Interview with Filmmaker Hadley Hendon (BLESSING)

BLESSING was the winner of BEST FILM at the November 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hadley Hendon: I found Al Nour through a program I went to Morocco with, Actuality Media. They do preliminary research into a few organizations and the filmmakers get to pick from there. I chose Al Nour because they focus on helping the lives of women, which I feel very connected to. Al Nour is also a community. All of these women make a product together, travel to and from work together, eat lunch together and generally support each other. Showcasing a strong community is important in the times we’re living in where everyday feels more and more like we’re focusing on the needs of the individual and forgetting we’re a part of a larger community.

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

It took us one month to get a solid rough cut which we screened in Morocco for the women of Al Nour, that cut ran about 12 min long. After we left Morocco my team and I continued to work on it, our DP and editor Erica Moon was able to cut it down to 6 min. From when we left to our final edit was two years later.

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

Inspiring women.

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

My biggest obstacle was working through the guilt I felt interviewing these women. I come from an extreme place of privilege. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, went to college in Chicago and on top of that I am an able bodied woman. I saw the pain in their eyes and heard it in their voices as I asked them tough questions, it doesn’t feel good to make someone to talk about their pain. I also felt like I was being exploitative, using these incredible stories for my own personal gain. It was a tough thing to face. I had moments where I thought, “I’m not cut out for this”. What I had to realize was talking through trauma and pain helps us release, helps us move on. I feel incredibly lucky that these women put their trust in me to tell their stories, to talk through the pain with me.

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

Honestly, I was shocked at how well received it was. I was expecting harsher critique. I had multiple people come up to me after the screening and tell me that Najat’s story inspired them. It made them feel something and they thanked me for sharing her story. That’s all I want as a filmmaker. All the discomfort I felt during the filmmaking process was worth it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video

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

As previously stated, I didn’t actually find Al Nour or say to myself “I want to make a film about physically disabled women in Morocco.” In fact if you told me I’d ever make something like this, I would’ve called you crazy. What I will say though is my team and I did a first round of preliminary interviews with all the women of Al Nour, we really wanted to pinpoint a strong story and have that guide us through all the good work Al Nour does. Najat, even with her shy demeanor, really stuck out to us. You can feel this strong spirit inside her just bursting with life. From there we knew we wanted to follow her.

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

Embarrassingly, I’m pretty sure it’s the 2007 Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore work of art “Because I Said So”. But if you’re looking for a more cinematic answer I’ll tell you my favorite film is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, flawless storytelling.

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

FilmFreeway is an incredible resource. Not only is it extremely easy to upload and submit but it’s also a fantastic research tool! Finding fests to attend, networking and submitting has never been easier.

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

Electric Light Orchestra – Telephone Line. I love the drama of it.

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

I’m currently working on producing/directing my first feature film. I also have a few feature length scripts I’m developing! All of these projects are scripted fiction but let me tell you, I am on the edge of my seat waiting for an incredible story to make my next documentary about.

Interview with Filmmaker Luai Akl (EPIPHANY)

EPIPHANY played to rave reviews at the November 2019 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Luai Akl: I always wanted to talk about drug addicts and the childhood, So i decided to talk about both and how everything is connected somehow

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

30-35 Days

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

Let’s say “Organized chaos”!

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

I’d say the actors, because they’re my friends not actors and that was the 1st time they stand in front of a camera.

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

Amazing to be honest, such a beautiful feeling that your film is screening in a different continent and you are listening to the audience’s feedback.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

As i said before, it was something that i wanted to talk about from a long time a go, and i had the chance.

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

Not a specific one, i am open to any kind of art and with any good story.

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

I think it was a good experience, much more easier.

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

I think Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

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

Yep, i am writing a new one these days.

Interview with Filmmaker Steve Socki (HALLOWSTIDE)

HALLOWSTIDE played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Steve Socki: Want to create moving paintings with visual interest.

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

1 year

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

Ebb Flow

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

Compositing thousands of layers in After Effects

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

Fascinating to hear variety of experiences.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Visual development developed from watercolor sketches of tidepools. Inspiration and spark from poetry of Wallace Stevens. Visual motion from teaching demonstrations I do for my animation mechanics class.

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

Norman McLaren’s “Blinkity Blank”

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

This is the best service, by far. They are the most organized, and offer the best site navigation.

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

Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano” from “The Marriage of Figaro;” at least, that is the melody most stuck in my head

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

New animation called “Enfold.” Developing visuals from studies of Baroque Masters’ treatment of clothing on figures. Motion tests of cloth blowing in the wind. Poetry of William Carlos Williams.
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Interview with Filmmaker Aaron Rudelson (NORMAN PINSKI COME HOME)

NORMAN PINSKI COME HOME played to rave reviews and was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the August 2018 Comedy Festival in Toronto.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

A lot of things, but one of the most prominent things I’m interested in is human nature. As rational beings, we are not always guided by rational thought and sometimes, our behavior is motivated by instinct instead. There are two powerful human instincts at work in Norman Pinski Come Home that I find particularly interesting. One is our ability to repeat mistakes even as we try to avoid them. Sometimes, habitual behavior can escape the detection of the conscious mind. In this case, two parents who resolve to allow their son to determine his own character but find themselves unavoidably imposing their own expectations on him. The second instinct I’m referring to is that of motherhood. The deeply rooted instinct to nurture and to connect with one’s child (whether he looks like Frankenstein’s monster or not). There is a feature version of this story currently in development which explores these themes in more detail.

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

An eternity. I first started by writing a feature length version which we have partially cast and funded. I decided that condensing it into a short version would be a good way to pitch the feature version. So the concept has been around for a while, then I had to write the short version. Then I had to raise the money (which was done through crowd funding: an effort almost as challenging and time-consuming as actually making the movie); then a few months of pre-production, followed by three days of shooting and then eight months of post-production. Everything moves slowly when you’re relying on favors and discounts.

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

I don’t like characterizing my own work (that’s for an audience to do). But since you asked, I would hope the audience might find that the words, “funny” & “heartfelt” apply.

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

By far the biggest obstacle was raising the money. But that’s probably true of any large short film production (unless you’re already rich). But unique to the project was the task of finding a suburban house in New York City whose owners would allow us to completely take it over for three whole days and not charge us $10,000. Oh also, preferably one that was occupied by an elderly Jewish couple (so as to minimize the production design expenses). In the end, we would not have been able to make this film at all without the immense generosity of an old friend from college who happened to live in the Ditmas Park area of Brooklyn (not an elderly Jewish friend, so we did have to do some considerable art decorating: kudos to production designer Monica Mayorga).

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

It’s rare that you get this kind of opportunity for remote festivals that you can’t travel to. Ultimately, this is why we make films: to connect with other people. So this is a great feature that WILDsound provides to filmmakers. And fortunately, either WILDsound edited out all the negative comments or generally people seemed to enjoy the film. So that was rewarding.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I’ve always been a fan of Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks. Young Frankenstein was one of my favorite movies growing up. It just struck me one day that, in all the many manifestations of this story that exist, both comedic and dramatic, nobody has ever asked the question “who was that individual before he died, was exhumed and reanimated as Frankenstein’s monster?” Wouldn’t his mother recognize him walking around scaring the bejeezus out of people? I thought there was a lot of unexplored potential there which could fit any genre. I chose comedy because that’s just the way my brain works.

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

Well, that’s hard to answer. I mentioned Young Frankenstein already. That’s definitely high on the list. But now that I have kids, and they are Star Wars fanatics, the original trilogy may have taken the lead. But here are some other great ones: Brazil; After Hours; High Anxiety, any Marx Brothers movie; Saving Private Ryan; La Dolce Vita; The Sacrifice, to name a few.

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

Now that the digital upload servers screen better quality, submitting to film festivals is a cinch. No more packaging and shipping DVDs. And FilmFreeway’s user interface is excellent. I prefer it to Withoutabox. But with Withoutabox, you get the automatic IMDB listing.

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

Possibly Brimful of Asha by Cornershop. I like it because it’s got a really nice rhythm, the lyrics are weird and it has some obscure cultural references that a westerner would have to look up to understand.

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

Finish raising money for the feature version of Norman Pinski Come Home; write a B-horror script, shoot a couple more short films and finish writing my short story about an odd mail carrier. When I get the time.

Interview with Filmmaker Jia Li (THE CALL)

THE CALL played to rave reviews at the July 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in July 2018 in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jia Li: I was planning to do a collection of horror films that only happened in one location and one night.

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

I came up with the story in a cafe at a nice warm afternoon in San Francisco. And I finished the rough draft of the script the next day. The whole preproduction took 3 weeks, 17 hours on set production. And one month for post production.

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

Colorful, intense.

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

We only had 17 hours for production including preset the studio. It was very tight schedule. It was a big challenge for everybody in the crew, so we need to act fast on set. But we had so much fun during the production.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I was excited to hear all different opinions from the crowd. It gave me confidence for my next project.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We only have one living room studio we can use, and 17 hours for production, so I needed to come up with a story under these circumstance.

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

The shinning

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

I think film freeway makes the process convince for filmmaker to manage their submissions.

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

Recently I am listening film soundtrack for a goodnight sleep, but during daytime I am listening to the Chinese hip hop songs recently.

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

My next film is a zombie post apocalyptic short film, around 30 mins. Hopefully finish the whole production by the end of this year, then catch the film festivals for 2019.

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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.

Interview with Filmmaker Andy Hourahine (BREAK ROOM)

BREAK ROOM was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2018 ACTION/THRILLER FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

What motivated you to make this film?

I love fight films, strong female protagonists, and fantasize about a world where people might actually have to back up their opinions with physicality in general so it was an easy decision to make the film.

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

We went through a few drafts of writing, then casting, rehearsal, shooting, and post. The actual shoot was over two, break neck days, but probably four months of work in total.

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

Chick fight

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

Trying to complete an enjoyable short with a VERY limited budget. Cast and crew were all volunteers.

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

Twofold. A film fan, I think the idea of the audience being able to participate is great. In fact, debating films is one of the joys of movie-going. On the other hand, as a filmmaker, you learn to consider the source and be very selective on what criticisms to listen to. Otherwise, you’d never put anything out there ☺. All in all, I thought the curator very intelligent and understood the film well.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film:

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

The initial idea came from a real life experience where during a martial arts training session, two of the participants showed up injured. Both happened to be teachers and the light bulb went off in my head.

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

I’m actually not a fan of watching a movie too many times. I like to enjoy the initial feelings I get from the early experience and hold onto those. If a movie inspires me, I’ll then break it down scene by scene to learn. If I HAD to choose, I’ve probably watch Jesus Christ Superstar the most since childhood.

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

Our producer actually took care of festival submissions and I’ve only heard good things!

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

Depends on my mood, I’m a pretty wired individual so I like mellow music during my downtime. Again, if I have to say what’s been on repeat most lately during my working hours is House of the Rising Sun remake by Five Finger Death Punch.

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

We are currently finishing a feature length documentary so the narrative work is on hold. However, we have three fight films roughed out and awaiting attention ☺

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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.

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.