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.

alienated_movie_poster

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.

millenials_throughout_history_movie_poster

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.

Interview with Filmmaker Karisa Bruin (LABOR RELATIONS)

LABOR RELATIONS was the winner of BEST COMEDY FILM at the April 2020 Female Feedback Film Festival.

Submit via FilmFreeway:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Karisa Bruin: I am a mother to two young boys and my desire to balance parenting and working has been at times a real struggle. I was also inspired by a pair of articles in CNN a couple years ago called TV Writers Rooms Have a Mother Of A Problem which detailed that many women in Hollywood and the film industry actually hide the fact that they are mothers/have children in order to advance in their careers. Plus, there’s no standardized maternity leave in the US, so many women have to just go right back to work after having a baby as if they didn’t have a baby at all.

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

About a year.

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

Working Motherhood

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

The edit took a lot longer than I was hoping.

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

I loved it! I’m so glad that certain things were picked up on – the idea that other women are complicit, that it’s a don’t-ask, don’t-tell situation in the workplace, and that people found it was funny.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I just thought about how absurd it is that we are expected to get back to work without any maternity leave in our country and what if we shortened that time frame from a couple weeks or a few days to literally NO time.

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

Little Miss Sunshine

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

It seems pretty efficient and easy to use.

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

Oh wow…I really love the song No Children by The Mountain Goats (unrelated to my feelings about actually having children. lol).

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

Yes! I’m currently in post-production on a short film called kill cat Oakland.

labor_relations_1

Interview with Filmmaker Katherine Castellaw (CIGARETTE LIPS)

CIGARETTE LIPS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2020 Female Film Festival.

A Film Freeway Preferred Festival:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Katherine Castellaw: I had an acting coach years ago who was encouraging us to write our own scenes, and as an example he said something along the lines of, “it could simply be two people sitting at a table, having a conversation”. Immediately, the image of two women sitting across from each other, smoking cigarettes, popped into my head. The image kept coming back to me throughout the years, and every time it came to mind, I could never really make out the faces, just the lips. So, it started from a visual. When I finally sat down to write it, the dialogue just came to me. I didn’t really know what I was going to write until it was done. It was a really cool experience.

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

The idea came to me about eight years ago. It took me around an hour or so to write once I actually sat down. This was my first film, so the process of building the confidence to even go for it, took me a while. Pre-production to final product took about eight months. We shot it in one day. There are so many logistics involved aside from the actual shoot, and I was definitely learning as I went.

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

Dreamy, noir.

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

Honestly, myself. There are so many ways to self-sabotage as an artist for fear of being rejected or judged. Getting started is the hardest part, but once we were on a roll, the confidence was built through the process. It became thrilling. Now I’m ready to do it again!

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

I was pleasantly surprised to hear all of the positive feedback. It felt really validating to hear people say such kind things. It boosted my confidence and made me even more excited to do another one!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came from a visual that had been stuck in my head for years. I titled the film Cigarette Lips before it was even written. It is funny because when I wrote it, I wasn’t really sure what it was about until I finished. That’s when it became fun because I could finally specify my vision for the film from start to finish with a clear intention.

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

That’s a hard question. Three of my favorite films are True Romance, Kill Bill vol. 1, and The Apartment.

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

I really like FilmFreeway. They make it very easy to use and are always keeping people up to date on different festivals to submit to.


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

I don’t even know how to begin answering that question. I listen to music based off my mood, but I am definitely a sucker for a song with good lyrics. That is usually the thing I focus on.

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

Yes, definitely. Once this pandemic is over, I’d like to shoot another short that I wrote a while ago. I am also an actress, so that is a big part of what I’m doing as well. I may even try acting and directing!

cigarette_lips_2

Interview with Filmmaker Suyoung Jang (SHATTERED)

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

A Film Freeway Preferred Festival:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Suyoung Jang: Before I started to study computer animation at Ringling College of Art+Design, I had studied History at Ewha Womans University in South Korea, one of the oldest universities and the first women’s university in Korea. Studying and living in all female environment was unique experience in my life. There were so many talented women, but as soon as they had graduated school, they started to struggle only because of their gender. Lots of companies in South Korea rejected my friends’ application. We needed to put our photo and clarify our gender on resume, and it was not illegal at that point in Korea. Same as US, Korean society educated girls “your right is as important as man”, but right after we get out of the boundary of education, we are discriminated by our gender. And usually, people who help women in social, financial, or physical danger are women. I can’t even count how many direct and indirect experience women stood up together for each other. When I visited Europe, and studied in US, I realized my experience as a woman is not that different from other countries’ people’s life. It happens through the history. No matter how old they are, no matter where they live, we all females share similar experience. And the time comes to decide what I want to make for my thesis film at Ringling, I knew what I should make. That’s how Shattered came out.

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

Three semesters total, so one and half year.

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

Women Power

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

Making film as a single person team was the most challenging part of the production. Which means I couldn’t divide my work load unlike other people. From the idea generation to time management, every single part of pipeline depended on myself. It was a very lonely journey.

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

It was empowering. I was really happy to know my message was delivered. There are already bunch of good comments on my film on Youtube, but at the same time, some comments are really bad. Some people call my film as “FemiNazzi’s propaganda”. It didn’t hurt my feeling or confident at all, but I was frustrated because of the possibility of misreading or misinterpretation of my message. But watching audience’s facial expression and hearing voice was super powerful experience, and even I’ve never met the people in the video face to face, I felt strong connection with them. And the video, proof of my supporter’s existence, makes me relived and makes me stronger than before.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Film:

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

I wished my film as abstract as possible. The more abstract the character, the more people identify with the character. Even though the seed of story was came from East Asia, but I believe it can be a universal story for all female. It would be more abstract if my material was traditional animation, but since the program I was in was Computer Animation, that was not an option for the thesis film. And according to the reviews, I guess I was right J.

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

I watch Disney’s Mulan and 101 Dalmatians over and over again.

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

It’s very approachable, and easy to track of.

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

“You raise me up” and “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked.

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

For a while, I want to focus on my career as an animator. And someday, when I get enough resource – human resource, financial resource, and more idea for new story -, then I will come back to film again J

Interview with Filmmaker Gretl Claggett (STORMCHASER)

 STORMCHASER swept the awards at the February 2020 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto. Winner of BEST FILM. BEST PERFORMANCES. BEST CINEMATROGRAPHY

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

“He’s a door-to-door ‘door’ salesman,” my friend said.

“A what…?” I thought I’d misheard what her new boyfriend did for a living.

“He lost his job. Now, he sells storm doors, door-to-door.

Our exchange conjured black-and-white images from the Maysles’ documentary, Salesman, about door-to-door bible peddlers in the ‘60s. Surely, this daily grind was a thing of the past. But as I did some digging, I discovered it still exists; and that many contractors targeting weather-torn areas this way are called “storm chasers” — instead of “ambulance chasers” — because of their predatory practices.

This triggered a deep compulsion in me to express my own sardonic commentary on what I’d experienced growing up in small-town Tornado Alley, plus selling incentives as the lone woman in an old-boys’ club: America’s culture of greed, its celebration of bad behavior, and the rise of “disaster capitalism” which preys upon the most vulnerable suffering from man-made and natural catastrophes.

All that eventually gave birth to Bonnie Blue, a down-on-her-luck storm chaser turned naive, door-to-door huckster of roofing, siding and storm doors.

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

The idea for STORMCHASER first started as a poem.

One night, while on a scholarship at Squaw Valley Writer’s Conference — where one must produce a poem a day — I wrote “Storm Secrets,” a lyrical narrative featuring a down-on-his luck salesman, Don Stuckey. I remember laughing and gasping as the poem gushed onto the page, taking me by surprise — a blend of my experiences in sales plus fantasy, as well as sardonic social commentary. I thought I’d said my piece. But even after “Storm Secrets” appeared in my poetry collection, MONSOON SOLO: Voices Once Submerged (WordTech Editions, 2012), something about Don and the storyline kept nagging me.

After finishing my first short film, Happy Hour — also based on one of my poems, narrated by Julianne Moore — which explores the memories and complexities of child sexual abuse, frequently and mistakenly deemed a woman’s issue, I wanted to delve into something completely different. Don was still there, knocking on my door. So, I started the screenplay in 2014, while juggling multiple creative projects and working full-time as a Senior Creative Director.

The first drafts focused on Don Stuckey as the unlucky salesman with a latent passion for storm chasing. Bonnie Blue — now the film’s anti-heroine — played a supporting role as Don’s love interest and the secretary of their tyrannical boss, Flip Smyth. The script placed as a finalist and won honorable mentions in several screenwriting contests but called out for something more. Always open to improving projects, when a friend suggested a major rewrite — turn the chaser into a door-to-door ‘door’ saleswoman — I took the challenge.

To start, I simply switched Don and Bonnie’s names, then re-read the script with fresh eyes to see what I could leave the same and what had to change. This made me acutely aware of my own biases about gender roles in the bedroom and boardroom — spurring me to make more conscious, authentic and quirky choices throughout the significant revision process. Ultimately, this intense script-work reaped a unique, complex female protagonist, plus two memorable male leads — with developed arcs — in a taut, timely short screenplay that aims to pack the punch of a feature.

After working on the screenplay on-and-off for about 4 years, I felt the story was strong enough to head into production. That said, even on location while filming and in post-production, I was still doing some rewrites…

How would you describe your short film in two words?

That’s tough. Not sure I can do it in just two words. Hm, maybe… “Metaphoric Storms” or “Disaster Capitalism” or even “Kali Rising.”

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

Financing the film. This is usually the biggest obstacles for indie filmmakers — made even tougher if producing a short-form project that generally won’t reap any returns on investment.

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

It was informative, inspiring and humbling to hear comments and feelings about the film from a totally objective audience. I was thrilled that both women and men enjoyed the tone and humor of the film, expressing specific personal connections to various characters, while also acknowledging the larger socio-political commentary that’s intentionally embedded in the story. This kind of feedback is invaluable.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

What film have you seen the most in your life?

When I was growing up, my father collected 16mm films which he projected onto a large folding screen in a makeshift “theater” in our house — first, in our living room, then later, upstairs in a spare room, where he built a small projection booth and installed a row of old theater seats from a cinema that was torn down in our town. Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator is a film I’ve seen countless times — it was one of my father’s favorite films and is among my favorites.

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

I think FilmFreeway is a great platform. But it’s tricky sometimes knowing which festivals — beyond the major ones — are truly worth submitting to because the costs add up quickly, and things aren’t always what they seem to be. As an indie creator/filmmaker, it’s important to do research and be smart about developing a festival strategy. More and more, I go with my gut, and really feel into the energy and intention of any given festival. I was impressed by the mission behind the Toronto FEEDBACK Film Festival, and that’s why I submitted.

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

Hm, not sure about that. It’s probably a classic Prince song, but not sure which one!

What is next for you? A new film?

This January, I directed 3 episodes of Chronicles of a BLEEP Year Old Woman, a comedic indie digital series; we’re currently in post-production on that project. I’m also delving back into writing a memoir project, plus developing a feature-length and a long-form narrative project.

stormchaser_movie_poster