Interview with Filmmaker Myriam Kamel (MY BROTHER)

MY BROTHER played to rave reviews at the April 2019 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Myriam Kamel: I definitely wanted to show diversity on the screen. Montreal is such a cultural city, and as beautiful as it is it also comes with its issues. I wanted to portray it on the screen.

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

I thought about this film for about 3 years before writing the first version. Then from writing to the first screening it took about 8 months.

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

Cultural film

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

Casting was the biggest challenge throughout this film. There are not a lot of arabic actors in Montreal and the few I met didn’t correspond much to the characters. Casting was a very long process and I was very lucky to find Hamza and Fayçal.

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

At first I was very very VERY nervous, but after I was relieved. It’s amazing to get that kind of feedback from strangers. I loved that people who had trouble relating to the story or who didn’t understand certain things had the guts to speak out and say it. Too often it feels like people are too scared to say what they think for fear of hurting your feelings, but I know that my work is not perfect and I had an idea of what didn’t come out right with this film. This feedback helped me confirm it and think of what I could have done differently. It was very constructive and I’m very grateful for it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I knew I wanted to make a film about culture differences. Growing up in Montreal I’ve always felt like I had to behave a certain way inside the house and another when I was out. My beliefs were often challenged and my parents didn’t always understand how it changed me. After discussing it with other people I realized that I wasn’t the only one going through this sort of dilemna where I felt I had to chose between my family and what I wanted, and so I wanted to write about it.

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

In my whole life it would be La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz, but recently I’ve just watched Divines by Uda Benyamina and I’m in love with it. It’s a sad film, but it’s beautiful, very well-made. I love french cinema.

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

I like that there is such a platform, it definitely eases the submission process and it’s great to have access to so many festivals in one place, but sometimes it does feel like your film is only one in a million. It’s also hard to figure out which festivals are active on FilmFreeway.

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

Like Ships in the Night – Mat Kearney

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

Working on my next short 🙂

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Interview with Filmmaker Andre Sitolini (THE COOK AND THE CHEF)

THE COOK AND THE CHEF played to rave reviews at the March 2019 Comedy & Drama Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andre Sitolini : I wanted to make something very stylistic. I wanted clouds grounded to the horizon and the sky to never be blue.

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

About 5 months of intensive work. The intro alone was a month of work.

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

Sizzling Hot!

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

Having to decide which scenes to cut and which scenes to keep in.

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

Overjoyed! I’m glad everyone liked it!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I actually wanted to tell a different message. It was going to be about having more than just passion to be good at something.

Originally the Cook was suppose to lose and learn about not judging the Chef for his apathetic appearance.

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

It’s rare that I’ll watch a film more than once but anything incredibly stylistic and colorful is always something I keep coming back to.

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

It was really great having to make only one portfolio and submitting to multiple festivals. I’m not really the producer type so it help me get into more festivals then I would have bothered.

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

Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha is my favorite album of all time, but for the entire production of my film I limited myself to only listen to songs with an accordion in it.

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

I became an animator to create an animated series about Superheroes, but now I want to adopt it into a comic format!

Interview with Filmmaker Filippo Michele Guarna (MISTER EGG)

MISTER EGG was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2019 Comedy & Drama Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Filippo Michele Guarna: It was a period of intense philosophical ‘restlessness’ for me; self-inquisition, confusion and doubt – the kind of thoughts that start bugging you when you’re approaching your twenties, I guess. Such a ride can be heavy, so I decided to take it the light way, underlining through comedy the absurdity of existence. Humor really is a superpower, it can change one’s perspective in fascinating ways and peculiarly gifts human life with hale dignity.

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

It took about ten days: I had to deliver a short film to film school, and I was running out of time.

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

This sounds like looking for a title: ‘philosophical egg’.

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

Editing the face of Akuzike Mauluka (Mister Egg) onto the egg forced my to push the boundaries of my basic VFX skills a little further. But the hardest part was probably acknowledging the value of my work while it was coming to life in the final phase of editing; I am very critical of my works, especially when I just finished them. I seem to notice more their weaknesses than their strengths, and with ‘Mister Egg’ that was the case: only various precious external points of view helped me shedding a light on its virtues too. A process which furtherly unfolded through watching the audience feedback video.

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

Some kind of alienation, it seemed surreal to me that they were talking, from a theatre on the other side of the world, about my film on a talking egg. It was an enlightening experience somehow, it was the first time I heard about Mister Egg from someone I don’t personally know. My interior voice reacted something like this: ‘Who are you, ladies and gents? What do you want from me? Why are you saying nice things about my short film I made in my kitchen a couple of misty winters ago? Well, thank you kind strangers!’. I also had a laugh when Paolo Valenti (Paul) was compared to Jon Snow – this often happens with him.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

As I previously mentioned, I had to submit a short film to film school. I was lacking an idea which would satisfy me, and time was running short. I was standing in the kitchen, around midnight, scratching my beardless chin in pursuit of inspiration. Then I looked at the frying pan, love-heartedly thinking about how I ate an egg everyday for breakfast, and not-so-love-heartedly realising how this would have raised my cholesterol levels very quickly. Cholesterol apart, I imagined a philosophical conversation between an ordinary guy and his breakfast’s egg, and was fascinated by such egg’s hypothetical perspective. An interaction which offered me new dialogic ‘toys’ to play with.

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

Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

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

I can’t compare it to past tools of submission, since this was my first experience with festivals. However, I don’t think it can get simpler than that, and this is positive. Upload your work, look for festivals, send it through: it goes straight to the point.

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

Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd.

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

Lately I’ve been writing quite a few short scripts. To be honest, quite a lot short scripts. Too many of them, indeed. By focusing on one of them, in the next months I will dedicate myself to making it come to life. Unfortunately, I lost the habit of eating eggs for breakfast. My cholesterol levels are OK, but I’ll have to seek inspiration elsewhere!

Interview with Filmmaker Siqi Xiao (FARTMAN)

FARTMAS was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the March 2019 Comedy & Drama Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Siqi Xiao: Too many people are so serious~~You know the students who learning filmmaking here, everybody wanna be a film master and win the oscar! I am not! I just wanna be an entertaimer to let people happy. But I do sent the massage—“don’t waste your talent”. So it’s not only a shity comedy.
I used to be a singer and I wasted my talent. So I want to let people know everybody has talent, don’t waste it!

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

It’s been one year. When I started my film school I got this idea. And a lots of people laugh at me. I started to write it and finish it from July-2017 to March-2018.

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

fart talent

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

A scene in downtown LA, there were too many homeless interrupted our shooting.

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

I finally heard something that people around me would not say.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I saw too many “man”, batman, superman, spiderman, why their superpower so cool?! why can’t be a fart? why can’t be an Asian guy?

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

1-7,LOL~ OK,Forrest Gump!

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

It’s hard to find the “Right One” you should submit.

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

A Chinese Song

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

yeah~of course! keep going!

Interview with Filmmaker Andy Brewster (A PIACERE)

A PIACERE played to rave reviews at the December 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andy Brewster: I believe some of our best work as storytellers comes out of processing our own individual experiences. And, for me as music student at college (in addition to being a film major), I wanted to tell a story about the struggles we musicians regularly face at the conservatory level. Anyone who studies music at this caliber is already incredibly self-driven, but when you’re near others also pursuing the very same subject, it is far too easy to become competitive. We start constantly comparing ourselves to each other versus working on improving ourselves and our playing. But, really, this prideful competition and envy is a terribly relatable human emotion and I wanted to say something to the motivations that should be fueling our passion for whatever subject we’re called to.

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

From writing to the end of post-production it took about 8 weeks. Things really moved fast to be able to fit everyone’s schedules.

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

Living freely.

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

Schedules were honestly the hardest part of the project. It was a small crew, but coordinating busy music students, locations, and crew schedules in the midst of a hectic semester is always challenging, especially when everyone is generous enough to donate their time and energy for free.

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

To be honest, I was terrified to open it at first… sharing your work is the hardest and most exciting thing about being a filmmaker. But, it was so fascinating to hear how others really picked up on the film’s integral themes and key moments (like the breaking of the violin). I love this format for a festival as we indie filmmakers rarely get such vocal feedback from public audiences who have no personal connection to the people behind the lens.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The ideas and situations really stemmed from my own personal struggles, thoughts, and doubts as a musician. In high-school especially I went to a really unhealthy place where all my decisions, repertoire choices, performance choices, etc. were all clouded by a craving to be better, noticed, or get that higher chair in orchestra. Instead, I probably would have become a better musician over that time if I had been forced to wrestle with the questions I ask in this film.

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

Probably all three of The Lord of the Rings films. Those were the ones that really inspired me to pursue filmmaking.

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

I love how intuitive FilmFreeway is compared to other submission sites. From setting up your project to filtering out and searching festivals, it really streamlines and simplifies the process.

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

Oh, that’s tough. Probably some solo piece I’ve worked on for a long time. Perhaps the first two movements of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto. Those are some of the most gorgeous works ever written for solo violin.

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

I’m currently finishing producing the feature film Rubaru by Marco Zambrana. (rubaruthemovie.com) Post-production for that should be wrapping up in May. In the meantime, I’m looking to produce or direct another short or two while continuing my film and music studies at Biola University.

Interview with Filmmaker Damien Starr (I’LL BE FINE)

I’LL BE FINE was the winner of BEST FILM at the December 2018 COMEDY Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Damien Starr: This was a student project and the restriction was to have it within 3 minutes. I wanted to challenge myself in a couple of ways, firstly to write a story featuring a woman as my main cast. This was a first for that, and secondly, making a film that required no on set audio, because of budget and limitations. Thus, I’ll Be Fine was born. The film, as you know, explores the communication of a deaf person through text. It opened my mind to everyday life of a deaf person and how they perceive themselves and the world around them.

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

1 week.

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

Struggle and acceptance.

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

Having a three person (including the actress) crew!

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

The first screening of this film didn’t go so well as she doesn’t mention at the end that she’s deaf. Rather, it’s left to the audience to make that connection. However, only 30% got it. 70% of people did not understand the film. As such, I changed the wording in the text bubble to reflect that. So while it’s now “on the nose” as someone described, it’s understood and enjoyed by many more people. As such, when I saw that many more loved this film in this round of feedback, I was moved and it gave me validation that this was a good film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I usually make films with bigger budgets and lots of VFX, but for this, I wanted it to be simple and focus on character and story, and all of the emotion that comes with that. Along with the restrictions of no on-set audio, I wanted to have a story of communication conveyed by text graphics. A story about a deaf person fit exactly what I was looking for. I researched strongly about deaf people and their day-to-day struggles with life and was inspired to make this movie.

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

It’s a tie between Titanic and Beauty and The Beast (1991).

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

I like FilmFreeway, no complaints there.

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

Mr. Brightside.

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

I’m fundraising for a sci-fi thriller feature film about a physicist that is kidnapped in a desolate house and has to uncover the mystery of how she got there. I placed in a screenwriting competition, and received high scores from coverage services so I’m really excited for this!

Interview with Award Winning Filmmaker Sreejith Nair (THE COLOR OF ME)

THE COLOR OF ME was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the September 2018 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sreejith Nair: This approach to the topic of racism and insecurity really came from the fact that I am Indian, but I am born and raised in America. Here in America, people look at me like I am a foreigner, but I don’t feel like one. In India, I don’t look like a foreigner, but I feel like one. I face a lot of judgment from other Indians when they find out I don’t speak Hindi, or I don’t watch Bollywood films that often, or that I have limited knowledge of Indian customs or traditions. Throughout my whole life, it seemed like I was a part of two worlds, but never completely belonged in either of them. I often questioned “how Indian” I really am. Some of my friends joke around with me by saying “I fail as an Indian.” Are there certain things I’m supposed to be doing just because I’m Indian? I have often questioned, “What if I was a black person” or “What if I was white?”, would my life be so different? Could I still be the same person if I wasn’t Indian? What if my skin could change color? So I wanted to write a story that asked, “If I am a person of a different race or ethnicity, how much is my race supposed to define me? If I am a person of color, can I still have the freedom to be whoever I want without worrying about representing my ethnicity?” I want this story to show that you can be anyone, no matter what color you are.

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

1 year of writing
2 months of pre-production
6 days of shooting
1 year of editing
5 months of post-sound

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

Racist fairytale

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

Directing 5 actresses to play the same role, and directing one actor to act along aside 5 different woman as if she was the same person. I don’t know of any other film that uses this technique of having multiple actresses play the same role, so it was my chance to come up with new directorial skills.

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

The comments that I really loved was when an audience member said, “I can relate to this movie”. That comment really showed me that this movie accomplished it’s mission of addressing the issue of racism while still being a fantasy film about a girl with a curse. And just listening to the audience talk about scenes in the film and connecting it to their actual life really raised my spirits and made me believe we did a film that is important.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

When the idea became about a girl who changes skin color, I immediately wanted to do a fairytale. She grew up with this curse and believes that not having white skin is considered ugly. When you have a character who is experiencing something supernatural, you have to have a regular person to serve as the entry point to introducing the supernatural element, otherwise the audience may not be able to follow it. I didn’t want the main character to be Indian like me, I wanted to step out of my own box for this film, I decided to make him an adopted African-American. Having my main character, Lewis, be adopted was a reflection of how I’m an Indian man raised in America, so we both have the insecurity of being raised in a community outside our skin color. With that, you have a story of two characters, with two different upbringings expressing their views of the world, and in this case, how your skin color is perceived.

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

The entire Godzilla franchise, is my favorite movie franchise of all time.

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

I love FilmFreeway, I use it all the time. It’s a very quick and easy way to find festivals and submit to them. I recommend it for all filmmakers.

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

I don’t necessarily have a favorite song.

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

My ultimate goal is to get this in front of as many producers as possible and hopefully make The Color of Me feature film.