Interview with Filmmaker Julia Trofimova (EULOGY FOR DENIS K)

EULOGY FOR DENIS K was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the December 2018 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Julia Trofimova: I’m very intrigued by the question of the truth – how would it look like if everyone knew everything? Would this world still exist? Or a lie is a protection tool invented by God. The film is my attempt to talk about it.

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

I’ve been looking for an idea for quite a long time, but once I found the script and decided to produce and direct it, it took me 4 months.

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

Accept reality

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

It was actually pretty hard to find the fine line between comedy and drama. It’s very subtle, when you are talking about serious things like death, loss, lie, betrayal, but I needed to find the comedy edge to it. So casting and performances were the biggest challenge.

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

I was very pleased. I realized it does not even matter if the feedback is positive (though it was) but it’s just so precious and surprising to hear people talk about your own film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was looking for a dramedy with particular themes and I came across a wonderful script by C.J.Wells. We worked at the script a bit more together and then I was ready to direct it. Cassie is a real goddess of dramedy, I think she feels this genre very well.

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

There is a Russian film that we watch every year on Christmas Eve. It’s called “The Irony of Fate”, and it’s a dramedy as well. It was shot in 70s but it’s still somehow very modern and subtle.

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

It’s the most convenient platform I know.

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

“Smells like teen spirit” by Nirvana.
One of my kids plays this song now, so I’m sure I’ll listen to it even more:)

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

— Yes, I shot two more short films and will send them to festivals soon.

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Interview with Filmmaker George A. Velez (MR. E, P I)

MR. E, P I played to rave reviews at the December 2018 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

George A. Velez: I wanted to make a film in a very fun genre that everyone is

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

From idea to finished product, I would say the project took around 10 months.

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

I would say the short is fun and heartfelt.

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

The biggest obstacle was trying to film the whole short in a day. We succeeded but what a challenge.

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

It was surreal to hear people talking about my short because the only feedback I’ve gotten was from my peers. It was great to hear the audience and their interpretations because it’s interesting to hear what people get out of the experience.

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

The short was originally part of a larger piece and I really wanted to see this world and these characters in a physical space.

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

There’s so many but possibly “Jaws”

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

Applying to FilmFreeway has been a positive influence for the most part. It’s easy to navigate and very in-depth.

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

“Purple Rain” by Prince

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

I’m currently finishing two feature film scripts and in pre-production for my next short, Eavesdroppng.

Interview with Filmmaker Paul Charisse (UNCLE GRIOT)

UNCLE GRIOT was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER at the December 2018 Fantasy/Sci-Fi Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Paul Charisse: This short was developed from a feature we are making called “Stina & the Wolf”. It’s developed from a single scene we thought would act well as a vehicle to distill a lot of the ideas we explore in our feature script into a small and affordable format (and also function to help promote our funding of the full feature of course!)

We wanted it to capture the atmosphere and approach we intend for the final feature, as well as hint at some of the main themes the film deals with. Part of our design for the feature and short was to try and find that difficult balance between helping the audience understand ideas we want to explore, but also painting a rich enough palette that they can draw their own conclusions, some of which may not have even occurred to us as filmmakers. I’m a big believer that artists put more ideas into their work than they realise, so particularly in the editing process, we moved things around a lot to create new meanings and juxtapositions in an intuitive and reactive way that I tried not to over analyze. I think this can access deeper, more subconscious meanings, and is very much the working method of my filmmaking heroes such as David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg. I love films that use rich emotive visual and narrative elements to take you into the emotion space of a character, without being overly didactic or literal, giving the audience just enough ingredients to make sense of story elements and visual motifs so they can stitch together things from their own experiences. (This does of course require a certain amount of effort from the audience and challenges expectations, so is not to everyone’s taste!) I’m also a big fan of this magical realism approach in literature, by authors such as the fantastic Kelly Lynch, where meanings are hinted at and stories unfold full of sympathetic resonances and juxtapositions that can draw out different things from different readers.

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

The feature has been in development for 6 years. The resulting short took about one and half years to complete.

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

magical realism

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

The biggest obstacle was a technical one, getting the right level of detail and realism so that we could create the “hyper realism” we wanted for our aesthetic. The plan was that at moments it looked real and others strange and dream like, with certain visual elements idealised beyond reality. There are no shortcuts to this, and it required a lot of time and effort creating high fidelity facial animation, cloth simulation, grass and tree simulation, motion capture and animation and shader and matte painting. This is easier if you’re working on a multi million pound budget project with a crew of hundreds (I used to work as an animator in Blockbuster VFX) Most of the work on this was done by a small team of about 8 of us, and we made the film in a university with students and myself (a lecturer) Our biggest obstacle for the feature as a whole is getting it funded and finding a producer to help us with this. (Pretty much the same as every filmmaker in history I imagine!)

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

I was really excited to hear the different interpretations of the film. It’s actually a relief to hear that people are able to accept the level of ambiguity and try and use the elements in the film to make their own meanings, and they came up with so many fantastic ideas! I was really pleased, as this film was partially a test to see if we could capture a snapshot of what we want the feature to be, and see whether it would work with an audience. (although the feature has a much tighter narrative, but we aspire to give it that otherworldly ambiguity. Again another balancing act)

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The feature (and the short) is inspired by many ideas and many films. I’d say life, death and fate are its core themes, but within that the idea of using storytelling and fantasy as a way of making sense of the apparent chaos and amorality of the natural world plays a big part; also how this relates to the aging process (Stina is very much intended to be idealised youth, where as Griot is the reality of aging: wart, farts, body hair and all!). I love the idea that humans have to wrap everything in a story before they can process it, especially things that are infinite and seem to defy logic, such as death or the physical world beyond our bodies.

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

I’d say Mulholland Drive and Paris Texas have both had about the same level of obsessive re-watching. At least twice a year! Very different films, but both have been massive inspirations.

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

It’s really accessible and useful. I’d use it again.

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

I tend to listen to albums rather than individual songs. The otherworldly and ambient instrumental sides (it’s a double album) of David Sylvian “Gone to Earth” is my my most played. It transports me to another plane, a place beyond language, and I think a place I feel compelled to try and reach through filmmaking for some reason. I love that language is completely incompetent at capturing the experience of music (and film!).

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

I’ve been approached about directing an animated feature in America next year, which i can’t talk about yet unfortunately (although hopefully soon) I’ll also be continuing the process of trying to fund our magical realistic feature, which i’m absolutely determined to make. (I’m having to learn to be a producer at the moment, which is definitely not my natural skillset, if any one fancies joining the team! ) Any one interested in learning more about our feature “Stina & the Wolf” should check out: http://www.stinaandthewolf.net

Interview with Filmmaker Alex Fynn (FORMS)

FORMS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the November 2018 Experimental FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alex Fynn: I was given the opportunity by Red Bull South Africa to create a piece that showcases dance in the most interesting way possible. From my early days in filmmaking, I have always loved dance music videos. Dance, Music and Film provide a medium for expression. I was keen to see what would happen if you gather three creatives from each of these disciplines and have them collaborate on a project. The film is about collaboration and the immense possibility created when working together.

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

It took about 3 months, from conception to post.

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

Audiovisual Explosion

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

Time! We choreographed and rehearsed in about 10 days, we only had one day to shoot this film and then we packed a lot of post VFX in there which took some time to create.

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

First of all I couldn’t believe that my film was screened to an audience in Toronto! I was beaming with excitement and happiness. You spend so much time as a creative thinking about all the little details and meaning behind every element in your film, and to see an audience from another country entirely watch your work and point out all those details and more is incredible. It has really motivated me to keep creating and keep telling stories!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main message is about unity, unity through dance, unity through collaboration – so we created a world where unity is not allowed. As a young creative, you need to rise above the idea that some goals you set are not achievable. I believe anything is possible with the help of the right people. I wanted to showcase attitude and synchronicity within the performance, beautiful cinematography and realistic looking VFX to take the viewer into another world for a few minutes. The film is set in the future and is definitely inspired by my love for narratives created within games. By the end, the rebels escape and the riot police are left looking at the statement “We are one” which the rebels have set up. I leave it up to the viewer to decide what that means to them.

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

The 1st Matrix – I watched it so many times!

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

I think the FilmFreeway platform is absolutely fantastic. It is easy to use and has plenty of great works on there to check out. Everyone I have spoken to from FilmFreeway is so sweet and helpful with a genuine goal to assist filmmakers in getting there work seen and I think that is remarkable.

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

Samba Pa Ti – Carlos Santana (my mom had it on repeat in the car as we drove to school each morning for years)

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

I have just left my full time job to start a film production company which is very exciting. I’m currently working on a long form project at the moment, it’s a 52 minute documentary about a very popular marathon in South Africa, The Two Oceans Marathon. I’m planning to do some traveling as well and look into ways that I can work abroad for a while and gain some international experience.

Interview with Film Creator Charles Baran (PELICAN)

PELICAN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the November 2018 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Charles Baran: When I first heard Bryce Kulak’s story song PELICAN – I knew right away that this song had to have a visual experience. The lyrics are just too wonderful and fantastic and seeing the images come to life was basically my motivation. The trick would be how to visually tell the story given the limitations of not using a real Pelican and a real Elephant.

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

We worked on the concept, pre-production, two days shoot, and post production for over a period of seven months.

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

Magical Journey

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

Having the animation feel like a natural part of the story and not something that comes out of the blue.

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

So delighted that they enjoyed the casting, our commitment to telling the story, the animation and the music! Seeing the smiling faces on the feedback video reaffirms my belief that whimsical entertainment can lighten our burdens a little.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I thought long and hard about how we were going to portray the “Pelican”. Once I had settled on the East Village of New York as a location, I then came up with the idea of having a Drag Queen carry a handbag with a fantastic Pelican appliqué on it and the appliqué would come to life and interact with the protagonist of the film, me.

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

John Water’s Female Trouble. I must have watched that film 100 times and know all the dialogue by heart. Divine was a real inspiration for me.

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

It think it’s great and easy to use. Plus I wouldn’t know how to contact these festivals otherwise.

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

Haha. That’s a good one. I listen to a lot of music so it’s always changing. If I had to pick one I’d say Phoebe Snow’s Poetry Man or Bette Midler’s version of Skylark. But I love new stuff too, like Cardi B, Brandi Carlile and Lana Del Rey.

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

Yes, I’m in a new Pilot called “Yes, Mistress” and I just played the Referee in the new series Godfather of Harlem. That was fun. It was a recreation of the legendary 1963 Cassius Clay and Doug Jones fight at Madison Square Garden. The series premieres in 2019 and stars Forest Whitaker and Chazz Palminteri.

Interview with Producer David E. M. Maire (THE HOBBYIST)

THE HOBBYIST was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the November 2018 Thriller/Suspense Festival in Toronto.

  1. What motivated you to make this film?

This film was a requisite graduate thesis project for George Vatistas at the School of Visual Arts, which is quite a motivation in and of itself. This story was chosen because George’s previous short film had also been an adaption of a Fredric Brown story, and he wanted to continue working with that same source material. On my end, I found George’s passion infectious, and thought the piece had great story and aesthetic potential for the silver screen.

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

George would have started researching and writing the first drafts in the Fall of 2015. Through SVA, I was able to meet George and was brought on in December 2015. Pre-production lasted about three months, as we shot in March 2016, and completed post in the Fall of 2016. From there, it was sent off to festivals for consideration, and we started screening for audience’s world over in Winter of 2017. So about 1.5 years from concept to screening.

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

Timeless wisdom.

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

Hands down, the biggest obstacle was finding and locking an aesthetically and budgetarily appropriate location. This usurped the vast majority of our time during pre-production, and we visited dozens of tentative stores, shop fronts, basements, back rooms, but to no avail. In this time, I kept my grandparents informed of the project I was producing, and the location I was spending so much time hunting for. Slowly, I was able to get them accustomed to the idea that we may need to film in their basement. This concept was not greeted lightly at first, but after two months of reassurances, I was able to wear them down, and we got to shoot in their basement! This freed up enough funds to let us rent out a small herbalist’s boutique for an evening to double as our character’s apothecary.

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

First thing I did was share the URL with my parents hahaha It was thrilling to watch, and pinned a huge grin on my face. The audience was very kind, and I was quite happy they enjoyed the concept and positive message so much.

Watch Audience FEEDBACK Video: 

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

This is a question for Fredric Brown, as we adapted our short film from a 1961 short story of his by the same title!

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

Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games”, specifically his own Americanized remake, over 4 dozen times.

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

I appreciate the simplicity of the platform – it feels much more user friendly than WithoutABox ever did. Yet, I think there is a lot of room for improvement. The simplicity seems to allow these ‘fake’ festivals to emerge, which charge ridiculous submission fees without any proof that the projects will be considered, let alone screen to a real audience. With over 7000 festival listings, there is an argument that the filmmaker should do more research into the festival’s they’re spending their money on, but FilmFreeway is absolutely complicit in providing a platform that allows predatory behavior, especially if they do not have a system of checks and balances in place to catch swindlers and protect filmmakers (that being said, I’m not very familiar with the background checks FilmFreeway performs when new festivals are trying to sign up). Also, I think their search engine algorithms need an overhaul. With such an extensive festival library, one would also expect their search options to be well curated, but instead they are quite limited, to such as degree that I’m often unable to find results for even basic word matches. My last gripe with FilmFreeway is about peer review system, which I find more inhibitive than it is probably intended to be, and I don’t believe it should be used, let alone exist, as our business is one of art and subjectivity, rather than one in which a simple service is fulfilling a demand. This is definitely a subject I’m passionate about, and I could go on for pages, but will refrain myself. To close off this diatribe though, I must mention that WithoutABox leaving the market absolutely makes FilmFreeway the best submission tool at a filmmaker’s disposal, but there are plenty of other platforms to check out that offer competitive submission pricing, including but not limited to FestHome, ReelPort, and ClickForFestivals.

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

Impossible to make an educated guess, so instead I’ll say that the album I’ve listened to the most times in my life is probably Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory”.

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

Following “The Hobbyist”, I produced “Mariposas” for director Adrian Carey (who happened to have edited ‘The Hobbyist”) which shot in the Summer of 2016, and hit the festival circuit about a year later, where it is still making the rounds, having accumulating over 70 Official Selections so far, including from Dances With Films, Orlando Film Festival, and The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. This 3minute super short film is also an adaptation, this time from Argentinean author Samanta Shweblin’s short story by the same title. The story lives in magic realism, following a boastful father who prattles on superficially about his daughter to another parent in the school pick up line, but is unable to perceive her when it matters most.

The most recent short film I’ve produced is ‘My Daughter Yoshiko‘, which follows a Japanese mother coming to terms with her daughter’s Autism diagnosis. This story is based on true events, and we successfully crowdfunded the majority of the budget. Writer + Director Brian Blum’s last film “Blood & Water” was BAFTA nominated, so we have high hopes for this short film on the festival circuit, and are actively waiting to hear back from top tier festivals as to where we will hold our World and International Premieres!

 

Interview with Filmmaker Sean Janisse (LOCOMOTIVE 8 – ENCORE)

LOCOMOTIVE 8 – ENCORE played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Experimental Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sean Janisse: I’ve wanted to make my own short film for a while now, but never felt confident enough with what I’ve written. I knew I wanted to make a space romance but just couldn’t get the pieces to fall in the right place. I was planning it based on the idea that I would have to animate it alone so I knew I wanted to keep it short and simple. That’s when I was listening to my friend’s recent album when the song Encore jumped out at me and I felt like I could already picture the video. It all kind of clicked in. So I thought, I’m going to try out a music video and play with that format.

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

It all started about 4 years ago. Half a year of boarding it out then rehashing it and sitting on it, then it stayed there for around a year until I reached out to the super talented Andrés Landazábal to Art direct the short. After that it really took off and was completed, animation and compositing, within a year.

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

Space Love

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

It was definitely putting in the hours to animate it. So many nights I’d sit down at my computer after work and look at the pile of shots that haven’t even been started yet and wonder why I was doing this to myself.

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

It sounds like they enjoyed it which is a huge relief!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video of the Short Film:

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

I’m a huge romantic comedy fan and I love the sci-fi genre so it really stemmed from that. And when I sat down to start boarding I just went off the mood and tones in the song and tried to let that dictate what happens in the story. The title “encore” also prompted the idea of doing things over again which became the core idea of the short… I don’t know French so hopefully it didn’t completely contradict the song.

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

I think When Harry Met Sally.

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

It’s super easy and straightforward. This was my first time using this service and it made it a breeze.

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

Siberian Breaks by MGMT.

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

I’m working on writing a live action short film with an old teacher and also an animated web series that I’ve been thinking about for a while. We’ll see what comes first!
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