Interview with Filmmaker Michelle Brand (NOT THE SAME RIVER. NOT THE SAME MAN)

 NOT THE SAME RIVER. NOT THE SAME MAN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the August 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michelle Brand: I am fascinated for a while now with the relationship between time, change, and movement and how they connect and exist together. As humans, we believe commonly that time does exist, because we can see change taking place, so we understand time by spatialising it into stages. This idea can be expressed really well through animation, since it plays with the idea that only through a change happening on each frame, movement, and thus time, is created altogether. So to me, this film was an exploration and thought process of this whole philosophical debate on how time can be understood and perceived.

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

It was my graduation film at University, so roughly 6 months.

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

Time and movement!

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

Finding the right visuals. I had this huge idea that I wanted to explore, that it was in fact too big to put down in any pictures. I had to find the right vehicle to transport such an abstract idea, so I found the river metaphor of Heraclitus to frame it all together.

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

I was very nervous and excited of course. When you go to festivals, it is nice knowing that there is an audience watching your film, but in actual fact it is rare to hear direct feedback. So to hear that somewhere out there are people that enjoyed it and thought about it so much, is very touching.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main drive was that my head was filled about these thoughts about time and movement, and how philosophical concepts can relate to animation theory, which also was my dissertation theme at the time. So it was a combination about thinking about the philosophical concept behind it, exploring how it can be expressed in animation, and then finding the right metaphor to use.

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

I don’t tend to re-watch live-action films that much, so it might be animation shorts that I watch again and again for reference or see at festivals, I’m not too sure to be honest.

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

I think it’s good how easy and accessible the platform is, however that at the same time can be its disadvantage. As a filmmaker, you can fall into the hole of just submitting to everything that is out there, but a lot of those festivals don’t need to be checked up and approved. So there are a lot of festivals there, that you never hear from again and lack communication and connection with the filmmakers. It is difficult finding the right balance, I suppose…

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

Probably some song that is in my playlist of soundtrack music I listen to while working… Maybe ‘A Wild and Distant Shore’ by Michael Nyman!

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

Yes! I just finished a new film called ‘Synchronicity’ during my studies at the Royal College of Arts in London. Now I will be working on my next graduation film!

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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 Filmmaker Michelle Brand (A SMALL VOICE)

Michelle Brand’s short film A SMALL VOICE played to rave reviews at the August 2016 Under 5 minute FEEDBACK Film Festival. It was an honor chatting with her:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michelle Brand: The film ‘A Small Voice’ is based on a personal experience of the time when I taught children at school. I felt that many children weren’t acknowledged and respected by their parents or teachers as to who they truly were and the talents they may hide. Instead, they were only valued through achieved of grades and success. This inspired me to create a film about a very talented child whose talent is misused by his father, who merely uses him as a tool for his own reputation. Instead of focusing on the actual storyline and character of the father, I wished to convey the boy’s feelings of fear and loneliness and to create a world in which the audience can share in what he sees and feels.

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

MB: I would assume roughly 4 months. I was figuring out the idea for a few weeks and then had 3-4 months production time at university.

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

MB: ‘Scary’ and ‘Empathy’

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

MB: Probably the ending, which I must admit I still aren’t satisfied with. After the build up of the overwhelming, scary situation the boy was put in, I wanted to help him escape, wanted him to be free at the end. I found it really hard to find a way to express that.

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

MB: At the beginning, I was really nervous. But throughout hearing the audience talking about my film, I had to smile. It really moved me to hear people discuss the film, their thoughts and feelings, and it was very touching.

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

MB: The initial idea is a mixture between my experience of teaching at a school and knowing many people whose talents and skills aren’t acknowledged by their surrounding environment. It is as if you have so much to say, so much you want to do with your life, but nobody is ready to listen to you and rather asks for something else. This feeling was what sparked the idea of a boy who can sing, but doesn’t want to sing in front of all those people.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

MB: I must admit, that a lot of (live-action) films I only see once in my life, but I usually only read books once as well. Animation films I can watch again and again, as on second or third view you may realise new details on how the film was produced and discover small new meanings. Being an aspiring animator, I guess that is what makes me want to re-watch something.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

MB: Yes, of course!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film: