Interview with Filmmaker Marc SAEZ (FOLLOW THE ARROW)

FOLLOW THE ARROW played to rave reviews at the February 2020 ROMANCE Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marc SAEZ: I wanted to talk about desire, sensuality, love but also talk about appearances that can be deceiving and dive people into the cinematographic universe that I love by surprising them. I like films that open up different paths and can give way to different debates and visions at the end.

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

The film was shot in only 3 and a half days. It was a real challenge. The scenes from the beginning in the studio, when she falls in the painting and the love scenes were shot in a studio on the same day, it was a real marathon. I cannot quantify the overall completion time because the film has been finalized according to each other’s dispositions.

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

My film is a fantastic and sensual Thriller. A Romantic film in the pure sense of its definition.

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

The biggest obstacles are always the lack of resources. The film has been self-produced so it necessarily requires certain restrictions that push you to be more imaginative sometimes.

A number of things were complicated. First of all, there are places that I absolutely wanted.

I was the one who found all the sets for the film. I wanted material in the image, from the flowing pavement, to the purple curtains of the first meeting, the material, the places also had to release sensuality. The streets that I also found were not located in the same places that we have quite a lot of movement in Paris and Véronique ran a lot with shoes not really adapted, she was very brave. The love scenes were a challenge too. Finding the right partner for Véronique was important. She and Jean Marie were already romantically associated in a short film I had seen. Jean Marie became a friend it was easier to ask a friend to play these scenes there because it would be taken as a fun challenge. There was no inappropriate gesture on his part. These scenes were very technical contrary to the strong sensuality and eroticism that emerges from them. But I wanted it to be a passionate explosion and for the audience to be swept away in this torment of the senses as the character of the film is.

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

I loved your feedback because what the audience said is exactly what I wanted to achieve by making this film. Dragging them into my universe and surprising them, leaving open tracks, although all the answers are distorted in the film everywhere. The challenge was to tell this story and make you go through a lot of feelings in just 13 Minutes.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Véronique lived with a painter at one point in her life. I love painting and sculpture. I find the relationship between a creator and his muse very erotic and fascinating. The respect that creates this sensuality between the two protagonists sometimes. And what really interested me was to say: “If, as man or woman, I was seduced by someone that turned out to be an artist but who had had a very dark, tortured or disturbing universe in his creations, will I let myself be seduced and dare to have a love affair with him or her ? Take Bacon, for example.”

From there I wanted to build a love story like a thriller with all the codes of the thriller and its false leads. We believe, we seek to interpret, there is suspense… In the end it’s just a love story and two adult people running away from love because they may be afraid of it.

The real painter of the paintings in the film, Claude Duvauchelle, has a habit, for example, of recuperating bones in nature or of asking his butcher to clean the bones and modify them into sculptures.

The bloody knife of the beginning takes you without fail on a track and you believe in murder from the beginning… while he is an artist in full reflexion, he has just cleaned bones and his creative material is protected under canvas covers in his studio. That’s where the blood comes from. There are also sculptures with bones in the gallery. Véronique stops in front of one of them and looks at her for a moment. Nothing is left to chance.

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

There is not a film there are films that speak to me and touch me more than others like for example the film of Juan José Campanella «El secreto de sus ojos», Joker,

In the mood for love, Parasite, the fountain by Darren Aronofsky or even films like The wife with Glenn close which is of absolute leadership strength and intelligence for me. The power of silence, of glances… brilliant. All the films of Chaplin by Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock are marvels of ingenuity.

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

This platform is excellent and makes it easy to make his films travel around the world.

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

The songs of Charles Aznavour or Sinatra. Smile by Michael Jackson that touches me, “When i fall in love” by Iglesias and Dion, am an unconditional fan also of the singer “Rag’n bone man”, Whitney Houston and Barbara streisand make me cry every time.

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

I just made my second short “THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME” that captures the subject of metoo and is a shout that I wanted to launch and a fight that I absolutely wanted to lead alongside the harassed women and men around the world. The film is a success everywhere except in France where there is still an omerta and barriers that have not fallen despite the free speech. The film has so far won 87 awards around the world, including 33 awards for Véronique Picciotto.
She is remarkable in the film and her partner Olivier Hémon is also a great actor. I will try to use the dynamics of these two films to move to my feature film(s).

I have one completed but which is more intended for the American market and quite difficult to finance and a second more reasonable which is in the middle of finalization at the writing level.

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Interview with Filmmaker Alex Sangha (MY NAME WAS JANUARY)

MY NAME WAS JANUARY played to rave reviews at the February 2020 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alex Sangha: The social coordinator of the non-profit that I founded for LGBTQ South Asians and their friends was brutally stabbed 18 times in her own home. She was a transgender Filipina woman. She was a much loved member of our organization and we wanted to create a tribute for her to showcase her light, legacy, and love in the minds of people she left behind. We wanted to share her story as we knew her and what she meant to us and to provide a platform for other transgender woman of colour.

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

Three years. We hired two journalism students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey BC Canada. Elina Gress and Lenee Son were both women of colour and this was their first film.

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

Authentic and real

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

It was difficult to obtain funding at first because this was our first film and we did not have a track record.

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

Feeling a bit nervous and anxious. I was pleased with the feedback overall. I am confident in the end product. My Name Was January has won 14 international awards, and garnered 59 official selections at film festivals around the world. It also landed three distribution deals through Moving Images Distribution of Vancouver, OUTtv and OUTtvGo in Canada, and Revry of California, which is a queer streaming platform. The reception to the film has been positive overall and it has also sparked critical discussion and debate on various issues such as the sex trade, transgender rights, human rights, and violence.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We wanted to eulogize and create a memorial or tribute to our dear departed friend, January Marie Lapuz

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

I am a big fan of the entire Star Wars series. I feel Star Wars has a theme of good vs. evil and the light being a force for good and defeating darkness. I feel society as a whole deal with this similar battle at an individual and even broader societal level.

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

I really love Film Freeway but I wish it was cheaper to submit films. Cost can be a barrier to get your films to film festivals.

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

I am a big fan of I dreamed a dream which is on the Les Miserables soundtrack.

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

Emergence: Out of the Shadows which is about the coming out journey of gay and lesbian South Asians and the reactions of their parents. For more details check out https://emergencefilm.net/

Interview with Filmmaker Brian Ernst (WELL DONE)

WELL DONE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival in February 2020.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Brian Ernst: We initially set out to make this film for a short film contest and the idea sprang from a conversation I had with producer and star of Well Done, Mitchell Brinkman. In a brainstorming session he came up with the idea of a burger on a grill being used as a ticking clock and we ran with it from there.

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

The first draft of the script was completed on May 9, 2019, we shot on August 17 and the 24th and the film was finished on August 28, so post was quite the quick turn around!

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

Well done 😉

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

Casting and weather. I think we were down to the Wednesday before filming on Saturday before we locked in Eric Block as Mr. Hillcrest, the boss, so that was stressful. We also had the film scheduled for a one day shoot which bit us in the rear when it rained all morning. We broke the day in two, shoot everything with our lead solo in the morning (all shots by the grill, reactions, etc.) and then only have the crowd for the second part of the day. So since we were rained out, we scrapped the morning shots, filmed in-between rain outs and picked up solo shots the following weekend with a crew of just Mitch and myself.

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

Most of the comments on our film were very positive, so it was nice to hear what worked for everyone.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

After thinking on Mitch’s concept of using a burger as a ticking clock, I really started factoring in what was available: My backyard was a free location, I just bought my first grill, making a mostly VO short would make a one day shoot possible if we weren’t reliant on on-set dialogue, and I could get friends and family to fill out the party. After we set the rules, we stayed within those guidelines to find a story that worked.

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

Tommy Boy. Classic comfort food.

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

I like it when it’s easy to find what you qualify for. Short films are tricky, especially one that’s as short as ours, so being able to set up a single project and find put what it qualifies for is refreshing.

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

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

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

Next up is probably a longer screenplay or series. Our producing group is really into episodic comedy, so finding the right show concept that we can produce ourselves is probably what we’ll strive for next.

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Interview with Filmmaker Gretl Claggett (STORMCHASER)

 STORMCHASER swept the awards at the February 2020 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto. Winner of BEST FILM. BEST PERFORMANCES. BEST CINEMATROGRAPHY

 Matthew Toffolo: How did you come up with the idea for this short film? And… What motivated you to make the film?

“He’s a door-to-door ‘door’ salesman,” my friend said.

“A what…?” I thought I’d misheard what her new boyfriend did for a living.

“He lost his job. Now, he sells storm doors, door-to-door.

Our exchange conjured black-and-white images from the Maysles’ documentary, Salesman, about door-to-door bible peddlers in the ‘60s. Surely, this daily grind was a thing of the past. But as I did some digging, I discovered it still exists; and that many contractors targeting weather-torn areas this way are called “storm chasers” — instead of “ambulance chasers” — because of their predatory practices.

This triggered a deep compulsion in me to express my own sardonic commentary on what I’d experienced growing up in small-town Tornado Alley, plus selling incentives as the lone woman in an old-boys’ club: America’s culture of greed, its celebration of bad behavior, and the rise of “disaster capitalism” which preys upon the most vulnerable suffering from man-made and natural catastrophes.

All that eventually gave birth to Bonnie Blue, a down-on-her-luck storm chaser turned naive, door-to-door huckster of roofing, siding and storm doors.

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

The idea for STORMCHASER first started as a poem.

One night, while on a scholarship at Squaw Valley Writer’s Conference — where one must produce a poem a day — I wrote “Storm Secrets,” a lyrical narrative featuring a down-on-his luck salesman, Don Stuckey. I remember laughing and gasping as the poem gushed onto the page, taking me by surprise — a blend of my experiences in sales plus fantasy, as well as sardonic social commentary. I thought I’d said my piece. But even after “Storm Secrets” appeared in my poetry collection, MONSOON SOLO: Voices Once Submerged (WordTech Editions, 2012), something about Don and the storyline kept nagging me.

After finishing my first short film, Happy Hour — also based on one of my poems, narrated by Julianne Moore — which explores the memories and complexities of child sexual abuse, frequently and mistakenly deemed a woman’s issue, I wanted to delve into something completely different. Don was still there, knocking on my door. So, I started the screenplay in 2014, while juggling multiple creative projects and working full-time as a Senior Creative Director.

The first drafts focused on Don Stuckey as the unlucky salesman with a latent passion for storm chasing. Bonnie Blue — now the film’s anti-heroine — played a supporting role as Don’s love interest and the secretary of their tyrannical boss, Flip Smyth. The script placed as a finalist and won honorable mentions in several screenwriting contests but called out for something more. Always open to improving projects, when a friend suggested a major rewrite — turn the chaser into a door-to-door ‘door’ saleswoman — I took the challenge.

To start, I simply switched Don and Bonnie’s names, then re-read the script with fresh eyes to see what I could leave the same and what had to change. This made me acutely aware of my own biases about gender roles in the bedroom and boardroom — spurring me to make more conscious, authentic and quirky choices throughout the significant revision process. Ultimately, this intense script-work reaped a unique, complex female protagonist, plus two memorable male leads — with developed arcs — in a taut, timely short screenplay that aims to pack the punch of a feature.

After working on the screenplay on-and-off for about 4 years, I felt the story was strong enough to head into production. That said, even on location while filming and in post-production, I was still doing some rewrites…

How would you describe your short film in two words?

That’s tough. Not sure I can do it in just two words. Hm, maybe… “Metaphoric Storms” or “Disaster Capitalism” or even “Kali Rising.”

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

Financing the film. This is usually the biggest obstacles for indie filmmakers — made even tougher if producing a short-form project that generally won’t reap any returns on investment.

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

It was informative, inspiring and humbling to hear comments and feelings about the film from a totally objective audience. I was thrilled that both women and men enjoyed the tone and humor of the film, expressing specific personal connections to various characters, while also acknowledging the larger socio-political commentary that’s intentionally embedded in the story. This kind of feedback is invaluable.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

What film have you seen the most in your life?

When I was growing up, my father collected 16mm films which he projected onto a large folding screen in a makeshift “theater” in our house — first, in our living room, then later, upstairs in a spare room, where he built a small projection booth and installed a row of old theater seats from a cinema that was torn down in our town. Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator is a film I’ve seen countless times — it was one of my father’s favorite films and is among my favorites.

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

I think FilmFreeway is a great platform. But it’s tricky sometimes knowing which festivals — beyond the major ones — are truly worth submitting to because the costs add up quickly, and things aren’t always what they seem to be. As an indie creator/filmmaker, it’s important to do research and be smart about developing a festival strategy. More and more, I go with my gut, and really feel into the energy and intention of any given festival. I was impressed by the mission behind the Toronto FEEDBACK Film Festival, and that’s why I submitted.

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

Hm, not sure about that. It’s probably a classic Prince song, but not sure which one!

What is next for you? A new film?

This January, I directed 3 episodes of Chronicles of a BLEEP Year Old Woman, a comedic indie digital series; we’re currently in post-production on that project. I’m also delving back into writing a memoir project, plus developing a feature-length and a long-form narrative project.

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Interview with Filmmaker Kieron O’Sullivan (Consequences of Living a Lie)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Kieron O’Sullivan: The Consequences of Living a Lie is about a young man who can’t accept that he’s gay, so he’s a lived a constant lie and after the death of his girlfriend, he finally starts to face the consequences of all the lies he’s told. This is journey where Jack finally accepts who he is after being haunted by the ghost of his heartbroken girlfriend, and he finally finds happiness with his true love, Ellis.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

This screenplay is a Coming of Age story that falls into the Drama/Dark Comedy genre.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

I believe this screenplay should be made into a movie because I haven’t seen this kind of coming out story before. This screenplay represents a different side to the LGBT community that shows the consequences of lying to yourself and the people around you, and how painful it can be for a man to come out as gay when he’s shrouded by the guilt of being in love with a man within a straight society. On top of that, this screenplay shows the perspective of girlfriend who’s been lied to by her secretly gay boyfriend, and how it darkens the view of her seemingly perfect life as she tries to pass onto the afterlife.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Unique and Honest.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

If we’re including my childhood, it would be a tie between The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast (the original animations of course). But we’re simply talking adulthood, it would probably be Christopher Nolan’s Inception – I love how complex the narrative is and I’m still dying to know what the ending means!

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

From coming up with the idea to actually executing the screenplay, it took me 3 months to finish the current draft of the screenplay.


7. How many stories have you written?

I currently work in the Story Team of one of the biggest Soap Opera’s in England, and we broadcast 322 episodes a year, so I’ve written hundreds of stories for that. In terms of my own work, I’ve written 4 screenplays so far with another in progress.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Probably Jolene by Dolly Parton.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

One of the biggest obstacles I faced in finishing this screenplay was trying to fit in writing time around my job. The story came to me quite quickly but it took a lot of perseverance to sit down and write after work and on my free weekends.


10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Apart from writing, I’m passionate about spending time with my husband and my family. I love watching films and binge watching TV series but I’ve recently started to learn pole dancing – it began as a joke with my boss but I quickly fell in love with it and haven’t looked back since – and it’s nice being one of the only men in the class.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

My experience has been extremely positive it was easy to use and easy to keep track of my progress.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I wanted to enter this festival because I believed my screenplay would be in safe hands within an LGBT competition – it’s nice to know that my screenplay was read by people who really care about LGBT stories. The feedback I received was incredibly helpful, encouraging and it inspired some great ideas to help improve my screenplay.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

This is a story about one’s boys journey out of the closest, and the consequences of the lies he’s to everyone in his life, especially his girlfriend.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Val Cole
Jack: Biden Hall
Daisy: Aliya Hamid

Interview with Filmmakers Kasey Poracky & Robert Mack (SHIFT)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Robert: I had always had a passion for making movies, but never had the time or opportunity to pursue those interests during my high school years while under an intense training schedule of ballet, academics and extra-curriculars. When I got to Indiana University, I realized that the resources there and the incredible talent that I found myself surrounded by at the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department would lend itself well to a high-quality project. From there on I began to form partnerships with students and faculty in both those schools.

Kasey: Once I heard Robert’s concept, I knew we’d be able to make something really beautiful that many people could relate to. And, I’ve always deeply admired dancers and dancing, so having the opportunity to capture ballet on film was a dream of mine.

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

Kasey: It took us about 15 months to pull this off.

Robert: The first six months was spent developing and pitching the initial idea. In January of 2018, I became a finalist at the Jacobs Innovation Competition, where a Media School Professor, Craig Erpelding, then connected me to Kasey. After spending months developing the idea with her, seeking funding, and putting together the cast and crew, we shot over two days in Fall of 2018 and the completed version was completed by early Spring.

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

Kasey: Poetic and Graceful (to me at least!)

Robert: Freedom and Inspiration.


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

Kasey: This being a student production, we had limited resources as far as a pre-production team, and so Robert and I did a lot of work on the front end. Casting, costumes, props, finding a composer and choreographer, etc. In terms of shooting and editing, we went with a multi-camera (5 to be exact) setup for optimal coverage, and so that was definitely a challenge on set and in post.

Robert: Coordinating all the moving parts and working with everybody’s schedules. The ballet department was incredibly supportive throughout, but our heavy schedules left a limited opening in which we could rehearse the dancers and focus on Shift. It was never enough time, but Sasha works brilliantly, the Jacobs dancers pick up and interpret movement with such great ease, and I was in awe of the support and professionalism of the Media School.

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

Kasey: I was so moved hearing the reactions of the audience members. When you spend so much time on something, to hear people talk about what touched them and what they enjoyed is very rewarding. Not only did the over-arching theme seem to come through, but all the little painstaking details we pored over were also mentioned. Getting to hear those comments has meant a great deal to me and I am very grateful.

Robert: I was in the audience for the feedback sessions at the festival and felt so extremely gratified and grateful for the positive reactions. My thought was, “people get it.” That meant the world to me.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Robert: Shift very much draws from my experiences of the day-to-day routine of a high-school student losing sight of what makes our endeavors worthwhile in the first place.

Kasey: The main concept, of a student getting swallowed by his responsibilities, was Robert’s idea. We wanted it to feel modern and somewhat abstract, and so the idea to take the story to another place in time was a collaborative decision from myself, Robert, and another of the film’s producers Craig Erpelding.

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

Robert: It’s hard to say, as I have always been a movie buff. Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as well as Back to the Future come to my mind. As a kid, I loved musicals and would watch old classics like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Happiest Millionaire.

Kasey: Probably Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

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

Kasey: Film Freeway is wonderful. I love how it makes everything streamlined and accessible. It’s easy to use and makes entering festivals a non-intimidating process.

Robert: It makes submitting films to multiple festivals incredibly easy.

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

Kasey: I truly have no clue!

Robert: Piano Man by Billy Joel

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

Kasey: I am an aspiring Director of Photography, despite that I was the Director for Shift, and so currently I am working as the DP on several short films coming out of The Media School here in Bloomington.

Robert: Lots of new films, some involving dance. Ever since Shift, I have enjoyed working collaboratively with Media school students. One of my latest films, Midnight in the Park, stars ballet students and my incredible Ballet professors, Kyra Nichols, Carla Korbes, and Christian Claessens. I’m also getting my feet wet in screen acting. I’m still in college, so my studies remain of utmost importance, and I’m currently pursuing a second major in History and writing my Honors thesis on Hollywood director John Ford. All this, while I continue to train to be a professional ballet dancer, and to that end I am off this summer to ballet intensives with American Ballet Theatre in New York and Royal Ballet School in London.

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