Interview with Filmmakers Kasey Poracky & Robert Mack (SHIFT)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Robert: I had always had a passion for making movies, but never had the time or opportunity to pursue those interests during my high school years while under an intense training schedule of ballet, academics and extra-curriculars. When I got to Indiana University, I realized that the resources there and the incredible talent that I found myself surrounded by at the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department would lend itself well to a high-quality project. From there on I began to form partnerships with students and faculty in both those schools.

Kasey: Once I heard Robert’s concept, I knew we’d be able to make something really beautiful that many people could relate to. And, I’ve always deeply admired dancers and dancing, so having the opportunity to capture ballet on film was a dream of mine.

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

Kasey: It took us about 15 months to pull this off.

Robert: The first six months was spent developing and pitching the initial idea. In January of 2018, I became a finalist at the Jacobs Innovation Competition, where a Media School Professor, Craig Erpelding, then connected me to Kasey. After spending months developing the idea with her, seeking funding, and putting together the cast and crew, we shot over two days in Fall of 2018 and the completed version was completed by early Spring.

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

Kasey: Poetic and Graceful (to me at least!)

Robert: Freedom and Inspiration.


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

Kasey: This being a student production, we had limited resources as far as a pre-production team, and so Robert and I did a lot of work on the front end. Casting, costumes, props, finding a composer and choreographer, etc. In terms of shooting and editing, we went with a multi-camera (5 to be exact) setup for optimal coverage, and so that was definitely a challenge on set and in post.

Robert: Coordinating all the moving parts and working with everybody’s schedules. The ballet department was incredibly supportive throughout, but our heavy schedules left a limited opening in which we could rehearse the dancers and focus on Shift. It was never enough time, but Sasha works brilliantly, the Jacobs dancers pick up and interpret movement with such great ease, and I was in awe of the support and professionalism of the Media School.

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

Kasey: I was so moved hearing the reactions of the audience members. When you spend so much time on something, to hear people talk about what touched them and what they enjoyed is very rewarding. Not only did the over-arching theme seem to come through, but all the little painstaking details we pored over were also mentioned. Getting to hear those comments has meant a great deal to me and I am very grateful.

Robert: I was in the audience for the feedback sessions at the festival and felt so extremely gratified and grateful for the positive reactions. My thought was, “people get it.” That meant the world to me.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Robert: Shift very much draws from my experiences of the day-to-day routine of a high-school student losing sight of what makes our endeavors worthwhile in the first place.

Kasey: The main concept, of a student getting swallowed by his responsibilities, was Robert’s idea. We wanted it to feel modern and somewhat abstract, and so the idea to take the story to another place in time was a collaborative decision from myself, Robert, and another of the film’s producers Craig Erpelding.

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

Robert: It’s hard to say, as I have always been a movie buff. Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as well as Back to the Future come to my mind. As a kid, I loved musicals and would watch old classics like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Happiest Millionaire.

Kasey: Probably Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

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

Kasey: Film Freeway is wonderful. I love how it makes everything streamlined and accessible. It’s easy to use and makes entering festivals a non-intimidating process.

Robert: It makes submitting films to multiple festivals incredibly easy.

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

Kasey: I truly have no clue!

Robert: Piano Man by Billy Joel

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

Kasey: I am an aspiring Director of Photography, despite that I was the Director for Shift, and so currently I am working as the DP on several short films coming out of The Media School here in Bloomington.

Robert: Lots of new films, some involving dance. Ever since Shift, I have enjoyed working collaboratively with Media school students. One of my latest films, Midnight in the Park, stars ballet students and my incredible Ballet professors, Kyra Nichols, Carla Korbes, and Christian Claessens. I’m also getting my feet wet in screen acting. I’m still in college, so my studies remain of utmost importance, and I’m currently pursuing a second major in History and writing my Honors thesis on Hollywood director John Ford. All this, while I continue to train to be a professional ballet dancer, and to that end I am off this summer to ballet intensives with American Ballet Theatre in New York and Royal Ballet School in London.

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Interview with Filmmaker Shantel Hansen (HER TURF)

HER TURF played to rave reviews at the February 2020 Documentary Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Shantel Hansen: This started back in 2014 when I conceived of the idea of filming women in male dominated sports. Here in the United States, this wasn’t a topic talked about or filmed that often until recently there are more conversations over all about women in male dominated spaces in sports, professionally, and workplace. When I discovered women in football officiating, I knew that there had to be stories to uncover, document, and share. What I didn’t know was how I was going to do it. As a first time director and producer, it took over four years to make this documentary come alive. There have been a lot of ups and downs. A lot of highs and low moments. Looking back, I can’t express how grateful I am to see it all come together in a way that I could have never imagined in a million years. These three incredible women that I filmed along with an amazing film crew (Annice Canday, Tangela Mitchell and Mary Podesta) took a HUGE chance on me, as a rookie. I knew what I lacked in experience (I didn’t go to film school) I could make up with heart, passion and dedication.

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

2014-2019

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

Real and Inspiring

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

Honeslty, it wasn’t having a limited budget. It was getting access to film these incredible women. And when I did get access it was sometimes limited.

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

BLOWN AWAY. The audience feedback is priceless. I love how this documentary has a diverse audience. Anyone can watch it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I knew that I wanted to film something/someone/topic focusing on subculture(s) that impact the larger culture(s) unknownly. Officials and refeeres do that. They are a subculture that is marginalized in that they are in-between the game, players, coaches and fans. You see them (typically when it’s a call that you don’t like or agree with) but you don’t know who they are, why they are there on the line of scrimmage or why they do it.

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

I’m a mix bag. Big time. I watch crazy pointless series to serious stuff that is at Sunday and Hot Docs.

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

This was an overall a great experience to have FilmFreeway as a portal to submit my documentary and keep track of everything.

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

I listen to everything!

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

I have several projects in pre-production and one heading into production in the summer of 2020. I’m going to build out the concept of fiming more women in male domianted sports including a bull rider, sky diver, jockey, smoke jumper, and drag car sisters. I’m also working on another series filming women that are attempting to do online dating in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

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Interview with Filmmaker Ashley Gerst (THE SPIRIT SEAM)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ashley Gerst: I was motivated by my relationship between my grandfather and myself. He passed away in 2013, and I wanted to do something to honor his memory and to help me find a way through my grief regarding his death.

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

A little over 5 years! The initial outline for the story is dated at Oct 13, 2013. The final was completed January 15th!

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

Magically nostalgic.

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

Technically: the main character (Pollywog)’s hair. It was a nightmare, and took about 6 months and 3 rebuilds to finish.

Emotionally: there was one day, where I had set up a full classroom with rendering – each computer displaying a scene from the film as they rendered away overnight. I stood in the room, looking around before leaving, and realized that I was surrounded by my memories and a visualization of my relationship with my grandfather. It was a bit overwhelming.

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

I loved hearing the reaction and emotions each person had when watching my film!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wanted to base it on my life, my memories of my grandfather, and also his memories that he was so excited to share about his childhood! The main character (Pollywog) would be about the same age as my grandfather was in 1952 in the film.

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

A very weird one: The Mouse and His Child. it was an early sanrio production (makers of hello Kitty) and is very bizarre.

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

I enjoy it overall, I find it easier than Without a Box.

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

that’s a hard one – probably Billy Idol’s Mony Mony.

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

Yes! I am currently finalizing the script and character designs for my next film: Being Pushed Down by Shadow. It’s about newly adult daughter living with her single mom. They love each other but do not see eye to eye.
This animated film will take place in 1969-1970 and will fall within the horror genre.

Interview with Filmmaker Deeptanshu Sinha (SIEGE)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Deeptanshu Sinha: Like all my previous films my crew and I set out to make something which would push every crew member to their creative limits. We usually attempt things which we haven’t executed before or are doubtful of executing. Hence, I took the decision to make a VFX heavy film as we had never done it before. Finally after a lot of brainstorming I got the perfect story I wanted to tell. A story about a man in search for peace only to realise that it cannot be found.

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

It took me around 15 months to make this film.

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

Magnum Opus

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

Every day was an obstacle. It took us 15 months as we entered a territory we had no idea how to execute. We had just around $4800 to execute the entire project so we were short on crew. Hence, we wore multiple hats to complete the project. I was the Writer, Director, Production Designer, Sub Editor, Media Manager whereas my DOP also contributed in Production Design alongside Rotoscopy and DI Colorist. We had only two, 20 year olds who did 95% of the VFX. As nobody in our school had done a VFX project we barely got any support from the school and were on our own without any mentoring. Faculty calls to take over the project due to VFX delays was a nightmare but managing those prepared me as to become a better filmmaker for the studio environment.

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

Firstly, I was so thankful to the people who watched my film and took the effort to give feedback to us. My reactions were as anticipated. The audience completely got the things I wanted to convey to them and also left them thinking with questions which would make it a worthy second screening for them to get those questions answered. I am thankful to the festival for including the feedback section. Its a major plus.

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

I personally was going through a phase in life where I was trying really hard to find peace only to realise that it can never be found. We have to make peace with reality. Hence, I decided to extrapolate this idea and make a layered narrative to tell this story which would be relatable for many audiences worldwide.

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

I honestly don’t have a single film to answer this. As I watch the high rated films once in the cinemas and when at home I try to find the low rated films and give them one viewing.The reason for this is that the low rated films teach you things that one shouldn’t be doing when they make a film. There is a saying, how will you know what is sweet until you haven’t tasted sour.

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

FilmFreeway for filmmakers is like shopping on Amazon. Just add to cart all the festivals you want and hit go. It has made the process such easy. Will just reference THE DARK KNIGHT for this. “FilmFreeway is not the hero we deserve but the one which we need right now”.

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

I have heard Hans Zimmer’s TIME the most in my life. It falls under background scores but I think that’s the only one I can think of. Every time I play it, it emotes different feelings. The score is simply timeless.

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

I am making a feature film with a studio now. It should be done by 2020 end or by the 1st quarter of 2021.

Interview with Filmmaker Myriam Kamel (MY BROTHER)

MY BROTHER played to rave reviews at the April 2019 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Myriam Kamel: I definitely wanted to show diversity on the screen. Montreal is such a cultural city, and as beautiful as it is it also comes with its issues. I wanted to portray it on the screen.

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

I thought about this film for about 3 years before writing the first version. Then from writing to the first screening it took about 8 months.

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

Cultural film

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

Casting was the biggest challenge throughout this film. There are not a lot of arabic actors in Montreal and the few I met didn’t correspond much to the characters. Casting was a very long process and I was very lucky to find Hamza and Fayçal.

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

At first I was very very VERY nervous, but after I was relieved. It’s amazing to get that kind of feedback from strangers. I loved that people who had trouble relating to the story or who didn’t understand certain things had the guts to speak out and say it. Too often it feels like people are too scared to say what they think for fear of hurting your feelings, but I know that my work is not perfect and I had an idea of what didn’t come out right with this film. This feedback helped me confirm it and think of what I could have done differently. It was very constructive and I’m very grateful for it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I knew I wanted to make a film about culture differences. Growing up in Montreal I’ve always felt like I had to behave a certain way inside the house and another when I was out. My beliefs were often challenged and my parents didn’t always understand how it changed me. After discussing it with other people I realized that I wasn’t the only one going through this sort of dilemna where I felt I had to chose between my family and what I wanted, and so I wanted to write about it.

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

In my whole life it would be La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz, but recently I’ve just watched Divines by Uda Benyamina and I’m in love with it. It’s a sad film, but it’s beautiful, very well-made. I love french cinema.

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

I like that there is such a platform, it definitely eases the submission process and it’s great to have access to so many festivals in one place, but sometimes it does feel like your film is only one in a million. It’s also hard to figure out which festivals are active on FilmFreeway.

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

Like Ships in the Night – Mat Kearney

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

Working on my next short 🙂