Interview with Filmmaker Roisin Kearney (THE FAMILY WAY)

THE FAMILY WAY was the winner of BEST FILM at the January 2019 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Roisin Kearney: I had produced two short films after having a break from film making. I had found it difficult to work in the industry after the birth of my 3 children. The impact of parenthood on your life is very dramatic and it is a subject not often looked at. I had been on a screenwriting course and one of our assignments was on the subject of an unplanned pregnancy and it went from there, I went on to develop the idea with Nuno Bernardo. Abortion was illegal at the time in Ireland and being hotly debated, a woman had died of sepsis during a miscarriage because a heart beat was detected and the 8th amendment to the constitution (equal right to life of mother and fetus) meant that doctors could not intervene until there was proof that the Mother would die if they did not intervene, unfortunately it was too late by the time they did.

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

It took about six months from the time the first draft was written.

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

Heart v Head

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

Money (of course) as we didn’t have any and locations. People were great and allowed us use their premises for free but it was a lot of work getting them all and keeping to a small budget and timeframe.

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

I was delighted they could identify with the characters, Mother Daughter relationships are universal, and although set in Ireland it was great to see the audience could empathize with the situation and enjoy the comedy as well as the drama.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

While doing a course with Mary Kate O Flanagan.

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

The Rocky Horror Show (I worked in a cinema where it played for years) and The Green Mile (on a lot and always worth a watch)

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

It is the only platform I use. Simple and easy to track what you are entering.

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

Kate Bush Withering Heights


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

I have 3 other films currently touring
Prodigy ( written and directed by Naomi Sheridan)
Algorithms ( Written and directed by me)
No Dogs ( Written and directed by me)

I am also looking at making my first feature film. 

 

 

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Interview with Screenwriter Tali Zingman (HEADSTRONG)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Tali Zingman: Alice (32), a girl plagued by her own self-criticism and loathing, has just caught her boyfriend of five years cheating. Faced with the double-edged question of what to do, Alice confronts the different, zany sides of her personality. In this inner battle of the mind, she must weigh out what she is more afraid of: being in an unstable relationship or being alone.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy, drama, psychological piece

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

Film often uses tropes for their depiction of female characters: the traditional mother, the punk rebel, the girl-next-door. Headstrong takes these tropes and shows that they can exist all within the same girl. The female lead is complex, multi-faceted, and most importantly, authentic. The film also addresses the themes of mental illness, anxiety, and feminism. Alice’s inner battle is one that so many girls unfortunately face in the modern age. They are instilled within this self-criticism and the social pressure to be dependent and a care-giver, rather than a self-functioning and thriving individual. For a short film, it covers a great deal of ground all under the accessible format of an innocuous comedy.

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

Self-love story (Hyphens count, right?)

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

Nightmare Before Christmas.

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

Two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Over 30.

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

Lately, it’s been “Nobody” by Mitski.

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

I struggled with the “cheese-factor”, mainly because I don’t usually write rom-coms. When I started, I didn’t realize that what this was, at the end of the day, was a girl learning to fall in love with herself. At the end, when she goes around the room and tells the different sides she loves them, she’s finally accepts every part of herself and validates that she loves them. That to me felt dramatic, but at the same time, I questioned “Why?” Why is it so taboo to say you love yourself just the way you are? That for me was my own self-discovery.

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

Nothing…except caramel frappuccinos and my dog.

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

I found my experience with Female Film Festival to be extremely positive. They are personable, enthusiastic, and really focused on building a safe environment which nurtures each artist. I was truly touched by their constant passion and investment in my work.

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

I felt very proud of this script and wanted the right platform to present it. I found the festival’s mission to be exactly the right fit. The feedback was timely, constructive, and extremely helpful.

 Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Alice, age 32, is a self-conscious girl with a bitter dilemma: what to do after catching her boyfriend of 5 years cheating. It’s up to her and the kooky sides of her personality in her head to decide. This is one epic inner battle.

CAST LIST:

Revenge – KAT SMILEY
NARRATION – STEPHEN SANDQUIST
Mother – JULIE SHEPPARD
Alice – JESSICA BOWMER

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Interview with Filmmaker Kaue Nunes Melo (MAXWELL’S DEMON)

MAXWELL’S DEMON was the winner BEST FILM at the December 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kaue Nunes Melo: I read an article about a girl that suffered from hipersexuality that discovered that she was abused by her father when she was young, but suppressed that memory growing up. The article was about the long lasting effects of child molestation and was an interesting subject, as a lot of the people that was molested as child became sexual predators themselves. That was a spark for me. Tell a story about people making the same mistakes as their parents.

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

about 6/7 months.

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

Shockiling depressing!

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

Money! The whole movie was self financed. In order to get good actors and a good crew i had to have a second job for 6 months to pay the short film.

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

I was nervous that my original message could’t be transmitted properly. Turns out, a lot of people got it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I answer that in the question 01

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

Not one.. several. From the usual suspects: Tarantino, Spielberg, Scorcese, Coppola, Pta, Kubrick, Linch, Fincher, Coeh brothers, Wes Anderson, Nolan. etc

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

Is probably the best platform for submission. Is easy to use and very intuitive

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

Not sure, I listen several song, depending on the mood. I like film scores when Im writing my short films.

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

Yes. Working in a couple projects that i would love to produce in the upcoming year.

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Interview with Filmmaker Liz Lachman (PIN-UP)

PIN-UP played at the October 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Liz Lachman: This film was motivated by my own experiences and artist friends experiences of feeling never good enough and emotionally “empty,” always searching for perfection in our work, ourselves, everything outside of ourselves. On closer examination I realized that the feeling of being loved was actually the thing we were all in search of.

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

The short was actually taken from my feature film script- so not including the writing of that, I would say from writing to final mix was probably a year.

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

Psychological, haunting

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

The biggest obstacle was not enough money to shoot for more days. We had to cram probably too much into the 4 days we could afford and that meant some artistry suffered. We couldn’t take the time to set up the shots we had planned so all of a sudden lots more handheld camera… stuff like that. It still works, but I would have liked to see what we actually had planned to shoot!

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

Initially, when the MC asked what people thought about my film – there was dead silence. My stomach and heart sank. But then she shared her own feelings and it seemed to open everyone up and then they started talking about their reactions. And it was SO OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE that I was thrilled!

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

The idea for the short was based on my feature script- but instrumental in the idea for that was that I became physically attracted to a painting of a pin-up calendar girl. I was so blown away over what triggered that in me- how that could happen, that I began to examine what was behind it all. And then … down the rabbit hole!

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

If you’re asking which film I’ve seen the most times- the answer- no question- is GROUNDHOG DAY. In the guise of comedy, that film examines some very deep and wonderful themes! And it’s hilarious.

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

FilmFreeway is SO EASY! They keep track of things, remind you if you’ve already submitted, let you know what festivals are upcoming- it’s easy to see what you’ve submitted to with results, it’s a user friendly platform. Really like it.

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

As a former singer/songwriter- I’ve probably listened the most to MY OWN songs- RUMBLE is probably my favorite (you can hear it on my website http://www.lizlachman.com). When I couldn’t get the rights to the song I wanted for Pin-Up I decided to put one of my own songs, RELENTLESS, in there and it worked great! BUT barring my own work- my all-time favorite that I never get tired of hearing- and a brilliant song, probably a perfect song: “WHY” by Annie Lennox. OMG -sheer poetry.

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

Next for me is working on getting the feature version of PIN-UP made. As I mentioned, the script is written and I’ve had a budget put together on how much it will cost to make- that turns out to be 2.8 million. (Not a huge sum but more than I have in my pocket!) Now I need either the money- OR to attract an actress or executive producer who loves the material and can help draw that money. I also have 2 screenplays under option being shopped to major directors and talent, so my fingers are crossed on those as well. So that’s what’s next!

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Interview with Filmmaker Peta Milan (RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN)

RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN played to rave reviews at the August 2018 FEMALE Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Peta Milan: I have a close working relationship with Victim Support Europe and they wanted me to create a film for them on cybercrime. I had read over the past year about the number of young people around the world committing suicide because they had been subject to revenge porn. The case of Tiziana Cantone in Italy in 2016 moved me the most. Her sex tape went viral and she killed herself, and I wondered whether it was the release of the sex tape itself or the huge amount of secondary victimisation and inescapability of the content that had her feel so desperately like it would never end.

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

We had a very short time frame to come up with the concept, write the script and shoot is as there was so little money available for this film. The whole process took 1 week.

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

Debate Initiator

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

Definitely the funding We shot this in Serbia and had to call in favours from friends in the film production industry there. Everyone was great, they believed in the story and the need for discussion on this issue.

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

The mediators said it was the most polarizing film of the night, which I was very happy about. Some criticised the film and said it was like a PSA, and others thought it was a movie about trust and betrayal. I liked that people began debating the issue and discussing what they would do if it happened to them or a friend. In the end, the audience rallied behind Justine, the main character and said they would have her back. But the reality is for many this support is never obtained. I spoke with the mother of a young boy in Belgium who had taken his own life as explicit images were shared without his consent. After he had already passed away, the same perpetrators set up a fake Instagram account and continued to share the images. The process for the mother through all of this, including trying to get Facebook to take down the images, without deleting her deceased sons Facebook account and all of its associated memories was completely harrowing. I want films like Right To Be Forgotten to spark debate and have us openly engage in dialogue about how we could support people who are victims of this crime.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Seeing news reports on a number of youth around the world committing suicide as victims of revenge porn. I wanted to do something that would speak to younger audiences, not as a warning not to share pictures of themselves, because I think in this day and age, especially when we’re in trusting romantic relationships, we do share images with the one we love, especially when some of use travel so much for work. It’s more about thinking in advance about “how would I feel if the whole world saw this?” If you don’t feel ok with it don’t do it, if you are ok then do what makes you happy. But our ability to be without privacy should be our litmus test about what we chose to share and what we chose not to.

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

Gone with The Wind. I love Scarlett O’Hara beyond belief and I love writing women

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

I like Film Freeway, it’s a great platform to expand a films exposure, and that’s what it is all about at the end of the day. We want our films to be seen.

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

This is a hard question to answer as I love music and listen to it all of the time.

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

I am working on a 5 – part docu-series on counter-terrorism and countger0radicalisation that addresses victim and first responder impact and the mothers of radicalised youth working in communities to prevent radicalisation. For some they have never recovered and others have had their experiences become transformative and have dedicated their lives to counter-radicalisation or victim support. The series also takes a look at masculinity and what is it about notions of masculinity that have 95% of our radicalised people being men or young boys, whether its radical Islamists, jihadist, neo-Nazi’s or far alt-right or even the recent upsurge of Incel attacks. Most importantly we take a cross-cultural view of this issues travelling across 9 different cities in 9 different countries with an even look at the different forms of terrorist attacks as undertaken by the different forms of radicalisation mentioned.

Interview with Filmmaker Shetu Modi (THE PITS)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Shetu Modi: Honestly, I noticed my sweat smelled like Indian food whenever I ate a lot of it and I connected that to some of my childhood and university experiences. The story is not autobiographical but some of the details are.

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

I wrote the script in a day or two, I think in 2015 – though it went through many edits after that. We started planning the shoot in the summer of 2016, shot it in November 2016 and it was done by May 2017.

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

This is hard! Lighthearted and sincere, I guess?

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

For some reason finding an affordable Toronto gym to shoot in was difficult. We ended up using the venue where I had one of my wedding events, outside of Kitchener, and they were so happy to have us shoot there.

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

The feedback was all positive so I was relieved – and I was really happy it resonated with people.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

(Answered this in first question)

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

I’ve seen Bend It Like Beckham, Say Anything, Clueless, Shut Up & Sing and Love & Basketball many, many times. I also love Nicole Holofcener and Sofia Coppola movies.

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

I think it’s great! Submitting to a new festival takes less than three minutes because all my information is already there.

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

Ha, I don’t think I know! I love Beyonce. I was in high school when Destiny’s Child was big and Survivor was the only CD I had in my parents’ car, so I listened to that album a lot. I was completely obsessed with Tori Amos and Ryan Adams for a while, but their best songs can be really sad.

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

I’m working on writing a web series about a late bloomer, but I might turn it into a short film. I haven’t decided yet! The trailer is here, it stars Noor Dhanda, who was also in the Pits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TmUiWv4O-k

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Interview with Actors Stephen Tracey & Erica Anderson (PREY)

PREY played to rave reviews at the August 2018 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Taking a quote from the director, Vivien Endicott- Douglas, who says it best:

“As women, we are predominantly conditioned to believe that we must sacrifice our own happiness and comfort for the sake of staying in a relationship. The relationship is paramount. It takes a great deal of will to be able to free ourselves from this reality and shift the paradigm. Prey is the beginning of one woman’s journey to come home to herself. We were inspired to document that first step, the realization that she cannot have the full life she wants, be the whole person that she knows she is capable of being if she is in attachment with either of the men she’s between.”

We wanted to show that moment of discovery, and the struggle leading up to it. Because this is a timely discussion and an important one. Especially as young women learn to navigate relationships as well as building their identity. And that sometimes the ones we feel we love the most are actually the ones holding us back from where we want to be.

We also wanted to make a film about a woman, written by a women and made by women. There’s such a need for female representation beyond the camera and we wanted to help promote young Canadian female film makers.

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

The light bulb went on sometime during February of 2017. That’s when script meetings and the team building process began. We didn’t shoot until the beginning of June 2017. Which was an incredibly long night shoot. Started at 4:00pm and went all the way until 6:00 am. Don’t worry, craft was bountiful. And then post went on until about March 2018. So just over a year.

Many of our crew (pre and post production) are young film makers, and finding the time to access these budding artists with a lower budget provides obstacles because not only are they working on other projects but they also have non industry jobs to keep food on the table. So we had to find flexibility with our timeline. Which is just the reality of establishing artists.

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

The audience at the Female Festival had such a colourful conversation/commentary about the piece that for us to pin hole it might be a disservice to the viewing experience. Part of our story telling was an emphasis on ambiguity and challenging of expectations.

But here are some themes to think about:

Personal awakening
Self discovery
Gentle empowerment

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

It for sure goes back to that earlier comment about people’s schedules. Had we a giant juicy budget, schedules would’ve made themselves more readily available but because of our circumstances there was more rigidity. And that had pushed our expected dates further.

All a learning experience as we continue to grow. The beauty is in seeing the completion of the project. From idea to product is pretty magical.

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

It was really incredible to hear the audience react and be in the theatre to experience it firsthand. It was great to hear that so many people felt compelled to speak about the film and that it brought up conflicting opinions and discussion. It was especially encouraging to hear the women in the audience who immediately recognized the internal conflict within our protagonist.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Prey was originally a full length theatrical play, written by Britney Tangedal for the 2014 graduating class of the National Theatre School of Canada. Both Erica Anderson and Stephen Tracey (the two leads) were also in that first production.

This particular scene comes near the end of the play and was always a highlight. There’s such a weight to it that is so universal and so human. It also had just the right amount of information to be a stand alone story giving it the ability to transfer from stage to screen.

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

Erica- Under the Tuscan Sun. Guilty pleasure movie all the way. After watching it as a kid I painted a mural of sunflowers on my bedroom wall (thanks to my artistic mom for being so cool!) I think I’ve always been attracted to stories of women who do what they want. One day I’ll run away and renovate an old house surrounded by sunflowers. And also, Sandra Oh! She brings depth and humour to everything. She’s brilliant.

Stephen – Gone With The Wind. Grew up watching this movie over and over. Funny enough, it’s also about a woman caught between two men and more importantly about how this fiery woman steps outside of social norms into traditional male roles to save herself, her home and her family. In that order. It’s Scarlett O’Hara after all.

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

It’s an easy and efficient way to submit to festivals already known to you and to learn about festivals you hadn’t of before. Giving your film the optimal amount of opportunity for your project to be seen.

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

Erica- Again, in the not-so-gulty pleasures, anything Shania Twain. She practically raised me and i still break her out on a bad day. Currently though I have I Know A Place by Muna on repeat daily. I think the acoustic version is stunning.

Stephen- Unintentionally Brown Eyed Girl – because of any sort of family get together. I swear, it’s like they own nothing else. It’s their entire I tunes playlist. Intentionally, Nina Simone, all day every day.

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

Erica- Catch her on screen in upcoming seasons of The Baroness Von Sketch Show (CBC) & Murdoch Mysteries (CBC). On stage at the GCTC in Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells) by Rose Napoli. And future personal films are in the dream and scheme phase but she’s excited to lift them off the page soon.

Stephen- Can be seen on CBC’s/Netflix’s Anne With An E season 2 coming September 23rd. He’s also in the process of writing his first feature.

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