classical music, but I love almost all music. Beck’s new album is one of my favorites right now.

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

Storytelling is defiantly my passion, but for now I am taking a break and reassessing what I want to do next, until the next great story comes along.

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Interview with Filmmaker Edouard Paquet (REMOTE)

REMOTE was voted BEST DOC CHARACTERS at the May 2020 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Edouard Paquet: I’ve always been an avid traveler. Both my parents found it very important to see as much as possible of the world and see the differences between places and cultures. Those differences make you understand how the world and its people work. So I’ve always wanted to explore different places but what really intrigued me was isolation. I grew up in a city and then moved to another city, so although I’m an outdoors person and have spent a lot of time in nature, I was fascinated by the opposite of what I knew best: remoteness, where do people live and why! In Europe it’s becoming harder and harder to find spots like these but after spending hours researching and finding Bardsey Island I knew I had to document it!

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

It’s hard to say. I’ve had a sense of this idea for years. I’d say if you look at when we properly started researching, probably about 8 months. It would’ve been possible to do it in less time but the whole crew was busy and no one could work on it full-time. But as a director, I definitely thought about it non-stop every single day for about 8 months.

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

Sensory experience.

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

I could talk about this for ages because it definitely wasn’t an easy film to make. I think the obvious one is that the subject of the film is a remote island. Communicating with the inhabitants is complicated as there’s no regular phone service on the island. So planning the whole shoot was tricky. And the fact that it was an island made it complicated too. We were supposed to spend 2 weeks on the island to shoot the film, but because of the storms the only boat, a private boat, that could pick us up on the mainland was unable to navigate the rough waters and we had to shorten our stay to 1 week.

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

I think I definitely felt some fear and anxiety for the first few seconds because it was coming from people who love watching short films and were talking about something I worked on for the best part of a year. I’m very happy about all the positive feedback and also agree with the not so positive feedback. I noticed someone said that the films didn’t answer enough questions and I actually have the same opinion.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Like I mentioned before, I’ve always been fascinated by remote places. It’s just something I wanted to explore more and understand! Last year I had the opportunity to make a film and went for it!

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

Funnily enough it definitely isn’t a documentary! But it’s hard to say, I honestly don’t know. It goes from French films like ‘La Grande Vadrouille’, that I’d watch with my family all the time, to more famous films like ‘Shawshank Redemption’, ‘Interstellar’, ‘The Hateful 8’, ‘Good Will Hunting’ and many more!

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

It is a great platform that connects people that need to be connected: filmmakers and people who are passionate about the craft and want to showcase the work produced around the world! It’s easy to use and has lots of options.

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

I wouldn’t be able to say … I listen to a lot of different music, it’s very varied, and wouldn’t say that I have good music knowledge. That’s why I made sure I was surrounded by the best composer, and sound designers for ‘Remote’. I knew music, and sound in general, was going to be very important in this film and definitely couldn’t rely on just my knowledge or style.

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

2019 was a hectic year for me. After getting ‘Remote’ done in June 2019 I set off on a trip, driving from Bristol to Mongolia in a small 1-liter car and documenting it. We made a 10-part series, available on Youtube (‘Bristangolia’s Mongol Rally) that took a lot of my time.

So now for the first time in over a year and a half I have time to think about what’s coming next.

I definitely want to make more documentaries. I also want to keep traveling and discovering new places, so the dream is to combine both and telling stories about my travel, experiences, the places I visit and the people I meet.
But before that I’ll be editing a short film in July.

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Interview with Filmmaker Scott Fredette (THE WANDERING WOLF)

THE WANDERING WOLF was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the April 2020 Documentary Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Scott Fredette: Yoni Wolf, lead singer in the band WHY?, has a podcast by the same name. We wanted to give it a visual compliment to his Wandering Wolf podcast. I travel (or traveled) for a living for commercial, branding and storytelling work, and had a very similar take as Yoni. And we invariably end up in the offbeat parts of cities we visited. And we were curious by nature, and explorers so this travelogue is an experiment into showing how we experience places. Ultimately, we want to evolve on this into a series, where we visit and explore the underbelly/undercurrent of 2nd tier cities around the country and world…places you don’t travel to as tourists. And through the eyes of artists in the art/music/youth scene, we want to experience what the locals cherish about each city.

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

It took rough 5 months and 20 days to actually make. We think we can do it in two weeks now. 🙂

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

Underbelly travelogue.

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

Money. Always money. Not having it just makes everything 3x as hard, from asking for favors to having to do so much shit by yourself. Filmmaking is collaborative.

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

“Wow, I didn’t know Cincinnati was so cool.”
We both know our craft, so we got a lot of praise on the content and how it was done, from visual to audio. People said it was fun to watch.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

As stated above, this was a visual compliment to the Wandering Wolf Podcast.

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

Weird, I dunno, I always seem to watch Shawshank Redemption when passing by it on TV. And don’t underestimate a ROM COM with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts? Which one? All of them.

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

Super Simple. Love it

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

Probably GRAND DARK FEELING OF EMPTINESS by Bonnie Prince Billy or that Don’t bring me down song by ELO

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

Working on a beauty commercial Campaign. Continue experimenting with short films, and trying to get 13 episodes of the WANDERING WOLF.

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Interview with Filmmaker Claire Downey (&YOU)

&YOU played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Documentary Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Claire Downey: A long list of things, but the short answer would be a feeling of injustice. I saw Caroline’s case fall apart in real time. It broke my heart. I felt like my documentaries team’s talents and my own personal experience with sexual assault was a good combination to give Caroline a small fragment of justice through telling her story.

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

It started as a one semester long project, and ended up spilling over into two semesters once we realized we had something special. All in all it took about 7-8 months from conception to sending it out to our first round of festivals.

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

Bittersweetly authentic

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

A lot of ethical dilemmas come into play when you are depicting someone’s trauma. I think always prioritizing Caroline’s personal truth over dramatization in post production was essential for our team to do her story justice. This wasn’t necessarily an obstacle as much as something I was constantly obsessing over. Having her be the face of this documentary also but her under a decent amount of heat from people that sided with her attacker. In a lot of ways we put her in a vulnerable position by putting her on screen, and despite her agreeing to be in the documentary – I had a lot of guilt over that.

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

It was honestly crazy! It’s been an entire year now since we ended post production, and I haven’t interacted with my own documentary in probably five months. I found the feedback to be extremely refreshing and it reminded me of why we made this film in the first place! It was also really satisfying to have others notice all the small editing details we put in that were very intentional.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was in group therapy with Caroline when her assault case fell through the cracks, and this was during a semester right before my senior year of which I would be making a thesis documentary for my major. Everything lined up to be too perfect to not take a chance. Selfishly, I wanted to make a documentary for people like me. I have seen many famous documentaries that handle rape cases and although some do better than others, there is a lack of intimate perspective. I wanted to create that for other survivors, and I am proud to say that I think my team and I pulled that off.

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

Probably Practical Magic. It’s one of my moms favorite films and we always watch it together whenever I go home to visit. Even though I have seen it many times it never gets old to me. The music, set design, and acting are all just top notch. I’m also huge sucker for strong sister-bond themes in movies and who doesn’t love late 90’s Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman?

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

FilmFreeway was a great starting place to get our film out into the realm of festivals! We were still in college when we started submitting to festivals, and it is safe to say that we didn’t know very much about how the filmmaker world worked. It was a great introduction to the festival world, and we have been lucky enough to be featured in about 17 (some outside of FilmFreeway) in person and online festivals around the globe.

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

I have no idea, but based on my Spotify song of the decade it was Everything Now by Arcade Fire. Which is funny because it came out in 2017. Needless to say I listened to that album on repeat for a year after it came out so I guess that makes sense.

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

I had just started preproduction quandaries for a new documentary right before COVID-19 happened, so only time will tell if the idea will ever manifest into an actual project. I was lucky enough to find a media job at a public service organization after graduation, and as of right now I just became the new manager of their media team. I’m hoping that gaining experience in public service as well as managing a team will help me gain necessary skills to get to my goal of directing a full length documentary before I’m 30. Lofty, maybe – but I’m still going to try.

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Interview with Filmmaker Hendricksen Armand (STATE OF FLOW)

STATE OF FLOW played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Documentary Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hendricksen Armand: I found this wonderful art browsing on social media and I never thought of Hula Hooping being more than keeping a plastic circle from falling off your waist. I immediately became drawn to it as I scrolled through my Instagram feed and saw these talented hoopers do some amazing things. Then I begin to ask myself why did they decide to hoop? How did they get into it? Hence the film was born.

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

This film took me a year and a half to complete.

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

Fluid, Mesmerizing

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

Navigating the different storylines was a big challenge on this film. We wanted to keep it under 10 minutes while still including multiple viewpoints from the subjects. This film’s first cut and final cut are very different. They are two different films!


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

I was very pleased and excited to hear the feedback from the film. I love to hear what someone takes from a film and how it impacted them. I was happy to hear that people learned about a new subculture and might even give it try.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This idea, like my previous films, came to me and once an idea finds me, I tend to put it on screen.

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

Friday Night Lights Directed by Peter Berg is probably at the top of list.

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

I think FilmFreeway is great tool for filmmakers to submit films to festivals. It is a lot easier than mailing screeners.

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

I have no idea. Right now, I am listening to a lot of Chill Hop. Does that count?

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

I am continuing to enhance my skills as a filmmaker and content creator. My next film project has yet to find me at this point.

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Interview with Filmmakers Karla Caraballo-Torres & Lorin Eleni Gill (SCHOOL CROSSING)

SCHOOL CROSSING was the winner of BEST FILM at the February 2020 Documentary Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Karla Caraballo-Torres & Lorin Eleni Gill: We were inspired to make this film because my family (Karla) is originally from Venezuela and I had been hearing many stories from family members experiencing the crisis firsthand. We started researching for a story that went beyond the headlines and showed the true human impact of this economic and politic crisis. When we came across this case of children crossing the border to go to school, we thought it was a perfect example of how the crisis was effecting people’s everyday lives in a unique way that hadn’t received much coverage.

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

We started doing research in early December 2018 as part of our graduate thesis project and finished the film in early May of 2019, so roughly 6 months.

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

Underreported reality.

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

The biggest obstacle was that we had to plan everything ahead of time before traveling to Colombia. We were unable to interview or confirm any interviews ahead of time. We had to land, start looking for characters and shoot everything all within the 10 day period we had on the ground.

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

It was really exciting to watch the audience reactions and hear what they liked about the film. We really just wanted to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the struggles these families are facing so it was great to hear that people identified with our characters and learned something by watching our film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We had been extensively researching the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and came across many articles on the struggles many children in Venezuela faced to access education. We started finding reports that many children were even crossing the border into Colombia to access education and decided we wanted to highlight this aspect of the crisis. Once we arrived in Colombia, the border was officially closed and we found that children were still crossing but at these illegal paths so we decided to focus on their stories.

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

I have probably seen Bedazzled a thousand times and still find it hilarious every time.

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

We found it is a great, easy way to find and apply to many great film festivals. Neither of us have much time to do research into festival so it was great to have a centralized platform that allowed us to apply to many film festivals and get our film seen.

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

Pretty much any Shakira song in Spanish, especially a song called Antologia from one of her earliest albums. Eleni-

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

Karla is currently working as a video producer at Facebook in San Francisco. Eleni is a reporter for CivilBeat in Hawaii at the frontlines of COVID-19 coverage. We don’t have any concrete plans to make a film as of yet but really hope to be able to work together on a film again in the future!