Interview with Filmmaker Linda Gasser (WHAT IF)

WHAT IF was the winner of BEST FILM at the August 2018 Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Linda Gasser: What if (with the original title: Wo sie ist) is a film about the future, but it is about presence too. In the past I had worked on films for a large IT company, it is “the” large IT company that everyone will know. Working with them was like working in the future. When I began to understand not only what it meant to collect big-data, but rather how intense the impact of it’s analytics are, I kind of already did live in that future. I feel that the genre definition Sci-Fi doesn’t really fit to the film, because it really is about the society in an individual in an oppressive society dominated by algorithms.

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

From the idea to the actual shooting block it actually went quite quick. I wrote the screenplay in December and was working on a documentary in South Afrika in the beginning of the following year. Coming back I had only 3 months for the entire production – considering the production design with its scenery of which a lot had to be built by hand, this is pretty much “no time at all”.

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

intuition vs. algorithm

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

The budget! Telling an entire futuristic environment including many diverse locations was a great challenge. In a dense short like What if the surrounding becomes an additional protagonist – this precise concept sometimes made it hard: The protagonist is working with wood, a material that appears nowhere else then in his workshop. Finding locations without any trees or wooden elements ended up being an outrageous dare.

Sometimes the tight budged forced us to stay quite flexible in this very detailed design concept. Because the budget was tight we had to be flexible: Everything was there for a reason and if a furniture didn’t fit we had to establish a reason so it did. I remember throwing up the color concept when a large blue Eggchair was delivered on shooting day 6 and couldn’t be replaced. The colours of most upcoming scenes were influenced and blue ended up as a predominant color in the film. Luckily in the post-production I had support and our DoP eventually ended up being a great Executive Producer and handled keeping on track with the many visual artists.

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

Well, to be honest. I did get goosebumps right in the beginning, due to the very charming and benevolent voice at the start of the video. I must confess that I was nervous – I had never heard feedback about the film where people didn’t tell me personally. Of course I read feedback, but writing people care differently about finding the right words. I loved the audiences reactions and was exited that they had specifically talked about the ending. I must say that even if it is that open, no-one had actually ever asked be about it. So the theme the discussion was about surprised me.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Well this is very much connected to the first question about my motivation. But actually there was an additional specific incident. I had broken up with my long-term partner. He was ready to work on us and organised appointments for a couple therapy. This was actually funny: a sturdy, flower-bloused lady with low glasses (really just as you’d imagine) sat in the large winged chair and asked questions. At the end of the first session she gave us the link to an online quest so that we learn about who we are and if we fit together. The evening before the next session we actually filled out the test and found out we match – of course he was all about it but I couldn’t imagine how even a phycologist could be trustful with this exerpt about our emotions based on a fact-machine.
The next day I was working for the company that deals with real-time analytics and fascinating algorithms. The combination of those absurdities formed the basic idea.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Phew… since I am reviewing for the Arc Film Festival in the third year it’ll probably be on of those. Definitely is. Films I watched the most were Doors of Perception from Caroline Schwarz, Wave by Benjamin Clearly, Einstein-Rosen by Olga Osorio, ..

A well known American Film are 2 Days in Paris by July Delpy or Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind by Michel Gondry
.

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

On FilmFreeway there are black sheeps in between the festivals. I must say that I do see it from 2 sides. I am in the great position to b invited to festivals all around Europe and beyond. From this side I am experiencing that many of the small festivals really make sure their guests (the filmmakers) get the most out of the time at the festival, whereas large festivals, may be precious and have a strong representative effect, but some smaller festivals offer an excellent hotbed for creativity and connect in an intimate atmosphere. Lets put it like that: When a large festival feels like work, it is worth visiting small spaces to have some extra holiday.

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

Once I had the chance to work on a video for a great German jazz band: The Max Clouth Clan. Most of the songs from their LP “Kamaloka” are probably in the fron of that hitlist.

What is next for you? A new film?

Currently I am working on my debut film, debut in feature length fiction. “Mimosa Preciosa” tells the story about Gabriela and Georg. A feiry spanish lady, that lives together with the German game-developer Georg. When Georg accidentally deletes Gabi’s collection of digital photographs and the only proof of her past, the two set out on a road trip to recreate her photos and restore her memories. While Gsbi longs for the past. Georg dreams of the future. But both remain out of reach until they learn to walk in the present.

I am very glad to be working together with my co-aothor Valery Dalena, who lives in the States. With the new technologies we were able to work together productively transcontinental.  

 
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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.

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Interview with Filmmaker Balazs Juszt (WHAT IF…?)

WHAT IF…? played to rave reviews at the February 2018 ROMANCE FEEDBACK Film Festival on Valentine’s Day.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Balazs Juszt: There were two previous parts to this short with the same couple – The Kiss Goodnight and Split Perfect – and they’re loosely related, as they all center around a couple (not the same one, just played by the same people), who each explore a different struggle in a relationship. As I got older and went through different relationships, I found different subjects that I wanted to tackle and figured I had something to say about each issue. So, primarily this and the fact that there’s not such thing as “two films”, so I had to tie it off with a trilogy.

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

Perhaps 3-4 months. The conception itself was swift and the idea laid around for a while, then came financing and we filmed the whole thing in two days with a pretty swift post process.

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

What If?

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

Financing, actually. I disagree that it’s “always the case”, because frankly, it’s not. But this one was a hassle and it dragged on for months even after the movie had already screened at a bunch of festivals.

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

It was great to see. People got it, the moderator was on top of her game and I am always humbled by and very thankful for a communicative and appreciative audience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone through relationships and have seen many friends go through theirs afraid of fully and unapologetically committing because we kept thinking “Well, what if s/he is not the right one?” Then again, how would you ever know? It’s like we always say when we misplace something and and then we find it at the “last place I would have ever looked”. Well, how do you know that? If you hadn’t found it there, it wouldn’t have been the last place, now would it? Same thing with “the one”: if you find the one, you don’t know it’s “the one”. You have no way of knowing that for certain. You can believe, but… and there’s soon as there’s a but, the first part of the sentence becomes irrelevant. So as my exes kept getting married and giving birth and I’d bump into them somewhere, I kept wondering to myself: would it have worked out like that for us? Would she be happy? Would I be miserable? Would I be thinking the same exact thing about someone else with her by my side? And then the line came to me: what if I fell in love with “the one”, instead of “the right one”?

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

Cinema Paradiso.

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

It’s simple, helpful and a great way to spread the film.

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

Having directed close to a hundred music videos, this is an unfair question… But perhaps Vittorio Monti: Csardas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD2W2gtev-E)

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

I’ve been on the writing team of a Hungarian comedy series, I’ve also got a Cold War spy series with SKY that I’ve created and will be the showrunner of, but I hope to start filming my sophomore feature later this year.

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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.