Interview with Filmmaker Adrian Ramirez Leon (ACCOMPLICE)

ACCOMPLICE was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Adrian Ramirez Leon: Back then I had just finished the first draft of a bigger project I was writing on, a feature. I thought that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to first do a short film of the main themes of that feature script as a proof of concept so to say, about the feeling of paranoia and of being followed.

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

The writing was very smooth, after only two drafts I was already quite happy with the result. And for the lead actors, I already had Erwin Janke and Paula Utrilla in mind when I was writing the script. Erwin had already worked with me in our short film “Mirror Shards”. He liked our collaboration that much that he flew over to Spain for a week to shoot “Accomplice” – and sip a Mojito on the beach after the shoot. It took us three filming days and around two months of editing until it was completed.

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

Hitchcock-esque Mousetrap

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

Filming the dark alleyway scene. It was a one shot and difficult to coordinate as every time we started shooting, some people appeared in the background out of nowhere to ruin the take. In one take, a man was climbing unto a balcony in the background to retrieve a suspicious bag. That looked so surreal that I had to cut it out from the final version. I’m quite happy with the final result of that scene though.

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

It made me quite happy. It’s always nice to get some feedback for your films, more so if it’s constructive feedback. It’s interesting to see how other people perceive your film and whether you succeeded with what you wanted to convey or not.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came to me after thinking about how I could turn the feature I had previously written into something slightly different, but with the same essence. Finally, I got my main inspiration from Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a train”. I experimented with that scenario and thus, “Accomplice” was born. Originally, the main character Angela would chat up Alex on the subway or on a train, like in Hitchcock’s classic. In the last minute, we changed it to a park, as that was easier to film and didn’t alter much of the rest of the storyline.

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

I think that would be the film “Hook”. It’s not the best film on earth, but for my little childhood me it was. I must have seen it about a dozen times, that and the Lion King.

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

It’s very comfortable and straightforward to use. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get your film out in the world thanks to platforms like FilmFreeway. You can now be a filmmaker and distributor at the same time.

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

Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2, so beautiful.

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

I’m currently working on another short film that takes place in a self-help group setting, but instead of anonymous alcoholics, everybody there believes that they are vampires. I’m not sure whether to shoot it in London or Málaga yet, as I’m about to move back to England’s capital this summer, but it’s going to be a lot of fun either way.

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Interview with Filmmaker Rachel Econ (WIDOW)

WIDOW was the winner of BEST ACTION FILM at the May 2019 Action Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Rachel Econ: I grew up in Southern Arizona so it’s hard not to make a western when you have all that history in your backyard. My goal as a filmmaker has always been to create narratives with strong female characters at the helm, ready to face down whatever fate throws at them. I’ve always felt women in action/adventure movies always get the short of end of the stick. Our arcs are always learning to how to hold gun or learning to stand up for ourselves, when in reality those characters are already stronger and braver than they are given credit for. I figured what better place to start than with the male dominated western, a genre based on an era where you had to be pretty tough to survive.

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

It took about a year and a half from inception to finished product. It was about 6 months with writing and pre-production, then six days of shooting, and then another 6 months or so of post.

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

Brutal Romance

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

I’d say the biggest obstacle was getting the coverage we needed with only a few key crew members. We shot in Arizona but most of us we’re from Los Angeles. It gets expensive and complicated the more people you have travel so we had to be selective about who we brought and how many we could realistically needed. I’ve always felt that if we had a bigger crew we would have been able to really give the scenes the proper coverage that they needed.

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

I always get nervous whenever my film screens. I have so many things that I notice that I wish could’ve changed or done differently but that comes from watching the film a million times. It was great seeing people watching it with fresh eyes and just seeming to really enjoy it. It really gives you the warm and fuzzies knowing you’ve made something people enjoyed.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

“Widow” is actually a proof of concept short for a feature I’ve been developing for some time. I’ve always been in love with The Dollars Trilogy by Sergio Leone. I thought it might be interesting to depict the life of a ‘Woman of No Name’, a female outlaw trying to survive and navigate a world that’s not friendly to her. What would her life be like? Would she fall in love and with who? Would she ever be able to leave that life behind? The story just sorta flowed from there.

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

Probably Kill Bill, both Volume 1 and 2! I’m a huge Tarantino fan.

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

It’s nice! It makes the whole process easy and gives you access to a lot of festivals you may not know about! You can also see reviews which really helps you find out what festivals are really worth submitting to!

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

Love Me Two Times by The Doors. My dad is a big Classic Rock buff so I grew up with the Doors playing on the way to school. I still love just about everything they ever made.

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

I’m working on developing my next project, which is another proof of concept for a horror feature I’ve written! As well as trying to get the feature version of “Widow” off the ground. I’m hoping to start production in late 2020!

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Interview with Filmmaker David Bradburn (BEFORE YOU WOKE)

BEFORE YOU WOKE played to rave reviews at the May 2019 FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

David Bradburn: I had been wanting to get some experience writing and directing an action film and also, I had wanted to work with Christian Litke. From there I started to draft a script with the resources I had in mind.

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

Because our budget was so small our post production took a bit longer than we hoped, but from idea to release was about 8 months. We shot the entire film in one day.

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

Female Blacktion


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

Money, it’s always money. We did also have a massive snow storm the night before and filmed on one of the coldest days that winter. We stole the exterior location and between the extreme cold and the cops showing up that made that part of the shoot difficult.

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

The reaction has been positive, and we are often asked if there is a feature version. There is not. I wrote this as a stand-alone piece. But would happily make the feature if the resources are there. Overall the audiences are impressed we were able to tell an action story in the within the confines of short film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I cast the film before I wrote and knew both my budget and resources, so I was able to tailor the idea to resources. Once I had the first draft done, I realized that the themes of taking control of one’s life and the oppression of black women by white men were both present. I did my re-writes around those ideas and took much of the dialogue from Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

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

I think Cry Freedom, but Brickis up there too.

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

I like it better than Withoutabox

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

I checked my stats on iTunes and I think it lied. I don’t really know different times I listen to different things. Over the years Rush, Counting Crows, Dolly Varden, Jason Harrod, and Johnnyswim have been the most listened to music.

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

I have several scripts. I will make the next one I can afford to make. Some are shorts some are features. Currently, I have a short film, “Family”, the is just beginning its festival run.

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Interview with Filmmakers Marlon Perrier & Keisha Richards Lafleur (THE TALK)

THE TALK was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the April 2019 Drama Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marlon: Social Media. And seeing all these police videos. Also, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. Their deaths were a big factor in me coming up with the idea of The Talk.

Keisha: I was motivated to make this film by the share impact it will have on those affected as well as give everyone something to think about.

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

Marlon: I had the idea for The Talk almost a year before actually shooting it. But when I connected with my co-director Keisha, we were able to complete it in about three months.

Keisha: The Talk took only the first quarter of 2018 to complete.

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

Marlon: Thought Provoking.

Keisha: Intensely heartfelt

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

Marlon: I would say for me, it was finding the right team. I was supposed to complete The Talk sooner then I did but my original partner had to bow out. But when Keisha came on board, she already had a team in place and ready to go. Also, directing and producing at the same time starring in a film. This was my first time doing that. It can be overwhelming. I learned a lot.

Keisha: The biggest obstacle was having to wear most of the hats. Which can be difficult for any film maker.. and yet it’s a valuable tool to have.. so that when you have a strong team to build with, you then know how to communicate appropriately.

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

Marlon: Curiosity, excitement, anticipation. Just seeing the different point of views.

Keisha: It’s a conversation starter.. l loved the change in perspective we heard..

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Marlon: With the popularity of Social Media, we’re seeing more and more of these police videos. In particular, involved African Americans. Often times unarmed. I thought…as a person of color, how do you prepare your children for what they may encounter and how do you to teach them to protect themselves in those situations. And I just started writing from there.

Keisha: Marlon came up with the amazing storyline. I wanted to help bring it to life.. We brainstormed for a month to see how we could send a strong message.

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

Marlon: The Matrix is a game changer for me. You can watch it for the action or the Kung Fu. But it’s also philosophical, there are religious undertones in it. There are a lot of hidden gems in that film. I also love Training Day, Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Fight Club and The Dark Knight.

Keisha: I love the movie BEACHES!

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

Marlon: I love Film Freeway. It’s easy to navigate. I’m able to keep track of all my submissions. It’s very convenient.

Keisha: I like that there is no learning curve to the website. It’s so easy to get around.

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

Marlon: That’s a tough question. I’m a big fan of music. It helps me write and brings me places. I’ve gotten so many of my script ideas from listening to music. But growing up, I was a huge Michael Jackson and Prince fan. Most of the songs from the Purple Rain and Thriller albums.

Keisha: Purple Rain By Prince is my all time favorite

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

Marlon: I’m currently working on a feature film script. A romantic comedy along the lines of Hitch. And I have an urban drama script as well. I plan on shooting trailers for both films in order to find funding to shoot them. Possibly get it to Netflix or Amazon. Also, I will continue auditioning for more television and movie roles.

Keisha: Definitely, a new film.. 😉

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Interview with Filmmaker Barry Fahy (BOY RACER)

BOY RACER was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2019 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Barry Fahy: The world is so full of negative stories these days, I wanted to tell a real story that almost everyone can relate to that makes people smile. Even if it’s just a small break from the norm, to have that little bit of a change from reality and maybe think back to when we all were younger and hopefully bring some of that feeling with you for the rest of the day.

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

This was actually a pretty quickly turn around short. We came up with the idea in June, shot in July, and Post was completed in August! It was one that from concept everyone just got super excited about and everyone backed it from the get go! When you have a team, like Celtic Badger Media, that are as excited about the project as you, things can get done pretty quickly!

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

Playful Innocence

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

This whole film actually went really smoothly. The biggest worry in PreProduction was Finding the right child actor. We needed to find someone young enough to bring that pure imagination and happiness alive on screen, but old enough to be able to understand direction and be able to change his reactions and expressions based on what I asked him to do. We were super lucky to have found Sean Murphy (Who plays Evan) through Nigel Mercier at the Limerick School of Acting. Sean was fantastic, took direction really well, was fun to work with and was a trooper to hang out and film all day! It’s also been great for him as he’s won 2 best young actor awards and had several nominations too! Big thanks to Sean’s Parents, Paddy and Dervala, and his younger sister Grace, for being fantastic for the whole shoot!

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

I smiled…. I smiled the biggest goofiest smile I have. I was delighted to hear the audience felt that sense of wonder and playfulness that comes with innocence. I think people really got it and took something positive from the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We were talking about shooting a short in a signal location and it was actually my Fiancé that came up with the initial concept about shooting in my Fathers garage and having an imaginary race in his Rally Car. I instantly got super excited about the concept and fleshed out the story over the next 2 days and had pretty much the final shooting script the following week!

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

Honestly, probably Team America – World Police. In College I loved that movie and could quote most of the movie. But in most recent memory, maybe Captain America – Winter Soldier or Fight Club.

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

I quite like filmfreeway as a platform. I think the search criteria when looking for festivals could be better, particularly non genre specific festivals. Boy Racer for example is a hard film to give a specific genre. It’s not really a Drama, or a comedy, a sci fi or fantasy…

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

Palahnuiks Laughter – Fightstar

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

Well as part of Celtic Badger Media we are currently in Post Production on our Second Independent feature, a horror film called “The Perished” directed by Paddy Murphy which I was DOP on. Aiming to have that completed and being submitted to festivals in June/July. As for Directing, I have been working on a few Music Videos, I have another short Written by Paddy Murphy I aim to Direct, we have a 48hr film competition coming up in June and I’m currently developing a feature script that I’d be planning to make in the next year or two. Good thing Badgers don’t sleep much!

You can keep up with Celtic Badger Media on Facebook here https://facebook.com/CelticBadgerMedia/

and Patreon (where Boy Racer is available to watch now) https://www.patreon.com/CelticBadgerMedia

Interview with Filmmaker Myriam Kamel (MY BROTHER)

MY BROTHER played to rave reviews at the April 2019 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Myriam Kamel: I definitely wanted to show diversity on the screen. Montreal is such a cultural city, and as beautiful as it is it also comes with its issues. I wanted to portray it on the screen.

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

I thought about this film for about 3 years before writing the first version. Then from writing to the first screening it took about 8 months.

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

Cultural film

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

Casting was the biggest challenge throughout this film. There are not a lot of arabic actors in Montreal and the few I met didn’t correspond much to the characters. Casting was a very long process and I was very lucky to find Hamza and Fayçal.

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

At first I was very very VERY nervous, but after I was relieved. It’s amazing to get that kind of feedback from strangers. I loved that people who had trouble relating to the story or who didn’t understand certain things had the guts to speak out and say it. Too often it feels like people are too scared to say what they think for fear of hurting your feelings, but I know that my work is not perfect and I had an idea of what didn’t come out right with this film. This feedback helped me confirm it and think of what I could have done differently. It was very constructive and I’m very grateful for it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I knew I wanted to make a film about culture differences. Growing up in Montreal I’ve always felt like I had to behave a certain way inside the house and another when I was out. My beliefs were often challenged and my parents didn’t always understand how it changed me. After discussing it with other people I realized that I wasn’t the only one going through this sort of dilemna where I felt I had to chose between my family and what I wanted, and so I wanted to write about it.

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

In my whole life it would be La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz, but recently I’ve just watched Divines by Uda Benyamina and I’m in love with it. It’s a sad film, but it’s beautiful, very well-made. I love french cinema.

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

I like that there is such a platform, it definitely eases the submission process and it’s great to have access to so many festivals in one place, but sometimes it does feel like your film is only one in a million. It’s also hard to figure out which festivals are active on FilmFreeway.

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

Like Ships in the Night – Mat Kearney

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

Working on my next short 🙂

Interview with Filmmaker Annabelle Frost (G(R)O(W)ING UP)

G(R)O(W)ING UP was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2019 Female Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Annabelle Frost: My boss at the time encouraged me to make a film as he knew I had professional directing aspirations.

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

I started seriously writing this version of the short (there were others!) in December of 2015. We shot it in June of 2016. I finally finished post, with music coming in last, in September of 2017. So a little less than 2 years total.

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

Romantic & visual

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

Probably money. We spent a lot more than I would’ve liked b/c we had to a have a fire safety officer with us all 3 days and yet there was no ‘short film’ break on that. We had to pay what a full budget Hollywood film would’ve paid. Our location wasn’t cheap either BUT I believe it was worth it because it looked so strong on film it gave the piece a rich, visual unity.

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

My initial reaction was: grateful. It’s so hard to get honest reviews of your work and because you are so close to it as the artist you can’t really ever get a good, objective perspective on it yourself. It’s invaluable to hear what someone, who’s just watching it in a theater without having read the script or participated in the shoot, has to say about their experience viewing it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had been kicking around a split screen idea that would track a relationship from beginning to end. I needed to keep the story simple because the structure was going to be complex. Ultimately, the structure was TOO complex to work as a 10 minute short film so I ended up writing this version that tracks a relationship as it goes up and down with a bit of structural complexity but not as much as I was originally going for.

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

Young Sherlock Holmes.

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

Worked great! No issues at all.

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

It’s got to be a tie between Sting’s “Be Still My Beating Heart” and Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain”.

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

I directed an episode of Gotham last season. Hoping to direct more episodes of television soon!