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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Interview with Filmmaker Eugene Lehnert (THE OUTER BOROUGHS)

THE OUTER BOROUGHS played to rave reviews at the August 2018 COMEDY Film Festival in Toronto.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’ve been making the series as a low budget web-series. I wanted to make something bigger to show off the concept. I tried to make an episode about a creature that lived in the toxic waters of an EPA superfund site in Brooklyn but it was too expensive. So an episode about Witches was easier to make.

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

It’ probably took about a year.

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

Supernatural hijinks

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

Working around everyone’s schedules.

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

Terrified but then relieved and happy.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:


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

My friend pitched me a witches episode after I could not raise the money for the Creature from the Gowanus Canal episode.

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

Back to the Future

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

I like Film Freeway. I find it better to use than Without A Box.

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

A toss up between Weird Al’s “It’s Christmas at Ground Zero” and “Yoda”.

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

Remastering an old film for Amazon Prime called “Armageddon for Andy”. Then writing. I’m broke and paying off this thing so it’s tough to make anything.

Interview with Filmmaker Josiah Cuneo (IN THROUGH THE NIGHT)

IN THROUGH THE NIGHT played to rave reviews at the August 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Josiah Cuneo: I really wanted a chance to write and perform some music in a different way than I usually do. I made four short films, this being one of them, and I wrote and performed the music for them in a theater as live scores to the films. It really changed my approach to making music, and introduced me to film making.

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

I wrote the music, started rehearsing, hired a camera person, secured a location, set a date. Then the camera person took another job that day, the location cancelled, and I couldn’t reschedule because the performer’s visa’s were up, and they were set to get on a plane back to Sweden. It was a close call, but somehow I pulled everything together, and we found a way. One of the benefits of living in the city. Then I edited it, rewrote all the music, recorded it, mixed it…and then…a year later, I had a film.

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

Broken Daydream

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

One of the performers called me the day after the shoot to tell me she couldn’t find her earring. It was a family heirloom, so she was rightful anxious to get it back. I went back to the location the next day and looked everywhere. Eventually I found it. It has fallen down the drain of a 19th century sink. It took an entire day to get that sink apart, and be able to pull that earring out, but we did it. I learned a lot about plumbing that day.

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

It was really encouraging seeing someone give thoughtful insight to the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Film:

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

I would say it was 90% music based.

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

Great question. The movie that I have made a conscious decision to watch the most times would probably be Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. When I first saw it I only saw the second part of it, so it didn’t really make sense, but it stuck with me, so I eventually went back to it. Now I find myself watching it everyone couple years because it really is a kind of perfect film, and in many ways has become the gold standard of what I hope to achieve in my own work.

On the other hand, the movie I have seen the most, regardless of wanting to or not, is Spike Lee’s Crooklyn. When I was a kid growing up my little sister has a VHS copy of it, and she would put it on at least five out of the seven days of the week. If I was ever in the living room, chances are it was on. It has such a good soundtrack and was made so well as a film, that you could watch it everyday without getting tired of it. I know that film incredibly well, but because I would always be watching it in bits and pieces, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the plot.

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

It’s been a great experience. It’s both exciting to see how many people are holding film festivals, and a great thrill to be part of them.

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

It’s a two way tie. The Shirelles “Will You Still Love me Tomorrow” and The Crystals “Then He Kissed me”. Hands down the two greatest songs ever recorded.

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

Last year I wrote and directed my first play that was produced at Roulette Intermedium in Brooklyn. I am starting rehearsals next week for my second, The Screen Above, a play centered around my music and choreography. After that, I hope to start shooting my first feature film next year.

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Interview with the Creative Team of THE POET Short Film

Christopher Redman (Writer/Performer), Adam Cushman (Director) and David J. Phillips (Producer)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Chris Redman came to the set of our feature ‘The Maestro” with this incredible piece and we knew that it should be seen in its entirety.

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

About a year from start to finish.

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

David: Raw Talent.
Chris: Oscar bait.
Adam: Mostly Canadian.

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

Chris: performing/keeping track of the poem which always morphed into a stream of consciousness multiple times.

Adam: Semi-trucks

David: Probably getting the people doing the post on our feature – especially our awesome sound mixer Scott Jennings – to find the time to help us with the short as well.

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

Chris: Happy it provoked some talk about the relevance of the politics in the poem vs today.

David: Yeah, and I loved that an audience member thought it was a bit on the nose in regards to current politics – which was funny because we shot it before The 2016 election. I was impressed by the turnout, and that people seemed engaged. Wish we could’ve made it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

David: Chris had came in with this amazing poem for our feature and we’d shot so much of it – it seemed like a waste to only use the 30 seconds in the film, so I suggested to Adam we make a short with it, and he was really on board to do it.

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

Chris: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Adam: Cuckoos Nest, or Empire Strikes Back, not sure.
David: Raising Arizona

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

We think its a great platform, and easy to navigate and discover new festivals.

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

Chris: ‘O Canada’
Adam: “Dollars and Cents’ by Radiohead
David: ‘Let Down’ by Radiohead

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

Chris: God Friended Me on CBS this September and hoping Reverie on NBC gets picked up for another season. Also can be seen on ‘Workin Moms’. Always tinkering on my own writing and performing.

David: Adam and I are releasing The Maestro, from which the Poet comes from, later this year. I shot another feature recently that we just are starting post on, and Adam and me are also very close to getting another feature off the ground very soon.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Filmmaker Farman Abdalrahman Karim (ISIS WAS HERE)

 ISIS WAS HERE was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2018 Documentary Short Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Farman Abdalrahman Karim: My motivation was focus the human rights and I wanted to document the ISIS crimes.

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

I needed about three months.

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

Tragedy is continuous.

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

The big challenges for me was threats from ISIS because ISIS in the beginning until now…..they want to kill me. Now I left my country.

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

This was a big for me. I feel that I’m on my way to became a global documentary filmmaker.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I visited the city and I saw they destroyed it. So I decided to document that story.

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

The Pianist and the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

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

Filmfreeway is easy, great and an amazing website to help filmmakers participate and find good festival for their films.

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

Bezhan Kamgar. He is a Kurdish signer.

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

My new project is documentary film about the Ezidy girls who were raped from ISIS.

 

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.

Interview with Filmmaker/Animator Michele Haines (SAM THE HAM)

 SAM THE HAM played to rave reviews at the May 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

It was a way of finding myself again after sinking into a low state after a series of horrible events, including my father’s death. Sam’s dad is designed after my dad, an Army Airborne Ranger, who enjoyed moonlighting as a farmer 🙂

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

Sam’s lines just came to me as I was improv’ing a character voiceover demo for a toy company in 2010. Fast forward to 2017 when I decided to make a short out of him. I found my animator accidentally while searching for my brother on LinkedIn – same name, but no relation. The composer is my close friend and favorite musician, and through him, I found my character designer. And by July 2017 – bada bing bada boom – done!

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

Dee licious

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

It was a really smooth process and I learned a lot along the way. Couldn’t have asked for a better team! The hardest part may have been trying to stay on top of things while relocating from the East to the West Coast.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Ohmygoodness, I was really touched and encouraged by the nice things that the audience members said. I’m so happy that they enjoyed it and didn’t think (or say) I was a moron hahaha…

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

The initial idea was a total improv accident that stuck. The idea to animate it was a way to bring me back to life and also to start bringing the character voices I’ve created to life.

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

Shallow Grave, Run Lola Run, The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (claymation), The Fountain, Momento (had this playing on repeat in Brooklyn before I got the cable hooked up, ha)

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

So easy! Thank you!

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

Matthew Paul Surowiec – “Girl Like You”, Thirty Seconds to Mars – “Buddha for Mary”

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

Lots of voiceover work. There are a few more shorts in the works, and maybe another episode of Sam the Ham in the near future 🙂

 

 

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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.

Interview with Filmmaker Sari Eran Herskovitz (TRAIN)

TRAIN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the April 2018 Under 5min. Feedback Film festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sari Eran Herskovitz: The film is a music video for Train, the first single of Longing Songs, the debut album of Sari & Moshe, a music duo consisting of me and my husband. As an animator, I wanted to create a visual expression of the song.

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

It took about 6 months to make the film from the idea to the finished short. Most of the time was dedicated to choosing the right images and exploring the animation technique combining watercolors and cutouts.

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

The host of the conversation in the feedback video described it as liquid joy. I really like this description and would like to adopt it here.

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

I created the animation like a jazz improvisation – drawing live under the camera. This was difficult because we had very limited time for shooting the film, for budget and timing reasons.

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

It was very exciting and moving for me to hear the people in the audience talk about the animation and the music. It’s a special experience to be deeply understood by people I don’t know, who could feel the joy and the flow I felt creating the animation, and could relate to the childlike experience of morphing into the moment. I was surprised by the fact that the translation of the lyrics was not clear to some of the people, but this feedback was helpful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The music video is based on my feelings as a mother to a small daughter.
The animation started out as a short poem I wrote describing a moment of watching my daughter play with her toy train. The lyrics were then composed by my Husband, and the song became a part of our first album.

In the animation it was important for me to express warmth and connection, and also the fluidity of time I experienced as a mother: rhythms changing, time stretching and shrinking, allowing me to discover things I would not notice otherwise. Using watercolors in a stop motion technique helped me to express this fluidity visually.

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

I am not sure which film I have watched the most. What I can say is that watching Yellow submarine as a child was a very strong experience for me, and I think it’s a part of my inspiration to combine music, colors and visual images.

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

I experienced it as a very friendly and comfortable platform.

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

I don’t know. There are many songs and styles of music I love. Today I listened to Paul Simon’s American tune.

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

My husband and I are working on some new music, there may be more music videos in the future.

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Photo by Doron Oved

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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.