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.

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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.

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 😉