Interview with Filmmaker Mischa Livingstone (CUBICLE)

CUBICLE played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mischa Livingstone: One day at work I happened to wander into an area of the third floor that I hadn’t been in before. Lo and behold, I discovered a recently abandoned office space looking like something out of the apocalypse. I had this immediate feeling of hypocrisy, sensing the gulf between what such a large workspace promises (success, money, stability), alongside the reality of a business overextending itself and making false claims.

I knew I had to make a film there. It was simply too interesting a location to pass up. The problem, though, was that all the equipment and furniture was being moved out within the next few weeks, so if I was going to shoot something it had to be quickly.

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

From walking into the location for the first time to shooting “Cubicle” was barely 2 weeks. Having discovered the location, I quickly made a round of calls to a number of people I regularly collaborate with and fortunately everyone was game to jump on board. I didn’t have an idea yet but didn’t want to wait until I did before putting together a crew. This was a rare case of figure out the logistics first, come up with the idea later.

Something about churning out a film in a short amount of time meant I couldn’t afford to be precious about the material. As such, I wasn’t agonizing over every decision or edit, which was a welcome change from other films I’ve made. It taught me a lot about being decisive and not sweating the small stuff.

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

Faking it.

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

For me, the biggest obstacles in filmmaking are always psychological. Deciding to make a film is the most significant hurdle. I’m mostly terrified of the thought and shy away from that commitment even though I know it’s what I need to do. Once I’ve made the decision, however, and fully committed to it, I barrel forward.

I am a much happier person when I am working on a film, but it’s that first decision that is always the most difficult and most frightening. Thankfully, my wife is there to push me forward and provide me with the support and encouragement I need to overcome my insecurities.

Specifically for “Cubicle”, I was facing a layoff myself at the time, and very uncertain about my future. Making the film was tied up in my own psychological state, and was a way for me to work through my fears, concerns, doubts, and anxiety.

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

Watching the feedback session was fantastic. I felt really honored by the thoughtful responses people gave, not to mention grateful to the festival for taking the time to record them.

Most surprising to me were the people who found the film motivational and inspirational. I hadn’t set out to portray the character as defying the odds. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nonetheless, if people find optimism in the piece then I’m thrilled. It is fascinating how irrelevant the director’s intent can sometimes be.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Given the limited time I had before I had to shoot at the location, my wife and I looked at the resources we had and built the idea around that. Rebecca Lincoln, who plays Becky Schyster in the film, was a good friend and had a lot of sales experience. I knew she could nail this character, and she was utterly game to play so the film coalesced around her specifically.

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

Airplane.

“Surely, you can’t be serious.

I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”

I can’t tell if the humor in the film has withstood the test of time, or if I’m simply nostalgic for my younger self watching this and finding it so hilarious. Either way, watching this film makes me very happy.

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

I was introduced to FilmFreeway through a friend of mine who is a producer in Canada. I had not heard of the platform and he was very enthusiastic about it in comparison to the other options out there. This is the first time I’ve used FilmFreeway for a project and I will absolutely use it again. I particularly appreciate the ability to select festivals based on the cost of application. When you are making independent films, every penny counts, and FilmFreeway makes it easier to manage your festival submission budget.

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

Honestly, and I’m ashamed to admit it, it’s “Let it Be” from Frozen. This is on account of having a 3-year-old daughter who is obsessed with all things Elsa. Did you know there is a 10-hour loop of the song on YouTube?

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

I am in the throes of post-production on a new short film called “One Bedroom, One Bath”. I should be done by December 2018, at which point I’ll be submitting to festivals.

Sadly, it is over 5 minutes and won’t be eligible for the Under 5 Minute Film Festival.

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Interview with Filmmaker Steve Socki (HALLOWSTIDE)

HALLOWSTIDE played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Steve Socki: Want to create moving paintings with visual interest.

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

1 year

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

Ebb Flow

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

Compositing thousands of layers in After Effects

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

Fascinating to hear variety of experiences.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Visual development developed from watercolor sketches of tidepools. Inspiration and spark from poetry of Wallace Stevens. Visual motion from teaching demonstrations I do for my animation mechanics class.

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

Norman McLaren’s “Blinkity Blank”

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

This is the best service, by far. They are the most organized, and offer the best site navigation.

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

Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano” from “The Marriage of Figaro;” at least, that is the melody most stuck in my head

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

New animation called “Enfold.” Developing visuals from studies of Baroque Masters’ treatment of clothing on figures. Motion tests of cloth blowing in the wind. Poetry of William Carlos Williams.
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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 Filmmaker Michelle Brand (NOT THE SAME RIVER. NOT THE SAME MAN)

 NOT THE SAME RIVER. NOT THE SAME MAN was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the August 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michelle Brand: I am fascinated for a while now with the relationship between time, change, and movement and how they connect and exist together. As humans, we believe commonly that time does exist, because we can see change taking place, so we understand time by spatialising it into stages. This idea can be expressed really well through animation, since it plays with the idea that only through a change happening on each frame, movement, and thus time, is created altogether. So to me, this film was an exploration and thought process of this whole philosophical debate on how time can be understood and perceived.

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

It was my graduation film at University, so roughly 6 months.

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

Time and movement!

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

Finding the right visuals. I had this huge idea that I wanted to explore, that it was in fact too big to put down in any pictures. I had to find the right vehicle to transport such an abstract idea, so I found the river metaphor of Heraclitus to frame it all together.

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

I was very nervous and excited of course. When you go to festivals, it is nice knowing that there is an audience watching your film, but in actual fact it is rare to hear direct feedback. So to hear that somewhere out there are people that enjoyed it and thought about it so much, is very touching.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main drive was that my head was filled about these thoughts about time and movement, and how philosophical concepts can relate to animation theory, which also was my dissertation theme at the time. So it was a combination about thinking about the philosophical concept behind it, exploring how it can be expressed in animation, and then finding the right metaphor to use.

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

I don’t tend to re-watch live-action films that much, so it might be animation shorts that I watch again and again for reference or see at festivals, I’m not too sure to be honest.

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

I think it’s good how easy and accessible the platform is, however that at the same time can be its disadvantage. As a filmmaker, you can fall into the hole of just submitting to everything that is out there, but a lot of those festivals don’t need to be checked up and approved. So there are a lot of festivals there, that you never hear from again and lack communication and connection with the filmmakers. It is difficult finding the right balance, I suppose…

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

Probably some song that is in my playlist of soundtrack music I listen to while working… Maybe ‘A Wild and Distant Shore’ by Michael Nyman!

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

Yes! I just finished a new film called ‘Synchronicity’ during my studies at the Royal College of Arts in London. Now I will be working on my next graduation film!

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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 Catherine L. Allard (THE CORD)

THE CORD played to rave reviews at the August 2018 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Catherine L. Allard: I had this short script written for a while and I wanted to improve technical settings and crew for my next long script. So I asked everyone if they would do this film first and they did!

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

I would precise that the script was already in place. I just rewrite some quotes, shoot and edit in 2 months.

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

Social Schizophrenia

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

To make believe that the 6 friends were real and the Man unreal or awkward.

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

I was pleased and impressed to see how easily they understood the idea. Also glad to see the young age of the crowd.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I was talking with my partner about Schizophrenia and joking about what would be the most troubled situation and we made a link that social media and cellphones obsession become some kind of disease and social illusion, as schizophrenia can affect brain reality. It’s was a long process but I just tried to put it down in a critic and a suspense with a punch but not too serious!

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Top 3

La belle verte, Coline Serreau

Starwars (original trilogy)

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

Great platform , very usefull and interactive.

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

I really have no idea, funny question though.

What is next for you? A new film?

Writing a long motion picture, 2 actually, trying to go in prod next year. working on different projects also.

 

 
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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 Randy Kerr (BROTHERS)

BROTHERS was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Randy Kerr: While my background has been in landscape / travel still photography, I’ve been shifting more into nature documentary film work since it touches on my love of music and story as well. Any time I can embed myself in a story with people pursuing their passion, I’m always eager to capture the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of what they do. As I got to know Tim Burke (narrator, co-producer), I suspected a compelling story might come from spending time with him.

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

Nine months, though we let it simmer at times for much of that.

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

Perseverance rewarded.

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

Beyond the technical hassle of shooting in wet windy conditions, the biggest obstacle creatively was abandoning my own preconceptions of shooting a sunny, beautiful, easy day of fishing on the river. Nature delivered us just the opposite conditions, and finally we realized the backdrop was the perfect metaphor for the brothers’ struggle and perseverance story in their lives.

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

Delighted and gratified our universal message of family bonds, perseverance through adversity, and passion for the wild and a sport came through. Flattered that the footage effectively communicated the beauty and awe we feel on the river to the audience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Tim Burke (narrator, co-producer) initially approached me to create some footage of him guiding his fishing clients, but as we became closer friends and he revealed more the backstory of what fishing has meant to him and his brothers, we realized we had a narrative possibility for a short film.

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

Lawrence of Arabia.

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

As a first-time festival-submitter, I can’t imagine doing it any other way than online through Filmfreeway. It has been quite a friction-free process of bulk-submitting to festivals I think would appreciate our film.

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

In a previous life I was a classical pianist, so it’d have to be Ballade #1 in G minor by Chopin.

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

A grizzly bear wildlife documentary in British Columbia, a thriller (narrative) shot I’m toying with, and who knows what other outdoor documentary I might bump into.

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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 Aram Atkinson (FIREFLIES)

FIREFLIES played at the August Under 5 Minute Short Film Festival in Toronto to rave reviews.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Aram Atkinson: I actually made this film for two specific reasons, firstly that I was just about to go freelance and wanted to kickstart with a narrative based passion project, and secondly for Rode Reel, the online film competition. I had just quit my full-time videographer job at the RNLI in the pursuit of moving forward with my goal to writing and directing narrative work, and I knew if I didn’t make Fireflies I would build up a fear of making any of my original work. Much to my surprise Fireflies has been exceptionally well received, winning Best Drama at Rode Reel, making the shortlist for Best film and picking up a load of other nominations here and there. I put it down mostly to the incredible performances of Ivy-Mae Harris, Ben Elder and Ellie Snow who really brought it to life, and the brilliance of Harrison Bates, Ricky Gane and Jamie Kemp who turned a sheet of material into a magical place. You can actually watch a behind the scenes film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe_O-5UWmMA

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

I had the idea about 2 years before actually making it, just written down in a notebook, so when Rode Reel came up and I was flicking through my ideas, I instantly knew this was the one to make. Writing the voice of a 5 year old girl was a challenge and so I asked Nikki McMullen, a brilliant writer who was a colleague of mine at the RNLI, to help me pull it together. Once we had a script I then had two weeks to get the ball rolling. I was lucky to have the support of Treehouse digital in Bournemouth who let me use their loft studio space over a weekend, so on the Saturday we went about trying to make a tent, buying material and building a-frames, fairy lights and props.

This film relied heavily on set design to be believable and install the sense of magic (it was a massive relief the ‘Fireflies’ light effect actually worked)! I think too inside the box when it comes to building things however, so if it wasn’t for the ingenuity of Ricky, Harrison and Jamie when it came to building the tent, this film simply wouldn’t have happened. I then had about 10 days to edit it before the Rode Reel deadline so all in all it was about a 4-6 week process (excluding the 2 year hiatus from concept)

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

Unashamedly sentimental.

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

The biggest obstacles would be both getting the actors and the final location. The day before the shoot, the actor playing the dad pulled out, so I entered a frantic hunt for someone to fill the role and luckily my close collaborator and friend Riyadh Haque (an incredible writer/director in his own right) put me in touch with the outstanding Ben Elder. I called him and despite the fact he was 5 hours away at a family party, he learnt the script, camped overnight in his van and drove down early in the morning to help make this film possible. I’ve worked with Ben since and I think he’s a phenomenal actor, and an admirable professional.

Similarly, the hospice we were planning to use for the climactic reveal pulled out two days before, but I was sure a hospital would help once they saw most of the film, so I actually went ahead and shot Fireflies without knowing if I would be able to source that clinching shot. So after we shot the tent scene, I quickly pulled an edit together and spent the next few days asking hospitals if they would let me film one quick scene at their hospital, and Poole Hospital were heroes in letting us shoot there, so at midnight on a Thursday evening Harrison and I went and tried to replicate the tent in an unused ward…nothing like some indie filmmaking!

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

It was humbling to see such strong responses! I’ve been fortunate to see Fireflies screened twice and see an audience reaction in person, but this was the first time I’ve been able to hear such academic deconstruction of Fireflies and it’s amazing to hear a consensus I hadn’t even considered. This film is very much told through the eyes of Alice, and as said in the video and podcast, the film would be tragic beyond belief to view it through the dad’s eyes, but I had never actually realised this is what I was doing. I love moments like these, where you discover your own artistic decisions and style by listening to others’ take.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I can’t actually remember how I first came up with the idea for Fireflies, I have a tendency for nostalgic themes and bittersweet situations though. I’ve been asked a few times if it is based on a personal experience and whilst my family has been effected by cancer, thankfully never in the tragic way that it is in Fireflies.

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

You’ve got mail is probably my guilty pleasure, I love Tom Hanks and I’m a sucker for a romantic story. I have a new pen pal because of the Under 5 minute Film Festival so perhaps this will lead to my own You’ve got mail! I’ll try not to put them out of business…

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

I think it’s an amazing platform, one of the few times submission systems are done right. It’s so refreshing having it all in one place and being able to determine the value of festivals by reviews, photos and detailed info!

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

There’s too many to pick. Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley or Adaggio for Strings by Barber really get me though so I’ve probably those two. Although ‘Doin me’ by Mikey Mike is making a strong claim at the moment.

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

Whilst I am incredibly proud of Fireflies, even after 5 years of filmmaking, it is only now that I am preparing to make what I consider to be my first true film. I am in development of a short film that tackles some of the issues in the UK I feel passionately about and is a far bigger challenge than anything I have made before, both in what it is trying to say and the level of execution. I have a crew attached, and am rewriting the final version of the script, whilst also seeking funding, which as we all know requires a lot of perseverance and resilience. But I believe this film needs to be made, and the goal is to make it before the end of 2018, funded or not!

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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.