Interview with Filmmaker Hollis Sherman-Pepe (TO QUIET MY MIND)

TO QUIET MY MIND was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2018 Under 5 Minute Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hollis Sherman-Pepe: I always write my short films with specific actors in mind. My star Ryan McKenzie is a fabulous actor and painter. We both trained for years with the same acting coach, the now retired Jeremiah Comey. Ryan’s paintings inspired me to make a film where a painting would come alive.

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

The format of this script was non-conventional. The concept took an hour to write and several meetings to iron out details and the how-to questions for filming. We shot it all in two days. Between the two shoot dates we needed to edit the B Roll film-with-in-a-film that would later be projected onto the actors face on Day 2. The bulk of time was dedicated to editing, score, and a tremendous amount of visual effects work. All in all it took a little over a year from start to finish.

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

Abstract Retrospection

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

Being an experimental film it was challenging to find festivals that wanted to take a chance on screening a film so out of the ordinary. That being said we have won prizes at most of the festivals it screened in. To Quiet My Mind absolutely stood apart from the traditional narrative short, but in the best possible way.

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

I was in the audience, sitting with my lead actor. I was completely blown away by the response. The audience was full of very tough critics, but their reaction to To Quiet My Mind was overwhelmingly positive. I am glad so many people were moved by the content and could relate to the narrative. I only wish I could have heard more, since there were so many eager people with hands raised to speak.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I love the idea that our memories are not facts – only impressions of truth, or tools we use to recall a facts. Imagination fills in the gaps where the truth is missing. I wanted to explore that idea in the imagery, soundscaping, and voice over of the film. I was also captivated by the idea of a painting coming to life. How a portrait captures a piece of the subjects soul.

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

Beetlejuice. My sister and I would watch it over and over again as kids. Young Frankenstein and The Shinning are both second runner up.

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

I love it – easy to use and great to browse festivals. With a film like TQMM where we knew finding appropriate screening platforms could be challenging, FilmFreeway made it easy to filter the search.

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

The Band, “The Weight” and Janis Joplin, “Piece of my Heart”

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

My big fish right now is my feature film Ugly Pretty. The script is ready to go and pitch deck nearly complete. Next step is to get name talent attached find a producing partner, then financing. This will be my first feature film. I am extremely proud of this screenplay. It is my best work thus far. This sexy crime thriller will be shot in rural Pennsylvania.

I have a horror short film in post-production now, Opus Incompletam. This religious cult film is going to be visually stunning and surprising. Please visit my website: farmersdaughterproductions.com

As an actress I am auditioning a lot and always searching for the next great role. I love a challenge! Contact: sasha@acuity.email for booking.

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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 documentary filmmaker Jenna Gartlan (MISSING PEACE)

MISSSING PEACE played at the November 2017 Short Film Festival to great reviews. It is by far one of the most unique films the FEEDBACK Festival showed in 2017.

 
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

I was really shocked to learn about Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), but I was instantly intrigued. I have always been interested in ‘fringe’ or unique aspects of people’s lives. When I read more about the condition and spoke to those who suffer from BIID, I realized that their stories weren’t being told properly. The media had been sensationalizing their plight and was more interested in criticizing than helping bring awareness and understanding. I also realized that people with BIID just want to be happy and accepted and I really relate to that and sympathize.

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

I came up with the idea in November of 2015 and we finished the film in the summer of 2016. So about 9 months.

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

Provoking acceptance.

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

The biggest obstacle was filming in two countries on a small budget for a short timeframe.

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

I liked hearing what people had to say, and at the end of the day, there are many things that I would have liked to have done differently but time, budget, and availability of our subjects were tough to navigate.

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

I came up with the idea after reading about BIID in an article.

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

Hot Fuzz (2007) or the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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

I think Filmfreeway helps a lot of emerging artists by simplifying the submission process and clearly explaining what needs to be done.

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

I can Feel a Hot One by Manchester Orchestra

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

I have been working away in the industry while writing on the side. I hope to be working on a comedic web series in the next coming months.
 

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

MISSING PEACE, 17min., USA, Documentary/Drama 
Directed by Jenna Gartlan

Missing Peace follows Chloe Jennings-White and Jeremy as they struggle with Body Integrity Identity Disorder. Chloe wishes to be paraplegic, and Jeremy wants to cut off his hands.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

 

Interview with the film team of the short film CHRISTINE (Jessica Adler, Kate Montgomery, Stephanie Serra)

CHRISTINE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the December 2017 LGBT FEEDBACK Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We wanted to tell a story that highlighted the idea that you can be yourself, even if you don’t have words to describe it yet. We wanted to paint an image of a child trying different ways to conform to what they believe is the “right way” of being, so that we could reveal the persistence that may be involved throughout this form of exploration.

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

Draft one was finished February 20th, 2013. The project continued to grow and evolve until it was officially completed on Valentines Day 2016.

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

Be yourself.

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

Casting and rehearsing remotely. We found our Luke, Logan Reinhart, very easily. But for the role of Christine our director, Jessica Adler, ended up utilizing Skype to cast outside of Texas (where the film was shot). Through these Skype auditions we found Jordan Jones who played Christine. Throughout the months leading up to filming Jessica rehearsed with both Logan and Jordan remotely, it was not until the day before our shoot day that the director and the two leads met in person.

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

We found the feedback video to be a very nice gift and a wonderful tool.

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

Our Writer/DP, Kate Montgomery, drew on some of her personal experiences growing up. While Christine’s path diverges from the writer’s experience, the underlying themes of identity and strength are present in both the real life of the writer and in the personal narratives of her character.

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

What a wonderful tool! We found it extremely easy and useful to use. It’s a great way to learn about new and unique festivals.

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

One would have to be “Least of All young Caroline” by Frank Turner. Which, after a re-listen, also speaks to some of the messages in CHRISTINE!

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

Our team works in all parts of the film industry. Kate Montgomery is currently working in NYC as a freelance DP, the most recent project she has shot is a LGBT short called Window Shopping that will be making the festival rounds soon!

Jessica Adler is currently working on a feature script and is developing her next short film. She is living in LA and working on the miniseries One Day She’ll Darken, directed by Patty Jenkins.

Stephanie Serra heads Triserratops Productions an independent film company delivering cinema for and about children. Her short film TADPOLES, a subtitled, foreign film for children (shot in Norway), will be released in the 2018-2019 festival circuit.


CHRISTINE, 10min, USA, LGBT/Coming of Age
Directed by Jessica Adler

With the help of her best friend, Christine redefines her perception of strength and what it means to be herself.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

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Interview with Animator/Filmmaker Susan Shulman (PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES)

 PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the December 2017 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Susan Painter: I have a love of music especially the blues and it was inspired by the actual musician Jack Dappa from New York City. I heard his song and it inspired me.

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

3 months of crazy drawing and experimentation.

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

Blues Soul

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

Not having enough technical expertise.

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

I was delighted and thought what they said had merit. It was really great feedback. As artists we need that feedback to continue in our dreams. It’s very important.

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

Again, its my love of music that was the impetus for this concept. Of course I do love cats too!

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

That’s a tough answer but I think what has influenced me in the past was the classic Disney movies like Fantasia and the old black and white felix the cat.

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

I love it. It makes my life easier in submitting!

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

Too many to name but for sure Muddy Waters, I got my mojo working.

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

I just completed a new one called In Our Memories Forever. I hope to submit it to you again this year. It is 2.5 minutes long, I can’t seem to stick to 1 minute. It is about heritage and immigration to Canada in 1900 by boat. I hope you will like it.

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PURRS AND ‘OL MAN BLUES, 2min., Canada, Animation
Directed by Susan ShulmanCool alley cat meets old blues musician and they tour together

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Interview with Animation Filmmaker Marleia A. Alfaro (BARRY THE BLOBFISH)

BARRY THE BLOBFISH played to rave reviews at the December 2017 ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival.

 
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marleia A. Alfaro: It’s so difficult to come up with new characters that you’ve never seen in animation before. The story of Barry the Blobfish came about and motivated me to finish because it is a 100% original story, written be myself, of a character that no one else has seen before. I love animation and storytelling so in the hardest times of making the film, this thought, the idea and the story itself and what it represents kept motivating me to make it a reality.

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

I made the screenplay in sophomore year of college, back in 2011. I conceptualized it for a children’s book, but had the drive to major in animation, which it later became and finished as my thesis film for graduate school in May 2017.

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

Different, and quirky

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

Learning throughout the process was a challenge. In school my animation skill began to grow and develop so in some shots I’ve seen my improvement where in others, it feels very stiff to me now. Also as a director I had to focus not only on animation, but getting the textures, lighting, and environment to work in rendering, which I fortunately had the help from teachers and other more talented students.

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

I was nervous in the beginning, but it made me feel great that everything was so positive. I’ve always wondered what others thought about my film watching it while I wasn’t around. It’s not polished or at any professional high standard, but I spent 3 years making it work as an animated film, so of course I want people to like it.

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

I had seen an article on the world’s ugliest animals, and the Blobfish was one of them. When I saw it I had to write a story about him. It kind of came to me with some help with ideas from my sister. We decided he’d be sad and lonely, and have only one small, seemingly insignificant friend, and turned into a simple, fun adventure with a simple message of sometimes you can try your hardest and not reach your goals by yourself.

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

I can probably recite the entire Lilo and stitch film by heart, I’ve seen it so many times. It’s a childhood favorite.

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

It’s incredibly easy to find festivals and submit to festivals via film freeway. I never would’ve thought I could be a part of so many great festivals, and meet so many people who love animation and telling stories like I do.

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

I have a very eclectic collection of music. While working on animation I love listening to instrumentals or score; songs that don’t have words in them, just because it keeps me focused and in the proper mood. When working on Barry, I would always repeat Tabula Rasa by Calum Graham. It’s just guitar, but its very uplifting.

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

I have ideas for new short films and animations. I try to think of something every day. Most of them have been about animals or underwater animals.. but I’m hoping to come up with something simple first just to keep the flow going.

 

 

BARRY THE BLOBFISH, 2min., USA, Animation
Directed by Marleia A. AlfaroBarry is a fat ugly fish that can’t swim and lives at the bottom of the ocean. He longs to live on a beautiful coral reef at the top of a tall, tall cliff.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

barry_the_blobfish_2

Interview with Filmmaker Stephen Riscica (IT GETS BETTER?)

 IT GETS BETTER? was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the December 2017 LGBT FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Stephen Riscica: I started writing this film almost years ago after learning about Jamey Rodemeyer, a young gay teenager from Buffalo, NY who made an It Gets Better video only to commit suicide only a few short months after. I then started reading other stories about youth who have made these testimonials of hope but weren’t able to battle their own inner demons. It was the juxtaposition of these messages of hope from our youth on YouTube mixed with their tragic fate that inspired me to write this piece.

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

I started writing this six years ago– much of that time it was just sitting on my laptop. I went to a film festival in May of 2016 and was really inspired by what I saw there and decided it’s time to finally get this film made. I started an indiegogo campaign a month later. We had approximately two months of pre-production, two shooting days, and 3 months of post production.

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

Oh that’s a tough one…

I’ve always described my film as an examination in loneliness and a desperate plea to hang on… so maybe “Loneliness Examination” or maybe just “Got Wine?”

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

There was an actor attached initially who I cast because his life story and where he is now reflected what the character is going through in the film. A week before production I was “ghosted.” We held a casting session a few days before shooting and thankfully Gys DeVilliers came in and blew me away– he had me in tears during his audition. It was as if I was hearing my words for the very first time. I knew there was no way I could have gotten such a powerful and haunting performance from the previous actor attached.

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

I appreciated the honesty and candor of the audience. This is the first time I was able to hear what people thought about the film without being physically present. I think the film effects people in different ways, and everyone I’ve shown it to responds differently. I disagree, however, with the gentleman who said the film felt cliche’. I see what he’s saying about how it feels like a play, which most likely has to do with my theater background, but I think it is a film that stands out because of its uniqueness.

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

As I mentioned earlier, the story of Jamey Rodemeyer was the main catalyst in writing this piece. His story made me re-examine my own issues of loneliness and depression. I was also very much inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, a one act play in which an older man is listening to a audio tape of himself from years back reminiscing about his youth. Instead of a tape recorder we use a laptop and YouTube.

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

The one film that really changed my worldview as a young gay teenager was Pink Flamingos directed by John Waters. As someone who didn’t identify with straight culture or gay culture, this film was really a celebration of individuality for me and taught me that it’s okay not to fit into any sort of category. I would invite friends over to watch double features of Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble and I’d love to watch my friends squirm, but we’d also be laughing our asses off and quoting lines from the film. I also used to be obsessed with Elvira: Mistress of the Dark as a child and Gregg Araki’s The Doom Generation and Nowhere. Recent films I’ve been watching repeatedly lately: Ingmar Bergman’s Cries & Whispers, Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

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

I think it’s a great platform. I discovered a lot of festivals I never even knew existed. I like the up to date notifications of when a judging status has changed on your film.

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

Probably something by The Cure– maybe Pictures of You?

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

Still trying to figure that out! I recently helped out on the pilot episode of a new documentary series interviewing pioneering DJ’s and party promoters from the early days of gay nightlife. There is a short story written by a friend of mine I would love to adapt. I’m looking to collaborate with other LGBT screenwriters on future projects!

it_gets_better_5

IT GETS BETTER?, 11min., USA, LGBT/Experimental
Directed by Stephen RiscicaAn older gay man is inspired to record a testimonial after watching a bisexual teenager’s video, assuring him that ‘It Gets Better.’

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!