Interview with Filmmaker Julia Fullerton-Batten (1814 FROST FAIR)

1814 FROST FAIR played to rave reviews at the July 2020 FEMALE Film Festival.

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

Julia Fullerton-Batten: I am a fine art photographer shooting story-telling projects on a wide variety of themes. As part of a major project narrating the history, traditions and customs along the Thames River (‘Old Father Thames’) I decided to recreate the 1814 Frost Fair on the Thames in London. This was an occasion when the river froze over completely and Londoners used the opportunity to celebrate on the ice. Over the years, there had been a number of Frost Fairs in the shadow of the Old London Bridge. What was not known at the time was that the 1814 Frost Fair would be the last after a new bridge was built to replace the old structure. Historically, therefore this fair is of particular significance to The River Thames’ and London history. Although brief it was reported as being celebrated exuberantly even to the extent that an elephant was led across the frozen ice.

I was excited with the thought of the project and felt a curious urge to experience the fair for myself. I always endeavour to make the settings, costumes, props, etc for my photoshoots as authentic as possible and always do a lot of research beforehand. The work for this was on an even larger scale than usual. The 1814 Frost Fair occurred prior to the invention of photography so I had to rely on paintings, sketches and newspaper reports.

The cast increased to over forty and included circus performers. I had to research for entertainment tents, costumes and props relevant to the time. Sets were constructed in a large studio in London. Attention to detail was absolutely paramount for me.

I was halfway through planning this already massive, complex stills production when I realised that I just had to film it as well. It was truly the only way to give an audience a real-life experience of the electric atmosphere of what the 1814 Frost Fair must have been like. I embarked on this filming venture with no prior experience of having directed a film of any kind.

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

It took me quite a few months to plan the entire project, both stills and film. There was a lot of additional planning needed for the film. I shot everything in a large drive-in studio and required a day for setting up and preparing the lighting, a second day for shooting the stills and a third for the filming.

On the shoot and filming days over ninety people were involved – actors, circus performers, crew, etc. On our last day we were obliged to clear the studio of all props and lighting. We started very early and didn’t finish until after midnight – all in all it was a super long day of hard but rewarding work.

A fiddle player provides the background music, the tone of the music changes from more or less serious to playful depending on the scene. Everything had to be coordinated to make sense. Although there is a minimum of dialogue there are many different characters involved in shouting, exclaiming, exertions of arm wrestling, selling, gambling, etc. I introduced interactions at all levels – to the different circus performers (sword swallower, fire breather, contortionist, stilt walker, etc.), street events (stealing, prostitution, gambling, etc). I really wanted to bring the Frost Fair atmosphere alive, illustrating also the differences pervading at that time between the wealthy and the poor, beggars and street urchins.

3. How would you describe your short film!?

Fantastical.
Sensational.
Step in time incapsulation
Fun period piece

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

Never directed a short film of any kind before it was a huge learning curve from beginning to end. I am used to working with large crews but not one of nearly 100 people. However, the biggest concerns were the significant financial implications and having enough time on the day itself. I wished that I had at least two days for filming, it would have been less stressful. However, considering all those factors I’m delighted with the end result that I achieved and the resonance that the film has received worldwide since.

I was lucky to have an amazing DOP who brought a super talented crew onboard with him, as well as the support of Big Buoy in London and Eight VFX in LA for the post-production. These factors helped make a huge difference to the final result.

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

The feedback was incredible. The commentators found the settings and costumes to be convincingly authentic. Those comments made my long hours of research and months of searching and hiring activities worthwhile. In all, it seemed as though my efforts to create a vibrant, joyful atmosphere had succeeded.

There were comments that it would be a great setting for a feature film and I was flattered to be compared with the structure and composition of my film with the style of Tim Burton, a director whom I have long admired! There was also a comparison with the film ‘Orlando’, based on a novel by Virginia Woolf, directed by Sally Potter and starring Tilda Swinton and Quentin Crip, in which scenes were also set on ice. Another film that I have enjoyed for its settings and lighting.

I was surprised to learn that all admitted to not knowing about the Frost Fairs on the River Thames and that I was able to make them aware of an exciting part of London history and that even an elephant once paraded the ice from bank to bank.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

In the Mood for Love, by the Hong Kong Chinese film director Kar-Wai Wong

This is such a simple story, filmed beautifully. Each frame is atmospheric, mostly filmed at night. I get inspiration from films and especially this one. I could spend hours studying each scene, frame by frame, to enjoy the impeccable lighting.

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

I found it great. With one upload of the film it is super easy process to read about the festivals in one place and decide to submit to those most relevant and appealing to the film and the target audience. I was able to do it when travelling and it only takes a few seconds.

The 1814 Frost Fair film already gained many awards internationally. It is so exciting for me to read the messages when they appear in my inbox!

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

Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright. What a classic, beautiful rendition of this wonderful song!

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

I am hooked! I would love to direct more and already have some ideas. Following on to my contact with one of the cast of the 1814 Frost Fair I will soon be shooting a project on young female contortionists and am thinking how I can again combine moving imagery with stills.

It has suddenly become an exciting new world for me. One that I’m going to enjoy exploring!

Interview with Filmmaker Kevin Rosen-Quan (CHOICES)

CHOICES was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the July 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kevin Rosen-Quan: I’ve always wanted to write and direct, but found it difficult to reach all the milestones it takes to do so. Recently, I joined a volunteer organization called Assorted Kinds, which enables short filmmakers to develop and execute one short film every month. After several months of volunteering my services as a production sound mixer, I was given the opportunity to submit a script to direct.

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

One of the things that makes Assorted Kinds unique is a restricted timetable. Scripts are submitted and voted on at the beginning of each month, and the selected script must be shot at the end of that month. After shooting, because I essentially shot seven versions of the same scene, I spent another month editing each couple individually and then was finally able to make the super cut of all seven couples together.

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

Two Risottos!?

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

The edit was definitely the biggest obstacle. At first, I tried to assemble all seven couples into the final cut straightaway, and found it nearly impossible. Where to start? What to cut out? In the end, I had to cut each couple individually in order to truly understand each couple’s strengths and bring the best bits from each pair to the final cut, and have it all flow together in a way that doesn’t lose the audience to confusion. Despite the whole film being only four minutes in total, it took a whole month or so of editing to get it there.

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

I was very happy to hear that it didn’t seem to be confusing to anyone haha. It was also satisfying to see that the audience understood that weaving seven couples together was more than just a gimmick, and spoke to universality of human relationships that transcends race, gender, handicap, or sexual orientations. I always felt that it was this concept that elevated Choices above a simple comedy sketch into something more poignant and meaningful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The original idea was born out of a simple joke that I may have seen somewhere before: a scene where couple is having a conversion, and at one point we cut to one of the characters and he/she is replaced by a completely different actor. Then we cut and cut back and they’re back to the original actor. Would the audience notice? Would it be funny? Then, as comedy writers tend to do, I tried to see how far we could push it, how many characters we could swap out, or how frequently we could swap them. That being said, the script itself was actually written at the very last second right before voting for that month’s scripts. I had the idea for how to tell the story, but no actual story or characters haha. So I quickly whipped up a stream-of-consciousness script about not being able to choose a meal at a restaurant. That quick first draft ended up being the shooting script.

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

Big Trouble In Little China

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

It was my first time submitting a film but it seemed pretty frictionless…

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

I listen to music pretty much every waking moment I can, and also when I sleep for that matter haha. So picking a single song would be tough. I do remember listening to Nine Inch Nails in high school and thinking, one day when I’m a director I’m going to put their music in films…and then Fincher went and did it ahead of me.

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

I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to direct three additional shorts with Assorted Kinds over the past year, all of which are still in post purgatory. Two of them I wrote, and one is a pilot for a sci-fi television series that I am developing. I love exploring experimental new storytelling concepts like the one that spawned Choices, and I’m always looking for the next opportunity to do so.

choices_3

Interview with Filmmaker Zhang Xinwen (NEW YEARS EVE DINNER)

NEW YEARS EVE DINNER played to rave reviews at the July 2020 Female Directors Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

:逢年过节人类对于动物的肆无忌惮的杀戮用于庆祝,根本不会顾及动物的想法和感受,人类不会一直是地球的主人,如果用人类对待动物的方法,让动物对待人类一次,看看会是什么样子。

Humans always kill animals for celebrations in customs without considering what they think and feel. However, humans can’t always be the host of the world, let’s imagine what if our roles swapped and the animals could use the same way to treat with humans?

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

这个想法是我一直想拍的,拍摄实际上在一个要拆的老家具工厂拍摄的,只能在一天内拍完,我们拍了27个小时。

This is the idea that I always want to film, in fact we took place in an old furniture shop where was about to dismantle, it could only offer us one day to film and we made it 27 hours finally.

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

反思与觉醒

Reflect and be conscious

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

时间太短,很害怕拍不完。

Time is very limited that I was worried I couldn’t complete the filming

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

我很感动

I was touched

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

我觉得人类对动物的态度很糟。

I think the attitudes of humans to treat with the animals are really terrible

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

海上钢琴师

The legend of 1900

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

挺好的

Good??

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

国歌

National anthem

Interview with Filmmaker Emily DeBackere (LAUNDRY)

LAUNDRY played to rave reviews at the July 2020 FEMALE Directors Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What Motivated you to make this film?

Emily DeBackere: I made this the summer after my second year of school at Ryerson. The motivation behind it was purely to make a film with no budget in my parents backyard with a group of friends. And that’s what we did. It was my first project I felt like I had total creative freedom over without the worry of strict guidelines from school.

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

The pre-production/filming stages took only about a month. In post, the edit took about two months of off and on revisiting the project in order to sculpt the desired narrative.

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

Artistically Introspective.

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

Probably the toughest obstacle in this project was being able to make the vision achievable with such a limited crew and budget. I am extremely thankful for the hard work that each crew member contributed to this project. Since it was only a small group of us, most of us had to take on multiple roles. This film would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of each member.

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

It felt really good to have people reiterate the message I intended for the film without having to blatantly explain its reasoning in the actual film itself. This is the first festival to give me an outsider opinion on Laundry and I was relieved to hear such positive feedback on the symbolism and imagery I implied throughout the short.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’m very much an image based type of person and that’s usually how I conceptualize most of my ideas. The very first thing I did was drew a picture of the opening shot which was of the laundry line in the middle of the field. From there I was able to conceptualize a story that justified the reasoning of why linen was hung out in the middle of no where and more importantly what purpose it served.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I don’t think there is a specific film that I’ve ever really worshipped religiously. Despite being a filmmaker/film student I’m not that huge of a film buff. However, as of lately I’ve been enjoying the works of Terrence Malick. Specifically A Hidden Life and Tree of Life have definitely been on repeat for me.

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

I feel like, especially as a young amateur film maker, I’m not too aware of the variety of festivals out there. FilmFreeway really made it simple to research and send out my short to the festivals I felt would best fit my project. If anything I feel like it allows access to a wider bandwidth of filmmakers to easily put there film out there for other people to see.

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

Clair de Lune by Debussy. I’m sort of an old soul and when it comes to classical music I find it evokes the most emotion out of me. Of course this is not the type of music I listen to in the car or with friends but definitely when I’m writing or brainstorming. I’ve played this song on repeat probably one too many times when trying to get the creative juices flowing.

What is next for you? A new film?

Next year I will be going into my fourth year at Ryerson for film. In which, we are expected to create our thesis short film. As of right now, I’m in the midst of writing a script that I’m hoping to direct if it gets green lit by the school.

Interview with Filmmaker Marnie Baxter & Nicola Stuart-Hill (BAD MOTHER)

BAD MOTHER played to rave reviews at the May 2020 Female Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nicola: Well Marnie told me a story of a woman she met on a beach a few years a back. This film is based on that true story. which we then dramatised. In the real life story nothing actually happened, but we were both drawn to the psychological thinking that Marnie was left feeling when she did actually leave her kids on the beach with a stranger. That drove us on this journey.
Marnie: I had this experience that was niggling away at me and, as Nicky said, it felt like it would be really interesting to explore. We both loved the process of working out why the story was so chilling, so memorable. Finding the nuances that made it believable and worth watching, and creepy.

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

Nicola: To be honest my memory is terrible, so over to Marnie, but just looked back at my first rough notes on BM and its says Feb 2017. So two years from idea to locked off picture?

Marnie: Ha ha! I think it was longer – more like 3 years from concept to final picture. But until we had the finance in place, we were working around our schedules – grabbing evenings here and there and e mailing each other drafts.

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

Nicola: Judgement. Friendship.

Marnie: This gives us the chance to have 4 words! So – Trust, Motherhood.

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

Nicola: Filming with kids due to their maximum legal hours on set/ Public walking into shot as open beach with lots of doggie walkers.

Marnie: Agreed – that was tricky. But to be honest for me the biggest challenge was probably getting the script right, and getting the finance in place.

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

Nicola: Chuffed. As all the detail we worked hard on, had the right range of effects on the audience.

Marnie: Seeing that people really understood all the nuances of what we’d tried to create was actually quite moving! So encouraging – especially at this time when creating work is even more challenging than ever.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Nicola: As mentioned, Marnie had the idea based on a real life experince she had of leaving her kids with a stranger on the beach.

Marnie: As above.

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

Nicola: Several – The Color Purple. Empire of the Sun. Schindler’s List. The Piano. Bridesmaids.

Marnie: The Philadelphia Story.

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

Nicola: Great, very organised. Easy to use.

Marnie: I second that – it’s a great resource.

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

Nicola: Hard to answer, as life has gone on. Bob Marleys one love.

Marnie: Oooh. Good choice Nicky.. I think I’d have to go for Stevie Wonder’s Misstra Know-it-All.

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

Nicola: A claustrophobic drama /thriller feature length idea i’m currently writing and TV series idea.

Marnie: I’m working on my second short film, which has been written for me by Matthew Hurt, called ‘Hello, Muscles’. It is a female empowerment piece, challenging the bias we hold in society towards girls and women, and exploring what it means to be strong, especially when you have to care for someone you love. It’s beautifully written, with a really encouraging message, reminding us never to underestimate the strength of girls. Watch this space..!

Interview with Filmmaker Nora Jaenicke (PROOF)

PROOF played to rave reviews at the May 2020 Female Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nora Jaenicke: The film is, in part, biographical. In order to receive my American Green Card I had to go through a series of very intrusive interviews. Because there were some bureaucratical issues with the processing of my papers, I wasn’t allowed back home for over three years, which was very disorienting. Not being able to be there when my grandfather passed away, being forced to choose between the US and Europe, when really, I felt at home in both continents, was a nerve wracking experience. Of course, what I have been through is not comparable to what other immigrants are going through, but I still felt the need to tell a story about immigration and about how harsh these interviews at the border can be. Given the time period that we live in today, the theme remains relevant, and I felt that the script would make for a film that resonates with a lot of people. I lived in New York City for a long time. Many of my friends there had to go through similar issues in order to receive their visas or greencards. Many of them also call more than one country their “Home” and they fell in love in a city which is accepting of people from all over the world – A big melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. When I started pitching my short film idea to these friends, many started to pour their hearts out, sharing their own experiences. I started to think about all the hearts that get crushed at the border on a daily basis and I realized how relevant this film could be.

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

I normally carry an idea around for a while before I start writing the screenplay. Proof is not an exception. I would say that it took me about a year to finally write the script, mostly because I was busy working and making another short before that. Once I finished the script, I sent it to my Producers Richard Stein and Darren Cole, and they loved the idea and said that they were on board in getting the short made. It didn’t take us long to find the perfect cast. Preeti Gupta did a fantastic job playing Iman, Jacopo Rampini was the perfect fit for the part of Evan, and I would work with him on each and every one of my films. He is a great actor! Robert L.Wilson flew to New York City all the way from Los Angeles to play the Border Officer and his performance is one that the audience always praises, after seeing the short. In no time, we gathered a wonderful team. Last but not least, I wanted to thank my Director of Photography Jakob Cretuzburg with whom I work on almost every film I make. His talent took the story to a whole new level, and the look of the film is definitely one of its most distinguishing qualities (I think.) At the end we were extremely lucky to have found our Main Executive Producer Sonny Chatrath to support our short film. Thanks to him we were able to pay for Post Production and ship the short to festivals.

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

Love and Borders

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

The obstacle is almost always financial, when it comes to my projects. It’s hard to find funding for a short film, especially when the monetary return is not guaranteed.

When it comes to Proof, we had no idea that it would end up costing so much money. There were unexpected costs, which caused the budget to sky rocket, which is why we couldn’t start with post production right away. It takes a lot of patience to get an indie film off the ground, but eventually you get the knack of it and you can’t not do it. Once a shoot is over, you are there thinking of a new story… craving to be back on set. It’s like being a kid and wanting to play in the sandbox. Really, it’s about dreaming and making those dreams a reality. It’s a fascinating process. The moment that a script becomes an actual film and your words are spoken by the actors… there is nothing like it.

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

I was reminded of why I tell stories. To touch people’s hearts. To reach someone on a deep level and leave an impact.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I always wanted to tell this story by showing the protagonist (Iman) being interviewed, as we see glimpses from her past in the shape of flashbacks. These glimpses are supposed to show us the kind of relationship she had with Evan. How he proposed to her, how they met etc… First this was the very simple core of the idea which provided the basic structure for the story. Later on, I decided to heighten the stakes of the story by creating more conflict between the cultures that Evan and Iman belong to. In the new version of the screenplay the conflict wasn’t just personal/political and the goal of the young couple wasn’t just to convince the Border Officer that they were, in fact, marrying “for love.” The story became more layered and the ending more unexpected. Now there was a big cultural conflict that this young couple had to face. I always pictured them entering their marriage naively and unaware of the consequences of their actions. By juxtaposing the poetic flashbacks to the stark atmosphere in the interrogation room, I wanted to transport the audience into this conflict. Iman and Evan’s natural and spontaneous feelings for one another which had sparked their love to begin with, and then the complications of the green card process and the big difference between their native cultures which ends up being a “border” that’s just as difficult to surpass as the interview with the officer.

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

Lolita by Adrian Lyne is my favorite film. That one and Volver by Almodovar and Rainman… And Thelma and Louise. Oh wait, you said one 🙂

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

I enjoy it! It’s easy to navigate and makes finding the right festival easy. For Proof we eventually found a Distributor though… They are called Aug Ohr Medien and they are based out of Berlin.

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

mmm… Right now I like Nigerian Music a lot.

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

Yes! I can’t wait to make my first feature film. I have two in “the pipeline” right now. The feature version of a short I made a long time ago which deals with family secrets and childhood trauma and another one which is along the lines of a psychological thriller about an older woman in her 70s falling in love with a much younger woman.

It received great reviews at the Slamdance Screenplay competition and we have a fantastic actress (whose name I can’t reveal yet) who might be interested in playing the lead. I am excited and I am staying positive about the future!

Interview with Filmmaker Marina Ziolkowski (19)

19 was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2020 Female Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marina Ziolkowski: I wanted to talk about how psychological violence can lead to physical violence

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

It took 6 months and I was 8 months pregnant when we shot!

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

Powerfull, uncomfortable

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

Finding amazing actors

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

Happy, grateful, touched, moved, relieved

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Talking all night with my producer

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

Some like it hot

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

Great


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

The Beatles I think ! One song is just impossible!

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

Yes a new short film, a comedy this time! Before starting my feature!

Interview with Filmmaker Sandy Parker (ALIENATED)

ALIENATED played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Female Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sandy Parker: I was getting the feeling that some festivals mainly wanted stories about young people getting molested. A moderator at a pitch session I attended said, “These are the stories that need to be told,” and I thought to myself, “Oh no, not again.” I know there’s a lot of evil in the world, and it needs to be called out. But frankly, I also think you can have a very compelling story without someone having to get molested, and in a way, I feel like there’s an element of rubber-necking involved in using that kind of shock value, and that it’s almost a cheap shot. In fact, I think the real challenge would be to write a truly riveting story involving a couple of elderly shut-ins. But anyway, I was feeling annoyed, so I thought to myself, if you guys want a molestation, I’ll give you a molestation: Alien Molestation! That was my original title! I sat down and wrote the first version of the script in about an hour just to get it out of my system. So basically, I wrote this script out of frustration.

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

After I wrote the script, I set it aside. And two week after I wrote it, Trump was elected, and I thought, oh no, I can’t do anything with this script because it will look like a political commentary on fascism. A year later, I was invited to enter a short script contest, and I figured enough time had gone by since the election that I could enter this script and it wouldn’t appear to have such a strong political overtone. At the end of January 2018, I learned that my script had won the contest, and the prize was having my film produced! I was given a $5,000 budget, and was able to raise another $2,000 through word of mouth. Casting was held in mid-April, costume fittings and rehearsals were in the first week of June, and we filmed for two days, on June 8th and 9th. Editing began about a week after that, and we brought our sound designer into the process in mid-July. Around that time, we also began working on our poster, music, end credits, and our title card, which was pulled from the poster. Our goal was to finish in time to enter the New Orleans Film Festival, which ended up being our premiere screening.

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

Twilight Zone-esque

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

Our biggest challenge was the alien masks! We knew we would need to augment whatever masks we got with special effects makeup, and we
already had a very talented special effects makeup artist on our team. We were originally looking at an $800 prosthetic mask. My producer told me we could only afford to buy one of them, which would mean having to rewrite the script so that we never saw more than one alien in any given shot. I decided to check out the offerings at an online costume shop, and saw rubber masks that had the kind of alien face I’d been envisioning, and they were only $38 each. I ordered three of them, and when they arrived, I couldn’t believe I ever considered the $800 ones! But then I put one on and was immediately so hot and uncomfortable in my air-conditioned living room, I was just about ready to slit my wrists. I’m glad I had that experience, because it made me aware of what I was asking of my alien actors. On the day of the shoot, we were able to keep them in an air conditioned building right up until the moment we were ready to film them. The poor guys had to wear their masks for several hours straight, and they could barely breath or see. They were real troopers!

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

I was amazed. I didn’t expect feedback from so many people, and I didn’t expect it to be presented as a video. Honestly, it made me feel like a rock star! I hadn’t expected to get such positive feedback!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

There was this movie, The UFO Incident, starring James Earl Jones, that aired on TV when I was a kid. I was just kind of hanging out in the same room while my mom was watching it, and I got sucked into watching it, too. It was actually pretty frightening, at least for a child. It told the story of Barney and Betty Hill, a couple who claimed, in the sixties, that they had been abducted by aliens while driving on a highway at night. They had no memory of it, but they knew there was a period of several hours that they couldn’t account for. Betty was having strange dreams, so they went to a psychiatrist, who recorded his interviews with them while they were under hypnosis. I was scared on road trips for years after that. Anytime we were driving home at night from visiting grandma, I was sitting in the back seat, looking up at the stars, and hoping to God the aliens weren’t going to come get us.

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

I think maybe Silence of the Lambs – but mostly the second half! This isn’t something I plan. Now and then I’ll discover that it’s on TV, or once I even walked by a public outdoor screening. I always come along when it’s right in the middle, and I just cannot tear myself away. The way the story plays out and wraps up, with our heroine really gathering her courage and defeating the bad guy, is just so delicious.

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

Honestly, the whole submission process can be so tedious, I rarely enter any festival that doesn’t use FilmFreeway. I love having everything set up on my profile so that all I have to do is make my selection and click “submit.” Even then, there are the tasks of sending in the files if my film gets in, and making an announcement on social media, and occasionally sending an email to cast and crew with all the latest news. I don’t have a PR person, so I have to be a self-starter and do it all myself. I appreciate anything that makes the process a little easier.

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

What an interesting question! I don’t think anyone has ever asked me this. I’m sure there are several that are way up there, and if you think about it, the songs I know from childhood have had more time to be repeated over the course of my lifetime, right? But I’m gonna say it’s the song Frank Sinatra by the band Cake. I used to play it over and over on a cassette tape in my car, back in the nineties. There’s something fascinating and beautiful in the lyrics.

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

I’m writing a feature-length script, or actually several, but this one is a coming of age story set in 1950’s New Orleans about a 13-year-old Italian-American boy named Dué. Dué hangs out every day after school at a camp that he and his friends built in the swamp. Dué is trying to find a priest outside his parish to whom he can anonymously confess his crush on a nun, which he knows is a pretty big sin, but when he discovers the body of his own murdered priest, his granddad has to protect him from the killer, who has now gone after Dué. It’s actually an adaptation of a novel written by a local New Orleans author, and it’s a really sweet story with a lot of humor. I’m hoping to direct it myself, once it’s safe to work on a movie set again.

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Interview with Filmmaker Deanna Director (Millennials Throughout History: A Titanic Following )

Millennials Throughout History: A Titanic Following played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Female Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Deanna Director: I’m a comedy writer & producer in pursuit of landing a late night TV writing job, so I’m always plotting different ways to have my work stand out in a pile of writing packets. I kept hearing that you have to make the thing you want to make in order to get the job you want to have. So I made the dang thing. The concept felt like a fresh mix of satire + pop culture + history that might be appealing to Comedy Central or the SNL/late night circuit. Also, I’m a HUGE fan of the film Titanic, so this has truly been a dream project. 12 year old me is overjoyed.

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

I wrote this sketch in my UCB 401 Sketch class and executed it 4 months later. The whole process took around 6 months total from conception to finish. I wasn’t happy with the final edit, so two months ago I hired a new comedy editor who specialized in movie trailers to re-imagine it as a trailer. I am so much happier with this edit. The jokes hit harder, the VO is killer, and I can really visualize it as a repeatable series now.

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

Influencing history.

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

Shooting aboard The Queen Mary was a bit of a challenge because it’s a historical landmark, so there are rules and regulations we had to adhere to. Thankfully they were willing to work with us and gave us permission to remove some modern day signs and appliances that weren’t of the time. I wanted everything to be 1912 except for our 2020 Influencer. This meant hiding TVs and phones in the suite and little things here and there to make it as believable as possible. Also, the budget was a big personal obstacle! This film was 100% self-funded by me. It was a big financial decision, and I’m still paying for it, but I have zero regrets. There’s nothing like seeing your idea come to life.

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

I was so taken aback by the thoughtfulness of their responses. Each person had something kind and helpful to say and I am very grateful to them for taking the time to do this. It really made my day (let’s be honest, it made my whole quarantine month).

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

My friend Max (the Influencer) is an Influencer in real-life, so I’ve been trying to think of a vehicle for him where he could be himself, and make fun of himself too. Luckily he’s a good sport and played along. We’ve been friends since high school so it was awesome getting to work with him on this. I wrote it for a UCB sketch comedy class and the teacher pulled me aside and told me I should consider shooting it because he hadn’t seen this kind of idea executed yet. When I told him I wasn’t James Cameron, he told me about The Queen Mary ship in Long Beach. The following day I began plotting how to make this a reality.

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

The Jerk, Dumb and Dumber, and Titanic, obviously.

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

This is my first time submitting anywhere and so far it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Feels like I am part of a community now that gets my weird humor and supports me for it too!

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

Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra

10. What is next for you? A new film?
This week is the anniversary of the Titanic sinking (April 15th), so I’m doing one final press push for this short film. Then I’ll be working on the next film! I have a few ideas in line and can’t wait to get started.

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Interview with Filmmaker Larissa Pruett (BED-HEADLINES)

BED-HEADLINES played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Female Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

My roommate, Bianca motivated me to make this film. She may have found herself in many a mornings in which she’s caught up in her mind and news and thoughts and news and it all comes crashing down at about 2 p.m.

That and another film contest where the opening line of dialogue was ‘try hard, none of it matters’ and Bianca and I always try to apply to these contests because they push us to complete a film in a short amount of time.

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

I believe about 2/3 weeks.

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

Bad News

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

Deadlines. Always the deadlines. And Color correction. Something I decided to try and learn on THAT project alone with a deadline in the middle of the night with glazed over eyes.

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

Nervous. My stomach clenched to brace the impact of maybe some notes on my shortcomings of this film. Maybe people wouldn’t like the silly tag on I put in last minute because we were laughing so hard on set with the idea of it. Maybe people wouldn’t like my slow burn beginning. The not so consistent color correction etc. However once I felt people enjoying it it made me cry with relief of what work my team put in it and just joy of receiving some good news (since it’s been a while to read/see any)

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve enjoyed using some classical songs to edit to recently I just did a short film ‘moonlight sonata big deal’ where couples fight over very mundane shit. I had so much fun I looked up some of my favorite classical songs and daydreamed as I listened. I saw a girl reading too much news for the 4 seasons and remembered taking to Bianca about how she should maybe stop reading so much news and put the two together.

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

Young Frankenstein

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

I love film freeway, it’s my favorite platform for submitting films. It asks and gives everything you need, tells you what festivals you’ve submitted to and makes you write/do all the small things we forget like log lines, bios and movie posters.

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

Love on the brain, Rihanna

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

I’m working on a series where I have a male actor (Grayson Low) read very seriously my overly dramatic diary entries I wrote when I was 11 years old. These have been a BLAST to shoot and edit. They are simple, fun and hilarious to me. I also like to give my 11 year old self some writing credit finally. She worked so hard on those ridiculous diary entries.