Interview with Filmmaker Yangfang (Frances) Chen (NINA SAIZA)

NINA SAIZA played to rave reviews at the October 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Yangfang (Frances) Chen: I remember how confused I was when I first encountered the dark side of the world after I became a teenager, so I always want to make a short film to illustrate my feelings of becoming “mature”. This short film is about innocence, violence, and perception. People are more complicated than they appear and they’re not good or bad. They’re just people.

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

It took about half month to make this short film.

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

Complicated
People.

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

The biggest obstacle I faced was filming the abuse scene. It was difficult because I have never actually seen someone abused, so I worked with all of my actors to build a mood and choreographed violence in order to build up the scene that made it into the final cut of the film.

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

My initial reaction was happy. I was glad that my 6-minute short film made my audience have such strong emotional reaction, and they all understood what I am trying to say in this story.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I always want to make a short film about teenagers’ confusion over the world. When I was a little kid, I did not undertand adults at all. The piano teacher in the story is responsible to teach the girl to play piano but ends up teaching her a life lesson about adulthood. I thought it would be interesting to use teacher/student dynamic to show the complexity of humans and the loss of innocence.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I like drama movies. Dog Day Afternoon is the film I have seen the most in my life.

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

I really like FilmFreeway. I think it makes the submission process easier for filmmakers to submit their work to festivals.

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

Imagine Dragons’s Believer. I love Imagine Dragons.

What is next for you? A new film?

I am currently studying at a film school. I will be involved in short film productions possibly next year. This year, I want to mainly focus on my education.

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Interview with Filmmaker Yalan Hu (DOLL IT UP)

DOLL IT UP played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Yalan Hu: Doll It Up was one of the projects I directed when I was in film school. I’m always fascinated by human relations, especially what people become in romantic relationships. The need to possess, conquer and destroy is what I like to discuss. The dolls in the film symbolize how a large population of women have been treated in unhealthy relationships, where they were seen as properties, don’t have a voice in the house. Of course, this problem goes both ways, but to this day, on a global scale, women still haven’t been given the same account of respect as their male partners. Victimizing women is not the message for this film, objectification of one’s partner is.

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

It was a 5-page script, from version one to final version 12 it took me about three months to finalize, on and off. I had one full week for pre-production and two days to shoot. Post-production took about 10 days.

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

Realistic, poignant.

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

The search for the perfect lead actor and “actresses”, the dolls, was pretty challenging, but the biggest obstacle was coming up with a shooting plan to fit in the extremely tight schedule. As simple as this film may look, it had about 10 light builds which was very difficult to implement in two days for a crew consisted of film students, some of which had only one year of experience in filmmaking. Thus, as a director, I didn’t have the luxury to try multiple coverage for my scenes, but had to really calculate the exact and most needed shots and stick to them.

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

My heart was beating so fast even before I hit play. I was nervous about how the audience would interpret it, whether they had doubts about the world I created. Amazingly, their comments were exactly what I try to say with this film, – about isolation, objectification of your partner, and how instant modern relationships are. It was truly rewarding to see my film connect with people from different parts of the world, which is exactly the reason I chose to become a writer/director.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The story idea of Doll It Up came to me when I was taking a shower one day. I live by myself, the isolation of urban dwellers got me thinking, would human beings develop companionships with non-living objects? Would it be perfect, or as problematic as normal human relations? Ultimately, it transforms to a satire about relationship issues between the two sexes.

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

La Grande Vadrouille (1966)

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

I found it user friendly, very easy to navigate.

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

Hotel California

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

In the past August, I finished another short film, A Separation, as writer and director. It’s a 15-minute short drama about a Chinese couple in the 90s reunited in the states after a four-year separation, only to find their marriage going through a dramatic change. Meanwhile, another drama short I wrote and directed, produced in Sri Lanka, is in post-production. Both films will be entering festivals this year. Right now, I’m producing a documentary in Florida, U.S., while writing my first feature script on off days.

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Interview with Filmmaker Nesli ERGÜN (KOYUN)

KOYUN played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nesli ERGÜN: It seems a fair share of moral confusion is pervading the world today about women who wear the Islamic head scarf. This confusion is no accident. It’s easy to get away with oppressing women if the general public, and even women underneath the veil, can’t rally behind a unifying consensus that compulsory veiling is wrong. George Orwell said once that the prime responsibility lay in being able to tell people what they did not wish to hear.

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

About 4 months.

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

Critical, Unashamed

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

Whether or not to put my name on it.

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

I was deeply moved. I have never seen anyone (apart from my friends and family) react to my work before. I have not shown this film in Turkey. This film was not selected to be screened in the festivals where I thought it would be most relevant (the Islamic world). I honestly had no idea what people actually thought about what I made before watching the clip you sent. This exchange, what we are doing here in this moment, is maybe the most powerful engagement a filmmaker could ask for. A festival centered on the idea of giving and receiving feedback allows filmmakers to reflect in ways most standard interactions fall short from allowing. As a result, FEEDBACK Female Film Festival is the most valuable festival I have ever had the honor to be a part of.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I don’t know. I’m never good at remembering these things. The only thing I do remember is that I drew the thumbnail storyboard on my dining room table in about 15 minutes.

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

I don’t think I watch films over and over again so I think I’m going to skip this question 🙂

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

If an interaction like the one I’ve been talking about with you guys is possible, then I’ve got to love the platform that made it possible for me to meet you in the first place, right?

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

I sure did listen to Color Him Country by Linda Martell a whole lot.

Also Lhasa, Slowdive, Nina Simone – I mean there are so many to list.

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

I’m building a community center in Istanbul. I want to make a positive impact on the trajectory of the Turkish nation-state by injecting a spirit of hope and wonder in a traumatized, undervalued, economically depressed & culturally polarized population. By creating value in gatherings outside of religious, governmental & educational institutions, I want to enable a much needed critical look at our Turkish experience as community members. Filmmaking will very much be a part of this center. In other words, I’ve just begun.

Interview with Filmmakers Lucy Joan Barnes & Ali Causon (FOR WANT OF A NAIL)

FOR WANT OF A NAIL played to rave reviews at the April 2019 Female Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lucy (director): The script and it’s message, it was not trying to “sugarcoat” what having OCD is really like.. it was showing how intense it can be for the person who suffers from it.

Ali (producer): Although I was not looking for a script that specifically focused on mental health, after reading FWOAN just a couple of times, it felt like a natural follow up to my previous short about PTSD.

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

Lucy: I believe it was about a year…

Ali: Writer Nick and I had been working together for a few months before mainly to find a director we wanted to work with. Lucy, Nick and I then ran a development workshop with volunteers from OCD Action and Actors to learn more about the condition.

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

Lucy: Frank and Eye Opening

Ali: Honest

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

Lucy:Finding Marty and a shower to film in 🙂

Ali:Definitely finding a shower! Our Actor Clark is quite tall

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

Lucy: I may not have agreed with all the feedback, but I can see where people came from, I learnt a lot , I will take on what has been said and it use it to evolve as a director

Ali: Excited! We had some really interesting feedback and although not everyone enjoyed the film, it certainly had them talking! For me that is the best result, the only way to raise awareness for mental health conditions, like OCD, is to talk about it. ‘For Want Of A Nail’ has been lucky enough to have full support and endorsement from OCD Action, the charity were very much involved in production from development to final film. It has always been important to me to show an honest portrayal of OCD.

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

Lucy: Nick had already written the script but the idea of adding animation was the first thing that came to mind when I read it..

Ali: Nick, our writer, suffers with OCD. He was inspired to write the script as a cathartic experience to try and get to grips with his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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

Lucy: Old Boy

Ali: Star Wars!

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

Lucy: I think it’s great

Ali: Very user friendly system.

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

Lucy: Oh that’s a hard one.. probably Bohemian Rhapsody

Ali: Same as Lu!

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

Lucy: I’m adapting a Shakespeare for a modern audience looking at the mental health of the character and hopefully get people to connect with Shakespeare more

Ali: I’m in the process of pitching the ‘For Want Of A Nail’ TV series and have just completed post for a feature film called ‘The Hidden Track’ which is due for release later this year.

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Interview with Filmmaker Annabelle Frost (G(R)O(W)ING UP)

G(R)O(W)ING UP was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the April 2019 Female Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Annabelle Frost: My boss at the time encouraged me to make a film as he knew I had professional directing aspirations.

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

I started seriously writing this version of the short (there were others!) in December of 2015. We shot it in June of 2016. I finally finished post, with music coming in last, in September of 2017. So a little less than 2 years total.

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

Romantic & visual

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

Probably money. We spent a lot more than I would’ve liked b/c we had to a have a fire safety officer with us all 3 days and yet there was no ‘short film’ break on that. We had to pay what a full budget Hollywood film would’ve paid. Our location wasn’t cheap either BUT I believe it was worth it because it looked so strong on film it gave the piece a rich, visual unity.

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

My initial reaction was: grateful. It’s so hard to get honest reviews of your work and because you are so close to it as the artist you can’t really ever get a good, objective perspective on it yourself. It’s invaluable to hear what someone, who’s just watching it in a theater without having read the script or participated in the shoot, has to say about their experience viewing it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had been kicking around a split screen idea that would track a relationship from beginning to end. I needed to keep the story simple because the structure was going to be complex. Ultimately, the structure was TOO complex to work as a 10 minute short film so I ended up writing this version that tracks a relationship as it goes up and down with a bit of structural complexity but not as much as I was originally going for.

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

Young Sherlock Holmes.

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

Worked great! No issues at all.

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

It’s got to be a tie between Sting’s “Be Still My Beating Heart” and Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain”.

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

I directed an episode of Gotham last season. Hoping to direct more episodes of television soon!

Interview with Filmmaker Roisin Kearney (THE FAMILY WAY)

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

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

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

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

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

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

Heart v Head

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

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

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

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

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

While doing a course with Mary Kate O Flanagan.

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Bush Withering Heights


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

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

I am also looking at making my first feature film. 

 

 

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Interview with Screenwriter Tali Zingman (HEADSTRONG)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

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

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy, drama, psychological piece

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

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

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

Self-love story (Hyphens count, right?)

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

Nightmare Before Christmas.

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

Two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Over 30.

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

Lately, it’s been “Nobody” by Mitski.

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

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

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

Nothing…except caramel frappuccinos and my dog.

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

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

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

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

 Watch the Screenplay Reading:

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

CAST LIST:

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

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