Interview with Filmmaker Erika Kramer (SHE’S MARRYING STEVE)

SHE’S MARRYING STEVE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES & MUSIC at the February 2019 LGBT Film Festival in February.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Erika Kramer: I’ve always wanted to make films that shine light on lesbian characters and on the lesbian experience – I feel that visibility in film/tv is one of the most important methods for progress and acceptance. For this film specifically, I was processing a breakup and trying to understand if I could remain friends with my ex or not. I wanted to explore the larger question of if you can stay friends after a breakup and if being queer adds any complexity to that.

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

I wrote the script very quickly. Then spent a good amount of time cleaning it up and getting smart editors to take a look at it for me. The pre-production was a few weeks then we shot over 5 days – 4 in Connecticut and 1 half day in New York City. I started editing right away and finished that within a few weeks. It was a quick rush to get it out into the world!

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

It’s about love and relationships and how we earn closure on relationships. It’s also about understanding that the world isn’t black and white – there’s a lot that’s gray!

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

Filmmaking is a constant challenge – there’s never enough time, money, people, etc. I think the hardest thing for me, as a first-time director, was remaining confident and in control. I think I did a great job of this, but it was a new experience and it takes a special level of faith in yourself to run a crew. I’m eager to do it again though, so it can’t have been all that tough! 🙂

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

It’s terrifying and humbling and exciting. I just want as many people to see the film as possible. To hear that people not only watched it but were invested in the story and had smart and enthusiastic responses was sooo rewarding. I’m very grateful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I broke up with my first serious girlfriend and it felt like everyone i knew was settling down and getting married. I really just wanted to explore those feelings and that specific time in life.

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

Such a tough question! There are soooo many. I love Sarah Polley’s work – Take this Waltz is an incredible film. As is Stories We Tell. I might have to say Clueless. Amy Heckerling is a genius and that was such a formative film. That’s a nearly perfect film!

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

FilmFreeway is wonderful!

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

I think Sound & Color by the Alabama Shakes – It’s a perfect album and the song’s beautiful.

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

Working on a feature film! In the writing phase now. Hope to be back at the festival soon 😀 

 

 

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Interview with Filmmaker Michael Davis (HINDSIGHT)

HINDSIGHT was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2019 ROMANCE Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michael Davis: What motivated me was getting the opportunity to tell a story that plays backward. I also thought it was a really interesting character study on people and relationships. It seemed like a unique and exciting challenge. I had never done anything like it before, and I hadn’t seen many things like it.

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

It was a long process from when the idea first came up to its completion.
I pitched this idea to my film school, but it was rejected. Several months passed and after my production team wrapped the second season of our web series, TGC, I decided I wanted to make it on my own. Once that decision was made production and post-production were wrapped up in about a month.

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

Reverse, and revealing.

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

The most significant obstacle was figuring out the technical aspects of the film playing in reverse. I knew that was happening going in, so I had to break the story down backward as well as forwards. We had to plan the fighting very carefully knowing it would play backward. It was like constructing a dance, and I wanted to make sure the story and motives were slowly revealed.
Then in post-production, I had to edit the film forwards to make sure it played out in real time, then reverse it. It was an odd challenge and a completely unique experience.

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

I was a bit anxious before I pressed play, but it is also a really enthralling experience and a privilege. There is so much you can learn with audience reaction and interaction.

I loved watching the reactions and hearing the feedback. It’s exciting and gratifying when you spend a long time trying to highlight certain points, and the audience and announcer pick up on them.

It was also great that people liked the credits with the balloons. That was a late idea I came up with while editing.

This was certainly one of the best parts of this experience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had a random idea of a couple fighting in reverse. I thought it would create a weird hypnotic dance. My initial premise was about an engagement gone wrong. But once Meganne Kocher got involved we started talking about a lot of things we could do with the premise.

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

That is a tough question to answer. I’m a huge film geek and own way too many movies. But a film I have seen several times and know I will keep watching forever is Park Chan-wook’s Stoker.

The cinematography is breathtaking. Every single shot is like an oil painting come to life. The story is filled with symbolism and every time I watch it I pick up on a new layer I hadn’t noticed before. It’s such a sinister and beautifully constructed film.

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

FilmFreeway is a fantastic platform for independent filmmakers. The whole trajectory of my career changed with FilmFreeway, and it allows me access to so many great opportunities. During our three days of principal photography, I would have never imagined that I would be answering questions, getting feedback, or even dreamed that the film would win awards. I highly recommend fellow filmmakers check it out.

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

I love music, but I don’t think it would be a song, and it wouldn’t just be one. I have an extreme amount of trailer tracks on my iPod. If a trailer I like comes out, I will download the track and listen to it on repeat all day long. Listening to trailer tracks have helped inspire me and sometimes help me come up with ideas for films or plots. I also listen to a lot of film scores.

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

I have been working on several new exciting projects.

For the last year, our team has been working on the third season of our anthology web series “The Grimoire Chapters”. Season 3 is subtitled Rem and is focused on nightmares and sleep disorders. It has two timelines in the 1960’s and 1980s. This season has won over 50 awards, we are all incredibly proud of our success. Episodes 1 – 5 of TGC:Rem are now online, the final episodes are in production.

Watch Here: https://www.thegrimoirechapters.com/

I also just finished a single person crew horror short called “Identity Theft”. I wanted to see what I could accomplish with just myself and my camera. The film has been submitted to two festivals so far and won Best Short Film from both, which has been extremely exciting.

If you enjoyed “Hindsight”, “Lock Your Doors” is an award-winning horror short that was finished a few months after Hindsight. It also stars Meganne Kocher and Ronnie Daily.

And Hindsight 2 (working title) is still in the works.

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Interview with Filmmaker Katie Garibaldi (STAR IN THE EAST)

STAR IN THE EAST played to rave reviews at the February 2019 Experimental Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Katie Garibaldi: “Star in the East” is a song I wrote about the Biblical story of the three kings who follow a star to welcome the newborn baby Jesus. After recording it for my album Home Sweet Christmas, I got the idea of doing a claymation film as a music video for the song, somewhat as an homage to old-school Christmas movies. I love how those stop motion children’s movies put you in the warm and fuzzy holiday spirit, and I thought that idea paired so great with this song.

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

I had the idea for a few months and then through researching animators, I hooked up with artist Marc Morgan for the project and he spent just over a month making the film.

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

Christmastime nostalgia.

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

The only obstacle was time constraints since I wanted to premiere the video before Christmas since it’s a Christmastime story. Marc had limited time to pull off the art, and I’m so impressed with all that he was able to do in such a short window of time.

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

I was nervous at first since you never know how people will receive your art, but after watching “Star in the East” play on the big screen, I was so proud of it and felt that the audience received it well.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Home Sweet Christmas is my latest album, but I actually wrote the song “Star in the East” when I was a kid and tucked the song away for that ‘someday’ when I make my own Christmas album. So the song has somewhat of a childlike vibe to it, and I wanted to make the production really magical and majestic sounding. All those things combined reminded me of the joys of Christmas through a child’s eyes, and I loved combining the true meaning of Christmas as I see it with such a quirky medium like claymation.

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

Probably my favorite Disney movie, The Little Mermaid. I loved it as a kid and I love it now.

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 because you can research a bunch of different festivals and opportunities all in one place. You can get a good idea of each event with their submission rules and people’s reviews succinct on one webpage, and then you can always do more research on the festival’s site and social media. It’s a great way to organize festivals you’d like to submit to and keep an eye on for future projects.

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

That’s so difficult to truly know! I can think of a few top contenders, but I’ll say my favorite all-timer: Huey Lewis’ “The Heart of Rock & Roll.”

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

I’m currently writing my next album and also formulating plans for my next music video, to be made later this year. I have one foot in the music world and one in the film world, screenwriting for TV as well.

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Interview with Writer/Actor/Producer Judith Eisenberg (THE SECRET LIVES OF TEACHERS)

THE SECRET LIVES OF TEACHERS played to rave reviews at the February 2019 ROMANCE Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Steve Anderson: I was a high school history teacher and I wanted to make a short film about my years of teaching. I was lucky enough to retire early because of a teacher buyout the district was offering but there were a few older teachers who didn’t want to leave. The school was their domain and life. The teacher who worked next door to me was a civil war enthusiast and she spent 3/4th of the US history curriculum on the civil war and summarized all the rest of the wars and historical events into one month. She also loved loved men in uniform and went to the civil war re-enactment at Gettysburg every year. I also knew so many older single women who had given up on ever having a partner and/or romantic relationship.

My co-writer and co-producer Aaron Seever and I had made a number of short films but never had the chance to work on one together. So Secret Lives was our collaboration. We had taken years of acting classes and workshops together in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

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

It took almost two years

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

Quirky and romantic

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

Our budget was the biggest obstacle. It was always ready to explode and we had to keep reining it back.

Also finding locations within our budget.

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

I loved how the audience clued in to middle-aged people falling in love. Bodies get old but the spirit in the bodies remains the same and despite outside appearances to young people always retains the desire to be cherished, seen and loved.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

From my years of teaching high school history and from my teacher friend who loved the civil war and men in uniform and from my own desire to find romance and love despite my
quirky nature.

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

Wizard of Oz

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 have been so cooperative. A couple of times I prematurely sent in a submission only to discover my film did not qualify because of geographical location or date it was made and they reimbursed my money.

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

Stay with me
Tupelo Honey
Hey Ho

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

Always a new film!!! Or the seeds of a new film.

Or if anyone wants to cast me as an actor in a film playing a blue collar character that would be great!!!!!

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Interview with Filmmaker Gabriel Galand (HORLA)

HORLA played to rave reviews at the October 2018 HORROR Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Gabriel Galand: “Horla” was my thesis project for my Bachelor of Fine Arts and I wanted to make a film which had room for cinematography and production design. I remembered liking the eponym short story by Maupassant and after looking it up, I found that it was in the public domain and that I would be able to adapt me so it rejoiced me!

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

The film took about a year, 3-4 months for the writing process, from the adaptation to the shooting script. We shot in summer and post-production took 6 months as I decided to start editing from scratch after graduation to release a better version.

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

Romantic Horror

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

The post-production was tough. Flaws in the script were enhanced in the editing so I had to take creative steps to find a solution. It involved reframing, using pre-lap sounds and voiceover and FX.

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

I was happy to see that the audience had remembered the character’s names and were able to distinguish plot elements only from the sound design. I also enjoyed listening how people would compare the story and its characters to real life issues.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

See the answer from question 1: I remembered liking the eponym short story by Maupassant and after looking it up, I found that it was in the public domain and that I would be able to adapt me so it rejoiced me!

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

I have watched the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series a lot!

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

I like the filmfreeway platform. It’s easy to use, has a great catalogue and is cheaper than the competition. I actually wrote an article about it a few years back: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/filmmakers-guide-online-film-submission-platforms-gabriel-galand/

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

There are too many to pick just one!

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

I have just directed a new film in America, untitled in true Canadian fashion “I’m Sorry”. It’s about a guilt-ridden mother who makes a grisly confession following the unexpected return of her missing son: here is the trailer. I am also writing two feature screenplays. Happy Niko is an English/Korean drama about depression and assisted suicide, and Entropy is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi which deals with consciousness and human instincts.

Interview with Filmmaker Danja Politis (ANIMUS PER MACHINA)

ANIMUS PER MACHINA played to rave reviews at the January 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Danja Politis: I always wanted to make an animation that was longer than three minutes on my own. At the time I was still at school and was given completely freedom to work on a project.

Before the first sketch of the animation I made a short loop of rotating gears in a monochrome colour scheme and that was a starting point for the factory in the short.

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

From idea till an early version of my animation it took me two months, including the rendering time but I was still unsure about the editing and order of some scenes that let me put it to the side.

It took nearly a year to pick it back up. At the time I was working on background animations for a band, that was kind of an incentive to finally make it public and send it to festivals but before that I made the final edit.

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

Monochromatic selection

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

The way of telling the story. It should be abstract with no narration but not too confusing or unclear for the audience to lose interest. The part in the story where the balls are getting split through the roundabout and where they travel through different paths was quite head wrecking. It should seem that everything is happening at the same time.

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

I really enjoyed listening to the audience and their thoughts about my short.

I liked that the audience empathized with the balls and their different fates. I gave the balls two white circles that represents eyes, to make them more relatable in comparison to if they were only plain.

I was waiting on the question: Why are some balls picked and some are not? Which I deliberately wanted to evoke with my story. We have an urge to know why something happens, we try to always find a reason to justify or explain certain events. In this short I consciously don’t give one.

One other thing I noticed that my choice of making the animation in black & white stood out. It was a conscious decision to enhance the cold atmosphere and the audience seemed to think so too.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The underlying idea was a metaphor of the process of ideas in our mind. Most of the time we have so many ideas but often only one idea is coming to fruition but how does this selection look like?

So, I started to make a visual representation in form of sketches. One important aspect was that, the selection process has to seam random and arbitrary, that’s why every ball is visually the same.

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

I think that must be the second movie of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’. I am a real fantasy fan. One of my highlights in the movie is the battle of Helms deep, which I always anticipate when watching the movie. The next movie I have seen nearly as often is ‘A Bug’s Life’ by Pixar. I always had a fascination of 3D animation that led me to make my own.

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

It’s a really great platform to find easily and fast various film festivals and makes it easy to send the same film to festivals from one platform.

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

I cannot say for sure because through the radio I must have heard some songs a lot without me knowing. Anyhow, one song I have listened consciously on my devices the most is ‘The Nobodies’ from Marilyn Manson. Which when I am thinking about it, actually influenced me making the short. Often one specific detail or object I have seen somewhere ends up in my own work, which most of the time I notice later when I reflect on it. For example, one of my first assets I made for the animation was a conveyor belt. One can be seen in a specific clip of the music video of ‘The Nobodies’.

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

I started my own studio ‘Umbra Studio’ but I am still figuring out my business plan and working on some projects, on which I cannot share too much information yet.

What I can say for sure that I want to make another 3D animation soon. I cannot say what it will be about, how it looks like and when it will be finished but when I do, I will probably submit it to the FEEDBACK FEMALE FILM FESTIVAL, but time will tell how long it takes.

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Interview with Filmmaker Andy Brewster (A PIACERE)

A PIACERE played to rave reviews at the December 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andy Brewster: I believe some of our best work as storytellers comes out of processing our own individual experiences. And, for me as music student at college (in addition to being a film major), I wanted to tell a story about the struggles we musicians regularly face at the conservatory level. Anyone who studies music at this caliber is already incredibly self-driven, but when you’re near others also pursuing the very same subject, it is far too easy to become competitive. We start constantly comparing ourselves to each other versus working on improving ourselves and our playing. But, really, this prideful competition and envy is a terribly relatable human emotion and I wanted to say something to the motivations that should be fueling our passion for whatever subject we’re called to.

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

From writing to the end of post-production it took about 8 weeks. Things really moved fast to be able to fit everyone’s schedules.

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

Living freely.

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

Schedules were honestly the hardest part of the project. It was a small crew, but coordinating busy music students, locations, and crew schedules in the midst of a hectic semester is always challenging, especially when everyone is generous enough to donate their time and energy for free.

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

To be honest, I was terrified to open it at first… sharing your work is the hardest and most exciting thing about being a filmmaker. But, it was so fascinating to hear how others really picked up on the film’s integral themes and key moments (like the breaking of the violin). I love this format for a festival as we indie filmmakers rarely get such vocal feedback from public audiences who have no personal connection to the people behind the lens.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The ideas and situations really stemmed from my own personal struggles, thoughts, and doubts as a musician. In high-school especially I went to a really unhealthy place where all my decisions, repertoire choices, performance choices, etc. were all clouded by a craving to be better, noticed, or get that higher chair in orchestra. Instead, I probably would have become a better musician over that time if I had been forced to wrestle with the questions I ask in this film.

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

Probably all three of The Lord of the Rings films. Those were the ones that really inspired me to pursue filmmaking.

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

I love how intuitive FilmFreeway is compared to other submission sites. From setting up your project to filtering out and searching festivals, it really streamlines and simplifies the process.

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

Oh, that’s tough. Probably some solo piece I’ve worked on for a long time. Perhaps the first two movements of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto. Those are some of the most gorgeous works ever written for solo violin.

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

I’m currently finishing producing the feature film Rubaru by Marco Zambrana. (rubaruthemovie.com) Post-production for that should be wrapping up in May. In the meantime, I’m looking to produce or direct another short or two while continuing my film and music studies at Biola University.