Interview with Filmmaker Ignacio Lasierra Pinto (FIRST COMMUNION)

FIRST COMMUNION was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY and BEST PERFORMANCES at the January 2020 European Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ignacio Lasierra Pinto: I wanted to make a film that opened certain moral issues and did not necessarily offer an answer. I guess like everything I’ve shot, it was out of necessity. The need to tell this story.

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

I wrote the script for “First Communion” in 2011. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. For years I was rewriting to improve it. Finally, I spent a year looking for adequate financing to be able to roll it well. Since I shot the short, it was another half year in post-production. It has been a long process, but it was worth it.

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

A short film that invites you to ask questions and offers few answers. I would also say that it is a short film that can be morally uncomfortable.

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

The main obstacle was finding the truth in the eyes of a girl. Luckily, we found her in Andrea Fandos. Andrea had never acted in anything before. Now she is a young actress with a promising future. She has a lot of talent, spontaneity and freshness. And she has truth in her eyes.

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

I loved seeing how the public has appreciated our short film from so far away. Although thousands of kilometers separate us and that we culturally belong to different places, I am surprised to see how universal issues transcend borders and countries. It has been a great experience to hear the opinions. As if we had been there!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was after watching “The Communicants” by Ingmar Bergman. Hence the title. Although the story has nothing to do with it, the viewing of Bergman’s film questioned me in such a way that I needed to write almost in response to what the film had caused in me. It was the starting point. That and wondering what would happen in a family where two very different positions regarding God could be confronted at a time as delicate as the death of a loved one.

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

I recognize that perhaps the one that has marked me the most and that I usually visit once a year is “12 Angry Men” (Sidney Lumet, USA, 1957). Although the one I may have seen the most time, for having grown up with it, is Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, USA, 1993). The first time I saw it, I was 9 years old and since then it has fascinated me. I grew up with that film!

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

As a filmmaker, such a platform exists is essential. Thanks to FilmFreeway, you have the opportunity to show your work on the other side of the world. And to get that work to the public.

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

I usually listen to the same groups and I like very different music. At times I listen more to one type of music or another. I could not say which. I am quite eclectic musically and I recognize that I like almost all musical styles.

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

I am currently preparing a feature film project. The trip I’m about to start is long term, so hopefully it will be next. I do not know if before filming this film I will shoot another film or not. What I do hope is that it will be soon. For a filmmaker, there is nothing better than a shoot!

Interview with Filmmakers Madeline Graham & Christopher Whiteside (VIOLET)

VIOLET was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the January 2020 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Madeline Graham & Christopher Whiteside: Same sex marriage has only recently become legal in Northern Ireland and we felt that it was important to give voice to the people who have overcome (or may still face) a difficult journey towards equal rights. Violet’s message is about how important it is to have self-acceptance and it’s a universal one.

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

The script was written all the way back in 2013 by our good friend Ross Johnston, who received script development from Film 4 (a UK based television channel) as a reward for a short film competition. We embarked upon the project in 2018 as the film’s context was shockingly still relevant.

The shoot took two days but the crowd funding campaign and script development took several months. None of this would have been possible without the support of our backers who raised the films budget on Indiegogo.

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

Tragic Love

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

A storm hit Northern Ireland during production so we had to reschedule a lot of outdoor scenes. Stuart Drennan, our Executive Producer and Lia Campbell, our First Assistant Director, were amazing and made sure that everything went smoothly on set.

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

Pure delight! We always appreciate hearing feedback and we see our audience as co creators of the film’s meaning. We are happy to see that Violet has relevance and has resonance with people outside Northern Ireland.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The script was written by Ross and we felt compelled to tell his story because of its powerful message. We connected with Violet and Tanya and wanted to be allies of the LGBT community, to tell a coming of age story in a different way that people won’t have seen before. The horror elements were very important in communicating that self-disgust and internal struggle and the imagery was crying out to us be brought to the screen.

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

Christopher: Jurassic Park

Madeline: Toy Story

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

It’s easy, hassle free and we appreciate the gold member incentives.

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

Christopher: Feeling Good – Muse

Madeline: Life on Mars? – David Bowie

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

Soulless corporate commercials. Just kidding, hopefully something strange and beautiful. We want to make another short this year, paving the way to feature films, that’s the dream.

Interview with Filmmaker Uliana Burykina (ILLUSION)

ILLUSION was the winner of BEST MUSIC & BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the January 2020 Drama Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Uliana Burykina: It was my third year studying in University, so as everybody I had to create a film for my final exams. That was the strongest motivation haha 🙂 But after we started to transform the story into script all I was thinking about was how strongly I want to convey the main idea to young people – women and even men my age – who facing the problem of making choice what will they do: build the career or be a family-guy? In my opinion you always have to be honest to yourself no matter what others expect from you. If you want to make a family, so do it. If you want to be a professional – it’s ok. But don’t listen to anybody who tells you can’t get it both. Each is difficult, just remember what you really want and don’t lose yourself.

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

It took almost one year. We started in January 2018 and finished in September.

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

What a difficult question…”spellbinding” and “emotional”, I guess

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

The only serious obstacle was to finish all CG in time. We were out of time, out of hands… our producer and me went more and more crazy every day. So we finished everything just around in a week before the premiere.

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

It was very pleasant to hear people from other continent just talking about our film! And after — a bit hard to understand everything they say, but we did it finally 🙂 It was a great experience, and we are proud we were awarded by such honest men and women.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was inspired by Delpozo fashion short “Winter eclipse”, Andrew Thomas Huang’s “Interstice” and my own thoughts about human masks. In mystic ways they became a story about young woman who got lost in her personas – model and mother.

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

Ohhh… “High heels” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”, I think this two.

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

I like FilmFreeway platform. It was my first time I submitted a film so it’s cool that someone created such an easy and understandable way to do this.

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

Elvis Presley – Return to sender and Stevie Nicks – Rhiannon
I never can choose one, you know 🙂

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

Yes, our crew is in the middle of creating a new short film. It’s going to be experimental, based on real stories and very provocative especially for our country.

Interview with Filmmaker GG Hawkins (AN ASPIRATIONAL SPACE)

AN ASPIRATIONAL SPACE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival in Janaury 2020.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

GG Hawkins: There were a few things that got the ball rolling on An Aspirational Space. First and foremost, I wanted to try my chops at writing and directing before leaving my job in the podcast world. I had been playing around filming with Andrea Raggio (who plays the lead in AAS), Hilary Seeley and Eva Victor on a project called Lili Podato, which we would film in my apartment at 8am on Sundays. I knew I loved working with these women, and wanted to see what we could do with a larger crew.

I had also gone through the Marie Kondo process myself, and mused on how easily one could spiral out of control with something like tidying. Especially if you live alone. That inspired the story of An Aspirational Space.

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

About a year.

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

Self help?

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

Time. We had an ambitious shot list — 145 shots two locations in two days! In pre-production, Producer Kyle Scott and I would laugh late into the night over (often a few beers deep) about the sheer volume of work we had to do. But our Director of Photography, Adam Volerich, moved like a well-oiled machine, and our wonderful Assistant Director, Renata Soares, kept us on schedule. We did have to cut and consolidate, but that’s all part of the creative puzzle solving!

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

I love when folks recognize the sound design and score. Working with Haley Shaw, who created all original music, was one of the highlights of the process. Coming from the podcast world, I’m a bit of a sound snob. I loved working with Haley and Hunter Berk, our post sound mixer, to create a film where every sound is designed to make you feel uncomfortable. Ari Aster’s Hereditary was a huge inspiration from a sound perspective.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I went through the Mari Kondo process myself the year before, and one day, I went to a 9am screening of Hereditary. When I came home to my apartment, I made a smoothie, and thought: Living alone is creepy. And then the idea came to me.

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

28 Days Later.

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

This was my first time going through the submission process. FilmFreeway streamlined everything!

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

Let Me Alone by moow

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

We finished shooting Break Cute, a dark wrote and director, over Thanksgiving. It stars Joanna Hausman (Bill Nye Saves the World) and Jimmy Wong (Mulan). I’m also developing a pilot.

Interview with Filmmaker Eric Rusch (PICTURES OF LEO)

PICTURES OF LEO was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY and BEST PERFORMANCES at the January 2020 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eric Rusch : I had had this idea for a feature length film for many years. I’m not really a filmmaker, so I never thought it would actually get made.

Then in 2017 I studied film acting at the Stockholm University of Dramatic Arts. As a part of the course we were encouraged to make our own short films, just to better understand the whole process of film making. So I dusted off this old idea, started to write the script and worked with preproduction at the same time. It was supposed to be a small and simple project but it kept growing and I had a lot of fun making it.

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

I started writing in August 2018. We shot the whole film for six days in the end of November. I did all the editing and sound mixing during the holidays. Did some pickups and had a first screening in mid January. The film premiered at Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival on March 31st 2019. At that time I knew nothing about color correction, so the first color corrected version was actually screened in Toronto on January 13th 2020.

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

Warm, contemplative.

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

It had to be a zero budget film. So I really depended on the kindness of strangers, as well as of friends and colleagues. Everyone was so helpful and I’m so grateful for that.

While writing the script I realized I needed someone to play the young Nicholas. So I had to find an 18-year-old, who looked like a young version of myself, who could act and who would be willing to kiss another guy on screen. Without pay. I was so happy when I found Oscar through a casting company. If he hadn’t turned up I would have rewritten those scenes completely.

I wanted to shoot a scene in a hospital. I looked everywhere, and a week before shooting it was the only location I still hadn’t found. Then suddenly the manager of a psychiatric ward called and told me they were temporarily closing one whole floor off to paint the walls. It would be empty for a few weeks. We only needed an afternoon. They let us use it for free!

I was determined to do as much work as I could myself. I wrote the script, played the lead, directed and produced the film. I did the casting, location scouting and planning. I also did the cinematography, editing and sound mixing. I watched hundreds of tutorials on YouTube. Not kidding. I had a lot of fun. I certainly learned that good planning is essential. But I will never make a film this way again.

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

This is my first short film so I’m still blown away by the fact that people I don’t even know have seen my film.

I was very happy to see that the film raised some interesting questions, like “who lived the true life and who didn’t” and how Leo’s choices are no less valid given his situation. And “even a country as progressive as Sweden still has those stories” was also something I really wanted to tell.

And who wouldn’t be ridiculously happy when someone likes your film?

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Pictures of Leo is very loosely based on actual events which at the time raised a lot of questions about making life changing choices. To me the film is a love story first of all. And the story about a man rejecting love out of fear for what other people might think has always stayed with me. Also I wanted to try to tell a story where one of the main characters (Leo) is not really in the film.

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

Probably The Big Lebowski (1998). Or Victor/Victoria (1982).

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

Seeing that this is my first film, I was very happy to find FilmFreeway. I thought I would be googling myself to death. But FilmFreeway made it so much easier to find and choose festivals and submit my film. Quick and simple.

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

Enjoy The Silence by Depeche Mode. Without a doubt.

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

I work as an actor, mostly with children theatre. I am on tour right now with a stage musical for really small kids. This summer I will be in a production of Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter at Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby, Sweden.
My husband Christian Arnold is also an actor and a filmmaker. We love working together. He has written a script that we are planning to make into a short film in the near future.

(Christian made the short film Chricke which was screened at your festival two years ago: https://lgbttorontofilmfestival.com/2018/02/25/short-film-chrickle-7min-sweden-lgbt-experimental/)

Interview with Filmmaker Eleni Rivera (LOVE IN SEASONS)

LOVE IN SEASONS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the January 2020 Romance Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eleni Rivera: After years of being an assistant to some amazing director’s and producer’s, I was ready to do my own thing. To have my own project. One day I woke up and said, I’m finally doing this. Two weeks later, we were on set shooting!

That’s what I wanted the project to be, and I really felt like it was a story many people have gone through, and I wanted to tell it.

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

I wrote the script in January 2018. It took a while for me to get the courage to actually shoot the film so I finally ended up deciding to shoot it in March 2019.

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

Tragically Romantic

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

I was planning on having two days to shoot the short, but my Director of Photography had a family emergency which only gave us one day to shoot the entire thing. We had to take out a few scenes that we had planned on shooting and really make it happen!

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

My initial reaction was endearment and excitement. The feedback was incredibly positive and it makes me excited for my future projects.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

When I wrote this film, I was going through a decently heavy break up and overall hard time in my life. The relationship started in the fall and by the time it ended it snowfall in December. At that time, I was writing poetry, (I even self published a book of poems) and I wanted to create a poetic visual. Something that was soft and lyrical, but powerful. In the spring time, I finally finished the ending realizing that it was the most cliche of things. Time had healed my heart, and it was myself that did the healing.

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

My most watched film has to be… The Shining by Stanley Kubrick.

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

It was such a user friendly platform and I feel like there was so much support.

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

Married Life by Michael Giacchino (From “UP” the movie)

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

Yes! I am co-directing a short film in April 2020. It is a grounded sci-fi with a lot of hope and heart.

Interview with Filmmaker Tony Saich (LATE)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Well, each student in my class had to come up with a concept, which followed with the class voting on which idea would be the film that gets made. Once mine was voted for, I wrote the script. My main motivation was just to finally make a short film before I left college. This was the first script and film I ever made.

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

About a month.

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

First attempt.

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

Essentially the 6 classmates assigned to be involved with the film completely bailed and I was left to do all the prep, scheduling, production design, etc. I am not an organized person so having to handle pretty much every aspect of the film other than the script and directing was very anxiety-inducing and there were quite a few moments I did not think he film would even get shot.

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

Thankfully, my DP came through and did a phenomenal job. There is no way the film would have been a success or even been completed if it wasn’t for his help.
It was very exciting to see people had seen my film! As well as it being nice that the criticisms were nothing new to my own thoughts about the film since its completion. It is always a thrill to see my attempts at screen language successfully come across to an audience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

My mother did an unnecessary amount of preparation for the unlikely scenario when I was a child so this fear of being abducted always stuck with me. I figured the simplicity of the location and amount of characters would be an attractive attribute to the class and of course the shock value was sure to help.

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

This is hard, probably Boyhood by Richard Linklater or Faces by John Cassavetes. Those are my favorites anyways. Although I did recently just see Uncut Gems in theaters four times!

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

This is all a new world to me, but my experience with the platform has been great thus far! It is very intuitive and easy to navigate and has led to my film getting played for quite a few audiences.

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

This is even harder than the film question. My guess would be West Savannah by Isaiah Rashad.

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

I had toyed around with some ideas for my next short. Once I finally committed to one, I soon realized it would not work as a short and I was too attached to the idea to abandon it. So, to my own delusion, I am going for a feature for my second project. Wish me luck, I will need it. The tagline will go something like this: An aspiring movie director attempts to make a film about a filmmaker making a film about himself making a film.