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!

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Interview with Filmmaker Alessandro Schuster (THE BOY WITH THE TEDDY)

THE BOY WITH THE TEDDY was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the January 2019 European Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alessandro Schuster: Get lots of inspiration from great movies. And I wanted a child to be the key figure. I also think that the theme of the film is receiving far too little attention in our world today.

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

The first idea for the story was in November 2016. The shooting was in February 2017 and the team screening of the film was in May 2018.

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

I can’t answer this queston 🙂 sorry.

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

To cut the flashbacks into the movie so that they are well placed and not overdone.

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

I was glad that there were so many different perceptions of the film. One has noticed the narrative method, the other has understood the process of color grading. That’s nice, that such things stay in the minds of the audience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

That answers the first question a bit. But I was at a festival at the time and suddenly had the characters in my head at night after the aftershow party and wrote down the first frame story.

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

I can not say that. I only know that it will always be more!

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

In my opinion, Filmfreeway is the best platform for filmmakers to submit their own films quickly and well at countless national and international film festivals.

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

Also not countable. They’re getting more and more. But on top of my ‘Most Played Songs’ list on my phone is, among others, Manu Chao’s ‘Siberie Fleuve Amour’ and Tocotronic’s ‘Electric Guitar’. Otherwise I hear a lot of house / electro, reggae, rap and pop.

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

As an actor, I currently shoot many television and movie productions. Otherwise, I’m currently producing the music video for the title song of our movie “Teddy’s Lullaby” by Mike Shoe, which will be released soon.

Interview with Filmmaker Dominic McCafferty (BOONDOGGLE)

THE DOOR was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the November 2018 Thriller/Suspense Festival in 2018.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Dominic McCafferty: I actually made Boondoggle as part of my final university project, where myself and my crew had to make a short film that was between 10 and 20 minutes. Of course, this wasn’t the only motivator. As I’ve only made a few short films (none of which were made with any real organisation), one of the main motivators for me was to make it as simple and minimalistic as possible, such as having it take place in one location and not having many characters or special effects, that sort of thing.

I also wanted to really test myself when writing the script by having the protagonist not talk at all throughout the entire film, as a way of pushing myself to think of more cinematic tools, other than just dialogue. I think having little dialogue creates perhaps more space for ambiguity and interpretation, something I enjoy in films. So, I guess we wanted to challenge ourselves to encourage thinking outside of the box, as well as showing that we could still make something with little.

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

As it was a still a university project, we had a deadline as well as other projects to focus on, which resulted the entirety of the process being stretched out to about 7 months. I wrote the first draft of the script in October of 2017 and was constantly re-writing and adjusting it until we began shooting in March 2018. The shooting itself took place over three days and I believe we spent roughly a month in post-production.

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

Futile greed.

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

The location. A week before we arrived, there was lots of snowfall all over the UK and by the time we were filming it had all melted, resulting in extremely thick mud at our location. At the start of the first day of shooting, my car and our cinematographer’s car both got stuck in the mud and we had to ask the landowner to help pull the cars out. In fact, in the first shot of the film where the car drives up to the little shack, we actually had to lay down some planks of wood so that it wouldn’t get stuck, which it did a few times after that. We were also filming just a couple of miles from Heathrow Airport, so planes would often fly overhead and ruin the sound for a take.

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

It was very surreal seeing a full theater of people talking about Boondoggle from across the pond. I found it really interesting to hear other people’s individual interpretations of the film and the characters. It’s strange thinking back to when I conceived the idea, to writing and shooting it and now to have people watch it and talk about it across the globe. It’s very exciting!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

A couple of years before I wrote the script, I read John Steinbeck’s ‘The Pearl’, which has similar themes of greed and power. I found the idea of having power alone controlling someone’s actions before they even get what it is that they desire, very interesting. In the case of Boondoggle, how up until the chest is opened, there is no proof that it possesses anything. It’s a real gamble that could go either way.

I also wanted to make a film that almost felt like it could be an ancient tale or a fable, which gave me the idea of the chest as almost having an ethereal atmosphere around it, kind of like Pandora’s box.

Being as greed was the main motivator for the characters, I came up with the dynamic of having the two opposing alpha males in contrast to the quiet, unassuming young man, despite them all ultimately wanting the same thing. I thought it would be almost comical to have the two alphas be so confident in what we they think they know about Nick (the protagonist), that they fail to realise that he would have his own ideas. Having them both come to him saying “Lets kill the other guy and take what’s in the chest” puts Nick in a difficult situation, but at the same time gives him an advantage, which I thought would be an interesting dynamic to film.

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

Probably ‘The Shining’. Having said that, there are particular clips from other films that I love and I can safely say I’ve watched those clips/scenes hundreds of times.

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

I thought it was extremely efficient. This is the first film I’ve ever submitted to festivals and it was very clear and easy to understand. All the other filmmakers I know use it to submit their films to festivals, which was how I found out about it in the first place.

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

Probably ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, the David Bowie version.

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

I have recently written a script for another short as well as completed a treatment for another, both are completely different to Boondoggle. Ideas often float into my head, so I’ve got lots of random, broad film ideas written down which I will certainly be developing!

Interview with Filmmakers Bevin Hamilton, Rachael Murphy (INCALL)

INCALL played to rave reviews at the November 2018 THRILLER/SUSPENSE Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Bevin Hamilton, Rachael Murphy: We wanted to make this film to highlight issues that have traditionally been avoided by moviemakers because of a gender bias to stereotype women as softer and more compassionate.

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

From writing and casting to the end of post, it took us a year to complete.

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

Female power.

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

Location fees comprised a disproportionate amount of our budget – we were very particular about our sets as they played a crucial role in telling the story. We were forced to shoot ten pages in two days! Lets just leave it at that 😉

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

We were excited people wanted to share their interpretations of our narrative and insights into our characters! It was interesting to hear different points of view from diverse and enthusiastic movie goers.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We wanted to tackle timely and controversial subject matter from a unique perspective in an experimental fashion. After watching a documentary on prostitution, we boldly and excitedly delved into the world of BDSM (which was unfamiliar to us), exploring female sexual relationships and power play. Our characters are enigmatic, passionate and complex, instead of one-dimensional, chaste and meek.

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

Bevin: I’ve seen Gone With The Wind the most over my lifetime. I love the epic filmmaking and attention to detail. Victor Fleming took a risk making Scarlett O’Hara a strong, feisty character at a time when women were portrayed as anything but…

Rachael: Dirty Dancing. Swayze oozes charisma… and introduced Gen X to “the lift” (a spectacle fit for a pool party).

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

We enjoyed using the FilmFreeway platform, it’s intuitive and comprehensive. We could easily navigate the site and upload materials as well as research and connect with festival curators/organizers. Also, opportunities we wouldn’t have thought to consider otherwise were brought to our attention, such as directing fellowships and the like.

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

Bevin: Lately its been my own record, Mirrors and Echoes (just released on iTunes lol! https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mirrors-and-echoes-ep/1381182764).

Rachael: Aside from, In the Name Of (Mirrors and Echoes ;), I heard Simply Red’s version of, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” every Sunday morning of my childhood (thanks Dad).

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

We are currently writing our first feature length script; a tragic love story set in a futuristic, consequentialist world. We’ll keep you posted 😉

Interview with Filmmaker Marvin Nuecklaus (CROSSROADS)

CROSSROADS was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the May 2018 Thriller/Suspense Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marvin Nuecklaus: Shooting a murder scene using a tire iron.

No, just kidding. I wanted to create a story that was entertaining and
challenging to follow but also comes with a deeper meaning when
you look close enough. For me, Crossroads is about a woman who
buried a traumatic event in her childhood and therefore was never
able to process it which resulted in a psychological disorder.

And those are the people we so often label as crazy without putting
in any effort to really figure out what happened to them.

We’re confronted with headlines such as: “10 years old girl sexually
assaulted” and hands down, what are the first questions you want to
get answered? Who did this? What happened to the offender? Is he
in jail? How many years did he get?

But what about the victim in 1, 2 or 10 years down the road? My
hope is that some people who watch Crossroads can see the
intentions I had with the film.

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

It took about 1 year to write the script as I worked on other projects
simultaneously. We had 2 days of principal photography with an
additional 2 months of post production.

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

psychological rollercoaster

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

Letting it go. When making a film, as a director you’ll always find
little things you want to fix, even re-shoot. It can turn into a never
ending project. Since I also produced the film, I had nobody giving
me a deadline or put an end to it so, I had to give myself a deadline
otherwise I would still be working on it.

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

For me, the reactions of an audience while watching your film and
afterwards are more valuable than any award. It was so pleasing to
see that people were able to guess my intentions behind the film and
that they won’t just see what’s in front but also behind the curtain in
terms of the characters and their world I created. Any positive and
negative critic is valuable to me to refine my craft. I want to thank
each and everyone in the audience for their feedback. Those are the
people I’m making films for and will keep doing so!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It really was a combination of a lot of things. First, I wanted to shoot
a psychological thriller that keeps the audience on the edge. A film
where you have to pay attention all the way through to understand
the ending. Second, I was always fascinated by mental disorders in
particular dissociative identity disorder (DID). Unfortunately,
Hollywood has used it too many times to shape the villain and
portrait it very inaccurately. So, most people have a very wrong
perception of what this disorder really is. While getting counsel from
psychologists and contacting people directly who suffer on DID and
were willing to speak to me, I started shaping my characters based
on the research and built the world around them. I was looking for 2
opposite locations that not only differ visually but also represent my
protagonists state of mind. Almost characters on its own. The desert
is wide and open without any boarders. She can run anywhere she
wants but really doesn’t get anywhere. She runs away from her past.
The interrogation room is small, claustrophobic. There’s no escape
except through the door but she has to go through Spencer the
psychologist in order to not be trapped.

Well, and this is how the story came together.

One thing I want to mention though is that the tire iron was there
from day 1. I guess it just inspired me when I had a flat tire.

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

Probably Inception by Christopher Nolan. His way of storytelling
fascinates me.

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

I really enjoy FilmFreeway and it is my favorite platform to submit to
film festivals. I enjoy how easy it is, how they categorize things,
their filters, and that I can find most information and feedback about
the festival right on their page.

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

In the End by Linkin Park

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

I recently finished working on a remake of the classic german horror
film “Nosferatu” directed by David Fischer, starring Doug Jones as
Count Orlok which was amazing as I’m from Germany myself and I
remember writing papers about this film while I studied film.
I’m currently writing a psychological horror feature script which I
plan to shoot in 2019. There has been some interest to turn
Crossroads into a feature which I’m very intrigued by as well. Time
will tell.
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Interview with Filmmaker Audrey Arkins (AMERICAN BOY)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Audrey Arkins: I had been filming juvenile offenders in Venice and Culver City as they moved in and out of the criminal justice system. Most of the kids said the same thing about how and when it all went wrong – usually in middle school when they joined a gang. Tragically and unrelated to the kids I was filming, a 12 year old boy was shot dead on the crosswalk outside his school in Santa Ana, a few blocks from where I was having coffee. Think of that. A 12 year old assassinated by a 14 year old from a rival gang on his way to school. Right in front of his younger brother. American Boy was an attempt to put a face to that in context for an audience. We see the statistics, hear the news reports, but generally I wonder if we’re all too distracted to feel and understand the tragedy of what’s going on before our eyes.

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

Am I finished? Three months from fund raiser to this edit.

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

Overly ambitious.

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

Me wearing too many hats. A first time director should just direct. I have a new respect for producers and what they go through.

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

Gob smacked. I thought I had failed. Wasn’t even able to look at the film for a few months I was so disappointed. We’re all our own worst critics I guess. Your audience got every aspect of our little film. That really helped me see the film in a better light.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

There’s a moment in some boys’ lives – between the age of 10 and 12 – when society, a friend, a teacher, a parent, a kinder/gentler member of law enforcement – could divert them away from ‘gang’ life. I wanted to capture that ‘missed’ moment for one kid. Help people see in context that these so-called ‘thugs’ are just children like any others, albeit severely traumatized for obvious reasons. There are clearcut solutions that a fair society ought to pursue. We don’t. Instead we incarcerate parents, trap families in poverty, force care givers to leave kids alone while they work multiple jobs because minimum wage couldn’t support a pet rabbit, let alone a family with children. It’s a vicious cycle perpetuated by the American political economy. Does anyone really think it’s a coincidence that black and brown communities are disenfranchised – fed into a criminal justice system – often for petty, unjust, racial profiling and entrapment. I saw it first hand with the kids I was filming in the other documentary – gang squad law enforcement following them everywhere, searching them every time I let them break for lunch. No one was searching me or my own kids who were helping out. Read Matt Taibbi’s ‘The Divide” if you want proof. We have a prison industrial complex that creates wealth from minority misery, sabotages generations who don’t fully fit the white bread all-American profile. These kids could grow up to be great. If we let them. Too many people and systems are profiting though. Or maybe the powers that be feel the rest of society can’t handle a leveled field of competition. This is just a ten minute short, but I wanted to do something that might trigger the conversation.

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

Apocalypse Now

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

FilmFreeway is helpful, streamlined. The LA Feedback festival was by far the best we attended though. They very kindly comped us 20 seats. The most we got elsewhere was two comps and if you’re bringing a lot of people that can get expensive. Our cast are very young kids. By separating out R-rated films after an intermission, this festival allowed the kids to finally see themselves on the big screen. The feedback from the audience was so affirming. People we didn’t know, talking intelligently about what we did. That was worth all the hassle.

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

Album more than song – OK Computer.

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

Up until now, I’ve made my living as a screenwriter and it’s still my dream job, but I am planning to direct another short soon to get more experience. My long term goal is to direct a feature about a Latina who terminates a pregnancy so she can go to college. She suffers a terrible public humiliation for that choice. Abortion is still taboo in film. I spent years on this script, trying to strike the right balance. It will need a brave sort of producer (if there are any reading this), but I think the landscape is shifting. If the industry is sincere about giving more women filmmakers access, they must realize we’ll show up focused on taboo issues too. Not that I’ve anything against romantic comedies, but women all over the world deserve to see their story told fairly for once. http://nastygirlfilms.com/features/

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