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!

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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.

Interview with Filmmaker Larissa Pruett (GET HOME SAFE)

GET HOME SAFE was the winner of BEST FILM at the September 2018 Comedy FEEDBACK Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Larissa Pruett: I was journaling on this concept of two women competing to see how far they could make it down an alley before they died. I thought it was hilarious but realized that the concept was short lived…(haha). I brought the concept to a table read and someone suggested I make it into a video game. GENIUS! Side note: So thankful for all the table reads and discussions I have with people about concepts. I could have never come up with this idea alone or even make this film alone so I really love table reads and anytime I get to work with groups of like minded comedians. Anyway, After writing down everything I could think of with a video game and women going out I realized I had too much material. I brought it to a few table reads and flushed it out. I decided to make it based of the reactions alone and encouragement my friends were giving me. I had so much positive feedback that I knew there was no way I couldn’t make this film and lucky for me my talented friends wanted to help.

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

It took about 2 months of writing it and then 2 days of shooting. The editing process took much longer, about 8 months because I couldn’t do the editing myself for this one because we started editing it on a new program I hadn’t learned yet. Then I had to pull favors and see if my friends could help me edit and so since it was a free project we took our time. Once we finished that one of my good friends Pablo Ruff-Berganza learned how to do all of the special effects basically overnight and did them all for me. He’s the real hero.

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

Real life

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

The editing, for sure. Getting special effects to line up with my timing that I had written before. I also believe I became a better writer by the time I was in the editing process of this film so I had to battle with my past self on why I chose to do what I did. At the end of the day it was a beautiful experience for me to have gone through.

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

Gratitude. I feel so blessed and joyous to hear people discuss the film. I love hearing disagreements and am absolutely shocked when it turns into a discussion on the differences between men and women and how we behave. I love hearing what I could have done better to make it clearer because it will make me a better filmmaker. My favorite thing though is having women react to it, I love hearing them laugh too hard because it is honestly too real.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Journaling. I try to free write most days for at least a few minutes. I remember watching men behave walking home one night with my male friends and they were having the time of their life, they had no fear of death or interaction with strangers. I compared it to walking home alone from my car to my house and realized that I usually have 911 dialed up on my phone while walking if I get scared. That’s when I wrote in my journal “concept: Two women compete to see how far down the alley way each can get without dying. “Claire made it 200 yards last week”

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

Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks. I watched it growing up and was shocked to see that I was laughing at different things later in my life.

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

FilmFreeway is wonderful but submitting to festivals is painful. It’s like taking all of the extra cash you have to buy food with, throwing it into a toilet and then flushing. 6 months later you get an email that says you made it into a festival you never even remembered submitting to and they ask for 1,000 things you’re not prepared for. It’s an overwhelming experience that is absolutely necessary for us to suffer and go through. However, sitting in a theater watching it being put up and hearing laughter makes it all worth it.

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

I’m not really someone that listens to music, but I will say that if I do listen to anything it’s Bo Burnham, Can’t Handle This (Kanye Rant) on repeat because it is so inspiring to me.

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

I’m writing/directing a new short that will hopefully be done by the end of November. I’m co-writing a pilot episode with a good friend of mine and directing a few web series.
Get Home Safe - Best Comedy Film

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.

hotter_with_the_windows_open

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.