Interview with Producer & Creative Director Julie Gardner (THE CLIMB)

THE CLIMB was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lynne Davison: The Climb was Lacada’s first film after I founded the company in January 2016. After 20 years managing productions for others I wanted to branch out on my own to produce engaging screen stories with high production values. Lynne the writer/director and I had known each other for a number of years before we partnered up on The Climb. (Lynne had been a camera assistant while I co-ordinated the pilot episode of Game of Thrones).

Our regional screen agency, Northern Ireland Screen had organised a table read to showcase a handful of short film projects they had developed with new and emerging writer/directors. I was instantly bowled over by the raw power of The Climb’s stripped back simplicity and I knew instantly that I wanted to bring it to the screen.

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

8 months from start to finish. The table read was in February, we waited to film in summer, when we have long hours of daylight here in Northern Ireland, then the post production slotted around the editor’s other ‘big’ jobs at the post house, meaning we were done and dusted by Hallowe’en.

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

Crikey, only two?! Overcoming obstacles.

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

We had two challenges. There’s the usual financial one – how to produce something cinematic on a budget of around £10,000. The other was the physical obstacle of the mountain itself. It could only be filmed for real on a mountain, with real climbing, within the budget parameters which allowed for one single filming day. Taking a crew and cast from the city to the heart of the Mourne Mountains, without any kind of contingency was a hairy prospect. On the morning of the shoot we arrived at the location and were dismayed to find cloud enveloping the top of the mountain. Shooting the script chronologically from the foot of the mountain to the top we were able to turn that to our advantage – it became a beautiful metaphor: as Julia’s mental fog cleared the nearer she reached the summit, so the early morning cloud burnt off as the filming day progressed, finishing in a spectacular golden hour.

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

We were all thrilled to hear the individual audience members’ takes on our story. When making a film we know the story intimately as we’ve examined it from every possible angle. Hearing international audiences getting the nuances of what we’d set out to achieve, outside of our filmmaking bubble, was really heartwarming. It’s genuinely affirmed our belief in our abilities as filmmakers. To know that it hit home as powerfully for the audience was an incredible feeling.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

This idea was inspired by the true story of a climbing friend of Lynne, the writer/director.

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

There are two films, both firm joint favourites. The filmmakery answer is Jean Luc Godard’s ‘Pierrot Le Fou’ which blew my mind when I first saw it as a teenager. Poetic, astonishingly beautifully shot, by turns political and cartoonish, it’s the film that literally and figuratively exploded the artform of cinema for me. The other is Jaws. You can’t beat Jaws, it’s just the perfect entertaining film in every way.

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

FilmFreeway’s platform is an absolute gift to filmmakers. To have so many incredible international festivals reachable at the touch of a button would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. We are so lucky to have it, and I am certain that it has opened the world of festivals that would previously have been out of the reach of new and emerging filmmakers.

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

Just one? I’ve really eclectic musical tastes, so I’ve pulled up my Spotify history to check – it looks like it’s Iron Maiden’s ‘Brave New World’. People who don’t know me very well are always surprised to find that I love me some heavy metal.

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

Yes. I’m am very lucky to be able to say I’ve got films coming out my ears at the moment! Excitingly I’m currently in pre-production for a new BBC one hour drama, which will be airing around Christmas time. Continuing with the indie films I have four shorts on the slate for the autumn. Three of them have come through the same scheme as The Climb, and I’m really looking forward to working with some more exciting new writing/directing talent. The fourth, Port, is one I’ve co-written and is based on a really cool underlying short story by the Nobel prize-winning author Heinrich Boll. I’ve two feature films winding their way through the development and financing maze.

I’ve also just recently successfully crowdfunded £10k to allow me to produce and direct a rock documentary pilot, Parental Advisory, which has been a passion project for a long time. Inspired by John Olson’s 1971 LIFE Magazine photographic essay featuring rock stars at home with their parents, ‘Parental Advisory’ is a rock biopic series with a twist. Offering a candid portrait of world-famous rock musicians, and the music world, through the eyes of the person who knows them like no other – their mum or dad. It’s a celebration of talented kids who dare to succeed outside the system.

I’m also really looking forward to be holding the inaugural Northern Ireland Short Film Awards at the end of the month. This is something I’ve been inspired to set up as a chance for us all to celebrate the best of short films locally, as well as a fun social night to connect filmmakers and talent who, often working in isolation, form part of our vibrant filmmaking landscape here in NI.

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

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Interview with Filmmaker Adriana Falcinelli (DYING FOR A LIVING)

DYING FOR A LIVING played to rave reviews at the March 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Adriana Falcinelli: I decided to go back to University and do a film degree course as a mature student and one of the units was to produce a short documentary of 10 minutes or less. I managed to squeeze an extra 3 minutes into mine as my tutor thought it was good enough! We had to pitch 3 possible ideas to the class and the Shaun undertaker idea was the most popular.

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

About 10 weeks.

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

Thought-provoking, funny

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

Structuring a coherent story from all my footage, that is, condensing 8 hours down to 10-13 minutes and depicting Shaun as closely as possible and not wanting to let him down or be disappointed in the end result. I wanted to make something that he would be proud of as he had given himself freely to be in it so honestly, but you never really know and have to let people react in their own way.

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

I felt immensely pleased and proud that an audience in another country was watching my little film. I enjoyed the comments very much and thought they were fair and considered.

Both myself and Shaun were happy with the comments and took the feedback as positive.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had known Shaun as a friend for about 2 years beforehand and he always had interesting stories to tell about being an undertaker and embalmer. He is a good talker about many different topics and so when they asked us on our course to make a documentary, I knew he would be a good subject, all I had to do was ask and luckily he said yes to being followed around by me and my camera for a few hours every weekend!

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

Probably Goodfellas. Though more recently I’ve been watching several documentaries non-stop on loop.

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

It’s good for me because it’s easy. I can upload stills, prizes, official selections, write my bio on the film page and it’s all there in one place. Entering festivals is straight forward and you can keep track of all your submissions.

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

That’s impossible to answer, I can like one song and play it on loop 10 times in a row depending on my mood and what I’ve bought recently.

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

Yes I’m working on an exciting new project, a feature length documentary – it’s an engaging portrait of how a charismatic 26 year old Czech-based porn actress is inspiring different women across the world to discover and embrace their sexual identities in a new and meaningful way. It’s a story about the female fans of Tracy and how they have overcome personal struggles in their lives such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem by connecting with Tracy as a person, her work and each other online via the fanbase. Two fans have even met in real life and are getting married this year in Quebec. I want to make something showing the positive aspects of porn rather than the negative we’re so used to seeing in documentaries and reported about.

Or you can use the official 500 word version which sounds more ‘official’:

“Adult entertainer Tracy Lindsay challenges the stereotype of the ‘damaged’ porn actress with her humour, intelligence and optimism. Tracy’s professional commitment to exclusive girl/girl scenes has created a devoted fan base, making important emotional connections with fans via her work and social media interactions.”

Through fan stories we understand Tracy is a kind of therapy, how she helps them overcome personal challenges such as depression, low self-esteem and to accept their sexuality.

An uplifting and engaging story exploring women’s sexuality, their relationship with pornography and how they over-turn conventional wisdom that pornography is solitary and shameful in the internet age.

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

Interview with Director Elen JI (DINNER FOR TWO)

DINNER FOR TWO was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the March 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Elen Ji: The film is based on my real life. My husband is a strict vegetarian, but I am a meat lover. When we got married and moved in together, the problems of different habits kept popping up, and each of us wanted to be the “Boss”. This impact forced me to examine my marriage, and to think about the way to get along with each other in a relationship. This experience triggered my desire to create, and I decided to tackle this subject in a light and humorous tone.

 

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

It took about three month to finish the work. During the production, I was actually carrying a baby (7month), so I needed to finish everything before the delivery. Fortunately, the whole crew is very open and efficient, and we come up with a lot of interesting ideas during the making process.

 

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

Fresh & sincere.

 

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

There are two facets. Physically, I need to work intensively under the time pressure by carrying a baby. Mentally, I need to think really precisely about how to arrange the structure and delivery the message in a 15min short film.

 

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

I feel really happy and grateful. The audience and the host provided varying interesting perspectives, bringing more meanings to the film itself. 

To my mind, the greatest meaning of making a film is to communicate. To see people around world who could access to this film and echo with it, that’s really the greatest encouragement to a filmmaker. I will share the feedback video with my crew.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Please see Q1.

 

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

Different genres. But most of them are related to human’s real situation.

 

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

It’s very handy and informative. It introduces to me different kinds of film festivals and provides a channel for me to release my work around the world. 

 

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

Jazz, folk and Classical.

 

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes, I’m now preparing a new film. It’s also a story coming from my own experience, but it’s about another kind of relationship in a family. Let’s wait and see~

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

Interview with Filmmaker Anna Southgate (I SEEK ASYLUM)

 I SEEK ASYLUM played to rave reviews at the March 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Anna Southgate: For the past few years the Helen Bamber Foundation has held a live event ‘The Conversation’ hosted by the charity’s President, Emma Thompson. I script and produce the event (since my background is in screenwriting), but with such stellar acting talent available, it made sense to create a film that would not only screen on the night but also online and at festivals afterwards. That way we could keep the conversation about the desperate need of asylum seekers alive.

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

Well… being a charity project, everything was don in a very short time and on an extremely tight budget. None of which would have been possible were it not for the generosity of all those who supported us, both in front of and behind camera.

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

Shamefully accurate.

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

It’s hard to say – we had such incredible support. But it’s always difficult to ask professionals to give up their valuable time and talent for the price of a train ticket – even if it is in a good cause.

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

It’s nerve-wracking to hear an audience’s response to your work, of course. But a relief that the subject matter resonated with people. And that it made viewers think about how we regard refugees.

I’m particularly glad that the audience picked up on the point that we judge a person more positively when they seem to be familiar, when they look, dress and sound like us. But those we consider as ‘other’ – people with darker skin or foreign accents – we treat with suspicion and disrespect. For this reason, I made the decision to ask the actors to use their ‘normal’ speaking voices. Juxtaposing these with the voice-over of a real asylum-seeker illustrates this prejudice.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

To research for the charity event, I read a lot of extremely harrowing asylum cases. Some are so dark it would be impossible to dramatise them without the audience turning away (which is the fine line the charity must always navigate when describing its work with the survivors of trafficking and torture.) But I realised that re-creating the interview scenario would make it possible to switch between different characters, enabling the telling of several stories in a single set-up.

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

My favourite film is ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’ It never fails to charm me. Surprising though it may seem given the subject matter of ‘I Seek Asylum,’ my background is actually in comedy!

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

It’s a pretty slick process, thank goodness. Because I’m totally useless with technology. I’d use carrier pigeon for all correspondence if I had my way.

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

Regrettably it is likely to be ‘La Bamba.’ Not out of choice because I enjoy it. On the contrary, I despise it. (With a passion I usually reserve for presidents with bad hair and worse politics). And yet… on almost every holiday I have ever been on, the hotel band seems it necessary to spoil my evening sundowner with a rendition even more irritating than the original.

I believe Dante describes a circle of hell in which La Bamba is played on an eternal loop by a man with bad hair and a banjo.

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

I am soon to shoot a short film which is one of the story strands from a multi protagonist feature I have written – a satire about a local community centre that is taken over by city developers and turned into a private members club.

Such gentrification is happening a lot in the U.K., where the government and local councils are turning their backs on poor people. We have a huge social housing crisis so rising homelessness too which is an utter disgrace. It makes me so angry. But I try and channel this rage into comedy where I can – else I’d go mad.

Or maybe it’s already too late…

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

Interview with Filmmaker Nikhat Powell (THE BENEFACTION)

 

Nikhat Powell’s short film THE BENEFACTION played to rave reviews at the November 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival. It was the winner of BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCES at the festival.

 What motivated you to make this film? 

This was my thesis film for my MFA in Digital Cinema. When I started, I knew it was my one chance to prove to myself that I can direct. Though I’ve taught filmmaking internationally for over 20 years and made directors of many students, I’d never directed a film myself!

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

Because I had to follow a university program timeline, it took me about 15 months to complete it. My sound design and my color grading work was done abroad while I was in the US. Because of the time difference, any communication was super hard and it took more time than I’d ever imagined!

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

Heart warming!

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

Time difference! I was in the US and my film was shot in India. There is a 11.5 hour difference in time between the two countries. Something that could be easily sorted out in a day of face-to-face time often took many times that amount of time!

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

I enjoyed it very much. It was interesting to see the number of people who were in the audience, and that there were several astute and on-the-nose comments from ‘lay people’. Made my conviction firmer, that language is not a barrier in communication. Just the sub-titles wouldn’t communicate. Body language and human emotions are universal.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve always believed in the concept of ‘pay it forward’. I’ve also wondered what decisions the very ‘upright’ me would take if I had to make a choice between my values and my two boys. It always had to be a drama, because I believe touching the human emotion and making a person think about life in general is very important. It seemed that these things, along with karma (which I believe is an offshoot of the pay-it-forward concept) just came together. It evolved from there into this story!

  What film have you seen the most in your life? 

The Sound of Music, closely followed by The Shawshank Redemption! There are a few Indian films that I love too!

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

I wasn’t there in the festival so I am unable to comment on how it was conduted. However, I really like the concept of the audience feedback video that was sent out. It was a beautiful feeling thinking that a lot of people in a room talked about my film, believed in it, and were touched by it.

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

Hmmm… I’ve listened to all kinds of songs, but probably Simon & Garfunkle and Queen have been the singers I’ve loved through all these years. I think Bohemian Rhapsody just might be one of the songs that I listened to hundreds of times.

  What is next for you? A new film?  

Yup! I’ve written the story for my next film. Got through two drafts of it, got feedback from a festival for it, and have to work on it a lot more to make it tighter and smoother. I plan to shoot it in the summer of 2019 in Mississippi. It’s the story how how a young girl helps her grandfather ‘grow up’ and move on in life. Another heart-warming story, even if I do say so myself!! 😀

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Interview with Filmmaker Holly Voges (FELL)

Holly Voges’ short film FELL played to rave reviews at the November 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

– My creative partner and I are currently adapting a novel. In working on that project we wanted to create something in the meantime. FELL is a story within the novel that we really gravitated towards.

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

– It took us 4 months.

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

– “Feral Fairy-tale”

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

– Finding puppies, and making sure the kids ADR was understandable.

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

– Delighted! What wonderful insights. Clearly the film is a little cryptic, so it was enlightening to hear the interpretations.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

– The film is a story told within the novel we are currently adapting that we couldn’t fit in the larger adaptation. But we really loved this powerful, little tale and we were looking to make a short film, so we pulled it out, changed a few things and made it into it’s own piece.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

– Star Wars

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

– Easy enough. Nicely streamlined.

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

– Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

What is next for you? A new film?

– YES! We are in post on our latest short and continue to work on the feature adaptation. 

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Interview with Filmmaker Nora Jaenicke (BETWEEN SECONDS)

Nora Jaenicke’s short film BETWEEN SECONDS played to rave reviews at the November 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival. It was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the festival.

 What motivated you to make this film?

I had an idea for an animation, years ago, while in film school, and it was about two people struggling over the hand of a clock. One wanted to move it forward the other wanted to regain lost time from the past and go back in time, so to say, so I thought it made for an interesting concept. The idea of these people being somewhat °off sync° with the world and their inner sense of timing. When I decided to make a film later on, I reached back to my story folder on my desktop and decided to give this one a go. In order for it to be an actual narrative film, I had to create backstories for each character and develop their inner worlds. If I had more time and money, I would have made a feature. I find it a very interesting topic.

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

I had the initial idea in 2007, then I put it aside and got back to it in 2015. It took me a year to find the money to make it. Principal Photography started in 2016 and the film is currently at the end of its festival rounds. It won 33 awards. Very exciting! I never thought it would end up being this successful in the indie film festival scene.

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

Time and Creativity

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

Finding the money, and putting together cast and crew. Finding the right people to create with is almost as hard as finding a partner to start a family with. Many things need to fit. There has to be the right chemistry. And the crew becomes like its own living being. It works as its own ecosystem.

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

I was intrigued. I am always interested in hearing the thoughts the film triggers in the audience. I wish I were there.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Like I said above, I thought of this image of the people fighting over the hand of a clock. Perhaps Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin planted the seed in my mind and I went from there. Aren’t we all striving for that °decisive moment° that °peak moment°. And what danger that we might get so caught up in the perfect composition, setting the perfect scene, waiting and hoping for the perfect moment, that we miss it entirely.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Lolita by Adrian Lyne, Thelma and Louise, Rainman. These are the first 3 films that come to mind.

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

Love it!

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

mmm tricky one. I hear so much music on a daily basis. I listen to it as I write, mostly soundtracks by Hanns Zimmer, to imagine my scenes and get into their atmosphere better. He is my favorite film composer.

What is next for you? A new film?

Whales. A Drama about two sisters who reconnect, after years of being separated. A homage to sisterhood. A Drama about a familys secluded world and the impact that secrets can have on our lives.

 

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