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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Interview with Writer/Actor Catherine Haun (MRS MURPHY’S CONFESSION)

MRS MURPHY’S CONFESSION was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the August 2018 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

http://www.mrsmurphysconfession.com
Facebook: @playfulshortfilm.com

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

I became obsessed. That’s the best way to describe it. Totally off the
rails. I just thought I would die if I didn’t make this film.

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

Two years.

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

Awkward Journey

OMG I just thought of something so inappropriate! Painful discharge
is what popped into my head. Never mind… go with awkward journey.

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

My own ignorance of how to make a film—in particular the technical
aspects. Post production was an especially challenging time. Once
the excitement of production is over it’s a job to keep the
momentum going. From the producing point of view the challenge is
to figure out what the story needs, and then figure out who can help
you get it. You can always spend more money, but figuring out if you
really NEED something is important in a low-budget context. And in
my case I had to beg people to work for free or reduce their rates
dramatically. It’s not that easy to talk people into working for free
when you have no track record. I had a friend, Rebekah Wiggins,
who produced with me and was instrumental in pulling in many
people.

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

Awkwardness. I saw their indecision, and uncertainty about what to
say. I know there was a time frame, but I wanted to sit in the silence
for a minute to see what they would come up with. It was
suspenseful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was taking a 6 week short-film screenwriting class with Ashley
Serrao. On the first night of the class I took home a spring-loaded
image. A spring-loaded image is meant to be something that
catapults a narrative. The one I took home was ‘vibrator in a church
pew.’ Then I had to figure out whose life would be changed by
finding a vibrator in a church pew…

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

Maybe this won’t surprise you, but I LOVE the movie version of
Doubt. I rarely see a film more than once because there are so many
I haven’t seen yet, but I love everything about that film. Story,
performances, directorial choices. I only have to think of Viola Davis
in that one scene and I’m a f…ing mess!

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

I like Film Freeway the best because it is easiest to use. I like the
way you can see your submissions on one page and keep track of
them.

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

I take ballet classes, and it would really have to be this one CD that
a lot of the teachers use. I don’t know the name of it, and it might
not be my favorite, but that’s definitely the music I have heard the
most. It’s what runs in my head when I’m trying to concentrate!

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

Yes. I have a first draft of a TV pilot that I wrote with my partner
Eleanor Smith, and there’s a feature-length film that I’m just starting
to work on. I would like to do a web series as well.

Interview with Filmmaker Jessica O’Sullivan (SISTER IN ARMS)

SISTER IN ARMS played to rave reviews at the July 2018 Female Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jessica O’Sullivan: I love female centric films and I love seeing women in roles that you don’t normally see them in and seeing how things play out. I also love conflict within a plot and seeing someone who is trying to make the right decision.

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

– My producer asked to take the idea that I had for a feature length film and change it to short form and with a Pakistan backdrop (based on a video we saw of the female anti-terrorist force in Pakistan) in May 2017, we went to Pakistan in August, filmed in September and the final final editing was completed by mid-December 2017.

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

– Poignantly shocking.

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

– We had such a small budget. I had put aside £5k for it. Which is a lot of money for me. It meant that we could only shoot for 3 days. There were a lot of unknown factors and we were shooting in a tiny village about 3 hours drive from Karachi. We were a long way from anywhere and had to travel over early in the morning and late in the evening. Things inevitably go wrong and they did on this film including the camera breaking down and the actresses over heating. Strangely enough being a women in a tiny village 3 hours outside of Karachi was not one of them. The cast was predominately female as was the 1st AD, the Producer and myself. Perhaps there was strength in our numbers but also the Producer was incredibly strong. In summary the biggest obstacles were money and time. Which probably are the most common obstacles for any film.

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

– The positive feedback was great and I was delighted that the film affected people. I was surprised with some of the interpretations but could understand how an audience could read into things once it was pointed out. Those comments have perhaps been the most informative and constructive and have made me realize how more carefully I need to construct situations and scenes in the future. Both in terms of writing and directing. This is in relation to whether the male Captain had a hand in the ambush and what has been seen as overtly feminine banter between the troops.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

– This short is taken from a feature length script I wrote for a screenwriting module at film school early last year. The feature length film is based on two sisters who join the YPJ, which is a female army in Northern Syria. I came across articles and photographs of these women and girls in an area called Rojava in Syria who were part of a very effective (yet under funded) ground army who are protecting a self-governing area which puts huge emphasis on female participating on all government levels (40% of all boards have to be women). They have been effective in keeping back ISIS, the BAATh regime and several fractions within the rebel army. Yet I had heard nothing about them in this conflict until I came across these articles when I was looking to come up with 3 basic ideas one evening to pitch in class the next day. I just thought it was so interesting. In an area where women are seen as victims and are sadly incredibly oppressed that this is actually happening. The feature length however focuses on the rivalry and complicated relationship between the two sisters. Their relationship to each other and their own individual journeys is the story.

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

– Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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

– I find it quite useful. It’s is great to be able to do all of the major work once in terms of filling out forms and uploading all the media packages. I also like how the platform looks.

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

Pink Floyd, I wish you were here.

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

– I want to make another short within the next few months. A supernatural thriller with its roots in Irish mythology and a mother trying to protect her children.

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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 Melanie Faye (PUPPETS AND PUSHPINS)

PUPPETS AND PUSHPINS was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the July 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in July 2018 in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Melanie Faye : I was in my last year of Capilano University’s film program and we received a small budget to make a few final films. I had missed music out of my life for the four years I’d been there and had to reincorporate it in my life. I can’t survive without music. I had quite a few songs written but I’d never recorded anything before so I figured I would make my first original music video. I decided to go all out because when am I going to have access to that much quality equipment for free again? The teachers accepted my pitch and we went ahead with the project.

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

About 6 months including recording the song.

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

Two words.. that is difficult. Abusive dances.

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

Directing and performing in the film at the same time was quite stressful as everyone thought I was biting off too much. Trying to keep believing in the vision and myself was very tough especially when I had all my close friends from film school working key positions on the project so I had no one to talk to. I became very isolated and kind of dark.

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

I was kind of in shock haha. This song and this video is very close to my heart and my art up until now had been a very private thing, a secret way of expressing myself. To see people critically analyzing my work as though it were legitimate art was such a privilege. I was literally sat there with my hand over my mouth in disbelief. I loved hearing everyone’s opinions and seeing what I could improve on when relaying my message and what did actually hit. Thank you so much for that!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I listened to my song over and over imagining different scenarios. I knew there was going to be a marionette ballerina. A controllable toy. The song is all about trying to shake emotional abuse and control so I needed a puppet type toy. It evolved from a marionette ballerina trying to escape her strings into the story it is now.

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

I am more of a TV girl. For films it’s between Nacho Libre, Lord of the Rings, and My Best Friend’s Wedding.

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

FilmFreeway made it so easy to apply to all the festivals that applied to my film. The filters are very helpful and the list of submissions saved a lot of time checking on statuses.

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

I don’t know that there is one song.. it changes with the times.. but She by Green Day is very close to my heart. I have a tattoo based on it.

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

I have been working on recording and putting out more music and on performing in Vancouver.

I have some songs recorded and ready to go. When I get some sufficient funding together I am going to be working on a video for each of them. They will all be somewhat connected though they sound very different.

If you liked Puppets & Pushpins you can check out more of my music on my Youtube channel. http://www.youtube.com/missyfaye

Thank you so much for this opportunity! I loved this festival the most out of all the others. Unbiased feedback is invaluable.

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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.