Interview with Filmmaker David Maire (CHATEAU SAUVIGNON: TERROIR)

CHATEAU SAUVIGNON: TERROIR played to rave reviews at the 2016 HORROR FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

“Chateau Sauvignon: terroir’ was my thesis film for the School of Visual Arts’s Masters in Directing program, which requires their students to complete and screen their shorts at the end of the year in order to graduate. Yet, I was motivated to complete this program because it offered me the opportunity to explore the murderous motivations of a vintner family, characters I had imagined years prior, through the creation of a strong film that could double as a prequel and video pitch for a feature film to audiences and investors, respectively.

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

The initial concept was for a feature film, and that congealed in my mind about 8 years before the completion of this short film. The short film however took about 3 years from conception to completion (production lasted about a week).

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

Savage terror!

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

Despite some stressful hiccups and kerfuflles during production, the biggest obstacle was in the writing. Getting my ideas onto the page can be an elaborate, time consuming challenge for me, but the real hurdle came from having to choose which story elements from the feature to focus on and which not to, while simultaneously down playing the violence to a justifiable and affordable level of gore. Too often did I use the feature concept as a model for the short rather than treat this project as its own entity; for a good number of drafts, the narrative was convoluted because I was trying to condense all the information from the feature into a significantly shorter script, which themselves called for scenes of unrealistic production value – for example, school buses full of senior citizens, dozens of bodies hanging upside down being eviscerated one after the next, creepy twins who lose limbs during fight sequences in industrial wine making machinery, demonic opiate addicted babies, and so forth. It was difficult to strike an acceptable level of ambiguity wherein I could leave behind enough bread crumbs for the audience to work out the answers and create their own interpretations rather than have every detail spoon fed to them. Which leads us perfectly into your next question!

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

Watching the Toronto audience feedback video was exhilarating. My initial reaction was extremely positive! It was so gratifying to hear from the audience, which is rarely the case at most film festivals even when I’m in attendance, flattery notwithstanding. The crowd picked up on so many small cues relating to the character’s motivations and back stories that I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. For example, they correctly picked up that the film is a teaser to a much larger project, that it felt like ‘Hostel’ and ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ which were both predominantly referenced in our visual treatments of the short, and that this is indeed a family business. I was pleased that people appreciated the story being told from the killer’s perspective rather than that of the victim, and acknowledged one’s arc as a viewer shifting from rooting for our protagonist to “want[ing] him to die too.” A conflicted audience is engaged, I like to think, so its great to create this character who you root for because you like him and feel sorry for his situation, and then reveal he’s a killer amongst killers, and a convincing one! It’s generates a nice twisty roller coaster of emotions that it seemed the WILDSound viewers jived with. I’ve consistently been told not to spoon feed the audience the way Nicolas’ mother is, and this perfectly exemplified to me how successful this short was in doing so. This unique perspective of observing audience members debate their interpretations of the story and discuss their emotional reactions to the film gifted me with a profound sense of pride, validating the notion that filmmakers should always treat their audience intelligently.Thank you for this.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Hailing from French wine country, I was always innately going to shoot a movie in this setting. I don’t recall exactly how the idea formed, but I remember having a very vivid image in my head of deep red blood splattering on green grapes. The concept was most likely cemented in high school around the time I first watched Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel’, and was penned my final undergraduate semester at NYU as part of a feature writing class. As I mentioned briefly, the feature script never fully formed, and when I enrolled at SVA a couple of years later, I decided to use the opportunity to explore the characters’ motivations and background story from the feature – why the vintners kill people, how they do it, et cetera – focusing on the point of view of the killers as opposed to that of the victims. Understanding their back story and motivations for killing was somewhat of a grey area in the feature’s outline that I absolutely wanted to flesh out more. This short film acts as a prequel to the feature, detailing the protagonist’s first kill, and shedding light on their medically reliant cannibalistic tendencies. We weren’t able to include the image of the blood on grapes because we shot in Spring (before the grapes grow), but it’ll most definitely be included in the feature!

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

Hands down Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” (the American version specifically, but I’ve seen the German one many times as well).

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

Currently I’m busy on both ends of the production spectrum. On the one side, I’ve started developing several short video projects concepts and and forced myself to begin fleshing out (pun intended) and writing my features. Otherwise, I’ve been heavily focused on attending film festivals and networking – “Chateau Sauvignon: terroir” is about two thirds of the way through its festival run.

Otherwise, I’ve produced two other short films recently, one just wrapped a few weeks ago and is being edited, titled ‘My Daughter Yoshiko’, this story follows a Japanese mother coming to terms with her daughter’s Autism diagnosis – here is a link to our post production fundraising page. It isn’t a horror film though, any neither is the second super short “Mariposas”, a 3min story that lives in magical realism and is about a boastful father prattling on superficially about his daughter to another parent in the school pick up line. I can’t wait to share these projects with you, and look toward to what the audience has to say about ‘The Hobbyist’ with eager anticipation! Per chance, do you offer waivers or discounts to returning filmmakers?

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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Interview with director Cibele Santa Cruz (THE MAN FROM THE SWIM LANE ASIDE)

THE MAN FROM THE SWIM LAND ASIDE was the winner of “Best Performances” and “Best Cinematography” at the April 2017 Female Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Cibele Santa Cruz: I received an email from a great friend with just a text, that ended up being used in the last scene of the movie, after he swimmed in the middle swimming lane. It was my inspiration to write the whole script. To tell the path of a man in search of love.

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

It took me about 6 years.

How would you describe your short film in two words?

Love and Search

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

The biggest obstacle was the the fanancial. The whole filmming, I did with what I was able to get from a crowdfunding and with the whole crew and cast that did it for free. The post production I did with my own resource that I was able to put together.

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

I was totally thrilled to see that the film had touched an audience in a different country. Listening to them talkinf about the movie, the details of what marked them was excellent. Thank you so much for this experience!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I really wanted to direct a movie, but it had to have something to do with me. And after writing the script, I read it to my best friend, and she started to alter the script with me. We appointed the text we wanted for each scene, but we thought that they needed to be less common, they needed to be more like the text from the last scene, which was the text that lead me to write the whole script. We wanted it to be kind of weird. So, I asked my poet friend to work with me in the dialogues, and in one afternoon, they were ready. He took the colloquial out and brought the poetry to them, without losing the female point of view.

Then I had the courage to read the script to a group of friends that also work in the movie industry, and all of them thought that I had to do the film. That motivated me, because they are professionals that I admire. A lot of them ended up being a part of the crew in the movie.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

In the mood for love by Wong Kar-wai

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

I listened to a lot of Caetano Veloso.

What is next for you? A new film?

I am formatting a project for a documentary that I created, and I am also starting to write a TV fiction series, both of the projects I want to direct. In parallel, I continue to work as a Casting Director, and at the moment I am working in two TV series and a movie.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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FilmFreeway Founder Zachary Jones – 2 Year Anniversary Interview

FilmFreeway has taken the film industry by storm since this indy startup launched 2 years ago. It is now the #1 platform in the world for filmmakers to submit their films and screenplays to festivals, trumping Withoutabox, which is owned and operated by the billion $ corporation Amazon. It’s quite an achievement. And they have succeeded by doing the right thing, and with integrity.

filmfreewaylogoI recently sat down again with the founder of FilmFreeway, Zachary Jones:

Matthew Toffolo: Last time we spoke was a little over 16 months ago in late November 2014. You were then at 1200 festivals signed up. How many festivals do you now have signed up today? How many filmmakers/screenwriters?

Zachary Jones: Wow, that’s incredible to think that less than a year and a half ago we had just crossed the 1,000 mark. Now here we are just after our 2 year anniversary and we’re approaching 3,700 film festivals and 250,000 filmmakers! The support and reception from the indie film community has been incredible. We would have never guessed we’d reach an audience like this in 2 years. We’re tremendously grateful to our users and to the community for all the support.

MT: You just passed the 2 year anniversary of the site. What has been your biggest learning experience so far?

ZJ: We’ve learned a great deal about what users, both filmmakers and festivals, are looking for in a submission platform. Many of the best features we’ve added have been the results of the feedback and ideas that have been submitted to us by the community. It’s great to have direct lines of communication with our users so we can learn what new features they need and then get to work building them.

MT: What has been your proudest achievement in the last 2 years?

ZJ: There’s definitely been quite a few noteworthy milestones to celebrate along the way. Some of our proudest achievements include:

– Reaching 200,000+ filmmaker users
– Serving 30+ Academy Award accredited festivals
– Becoming the exclusive submission platform for HBO, The Student Oscars, and the LA Film Festival
– Surpassing Withoutabox in global web traffic and becoming the #1 submission platform in the world

MT: Where do you see the site in 5 years?

ZJ: Our team comes to work every day eager to continue building and improving what is already the best submission platform in the world. We are planning on rolling out a few new features that are entirely outside the current scope of our business that we think will really shake things up. I can’t say too much about that now, but we’ll be offering some free services that other organizations are currently charging an arm and a leg for. Remember how Withoutabox used to charge $3 a pop for online submissions and charge festivals 18% commissions? Well, that went away almost immediately once we introduced our fairly priced business model. We’re planning on doing that again with another aspect of indie film that we feel is currently greatly overpriced.

MT: What are the advantages and disadvantages (if any) of being a Canadian based company?

ZJ: I can’t think of a better place in which to live and do business. We have it all: a beautiful, clean city with four seasons, the friendliest people, the best seafood, amazing architecture, access to the sea and the mountains, a thriving film community. You name it. We’re all very happy here.

MT: You created this site because there was a monopoly occurring over at Withoutabox that controlled the film festival online market. No competition generally leads to stagnant production – which many argued occurred at Withoutabox. Now you seem to be passing them in every single way (online traffic, film festival signups etc..). Are you a bit shocked that they haven’t made their site more user friendly and steal some of your ideas? Do you believe that competition is important in business? Coke needs Pepsi? Nike needs Reebok? FilmFreeway needs Withoutabox (or a future site)?

ZJ: Actually, we have seen them make several changes to their site and business model in direct response to our arrival. For example, they changed their commission from 18% to match ours right down to the decimal at 8.5%. They also stopped charging filmmakers $3 for every online submission. When this happened we literally received hundreds of emails from filmmakers and festivals thanking us profusely and saying that they never thought they would see this day. To hear that kind of feedback was especially gratifying because we knew we had changed festival submissions for the better, as now both filmmakers and festivals were benefitting in the form of lower prices and fees across the board. For this reason, competition is always good. When filmmakers and festivals have a choice, they win. The days of a monopoly controlling every aspect of festival submissions and price gouging filmmakers and festivals at every turn are over. Actually Withoutabox still charges filmmakers an outrageous $400 for “upgraded projects,” which we offer for free. In fact, every aspect of FilmFreeway is entirely free for submitters. We’re very proud to be the only festival submission platform that is truly 100% free for submitters.

IMAGE: Current online stats between FilmFreeway vs Withoutabox:

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MT: Are you ever able to attend any of the film festivals that receive their submissions through your site?

ZJ: We did have a chance to attend Slamdance last year, which was amazing. What an amazing festival they put together, truly one of the gems of the festival circuit. We also got chance to meet a bunch of great filmmakers and watch some killer films, even do a little skiing and snowboarding in Park City. But overall, the last two and half years have been filled with a lot of late nights coding and designing. We’re hoping to have the time to begin traveling more and attending the many of the festivals that we serve. We’ve made a lot of great friends with festival organizers and owe them some visits to thank them for their support.

MT: What film have you watched the most times in your life?

ZJ: Anything Star Trek. I’ve seen them all countless times.

MT: What person, dead or alive, would you love to have dinner with?

ZJ: Vint Cerf, one of the “Fathers of the Internet.” Legend.

MT: What was your favourite television show growing up?

ZJ: “The Simpsons,” hands down.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.