Interview with Filmmaker Ange-Régis HOUNKPATIN (VINDICTE)

VINDICTE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the June 2018 European FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ange-Régis HOUNKPATIN: My motivation was to make a film that would be different from usual African movies, in terms of style, rhythm and aesthetics. But still an African subject.

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

I think it took almost one year and a half.

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

Relentless chase.

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

Honestly, the biggest obstacle was myself. I didn’t want to give a bad image of my country, so at first I restricted myself a lot. Then I thought about how South Korean directors don’t back up from the most creepy aspects of their societies, and I decided to go on.

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

It felt weird to see strangers talking about my movie without me in the room ! It’s the first time I got to witness this. I was really happy about the last intervention, the last viewer really understood the subtext about control. It is the first time I hear someone clearly explain it; I was moved. I felt my voice had a meaning.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The idea came from scenes I witnessed when I was younger, living in Benin. Growing up, I discovered these kind of behavior were also detailed in the classic movie “Fury” by Fritz Lang, and realised it could be a universal subject, a cinematic one.

i wanted to shoot a movie in my hometown, so I decided to make a movie about it. I spoke to my producers (who were then my classmates) about it, and they were really very excited.

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

Blade Runner, by Ridley Scott.

But the one I truly know by heart, by soul and by spirit, is “Hyenas” from Djibril Diop Mambety.

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

If I only say one song it wouldn’t be a honest answer, there are too many. But since I’m a child I’ve listened a lot of Michael Jackson’s songs, so let’s say “Beat it”, to stay in the theme.

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

I’ve completed a short movie just after this one: “Pantheon” and it is in the festival circuit right now.

Next is a new short film, and then a feature one.

Wish me luck ! Thank you !

vindicte

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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 Animator/Filmmaker Tim Ballard (OH MY…)

 OH MY… played to rave reviews at the June 2018 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Tim Ballard: My friend Michael is a San Francisco area musician who asked me to make an animated music video for one of his songs. The song made me think of a sort of dream journey, and I wanted to depict themes and images that had been in my mind for awhile – environmental apocalypse, indigenous cultures, the desert toad.

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

I worked on this in pieces over the course of a year – much longer than I anticipated. It was a sort of learn as you go process with the technical aspects of the various adobe software platforms.

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

Imaginative resurrection.

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

Mostly as I said above, the technical aspects of getting the watercolor effect to coloring, learning the ins and outs of a larger scale project than I was used to in the past. Also – time and money were tight, of course.

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

I felt disappointed that it seemed to have only elicited a bad acid flashback for most people and didn’t resonate or make sense in a dream logic sort of way as I had hoped. Many of the images were from sort of personal imagery, but I’d hoped it would make some symbolic sense to some people. If not, I hoped people enjoyed the combination of image and mousic.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Believe it or not there were no drugs involved in the conception or execution of this animation (besides coffee and whiskey).

I’ll do my best to answer below, forgive me if it is a little long!

It was a combination of the feel I got from the song itself and vignettes or motifs I’d had swirling in my mind for a long time before.
The song, for me, conjured up a sense of flying and floating and a sort of journey that climaxes in awe, but also speaks of some sadness or difficulties being transcended. I added to that the themes I’ve mentioned above: apocalypse, wastelands, the writings of Zhuangzi, an interest in indigenous cultures and ethnobotany, an interest in what I guess I’ll call “the ontology of imagination” and, (as someone in the audience correctly pointed out) the Sonoran desert toad.

Because it seemed to not translate well to the audience, I’ll summarize the narrative here: basically, the main character starts off in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, looking exhausted and alone. Then he finds a cave entrance with mysterious petroglyphs that leads to a subterranean lake where there is water and spirit guides in the form of three animal headed beings waiting to greet him. An elixir is given and he sinks into a dream journey/ sinks into the lake. He’s brought up from the depth to the lake surface which becomes the same wasteland desert surface. He awakens after passing over the dormant, dreaming frog in the soil. He rises and flies towards a distant city that is populated with creatures having a ceremony of some sort. I turns out it was a ceremony to coax water and life from the dead dry land. Raindrops begin to fall. Then he awakens on the lake’s edge at the same time the frog awakens under the earth. The story is bookended by the moment the water hits the soil, awakening life from the dead land.

The Sonoran desert toad fascinated me when I heard them in the desert after a rain and someone told me they are hibernating under the dry desert soil most of the year and suddenly arise when the rain comes to mate and sing in the rainwater ponds. Also in this time of year, flowers and plants you never assumed were there, burst through dry, cracked soil with a vigor that is as inspiring as it is beautiful. Obviously it seems like a sort of Lazarus-esque resurrection. In my imagination I liked to think that the toads spend more of their life in a dreaming state down under the soil than in a waking state and that the dream state was more real for them than the waking state. Then a few years later I heard that they have a hallucinogenic mucus which only added to their mystique for me. So, in my mind, the world represented in the animation is like a manifestation of the toad’s dream, and the completion of the ceremony reawakens life in the dead land in the way imagination can reawaken vitality in our personal lives.

So there are a few layers of dreams – I was inspired by Zhuangzi’s story of the butterfly dream on this part – and for better or worse I wanted it to be a little ambiguous.

Anyhow, the basic theme is in the hope that even in desperate times we can still find life and potential beneath the surface with which we might be able to manifest a rebirth or resurrection of sorts.

So, yeah, basically an acid trip.

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

Hmmm. Probably Milo and Otis or The Road Warrior.

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

It certainly makes it a lot easier and very streamlined. I appreciate it.

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

I’d like to choose one of my favorite songs but in reality it is probably the “Happy Birthday Song” or a Christmas carol like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

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

I am hoping to start a series of short, 3min or less, animated documentaries about food and cultural history – how a single ingredient or dish can tell the history of a culture.

oh_my_2

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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 Andy Koeger (ROSIE, OH)

ROSIE, OH was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2018 FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andy Koeger: My co-creator Apple Xenos originally had the idea for the film. I was so drawn to her idea that I was inspired to create it with her as my Senior Thesis Film at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design. We became obsessed with creating a story that took place all in one singular moment in a person’s life.

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

We had the idea the summer before our last year of art school. I made the film as a thesis project, where students were given 10 week for development, 10 weeks of preproduction and production, and 10 weeks of postproduction. All in all, it took us a year to create the film from start to finish.

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

Experiential moment.

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

There were so many obstacles in creating a one-shot short film. We troubleshooted the technical aspects so thoroughly that they became significantly less of a challenge as we figured out the best way to make the film feel seamless. My biggest fear however was in finding the right actress for the lead role, as that performance would basically become the entire film. We got really lucky when we found Maddie Dixon-Poirier, the lead actress.

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

It was cool to hear from the audience without me having to be involved in the discussion! I heard a couple new things from audience members, which was cool. The film has been circulating film festivals for about a year and a half, so I had heard lots and lots of opinions, concerns, questions, and praise throughout it’s distribution process. The film generally garners extreme opinions, and this audience was no different in that.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film:

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

Apple came up with the idea, then together we decided to create the film in one single shot, which really transformed the way we told the story.

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

Pulp Fiction is my favorite film. I’m drawn to it’s iconography, vibes, and how it gets you to think outside the box about what film is and what it can be.

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

I love it! FilmFreeway makes learning about and submitting to festivals super easy. I appreciate how the contact info is readily available for the festivals so I can reach out to them directly.

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

Super unrelated to my filmmaking but probably Xtal by Aphex Twin. That kinda early 90’s electronic music relates more to my next film I guess : )

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

Yes! I’ve made two other shorts since Rosie, Oh, and I also direct lots of commercials and music videos. I live in LA but travel frequently for my shoots. I’m currently writing a feature screenplay with my film school dream-team Dan Frantz and Clayton McCracken, which we aim to bring to the big screen in the next couple years. I’m not going to give away too many deets about the film, but it’s an aggressive and drug-fueled journey of a group of rag-tag kids who run a pirate-radio station in the early 90’s. It’s going to be super weird, vibey, and a lot of fun.

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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 Kurtis Theorin (MARY & MARSHA IN THE MANOR OF MADNESS)

MARY & MARSHA IN THE MANOR OF MADNESS played to rave reviews at the May 2018 FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.
 
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Kurtis Theorin: Kris, the animator/director, wanted to do a project where he could learn 2D animation. He had a final project due for one of his college classes so we figured that would be good deadline to motivate himself to go out and make something.

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

The idea phase went through many, many iterations before we got something we liked and was feasible. Kris then did most of the animation in a very busy week and a half period in order to meet his class deadline. After that we did some revisions which took another week.

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

Lovecraft Scooby-doo

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

Making sure everyone understood a somewhat complicated story in a short amount of time without dialogue took a lot of careful planning and creativity, but I think we finally go it.

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

“Oh, thank god they like it. I actually have some idea about how to make good films and am not a fraud.”

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

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

Kris and I both like the Lovecraft setting so that was a good genre to think about. There is a Lovecraft board game called Mansions of Madness where you play characters exploring a spooky mansion hiding a dark secret. This seemed like a good framework to start with. The premise of a character rescuing their girlfriend provided good motivation for the characters to propel the story forward. Finally, since we were doing 2d animation I thought it might be interesting having the film occur in a 2d sidescrolling perspective, similar to video games like Mario or Castlevania, while everything was running around and going haywire. This made the animation side of production similar and also gave the film a sense of ruckus and momentum that I really wanted.

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

As a kid I watched Return of the Jedi 100 times. Nowadays I have The Third Man memorized.

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

It is an incredibly convenient platform. In terms of platforms acting on what they set out to do, it is in the top ten.

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

According to my iTunes it is the main theme from the anime show Baccano! I’ve also probably heard Bohemian Rhapsody over 300 times.

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

We are in various stages of production on a couple of short films. We are also continuing our commercial business of making branded content on social media for toy companies like LEGO and Mattel.

 

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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 Steven R. Lawson (MAN-AT-ARMS)

Steven R. Lawson’s short film played at the February 2018 Fan Fiction/Sci-Fi Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Steven R. Lawson: I love the challenge in creating something new.I normally make Horror or Thriller movies so Fantasy was a whole new thing i wanted to try.

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

7 months (In my spare time after work and weekends mainly)

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

Dark Fantasy

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

Trying to find the right kind of Music and Sound FX

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

Excited,Happy…It’s nice to get feedback from people i don’t know

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK of the Short Film:

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

I recently watched a lot of 80’s fantasy films like Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, it then got me thinking about my childhood movies and TV shows. I set out to make Visionaries first of all (I loved that show when i was a kid) but then I thought I could do more with Masters of the Universe, I mean it had a better story and interesting Characters.

I had this idea of a woman running for her life,but then I thought maybe she has a baby and she’s running to save the baby’s life…Then I thought maybe the baby could be HE-MAN, I should make this a prequel to the Masters of the Universe.Man-at-Arms was always like a father figure to HE-MAN, so I thought, maybe this could be the moment where Man-at-Arms meets HE-MAN. It kind of went on from there.

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

1995 Mortal Kombat

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

I think FilmFreeway is an excellent way to get films out there, I’ve been very fortunate to get my work into a few festivals and even won awards. Not all of my submissions have been selected every time but it’s part of the process I guess, I mean you can’t win all the time!

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

The theme tune to Mortal Kombat (I had it set as my phone alarm for about 2 years)

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

Currently working on a new Horror Fan Film based on Freddy and Jason
man_at_arms.jpg
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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 Director Andi Osho (AMBER)

Andi’ Osho’s short film was voted BEST MUSIC at September 2017 CRIME/THRILLER FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

I had a really inspiring conversation with a Fox executive several years ago and he told me that I need to think about what my contribution to the industry is. I’d never thought of my career in those terms. I think most people think in terms of what they can get or what they want. Relatively few creatives think about what they can pour into the pot.

Anyway, the idea gestated in me for a really long time and then it got the point where I realised that part of my contribution is storytelling. And that led me to want to direct. It was as though the desire to direct was bursting from me. I’d made shorts during a intensive film making course and various other little bits and piece but Amber was the first time I’d put together a full-on production. It was exhilarating and terrifying and thrilling all at the same time. I remember Barry Jenkins saying that when he directs, he is his best self. I feel the same.

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

Just over a year. Pre-production was relatively swift. Once I decided it was happening, the key team came together pretty quickly. I teamed up with an editor I’d worked with before who came on as exec producer too. Then my producer and DP followed shortly after.

The hardest and longest part of the process was post production. I’m sure that’s the case with most short films because unless you have a healthy budget for that part of the process, it all has to be fitted around other people’s work. We were beg, borrow and stealing favours everywhere for grades, ADR, sound mix. Everything. From wrapping on set to a finished film was about ten months.

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

Stalker mystery!

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

Not having a post production budget. That’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Basically, our exec producer was our editor so we always knew our offline was taken care of and as I worked in post production for ten years before switching lanes, I knew that I had enough contacts to scrabble together my post production.

But because it was all favours, very generously gifted from within my network, it just meant that the whole thing took longer than if we’d had a budget.

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

I was intrigued that they drilled down into the thematic content of the project because that was what was most important to me. There were some intelligent, well-considered observations that made me feel like, ah, perhaps we did our job as film makers that our work prompted such a response. Myself and my lead actress did chuckle about the guy who didn’t feel it was plausible for a small girl to beat up an adult male. That was rather the point of the film, when a woman wants something, you need to be a powerhouse to stop her!

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

There were several factors. The initial one was a fascinating documentary about One Direction Fans. It reminded me of what I was like at that age and how intense teenage desire can be.

I started to think that there was definitely a narrative film in there somewhere and that it would be really interesting to see a stalker film with a teenage girl. I also wanted to give myself the challenge of telling the story from the girl’s perspective. Usually the stalker is the antagonist and we root for the protagonist to conquer them. With Amber, I wanted to create something more ambiguous. In addition thematically I was interested in the manufactured nature of pop music, how pop stars are equally manipulated by the industry and the intensity and power of female teenage design as a formidable force.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Aliens. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched it more than James Cameron!

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

Film Freeway is the only platform I want to use. I wish film festivals that use other platforms knew how the experience is as an end user. When you are entering multiple festivals, it is a Godsend to have a great website like Film Freeway that takes some of the grind out of the process. They care about the film maker, are less expensive and generally a better experience.

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

Another Star – Stevie Wonder. Once I’d heard Songs In The Key Of Life I couldn’t stop listening to it.

I was the same with Oasis’ What’s The Story? Album. I listened to it for six months straight. You want to know why I’m making a film about obsession, I think that’s your answer right there.

What is next for you? A new film?

Two things. I want to turn Amber into a feature film project. I’m just working on exactly what that narrative will be. I’ve thrown a few ideas about but I’m not convinced I’ve found the right one just yet. If I’m going to put my heart and soul into that project, I want to know that it’s the right thing.

The other thing I’d like to do is make a much simpler short film. Amber wasn’t huge in scale but it was big enough that it required a mid sized crew, several locations and needed quite a bit of funding to realise it.

Next, I’d like to tell a simple story deeply. One location, perhaps even one actor. I want to work with the resources I already have and simplify the whole process yet still produce a great story.

 

Interview with Directed Elaine Chu (MANEKI-NEKO)

Elaine Chu’s short film was the winner of “Best Performances” at the September 2017 ROMANCE FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Elaine Chu: A recent break-up (at the time) which my cat helped me get over.

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

4 months.

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

Love again.

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

The film had an extremely low-budget, so trying to find people who were good at their job but also willing to work at a lower professional rate was a challenge.

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

I was honored that they had taken the time to really think about the film and come up with their own theories. It felt great knowing that people could relate to the themes of rejection/loss, and gained some solace. This festival was the first time anyone had described my film as “quirky”, and it really is the best word to describe it. The moderator did a great job of keeping everyone on topic and generating more food for thought.

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

After my break-up I spent an inordinate amount of time cuddling and talking to my cat. She tolerated it to a point but eventually wandered off … and then came back. This film explores what she may have done during that disappearance.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Stephen King’s “The Shining”

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

I find it very efficient and much easier to use than WithoutABox.

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

Rilo Kiley’s “Portions for Foxes”

What is next for you? A new film?

I just directed a commercial for Disney which should be coming out soon. I also have another short film called Be Your Beautiful which is currently doing a festival run. Hopefully I’ll find time to finish my 2nd horror screenplay and direct my sophomore feature. I’d also really like to visit Canada if I ever get break from the Hollywood grind.