Interview with Filmmaker Luai Akl (EPIPHANY)

EPIPHANY played to rave reviews at the November 2019 Under 5 Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Luai Akl: I always wanted to talk about drug addicts and the childhood, So i decided to talk about both and how everything is connected somehow

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

30-35 Days

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

Let’s say “Organized chaos”!

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

I’d say the actors, because they’re my friends not actors and that was the 1st time they stand in front of a camera.

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

Amazing to be honest, such a beautiful feeling that your film is screening in a different continent and you are listening to the audience’s feedback.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

As i said before, it was something that i wanted to talk about from a long time a go, and i had the chance.

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

Not a specific one, i am open to any kind of art and with any good story.

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

I think it was a good experience, much more easier.

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

I think Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

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

Yep, i am writing a new one these days.

Interview with Filmmaker Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi (LOUD and PROUD)

LOUD and PROUD played to rave reviews at the September 2019 One Minute Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi: I read some news online about the CEO of Doritos saying the company was planning to make crisps for women – specifically crisps that didn’t “crunch” because apparently women didn’t like making that crunch sound in public. There was a lot of backlash on this from women on social media – I also thought it was ridiculous to make gendered crisps. I’m personally not a fan of unnecessary gendered products and it got me thinking about the crazy stereotypes and standards women [and men] are sometimes forced to live with in modern day society.

There’s obviously way more serious issues like sexual violence and the glass ceiling and all that, but sometimes the small details can be just as annoying – every single cog in the patriarchy machine keeps in turning, no matter how small.

I wanted to make a film commenting on that specific Doritos comment, to ignore the patriarchal judgemental gaze and to celebrate women being LOUD and PROUD.

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

Well, in all honesty, this film came into my head all of a sudden, like the images played out in my head. I spent maybe one day in prep overall, one day shooting, and a few days in the edit. It was all dispersed and took a few months because the whole team was doing this in addition to their day jobs. Nobody got paid to make this.

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

Krunchy and free.

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

To be honest – funding. I had an amazing team and the idea was solid. Ideally I would have spent a tiny bit more time making sure the political concept of the film was clearer without explanation. But really dollar bills. I paid for all the costs myself.

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

Initially nervous, until I heard people liked it! I’m happy one audience member felt guilt free about crunching crisps after watching the film!

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

I didn’t….it came to me, no effort needed.

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

Hmmmm…that’s a hard one. Probably classic Disney films or Harry Potter. Beyond the popular titles, I really like the Count of Monte Cristo, which is random, but I’ve watched that quite a few times.

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

Really great platforms, certainly more accessible that other options.

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

Erm, I’ve listened to a lot of Mariah Carey. Also Dessa, my favourite rapper. And currently Jorja Smith.

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

I’m working on a lot!

Film-wise my documentary, Kiana: Stargazing and Spinraza is ongoing. Currently it’s not funded and I’m reluctant to partner with bigger organisations and platforms if they want to dilute the film – my life is extreme and it’d be dishonest to censor it.

I’m working on a new short film Across From The Dance Floor – waiting to hear back on funding for that! – it’s about Keira, a young passionate, bright woman who watches from across the dance floor, as another woman dance with the man she likes, because she’s stuck in her wheelchair and not able to descend the stairs in her way.

Music-wise, I’m working on my hip-hop EP! And getting a voicereel together as a singer. I’m re-entering the music arena after many years!

Interview with Filmmaker Travis Darkow (ELIZABETH)

ELIZABETH played to rave reviews at the September 2019 One Minute & Smartphone Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Travis Darkow: I have been writing, directing, and editing short films since the 7th grade, and had made one other no budget little short before this one. But one night I just really wanted to shoot a new little horror short, so I decided on found footage since it would be the easiest to accomplish with no money, and could be done quickly. I love something about every genre of horror, and it was my first found footage style movie so I was excited that I could create it almost entirely without leaving my house.

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

From writing the short, to filming and editing, it probably took about a week or a week and a half to complete.

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

Dark and Playful.

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

The biggest obstacle I faced was probably the bathroom/emergency exit door scenes, which I shot at my work, while I was on the clock. The other would be having to move my dog around between rooms in my house while I shot all the interiors so he was never seen.

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

I was pretty nervous when I first clicked on the video, but once one of the audience members said that three different parts of my film sent a shiver up his spine, I knew it was going to be alright. It was amazing hearing how receptive the audience was to my little horror film, and hearing what they liked about it, and that the little bits of humor were picked up on the way I intended them to be.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I initially came up with the amateur ghost hunter angle as a format that would fit the style I wanted to shoot perfectly, and then the whole backstory about Elizabeth Whitmore murdering her family just flowed pretty naturally from there.

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

As big of a horror fan as I am now, the films I have seen the most in my life would either have to be The Nightmare Before Christmas or The Sandlot. I watched them religiously when I was younger, and never just stopped.

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

I absolutely love FilmFreeway. It’s so user friendly and easy to navigate and work on, I don’t know where my filmmaking would be if I hadn’t found this platform.

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

It’s tough to say, but it would either have to be Mr. Chainsaw by Alkaline Trio, or anything by Angels and Airwaves.

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

Since I completed Elizabeth in 2017, I have written and directed 14 short films, 2 features, and 7 horror screenplays. My first feature is called Goodbye Tomorrow, and is a horror/sci-fi mindbender about a man who is being cloned and used to test mind control drugs by this shady group within the government that worships this interdimensional being that they call the Dissimulator. Yeah it’s a lot. The feature I just more recently finished is called Bunny Boy, and follows a mute as he wanders around his town that never fully recovered from a tornado, and some of the other odd residents that still call it home. It’s my fan film/love letter to a movie called Gummo that was written and directed by Harmony Korine in 1997.

Interview with Filmmaker Alberto Ferreras (LESSON #10)

LESSON #10 was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the Under 5 Minute Film Festival in July 2019.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alberto Ferreras: “Lesson #10” is a comedy about shifting morals. We are living in a world where we are more likely to trust someone who admits to be a sinner, than someone who pretends to be a saint.

The film is meant to challenge our perception of trust and hypocrisy.

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

The short was written in a couple of days. We had a two hour rehearsal, and we shot it in four hours. It was edited in about two days.
from beginning to end, you could say that we spent 4 days working on the short. All the shorts of my “Lessons” series follow the same protocol.

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

Very honest.

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

The biggest obstacle is always climbing the three flights of stairs to my studio with the equipment.

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

I loved the reaction of the audience, and how they acknowledge the great performances of my actors. I believe that good acting starts with a good script, and a an actor who understands it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

My dermatologist—a lovely older lady—usually asks patients about drug use with the same tone and pace as the actress in the movie. For years I’ve been trying to squeeze it into something… and voilá!

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

All that Jazz.

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

It’s a trillion times better than the dreadful Withoutabox.

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

Tough question. Maybe “The Ballad of the Sad Young Man” performed by Rickie Lee Jones.

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

Yes, I have “Lesson #9” in the can and ready for submission. “The Lessons” is an ongoing project.

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.

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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