Interview with Filmmaker Ciaran R. Maidwell (THERE’S STILL GOOD)

THERE’S STILL GOOD was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival in May 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ciaran R. Maidwell: There’s Still Good was inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk “The danger of a single story”. In it, she says “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

The social landscape of South Africa is littered with stereotypes, and it keeps us from making meaningful personal connections. Before someone has even opened their mouth, we have already assumed everything about them.We wanted to create a new story, a story that encouraged people to see beyond their single story of other people.

We also wanted to normalize the queer relationship by treating it as incidental, as a non-event.

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

Roughly 6 months.

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

Faux pas

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

We had to re-shoot both the beginning and the ending of the film once we’d figured out where the focus really should be. It was difficult to plan and execute this on our tight schedule, and to co-ordinate with the actor’s schedules. In the end, this obstacle was our greatest opportunity, because it allowed us to deliver a stronger film with a more unified theme.

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

I was surprised at the varying interpretations that the film received. It was interesting to hear how people who are not familar with South African culture and South African history experienced the events of the film.

I particularly noticed how each character meant something different to each person – for me, this highlighted the theme of the film itself. The way you experience the world and the way you experience other people is informed by the stories you’ve heard about them, or about people like them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The story itself is based on the lived experience of my university roommate: She was from Rwanda, and because of this people in South Africa expected certain things of her (that she speak an African language, that she have an African name etc.) People were surprised, even upset, when she did not meet these expectations. She hadn’t known there was anything wrong with her until other people tried to apply their story of Africa to her.

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

Mistress America (2015) directed by Noah Baumbach

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

FilmFreeway is a great platform for independent filmmakers. It helps put the filmmaker in control of their film and its screenings in an intuitive way, and breaks down the submission process so that both the filmmaker and the festival can easily communicate their expectations to each other. It’s been an invaluable resource for There’s Still Good.

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

Manhattan – Gallant

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

Television! TV series have become part of our everyday lives. TV series allow much more room for character exploration and development. So we get to live with these characters. I’m interested in how this can be used to expose people to different lives, to new ideas, to stories they hadn’t even considered.

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Interview with Filmmaker Robbie Lemieux (THE WOODS)

THE WOODS played to rave reviews at the May 2019 Thriller/Suspense FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Robbie Lemieux: This short film is a proof-of-concept for a feature film that I’m developing. Although the short is about different characters in slightly different circumstances than the feature, the intention was to create a short and scary piece that conveys the tone and explores the world of the feature.

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

I was about a year into writing the feature when I decided to make a proof-of-concept short. Once I made that decision, it took approximately four months to complete the short — from writing, through pre-production and production, to final cut and delivery.

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

Atmospheric and scary.

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

Budget is always a big obstacle. The challenge was to create something that felt professional, on an extremely low budget with a small crew. Most of our budget had to go to location and transportation – so we needed to be creative with the remaining resources we had to make the film look good and work.

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

I was pleased to hear that the audience found the film compelling, and that they each had different reactions; that the film called up different memories or feelings for each of them.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was based on the feature film screenplay, which is all about how people handle an unknown threat that they cannot understand. The short took elements from the feature film, to create a standalone piece.

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

Definitely “Jurassic Park” – the film that inspired me to become a filmmaker when I saw it at age five!

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

It’s amazing to have a platform that helps me discover festivals, and easily submit to them. The filmmaking process will always be a long and hard struggle — but at least FilmFreeway makes the festival process more straightforward and painless once your movie is complete.

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

Everything by Fleetwood Mac.

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

The feature film for “The Woods” is in development, and I am also writing another horror feature — with a new short film set to shoot in Fall 2019.

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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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