Interview with Filmmaker Thomas F. O’Brien (PHOTOS IN THE RAIN)

PHOTOS IN THE RAIN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the November 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Thomas F. O’Brien: I was compelled to share the photographs I found to the world, especially when it started to rain. I remember raindrops hitting me on the face as I quickly moved them down the street to my house. I knew they were special, and that when given the chance I would give them more honor than sitting in the rain.

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

The idea was borne in January 2013, the opportunity came about in October 2017, so 4 years and ten months from pillar to post per se. From the time my Directing class group heard my pitch to when we completed the edit was about three weeks.

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

Art love.

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

Getting the daughter to send pics of the photographer, James Belsanti, after I interviewed her…she was moved by seeing the display of her father’s work, and needed time to process it all. We only have the one pic of him, in the film, and what’s cool about that is he’s wearing a red jacket…Al Avis, Vice-President of the Chicago Area Camera Club says in a phone interview that James Belsanti said to, “get somebody in a red coat to stand in your photograph.”

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

I loved it! It was the best response I’ve heard. Hearing people who “get it” is a wonderful feeling to behold.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I feel like I didn’t come up with the idea, that it was something already thought of and I was just the vessel for it! When I read the syllabus for the Directing class and saw a documentary was an assignment I began putting it together.

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

It’s a tie between “Grand Canyon” (1991) and “Cast Away” (2000).

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

It’s a relief to be able to do something so effortlessly in the distribution/promotion process.

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

“Ventura Highway,” by America (my first 45 rpm, many moons ago).

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

Since then I have co-wrote/directed/acted in a feature that is now on Amazon (“Rainy Carolina” [2018]). I wrote two TV pilots, a sitcom episode, and am working on three screenplay projects. I plan to direct one of those on a small scale as a sizzle to get funding for the bigger scale.

A final word: My son and I went to the Grand Canyon last week. It was a wonderful father-son experience, and on the drive to Las Vegas to fly back home I discovered we had won “Best Music!” This was doubly exciting because my son had stopped playing music for the last few years to work as a carpenter, and his song was the end credits song in the project. I’m hoping it planted a seed in him to want to continue with his musical talent.