Interview with the Filmmaking Team of the Award Winning Short Film “HOTTER WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN”

Director Julie Haberstick. Writer John Houston. Winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August 2018 Romance Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

John: I wanted to tell a story that wasn’t the usual romantic story but would somehow bind these two people together no matter how badly they needed to be torn apart. Or maybe vice versa. Also, this is Footprint Productions’ first film, so we wanted to showcase the talents of our team. We didn’t have a huge budget, so we were trying to make something compelling within the confines of our apartment.

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

John: I wrote the script pretty quickly, Julie and I did some re-writes and planning. We shot within a month or so, plus some reshoots. Then, because our budget was so small, we really relied on favors. So I think it took us the better part of two years to get the film finalized and ready to be seen by the world.

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

Heartbreaking Growth.

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

Julie: Halfway through filming the most emotional scene in the film, our production was shut down due to a location dispute. We had to pack up immediately, and we weren’t sure how to move forward. We chose to have an impromptu wrap party at a bar down the street (complete with karaoke), and picked up shooting a few months later. Thankfully, that pause allowed us to sink our teeth into the scene in a whole new way.

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

Julie: To see Hotter affect the audience, for the creative choices to elicit emotions in ways we intended—and even in ways we didn’t—is incredibly gratifying.

John: It felt good to hear people talking about the film, reacting to it. Sympathizing with our characters, enjoying the heightened language of love.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:


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

John: I started thinking about what sort of love is forbidden and impossible… truly impossible, when the two must remain in each other’s lives, tethered. I also wanted to love and hate both characters, to feel for them, root for and against them. I especially wanted to make the leading man appealing, flawed, heartbreaking, and heartbroken.

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

John: Remember the Titans. I think I could quote the whole thing pretty accurately.

Julie: I have to admit 10 Things I Hate About You is my guilty pleasure…

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

Submission platforms are really convenient. They could be a little more user-friendly, but I’m sure in time they will make it easier and easier for people to get their films seen.

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

John: I listened to a lot of Tina Turner as a kid. And the Beatles and Elvis. But the individual song? There were a few angsty years where a couple Coldplay songs or Johnny Cash were on repeat.

Julie: The Big Chill soundtrack, and California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas are my most listened-to albums. But “More Than a Feeling” by Boston is my number one song.

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

Footprint’s next film is almost ready for a festival run. Don’t forget the name Footprint Productions because we have some awesome things in the works.

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Interview with Filmmaker Michael Willer (The Volunteer)

THE VOLUNTEER was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the August 2018 FANTASY/SCI-FI Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michael Willer: I love films that highlight a strong female perspective, usually flipping the dynamic where the woman has the power and the know-how, and she’s the one who is actively involved in the plot and making things happen. That and shooting out in the wilderness, the woods, which I love, were huge selling points.

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

The process took almost exactly 2 years, from the time that Sarah sent me the script to the time that post was finished. Part of that was a slow development process, and once we started shooting it took about 6 months to finish.

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

Dystopian romance

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

This project was strangely blessed. We kept checking ourselves, knowing that something would go horribly wrong, but no… the worst that happened was a series of locations we’d planned on weren’t available when we showed up to shoot (a bridge had been removed from the stream we wanted to cross). But that resulted in finding a new location and my favorite shot in the film (the long shot early on when he’s chasing after her trying to convince her to help him… magic hour, bugs flying in the foreground, shafts of sunlight, it just all clicked).

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

I got giddy. I was actually in the room at the screening and got to listen firsthand to people’s feedback and it blew me away. The word “perfect” was thrown around a couple times, which just wows me. I’m so proud of our little film. We were a tiny team, just 4 of us on set, and just me in post-production. I couldn’t be happier with the reception.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

From Sarah, the creator: “I was and always am into Star Wars and desperately wanted to work on something female-driven in a scifi world that had that post-apocalypse vibe. Something that featured a strong woman as the lead and the savior type, rather than a man.”

For my part helping in the development, I knew Sarah and Schoen (now married) had to star together in something. I’d just seen them in a play together and man, it just felt wasteful not to put them on screen after that.

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

Probably Inception or Fight Club. The craftmanship that went into those films is mindblowing. I could watch either on repeat and find new things to marvel at. (That’s a super limited look at my tastes, though!)

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

FilmFreeway is so easy to use. As long as the festival’s self description is clear, I have no concerns about submitting through that platform.

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

Well, I know I’ve actually counted the number of times I listened to Celine Neon’s “Vacation Time” because I shot their music video and I was really immersing myself (it’s somewhere around 100). But honestly, probably “Falling For The First Time” by Barenaked Ladies. Love that song.

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

I just wrapped a documentary shoot in South Africa and a 48 Hour Film Project shoot which was exhausting… But! The team I got together for that was amazing and I’m going to set us up as a creator collective, producing shorts in an anthology style web series.

 
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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 Linda Gasser (WHAT IF)

WHAT IF was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Linda Gasser: What if (with the original title: Wo sie ist) is a film about the future, but it is about presence too. In the past I had worked on films for a large IT company, it is “the” large IT company that everyone will know. Working with them was like working in the future. When I began to understand not only what it meant to collect big-data, but rather how intense the impact of it’s analytics are, I kind of already did live in that future. I feel that the genre definition Sci-Fi doesn’t really fit to the film, because it really is about the society in an individual in an oppressive society dominated by algorithms.

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

From the idea to the actual shooting block it actually went quite quick. I wrote the screenplay in December and was working on a documentary in South Afrika in the beginning of the following year. Coming back I had only 3 months for the entire production – considering the production design with its scenery of which a lot had to be built by hand, this is pretty much “no time at all”.

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

intuition vs. algorithm

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

The budget! Telling an entire futuristic environment including many diverse locations was a great challenge. In a dense short like What if the surrounding becomes an additional protagonist – this precise concept sometimes made it hard: The protagonist is working with wood, a material that appears nowhere else then in his workshop. Finding locations without any trees or wooden elements ended up being an outrageous dare.

Sometimes the tight budged forced us to stay quite flexible in this very detailed design concept. Because the budget was tight we had to be flexible: Everything was there for a reason and if a furniture didn’t fit we had to establish a reason so it did. I remember throwing up the color concept when a large blue Eggchair was delivered on shooting day 6 and couldn’t be replaced. The colours of most upcoming scenes were influenced and blue ended up as a predominant color in the film. Luckily in the post-production I had support and our DoP eventually ended up being a great Executive Producer and handled keeping on track with the many visual artists.

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

Well, to be honest. I did get goosebumps right in the beginning, due to the very charming and benevolent voice at the start of the video. I must confess that I was nervous – I had never heard feedback about the film where people didn’t tell me personally. Of course I read feedback, but writing people care differently about finding the right words. I loved the audiences reactions and was exited that they had specifically talked about the ending. I must say that even if it is that open, no-one had actually ever asked be about it. So the theme the discussion was about surprised me.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Well this is very much connected to the first question about my motivation. But actually there was an additional specific incident. I had broken up with my long-term partner. He was ready to work on us and organised appointments for a couple therapy. This was actually funny: a sturdy, flower-bloused lady with low glasses (really just as you’d imagine) sat in the large winged chair and asked questions. At the end of the first session she gave us the link to an online quest so that we learn about who we are and if we fit together. The evening before the next session we actually filled out the test and found out we match – of course he was all about it but I couldn’t imagine how even a phycologist could be trustful with this exerpt about our emotions based on a fact-machine.
The next day I was working for the company that deals with real-time analytics and fascinating algorithms. The combination of those absurdities formed the basic idea.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Phew… since I am reviewing for the Arc Film Festival in the third year it’ll probably be on of those. Definitely is. Films I watched the most were Doors of Perception from Caroline Schwarz, Wave by Benjamin Clearly, Einstein-Rosen by Olga Osorio, ..

A well known American Film are 2 Days in Paris by July Delpy or Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind by Michel Gondry
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You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

On FilmFreeway there are black sheeps in between the festivals. I must say that I do see it from 2 sides. I am in the great position to b invited to festivals all around Europe and beyond. From this side I am experiencing that many of the small festivals really make sure their guests (the filmmakers) get the most out of the time at the festival, whereas large festivals, may be precious and have a strong representative effect, but some smaller festivals offer an excellent hotbed for creativity and connect in an intimate atmosphere. Lets put it like that: When a large festival feels like work, it is worth visiting small spaces to have some extra holiday.

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

Once I had the chance to work on a video for a great German jazz band: The Max Clouth Clan. Most of the songs from their LP “Kamaloka” are probably in the fron of that hitlist.

What is next for you? A new film?

Currently I am working on my debut film, debut in feature length fiction. “Mimosa Preciosa” tells the story about Gabriela and Georg. A feiry spanish lady, that lives together with the German game-developer Georg. When Georg accidentally deletes Gabi’s collection of digital photographs and the only proof of her past, the two set out on a road trip to recreate her photos and restore her memories. While Gsbi longs for the past. Georg dreams of the future. But both remain out of reach until they learn to walk in the present.

I am very glad to be working together with my co-aothor Valery Dalena, who lives in the States. With the new technologies we were able to work together productively transcontinental.  

 
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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 Aaron Seever (TEMPORARY)

TEMPORARY played to rave reviews at the August 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Aaron Seever: I wanted to write something for me and my friend Shelly (actress) to work on together as well as share this gorgeous setting with the world.

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

18 months for the first edit, 4 years til the current one screened here.

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

Kindred spirits.

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

Shooting on location with a very small budget and crew.

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

I felt pride with how the audience related to the story and the characters. It touched my heart.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wanted to write a love story that didnt last forever. Just one that was unbelievably good but fleeting. I think that is more realistic to life.

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

Good Will Hunting

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

Its very easy to submit to many festivals. I actually think it might be better if it was a little more involved to submit films to festivals.

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

I have a short comedy in the festival circuit now called The Secret Lives of Teachers as well as another film way out of my comfort zone still in production. A gore/romance called Finally, You.

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 Eshaana Sheth (THE BUTTER KNIFE)

THE BUTTER KNIFE played to rave reviews at the July 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eshaana Sheth: The film is a response to the variety of people that I encountered after moving to LA as well as the nuances of dating and socializing in the modern age. In 2016, I developed a strange ailment of consistently and exclusively attracting men from the UK into my life (yes, I met the one Northern Irish guy in LA). The summer of 2016 held a strange mix of events; The EU referendum took place simultaneously to the Euro 2016 Championship. Both sort of intertwined and produced a malaise in the air especially with our own American presidential election around the corner. It felt like a paradigm shift, and that kind of uncertainty creates excellent fodder for humor. I’m always interested in capturing how topical ideas and events bleed into the way we relate to one another and how our cultural life is increasingly influenced by globalization and the advent of technology. I wanted to find a way of condensing all that into a short film. I was approached as a writer by Shalini, our producer and lead actress, and came on later as a director and producer. It was my first time directing, but I’m really happy I took the plunge. Our whole team was incredible and made the experience so nurturing.

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

I had the idea brewing, but I ended up writing it when I was sick and recovering from surgery in May of 2017, which provided some time to introspect and look to humor as a way of healing. It was completed in January 2018. So, the whole thing took about a year and a half.

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

Absurd normalcy

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

We had a small team and budget. Trying to get the best production value with logistical and monetary restraints is always difficult. You always say, I wish I could’ve done this or had more bodies in general. But working with a contained story also creates room for play, especially when you have wonderfully talented actors and cinematographers like we did. It’s important as a director to adapt and allow the characters and vision to change. My friend analogized it to the creation of a pot—when it comes out of the kiln, it’s either awful, exactly what you pictured, or not really what you intended but still pretty. Of course, I’m a horrible with ceramics, so I should be lucky for options two or three.

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

I was surprised by how hysterically everyone was laughing; I wasn’t expecting that level of enthusiasm. They were patient viewers and so invested in the work, which I appreciated. I especially loved that the film resonated with people of all ages. My favorite comedy to consume as a viewer is work like Frasier, which feel niche but also accessible and timeless. The diversity of comments made me feel like there was something in it for everyone, which is quite nice to hear.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Without ruining anything, the premise was loosely inspired by a first date I went on, that I kind of tried to make as weird as possible. I used that as a starting point and then just let my imagination snowball from there. I’m one of those people who tries to find the absurdity in banal situations like grocery shopping. I’d almost rather sit in a bit of discomfort and awkwardness than run away, because it’s more fun. I find it difficult to approach organized events like dates or meetings without analyzing how fundamentally odd it all is, like, anthropologically. Ria is probably more like me than any other character I’ve written – she’s confronting but anxious which makes her a cool blend of idiosyncratic and unpredictable.

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

I guess it would have to be either Muppet Treasure Island or Pooh’s Grand Adventure. As a kid, I rented them weekly at our local video store. It was so embarrassing; they used to have them ready for me before I even walked through the doors. If I took childhood out of the equation, it would probably be Clueless.

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

I really like FilmFreeway. It’s very streamlined and makes things simple and organized. I would definitely recommend it to other filmmakers.

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

“Spiderwebs” by No Doubt! I know everyone loves the ’90s right now, but I feel like I have a special claim on the decade, having understood its character at a young age before people were talking about it as a thing. No Doubt is just so emblematic of my youth, growing up in suburban Southern California with two older brothers. As an Indian American, we were floored at the time to discover that Tony Kanal, the bassist with the frosted tips, was also Indian. There were virtually no Asians in media to the point where there was even a rumor circulating in my hometown that Brandon Boyd of Incubus was part Indian because one of his “Pardon Me”s sounded like he had an accent. People were literally reaching for straws. Kanal was the only kernel of hope for brown representation.

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

I have another short film in post-production called The Argument that’s adapted from a play I wrote in college; it’s a relationship drama set in 2012 before the Mayan Apocalypse phenomenon. I’ve also been doing some modeling and getting back into acting, which feels great! I have a few other projects in the works including a series I’m helping my brother with, which is fun because we can yell at each other and still remain related.

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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 Anaiis Cisco (BREATHLESS)

 BREATHLESS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Anaiis Cisco: This film was inspired by the killing of Eric Garner which was captured by Ramsey Orta.

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

I wrote the screenplay in 2015 when I began graduate school in Detroit at Wayne State University. In the Fall of 2016, when I entered in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University I further developed the project into my first year film, Breathless. Overall it took about one year to write and develop, then another year to produce, direct, edit, and finish by May 2017.

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

Black Life.

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

Shooting the first weekend in January 2017, the coldest weekend of the year, posed some challenges but I struggled mostly with the ending of the film. Developing this true story into a film, I knew I didn’t want to re-kill a man who we already witnessed dying. I tried out many different ways of ending the film but they all felt like something was missing. I didn’t want the end to feel so abrupt. I wanted to allow the audience a moment to breathe before transitioning into the audio from Orta’s video.

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

I was overjoyed and happy to have such a large LA based audience respond to my work. I love when viewers are able to relate to the subtleties that are very specific to the New York experience. The responses made me wish I was there to respond to specific questions/comments. And while I wasn’t able to attend, the video captured moments that I would have missed otherwise. Thank you.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It came from a class assignment that the class to write a short screenplay using a person from media and another random character to have an improbable connection. I knew that I wanted to use Eric Garner from media, and originally developed the story heavily inspired by Ramsey Orta’s brave act of capturing this killing. I used moments from the video to build the story world. For example, in Ramsey Orta’s video it’s mentioned that Eric Garner broke up a fight. In Breathless, I wanted to recreate that moment with Larry’s character breaking up a fight that we don’t get to see in Orta’s cell phone video.

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

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (1989)

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

FilmFreeway is an efficient way of uploading and updating film projects for festivals of all kinds. I enjoy keeping track of festivals that I have submitted to and one’s I want to keep an eye out for. One of the best features is that filmmakers are able to update a film if they have only submitted a work in progress to meet the deadline.

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

Mary J. Blige – Mary’s Joint

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

I am finishing my next short narrative, GYRL (2018) a portrait of a pre-teen African American girl struggling with an abusive father. Also entering my last year of film school, I am currently in the early stages of production my thesis film, Drip Like Coffee. This short narrative explores Black womanhood, desire, and space, while rendering the Black female body as fluid.

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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 Christopher Sferrazza (BEAST)

BEAST was the winner of Best Cinematography at the June 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival – best of Horror/Thriller night.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Christopher Sferrazza: It was something in the script that I latched on too. Originally the script was designed to be an episode for a series. But the gold nugget for me was the character Sophie. I thought she was a strong but lonely woman, and wanted to explore how marginalise people are forced to make decisions beyond what they expect from life. Being my first film, I wanted to shoot the situation from her perspective only. My plan was to do this for each episode for each character.

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

The script was originally written as 40 pages, it took another week to edit it down to 20.

Pre-production was about two months of looking for a location and casting.
Shooting was a bit more complicated than originally planned. It was only meant to take 3 days but we had to re-shot a couple of scenes because I wasn’t happy with some performances.

The edit took a much longer time. The first cut was only a few days, but then I sat on it, not happy with it over all, I went back and forth with the editor for a few months. Finally stripping the film down to its minimal dialogue and shots, I want to take any “director indulgences” out. Keep the film to a solid core with subtle storytelling. I didn’t want to hit the audience over the head with details. This took about 7 months.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words?
“Revealing Perspectives”

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

The edit. I was unhappy with the initial cut, discouraged I avoided working on it. Carl the writer of the film, pushed me to finish it. I’m happy I did.

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

I’m happy how so many picked up on the subtle elements. How they came to the conclusion of who or what was really the Beast. I tried to make sure there were no loose ends in the plot.

I also was happy people enjoyed the beginning and end of the film, and how it was revisited.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Carl J Sorheim was the writter, he explained to me it stemmed from a news report. How a young girl escaped from a seemingly normal mans grasp.

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

No Country for Old men and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

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

It’s easy once set up, but can make you lazy. I made mistakes initially and didn’t correct them for a few months after, when there could have been room for improvement on my part.

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

Talking Heads – Life During Wartime, it’s my go-to punk rock youth anthem.

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

BULLY is my next short film. I wrote the storyline and had a friend write the screenplay. It’s about the murder of a town bully by drowning via a time transporting trampoline. It revolves around the same sort of expression of character. At the end we wonder who was really the BULLY.

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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.