Interview with Filmmaker Ignacio Lasierra Pinto (FIRST COMMUNION)

FIRST COMMUNION was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY and BEST PERFORMANCES at the January 2020 European Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ignacio Lasierra Pinto: I wanted to make a film that opened certain moral issues and did not necessarily offer an answer. I guess like everything I’ve shot, it was out of necessity. The need to tell this story.

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

I wrote the script for “First Communion” in 2011. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. For years I was rewriting to improve it. Finally, I spent a year looking for adequate financing to be able to roll it well. Since I shot the short, it was another half year in post-production. It has been a long process, but it was worth it.

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

A short film that invites you to ask questions and offers few answers. I would also say that it is a short film that can be morally uncomfortable.

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

The main obstacle was finding the truth in the eyes of a girl. Luckily, we found her in Andrea Fandos. Andrea had never acted in anything before. Now she is a young actress with a promising future. She has a lot of talent, spontaneity and freshness. And she has truth in her eyes.

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

I loved seeing how the public has appreciated our short film from so far away. Although thousands of kilometers separate us and that we culturally belong to different places, I am surprised to see how universal issues transcend borders and countries. It has been a great experience to hear the opinions. As if we had been there!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was after watching “The Communicants” by Ingmar Bergman. Hence the title. Although the story has nothing to do with it, the viewing of Bergman’s film questioned me in such a way that I needed to write almost in response to what the film had caused in me. It was the starting point. That and wondering what would happen in a family where two very different positions regarding God could be confronted at a time as delicate as the death of a loved one.

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

I recognize that perhaps the one that has marked me the most and that I usually visit once a year is “12 Angry Men” (Sidney Lumet, USA, 1957). Although the one I may have seen the most time, for having grown up with it, is Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, USA, 1993). The first time I saw it, I was 9 years old and since then it has fascinated me. I grew up with that film!

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

As a filmmaker, such a platform exists is essential. Thanks to FilmFreeway, you have the opportunity to show your work on the other side of the world. And to get that work to the public.

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

I usually listen to the same groups and I like very different music. At times I listen more to one type of music or another. I could not say which. I am quite eclectic musically and I recognize that I like almost all musical styles.

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

I am currently preparing a feature film project. The trip I’m about to start is long term, so hopefully it will be next. I do not know if before filming this film I will shoot another film or not. What I do hope is that it will be soon. For a filmmaker, there is nothing better than a shoot!

Interview with Filmmaker Uliana Burykina (ILLUSION)

ILLUSION was the winner of BEST MUSIC & BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the January 2020 Drama Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Uliana Burykina: It was my third year studying in University, so as everybody I had to create a film for my final exams. That was the strongest motivation haha 🙂 But after we started to transform the story into script all I was thinking about was how strongly I want to convey the main idea to young people – women and even men my age – who facing the problem of making choice what will they do: build the career or be a family-guy? In my opinion you always have to be honest to yourself no matter what others expect from you. If you want to make a family, so do it. If you want to be a professional – it’s ok. But don’t listen to anybody who tells you can’t get it both. Each is difficult, just remember what you really want and don’t lose yourself.

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

It took almost one year. We started in January 2018 and finished in September.

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

What a difficult question…”spellbinding” and “emotional”, I guess

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

The only serious obstacle was to finish all CG in time. We were out of time, out of hands… our producer and me went more and more crazy every day. So we finished everything just around in a week before the premiere.

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

It was very pleasant to hear people from other continent just talking about our film! And after — a bit hard to understand everything they say, but we did it finally 🙂 It was a great experience, and we are proud we were awarded by such honest men and women.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was inspired by Delpozo fashion short “Winter eclipse”, Andrew Thomas Huang’s “Interstice” and my own thoughts about human masks. In mystic ways they became a story about young woman who got lost in her personas – model and mother.

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

Ohhh… “High heels” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”, I think this two.

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

I like FilmFreeway platform. It was my first time I submitted a film so it’s cool that someone created such an easy and understandable way to do this.

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

Elvis Presley – Return to sender and Stevie Nicks – Rhiannon
I never can choose one, you know 🙂

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

Yes, our crew is in the middle of creating a new short film. It’s going to be experimental, based on real stories and very provocative especially for our country.

Interview with Filmmaker Eleni Rivera (LOVE IN SEASONS)

LOVE IN SEASONS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the January 2020 Romance Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eleni Rivera: After years of being an assistant to some amazing director’s and producer’s, I was ready to do my own thing. To have my own project. One day I woke up and said, I’m finally doing this. Two weeks later, we were on set shooting!

That’s what I wanted the project to be, and I really felt like it was a story many people have gone through, and I wanted to tell it.

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

I wrote the script in January 2018. It took a while for me to get the courage to actually shoot the film so I finally ended up deciding to shoot it in March 2019.

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

Tragically Romantic

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

I was planning on having two days to shoot the short, but my Director of Photography had a family emergency which only gave us one day to shoot the entire thing. We had to take out a few scenes that we had planned on shooting and really make it happen!

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

My initial reaction was endearment and excitement. The feedback was incredibly positive and it makes me excited for my future projects.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

When I wrote this film, I was going through a decently heavy break up and overall hard time in my life. The relationship started in the fall and by the time it ended it snowfall in December. At that time, I was writing poetry, (I even self published a book of poems) and I wanted to create a poetic visual. Something that was soft and lyrical, but powerful. In the spring time, I finally finished the ending realizing that it was the most cliche of things. Time had healed my heart, and it was myself that did the healing.

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

My most watched film has to be… The Shining by Stanley Kubrick.

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

It was such a user friendly platform and I feel like there was so much support.

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

Married Life by Michael Giacchino (From “UP” the movie)

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

Yes! I am co-directing a short film in April 2020. It is a grounded sci-fi with a lot of hope and heart.

Interview with Filmmaker Francis Galluppi (HIGH DESERT HELL)

HIGH DESERT HELL was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the October 2019 Horror FEEDBACK Film Festival in October.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Francis Galluppi: We actually had the location first. The house belongs to one of my best friends grandparents and I had been wanting to shoot there for a while. I always wanted to make something that looked like the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” so this was my opportunity to do so.

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

Probably a year from the time I started writing to the time I finished post production.

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

Desert Hell

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

The cars. They never worked. We were so behind schedule because we couldn’t get the cars to start 90% of the time.

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

I wish I could’ve been there to help answer some of the questions but it felt amazing to watch the audience put it together. Especially to hear people’s own interpretation of certain things.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wrote a really short version of this story and when we went to scout the location and figure out all the blocking, there was this van parked outside of a restaurant we were eating at that said “The Apocalypse is coming. Repent or burn in hell”. That was pretty shocking and sort of inspired me to write something a little longer with more religious subtext.

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

I think I watched The Goonies everyday growing up. It was probably one of the 20 movies they had to rent for free at the library so I always would pick that one out.

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

It’s so simple. I love it.

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

Tony Sly “International You Day”. It was the song my wife and I picked for the first dance at our wedding.

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

I just finished post on another short filmed called “The Gemini Project”. That should be going through the film festival circuit next year. I’m working on a feature film now that is scheduled to shoot June 2020.

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Interview with Filmmaker Justin Zachary (NOW)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Justin Zachary: Necessity. These days as an actor if you’re not creating your own work then it feels like you’re behind in the game. I also love making movies.

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

About 20 years ago I was doing theatre in Bakersfield, CA. A playwright by the name of Roger Mathey wrote a one act play called NOW. It was just two people in a room talking about memories of their relationship and the crazy twist in the end when you find out that she’s a robot. I loved the story but unfortunately the play was never produced. Cut to, 2011 when I was looking for a project to direct and remembered this story. I called my friend Roger and asked if he still had the script. He didn’t. So, I asked him with his permission could I re-tell the story with my own vision? He agreed and that’s when the initial screenplay began.

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

Daddy issues.

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

I’d have to say the VFX. It was definitely the most costly and time consuming. We went through 3 different artists until I finally landed on one I loved. Lincoln Smith. A God sent.

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

Nervous. It’s always nerve-wracking hearing what people think of your work. Especially something that’s so personal to you. But, after I heard the positive feedback it was a relief that people actually got it!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I took my friend Roger’s original idea of two people sitting in a room talking about memories and the twist in the end then added some personal elements to give it a sense of myself. For example; The Father character is based on my ex Father-in Law. I always felt that I needed to impress him. Maybe it was my own insecurities but, I never felt that I was good enough. My character’s obsession with fixing things is another good example. I always feel that most problems (especially in relationships) can be fixed with a conversation. If you put the right words in a specific order anything can be solved. It’s an idealistic way of thinking that always gets proved wrong.

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

Probably, Caddyshack.

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

It’s great! Simple and easy to submit.

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

“Every Breath You Take” by The Police


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

I’m in the process of writing a few different things. An epic sci-fi post alien invasion film, and a supernatural western.

Interview with Filmmaker Vickie Rose Sampson (YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Vickie Rose Sampson: The main reason is to explore what will be the eventual outcomes of society of the increase in reliance on technology to do even the simplest of things. And how we could become victims of our own inventions.

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

I think it was about 6 months from idea to finished film.

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

Helluva ride.

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

Because we hadn’t done green screen before it created a HUGE issue with both color grading and visual fxs work. We had both green screen and live action driving with sometimes 4 cameras going – a canon 5d, 2 go pros and my iPhone! The green screen was too close to the actor’s face which created a “spill” which had to be cleaned up. I actually have some screen grabs of the “before” and “after” if you want me to send them! I just gave a demo to the Los Angeles Post Production Group about what we went through to get it to look the way it does!

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

I loved that they enjoyed the ride!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

My producing partner and screenwriter, Wendy Fishman, and I were driving to a screening in Hollywood and my GPS told me to turn down this alleyway… Wendy said, “Just go up to Sunset and turn right!” I said, “No! I must obey the GPS!” So then we talked about taking it to its illogical conclusion about what would happen if we “disobeyed” her and that’s how You Drive Me Crazy was born.

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

That’s a tough one! Do you mean a film I’ve seen over and over? All the ones I have done sound editing on because i HAVE to watch them over and over as I’m working on them but I don’t think you’re talking about those! Although, I could watch On Golden Pond (which I worked on) over and over still….Meet Me In St Louis, It’s a Wonderful Life, Citizen Kane,

I rarely watch films more than once because time is so valuable. (with the exception of animated films that my grandchildren want to watch over and over –

like Coco! or Frozen!)
PS I was a Supervising Sound editor for 40 years on feature films – like Return of the Jedi, Pirates of the Caribbean , Ordinary People, Sex and the City (movies) Donnie Darko etc.

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

It makes it very easy to keep track of submissions, acceptances, and lets me find all kinds of festivals I didn’t know about! Though it is a daunting task (and sometimes expensive) to submit and then not get in. We probably need to add about $1000 to a budget just for festival submissions, not to mention any travel costs to actually attend them. I would love to attend them because I get such a kick at seeing how audiences react to my films – that’s the whole reason we do these! But it’s so costly to go. For example, my film is in a festival in Mass. this coming weekend which sounds lovely – on the waterfront, with workshops and screenings but to get there would cost JUST ME about $1500! I could put that into the budget for the next film. Plus, if you do go, there’s never any guarantee that anyone will come see the film! Maybe we’re over-saturated with screenings in LA but sometimes the only people in the audience are the other filmmakers and their friends/cast/crew/family. So I don’t want to spend $1500 to go to a festival where no one shows up! And you can’t ask the festival if they are well-attended, right!? So besides the BIG festivals, you just don’t know if you’ll have an audience!

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

Anything by Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, CSNY… yes I’m from that era! I can’t think of one particular song I’ve listened to over and over! Maybe Scarborough Faire? Suzanne? Suite Judy Blue Eyes

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

Yes! Wendy and I are producing another short called REFLECTIONS – 1 woman – 1 room – 1 transformation. We are doing it as a “pilot” for a possible series. A young woman questions her identity just as she’s about to be married and how her decision affects the whole family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Filmmaker Cameron Kostopoulos (PERSON(A))

PERSON(A) was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2019 Experimental FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Cameron Kostopoulos: I was fascinated by the idea of the persona, and the separation of the persona from the body. I wanted to portray the human identity as one that is understood through action and repetition, a daily set of behaviors and mannerisms that create what we believe ourselves to be.

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

The entire process spanned just over 6 months.

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

Playfully introspective.

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

Believe it or not, the biggest obstacle was in working with those damn mannequins. They were constantly crashing, falling apart, limbs breaking; it was a nightmare.

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

Appreciative, both for the time that the audience took in seeing my film and responding, and for the opportunity to screen my film in such a venue.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

PERSON(a) came to me while stumbling across Jackson Pollock’s “The Mask”, a work centered around his Jungian approach to art and psychology. Wanting to translate this portrayal of philosophy into a contemporary medium, I decided to use similar tropes and aesthetics as Pollock to create a story out of the paint.

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

Life of Pi, without a doubt.

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

It is a very useful tool for organizing projects, submitting, and receiving responses, even for different films, on the same platform.

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

Svefn-g-englar by Sigur Ros.

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

I just wrapped an experimental piece entitled “Requiem”; Currently, however, I am in development for a VR experience to be premiered in an installation later in 2019.

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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 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.