Interview with Filmmaker Farman Abdalrahman Karim (ISIS WAS HERE)

 ISIS WAS HERE was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2018 Documentary Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Farman Abdalrahman Karim: My motivation was focus the human rights and I wanted to document the ISIS crimes.

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

I needed about three months.

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

Tragedy is continuous.

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

The big challenges for me was threats from ISIS because ISIS in the beginning until now…..they want to kill me. Now I left my country.

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

This was a big for me. I feel that I’m on my way to became a global documentary filmmaker.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I visited the city and I saw they destroyed it. So I decided to document that story.

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

The Pianist and the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

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

Filmfreeway is easy, great and an amazing website to help filmmakers participate and find good festival for their films.

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

Bezhan Kamgar. He is a Kurdish signer.

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

My new project is documentary film about the Ezidy girls who were raped from ISIS.

 

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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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 Andrew Galloway (WALLY)

 

Andrew Galloway’s short film “WALLY” was voted BEST CHARACTERS at the LGBT Documentary Film Festival in August 2017.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andrew Galloway: I first met Wally Linebarger as an art teacher at my school. I was in 4th grade and he entered our room pushing his art cart. A man that would become the founder of the art department at our school. That would come in time. At this point however he was simply a man armed only with an artcart and an enthusiasm for teaching. In this first day he appeared a seeming madman leaping from student desk to student desk encouraging, commenting, and guiding each student. So was the introduction.

Years passed. Wally and the art department he lead grew in stature. Gone were his vagabond days where he traveled from classroom to classroom pushing his art cart. He had his own room complete with a photography studio, and his students… why they became contenders, and at time champions, in District and State art competitions. While I was a renaissance man, my extra-circular activities of athletics and Theater prevented me from having him as a teacher.

Wally was a constant figure to be seen around our school. He did not hesitate to offer his time or lend an ear. For many, Wally may have acted as confidant. Others may have sought him out for encouragement, or guidance. Regardless of what it was for, Wally would not hesitate to led an ear or share with his students. This seemed especially true with my class.

After I graduated from the University of Texas I went back to Trinity to visit some of my teachers. I was able to find them all except for one: Wally Linebarger. When I asked the front desk where Wally Linebarger was, they merely turned their heads and mumbled that he didn’t work there anymore. They wouldn’t tell me why. It was not until years later at a reunion that I found out what had happened to Wally Linebarger and his family. Shocked at the injustice of what had happened to one of my favorite teachers I began a Facebook correspondence. The relationship of Teacher and student grew into one of friends. When I began my M.F.A. in Documentary Production and Studies at the University of North Texas I knew that I had to film his story.

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

In total, my project took about four weeks to shoot and about four months to edit.

The week of Thanksgiving was when my project began. I heard that his daughters, who resided in New York City and Los Angeles, would be gathered at their Mothers house for the Holiday and I was able to interview them all. Though they only knew me as little more than an acquaintance, somehow I was able to earn their trust. Either it was that, or they had decided that it was time to give air to the pain, the joys, and the sadness that the memories contained. I say this because they admitted after their interviews that they did not talk about this topic and all were surprised by their sisters reactions. It was so good in fact that I knew that their interviews would be the core of my film. Two days later I was able to travel to Jefferson City, Missouri to do location scouting for my documentary filming that would take place in two weeks. At that time I recorded him on audio and asked him questions about his firing and his reflections on the experience for him and his family. I did not tell him nor did he know what his daughters had said. When I shot the documentary proper, I had threae weeks to shoot which consisted of about one week in Dallas and two weeks in Jefferson City.

The true labor would lie in the post production work. I had to scan and prepare photos from the past. I wrote transcripts of the interviews and wove them into a skeleton that my documentary would arise from.

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

Bittersweet life

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

Biggest obstacle? Let’s see, I had many things that could be considered obstacles during the making of this film. Beyond the limited funds and impossible dreams common to every filmmaker, I did face some unique constraints. I had shooting locations in two different states. I arrived in Jefferson City, Missouri to find that my subject hesitant to talk about the relationship between he and him and his daughters. The last day of my shooting was two days before Christmas so my crew was understandably anxious to home with their family, But with each obstacle faced, I knew that I had to continue to press forward regardless.

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

I truly enjoyed hearing the critiques of the audience members. Just like the documentary Wally, their commentary served to provoke thought at times and evoke emotion at others. One thing I found to be an excellent compliment on my editing skill was the audience member who believed that I had shown Wally commentary on his daughters interviews was prompted by his listening to their answers. This was not the case. I interviewed both Wally and his daughters separately then cut the interviews together. Not only was this comment a testament to my skill as an editor, but more importantly it revealed the sympatico relationship between a loving father and his daughters

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film:

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

The story itself was one that cried to be told. As documentary is at its base story, I felt that this was an exceptionally strong narrative.

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

I think that Filmfreeway is an exceptional platform for film makers to submit their work to festivals.

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

This would have to be a toss up between Secret World and Blood of Eden by Peter Gabriel.

What is next for you? A new film?

The next film I worked on was The Eviction, a story about the forced removal of a homeless enclave in Dallas, Texas named “Tent City.” Beyond focusing on the reality of homelessness, I also gave attention to a group that is attempting to rectify the social reality of homelessness by buiilding homes to house them. I also am working on a documentary about rural homelessness, the craft beer industry, and a story about a 74 year old man who made contact with his 95 year old birth mother who agreed to meet. After a lifetime of not knowing what happened to the other, the two meet. This has been given the working title: The Chosen Baby. Updates to all of my work can be found at http://www.andydocs.com . Any questions can be sent to andy@andydocs.com.

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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 Adrian Buitenhuis (I AM HEATH LEDGER)

adrian buitenhuis.jpg“I am Heath Ledger” is a terrific documentary about the life of the talented actor and artist who left us way too early. It’s told through interviews of his good friends,  interspersed with Heath’s own home videos.

It was an honor to chat with the co-director of the film on the phone. The film is already a giant success and a must see for any fan of artistry in general.

Matthew Toffolo: What brought you to this project?

Adrian Buitenhuis: The company I work for, Network Entertainment, has already done a series of “I am” projects. Chris Farley, Steve McQueen etc… Heath was one they were thinking of doing for awhile.

I was working on another project in Columbia (Pablo Escobar) and they called me asking if I was interested in the project. I immediately was intrigued because his memory isn’t necessarily about his work and creativity from the mainstream point of view. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to do a story about who Heath really was.

In developing the project, we wanted to focus him as a creator: Actor, filmmaker, photographer.

It is definitely a very positive portrayal. You did not venture into the scandalous aspect of his death.

The “I am” template and format is about who these creators are and what motivates them.

Don’t quote me on this but I think that the week after he died, there was over 30,000 stories written about him that talked about why he died. Almost all without any facts whatsoever. People were fascinated by him, his life and career.

I wanted to tell people that an accident happened, he made a mistake and it cost him his life. And that he was in a great place in his life and was in a positive state and the last thing he wanted was what happened to him.

For this film, we didn’t want to spend too much time on the way he died. And there are critics who will say that we should have spent more time on that. There was so much more to talk about in terms of his persona, his life, and his career.

Did you try to get Michelle Williams to appear as an interview subject in the film (his ex and mother of his daughter)?

Yeah. We reached out to her of course. She didn’t want to do an interview. For me, it did make sense. Heath was an incredibly private person. He never liked to do interviews. He thought of himself as a creator, a magician. Not a celebrity.

So for her I respect it. She has a daily reminder of Heath in her daughter. She supported the project and gave her blessing. She thought it was important to do a story on his life. She does have a voice in the film, just not as an interview subject.

Of course as a filmmaker, I want to interview the main subjects. That’s what I love to do, interview people, but I respect her decision.

heath_ledger_1.jpg
Were you a big part of conducting the interviews in the film with your co-director Derik Murray?

I conducted all of the interviews except for the Ang Lee interview as my co-director Derik Murray did that one. He was also present for all the family interviews in Perth. I wrote all the questions for the interviews, but consulted Derik and Hart Snider (the writer) on them.

The soul of the film is Heath’s best friend Trevor DiCarlo who you interviewed…

Yes, we got a lot out of Trevor. At first he didn’t want to be interviewed either as the film is also a story of his life too. It took a lot of convincing. Now Trevor and I are good friends as we developed a strong bond doing this film.

How much time did you have with your interview subjects (Naomi Watts, Ang Lee, Djimon Hounsou, Ben Mendelsohn to name a few)?

Anywhere between 45 minutes to 3 ½ hours.

It usually takes awhile to get the subjects comfortable. Make them forget that there is a camera?

The first half, most subjects take a half hour to an hour to get them to be relaxed. It’s all about eye contact, eye contact, eye contact. Get them to trust me and make everything around us go away and bring us to an intimate place.

Where did you get all of the terrific Heath Ledger home videos that were presented throughout the film?

Trevor supplied a lot of them. After we gained trust with one another, he gave us a whole bunch to sort through.

There was a lot of artistic choices made in the home videos that segue to the next arc of the story. The one that stands out is Heath holding the camera in the air as he spins around the room. It really defines who this guy was?

The spinning is really hard to do well. It takes a lot of skill. He was collecting those shots. We were looking for ways to jump cut his home videos to the films he acted in to show the parallel of him working on the character and then him as the character in the film. He was one of those rare actors who liked to watch the dailies and his takes during filming because that’s what he was doing in his home videos preparing for the film.

heath_ledger_2

There are so many examples of these artists who die at 27, or 28 in Heath’s case. It’s almost like they burn out creatively. They do way too much too soon. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse. Did Heath get too successful to quickly for his own good?

Heath certainly burned bright. He was an insomniac and wanted to get a lot done. If you want to get spiritual, 27 is the age of Aquarius. Where the first half of our life is completed and we go back to the beginning.

Heath’s next step was becoming a director. And he was well on his way in doing that.

You spent a lot of time on this human being and after doing this film you have a deep emotional attachment to him. It comes out in your answers. If you remove the emotion, this is a guy who just completed a masterful performance in being the “Joker” in “The Dark Knight”. So he hits his peak as an artist collaborating with an extremely talented filmmaker (Christopher Nolan). It’s hard seeing him hit that peak again. It’s a symbolic way to die.

Heath knew how good he was in that film. I think at Heath’s core he wasn’t into violence. And Batman wasn’t the type of film he was generally into. I think he hit his peak on that level, but when you see this film you realize that he was into a whole lot more. I think he was capable of a lot more.

From a villain character standpoint, Heath hit his peak. He was going to venture into more interesting roles and stories as an actor and filmmaker. And his relationship with Chris Nolan wasn’t done. They were going to do more projects together.

There were so many beautiful people in his life. There was a lot more to him than being an actor.

Would you like his daughter to eventually watch this film?

Absolutely. It’s one of the ways that she can learn how great her father was. She’s going to be a very creative person herself.

In a lot of ways this is movie about friendship. That’s the true theme of this story.

Definitely. Heath kept the same friends around his entire life. He made everyone in his life special. Heath was a very good friend. Being famous didn’t get in the way of him being that.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

In my kid stage, I’d say “Goonies” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

In my adult stage, “Blow Up” and “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”.

You started in the 1980s and then went back to the 70s

Yes. Then today I’d say I like all of Bennett Miller’s films (Capote, Foxcatcher) and seen them a bunch of times

10 minutes after we hung up the phone. Adrian texted me:

I forget to add PT Anderson. “Boogie Nights” I have seen a bunch of times. And “There Will Be Blood” is also a personal favorite.

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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 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.

Interview with director John Mollison (THE GENTLEMAN NEXT DOOR)

John Mollison’s short film played at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

I believe that old warriors have great insight into life.

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

45 days.

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

Old, new

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

John’s (the subject character) health.

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

Gratitude! Thank you x 100!!

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I do this all the time…it never fails to be worth my time.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Brazil, The Best Years of Our Lives or 2001

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

Wow! Hmmm…

What is next for you? A new film?

Yes…another film. 🙂