Interview with Filmmaker Alex Sangha (MY NAME WAS JANUARY)

MY NAME WAS JANUARY played to rave reviews at the February 2020 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alex Sangha: The social coordinator of the non-profit that I founded for LGBTQ South Asians and their friends was brutally stabbed 18 times in her own home. She was a transgender Filipina woman. She was a much loved member of our organization and we wanted to create a tribute for her to showcase her light, legacy, and love in the minds of people she left behind. We wanted to share her story as we knew her and what she meant to us and to provide a platform for other transgender woman of colour.

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

Three years. We hired two journalism students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey BC Canada. Elina Gress and Lenee Son were both women of colour and this was their first film.

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

Authentic and real

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

It was difficult to obtain funding at first because this was our first film and we did not have a track record.

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

Feeling a bit nervous and anxious. I was pleased with the feedback overall. I am confident in the end product. My Name Was January has won 14 international awards, and garnered 59 official selections at film festivals around the world. It also landed three distribution deals through Moving Images Distribution of Vancouver, OUTtv and OUTtvGo in Canada, and Revry of California, which is a queer streaming platform. The reception to the film has been positive overall and it has also sparked critical discussion and debate on various issues such as the sex trade, transgender rights, human rights, and violence.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We wanted to eulogize and create a memorial or tribute to our dear departed friend, January Marie Lapuz

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

I am a big fan of the entire Star Wars series. I feel Star Wars has a theme of good vs. evil and the light being a force for good and defeating darkness. I feel society as a whole deal with this similar battle at an individual and even broader societal level.

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

I really love Film Freeway but I wish it was cheaper to submit films. Cost can be a barrier to get your films to film festivals.

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

I am a big fan of I dreamed a dream which is on the Les Miserables soundtrack.

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

Emergence: Out of the Shadows which is about the coming out journey of gay and lesbian South Asians and the reactions of their parents. For more details check out https://emergencefilm.net/

Interview with Filmmaker Sarah Baptist (STARTING LINEUP)

STARTING LINEUP played to rave reviews at the February 2020 Documentary Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sarah Baptist: I went to the overflow area of Jurassic Park for Game 1 of the Raptors playoff. I instantly became friends with the two men behind me in line. There was something really unique about the community. Strangers were friends. The next time I went back, I brought a camera and I tried to capture it.

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

It took two months.

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

Basketball community!

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

The lineup was right beside a highway. The audio really needed to be

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

It was great. I just want to keep getting better at the craft of short documentary films and hearing the audience reactions helped me learn what I should do for the next film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I came up with the idea for the film when I was the Jurassic Park viewing area.

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

The Wizard of Oz.

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

It is a convenient way to submit films.

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

Sturgill Simpson – Breakers Roar

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

I would love to make another film. I’m really interested in telling stories from people we don’t hear from and who may be misunderstood.

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Interview with Filmmaker Shantel Hansen (HER TURF)

HER TURF played to rave reviews at the February 2020 Documentary Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Shantel Hansen: This started back in 2014 when I conceived of the idea of filming women in male dominated sports. Here in the United States, this wasn’t a topic talked about or filmed that often until recently there are more conversations over all about women in male dominated spaces in sports, professionally, and workplace. When I discovered women in football officiating, I knew that there had to be stories to uncover, document, and share. What I didn’t know was how I was going to do it. As a first time director and producer, it took over four years to make this documentary come alive. There have been a lot of ups and downs. A lot of highs and low moments. Looking back, I can’t express how grateful I am to see it all come together in a way that I could have never imagined in a million years. These three incredible women that I filmed along with an amazing film crew (Annice Canday, Tangela Mitchell and Mary Podesta) took a HUGE chance on me, as a rookie. I knew what I lacked in experience (I didn’t go to film school) I could make up with heart, passion and dedication.

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

2014-2019

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

Real and Inspiring

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

Honeslty, it wasn’t having a limited budget. It was getting access to film these incredible women. And when I did get access it was sometimes limited.

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

BLOWN AWAY. The audience feedback is priceless. I love how this documentary has a diverse audience. Anyone can watch it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I knew that I wanted to film something/someone/topic focusing on subculture(s) that impact the larger culture(s) unknownly. Officials and refeeres do that. They are a subculture that is marginalized in that they are in-between the game, players, coaches and fans. You see them (typically when it’s a call that you don’t like or agree with) but you don’t know who they are, why they are there on the line of scrimmage or why they do it.

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

I’m a mix bag. Big time. I watch crazy pointless series to serious stuff that is at Sunday and Hot Docs.

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

This was an overall a great experience to have FilmFreeway as a portal to submit my documentary and keep track of everything.

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

I listen to everything!

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

I have several projects in pre-production and one heading into production in the summer of 2020. I’m going to build out the concept of fiming more women in male domianted sports including a bull rider, sky diver, jockey, smoke jumper, and drag car sisters. I’m also working on another series filming women that are attempting to do online dating in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

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Interview with Filmmaker Eric Rusch (PICTURES OF LEO)

PICTURES OF LEO was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY and BEST PERFORMANCES at the January 2020 LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eric Rusch : I had had this idea for a feature length film for many years. I’m not really a filmmaker, so I never thought it would actually get made.

Then in 2017 I studied film acting at the Stockholm University of Dramatic Arts. As a part of the course we were encouraged to make our own short films, just to better understand the whole process of film making. So I dusted off this old idea, started to write the script and worked with preproduction at the same time. It was supposed to be a small and simple project but it kept growing and I had a lot of fun making it.

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

I started writing in August 2018. We shot the whole film for six days in the end of November. I did all the editing and sound mixing during the holidays. Did some pickups and had a first screening in mid January. The film premiered at Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival on March 31st 2019. At that time I knew nothing about color correction, so the first color corrected version was actually screened in Toronto on January 13th 2020.

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

Warm, contemplative.

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

It had to be a zero budget film. So I really depended on the kindness of strangers, as well as of friends and colleagues. Everyone was so helpful and I’m so grateful for that.

While writing the script I realized I needed someone to play the young Nicholas. So I had to find an 18-year-old, who looked like a young version of myself, who could act and who would be willing to kiss another guy on screen. Without pay. I was so happy when I found Oscar through a casting company. If he hadn’t turned up I would have rewritten those scenes completely.

I wanted to shoot a scene in a hospital. I looked everywhere, and a week before shooting it was the only location I still hadn’t found. Then suddenly the manager of a psychiatric ward called and told me they were temporarily closing one whole floor off to paint the walls. It would be empty for a few weeks. We only needed an afternoon. They let us use it for free!

I was determined to do as much work as I could myself. I wrote the script, played the lead, directed and produced the film. I did the casting, location scouting and planning. I also did the cinematography, editing and sound mixing. I watched hundreds of tutorials on YouTube. Not kidding. I had a lot of fun. I certainly learned that good planning is essential. But I will never make a film this way again.

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

This is my first short film so I’m still blown away by the fact that people I don’t even know have seen my film.

I was very happy to see that the film raised some interesting questions, like “who lived the true life and who didn’t” and how Leo’s choices are no less valid given his situation. And “even a country as progressive as Sweden still has those stories” was also something I really wanted to tell.

And who wouldn’t be ridiculously happy when someone likes your film?

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Pictures of Leo is very loosely based on actual events which at the time raised a lot of questions about making life changing choices. To me the film is a love story first of all. And the story about a man rejecting love out of fear for what other people might think has always stayed with me. Also I wanted to try to tell a story where one of the main characters (Leo) is not really in the film.

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

Probably The Big Lebowski (1998). Or Victor/Victoria (1982).

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

Seeing that this is my first film, I was very happy to find FilmFreeway. I thought I would be googling myself to death. But FilmFreeway made it so much easier to find and choose festivals and submit my film. Quick and simple.

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

Enjoy The Silence by Depeche Mode. Without a doubt.

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

I work as an actor, mostly with children theatre. I am on tour right now with a stage musical for really small kids. This summer I will be in a production of Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter at Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby, Sweden.
My husband Christian Arnold is also an actor and a filmmaker. We love working together. He has written a script that we are planning to make into a short film in the near future.

(Christian made the short film Chricke which was screened at your festival two years ago: https://lgbttorontofilmfestival.com/2018/02/25/short-film-chrickle-7min-sweden-lgbt-experimental/)

Interview with Filmmaker Julio J. Irizarry (ELPIDA)

ELPIDA was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the June 2019 LA Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Julio J. Irizarry: The motivation came from wanting to create a passion project in collaboration with my friend and co director Charlie from San Francisco. Also, being from Chicago and planning to travel to the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest to film was very motivating in knowing we would get the best production value from our locations.

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

3 long years.

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

Universal Hope


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

The biggest obstacle I faced was matching the post production value with the production value of the amazing locations we captured that helped tell the story. Being my first short film, I felt I owed it to the story to make sure it had great visual effects and that it was colored and sound designed the best.

Another obstacle for me was wanting the film to be perfect. This was a bit of a downfall for me which severely delayed the film due to wanting the top post production experts which we did not have a budget for. I almost gave up and never released it. In the end, through a lot of adversity and learning on my own, I ended up editing, coloring and sound designing the film. We were also able to budget just enough to license the right visual effects that helped propel the story. It was a huge challenge overall, but I believe it made me a better filmmaker and gave me the confidence to direct bigger films in the future.

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

I was excited and a bit nervous not knowing what people would think. And hoping they got something out of it whether it was an emotion or were inspired after watching.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The main idea of the story was inspired by my friend Julia from Portland who is the woman explorer in the film. She is a wanderlust who travels the world so it was fitting to have her in the film. The deeper meanings of the film from what the voice over is saying, to hope, and the sci fi angle is inspired by my personal experiences and wanting to create unique stories that have not been seen before. A huge inspiration for me as a filmmaker is Christopher Nolan so I like to incorporate hidden meanings, multi layered substance, and non linear story telling into my work as well.

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

It’s a tie between The Dark Knight and Inception. And surprisingly, I actually only really see a film once, and revisit it years later unless it’s for a film study. I like to be surprised again just like a first time viewing.

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

I think it’s amazing! I feel it really is an open freeway to know about so many great festivals like yours, and having the chance for my work to even be noticed is everything I could ask for as a filmmaker.

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

Time – Hans Zimmer

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

Just recently finished directing a short film for an iPhone challenge. Other than that, what’s next is to continue studying and developing in my craft. I am leaning towards commercial directing at the moment. I believe bringing my experiences and passion of narrative storytelling into that field will only help me grow as a director.

This will also give me the ability to produce frequent content in between bigger film projects. I aspire to direct a feature some day, or even a longer short film before then. I am huge on creating something unique, so It may take a bit more time for me in between films. I look at Director’s like Tarantino and Nolan who only have a handful of films, and I am in that same mindset of creating quality over quantity.

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Interview with Filmmaker Susanne Serres (ZAYA)

ZAYA was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the November 2018 LGBT Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Susanne Serres: What motivates me to do this movie is my own experience as a queer black woman who has to do her coming out to her family.

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

Ssince the very beginning of the idea, it took me 1 year and a half. The shooting was made in three full days. The post prod in 2 months.

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

Love Wins.

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

The dance scenes were hard to pick because we had so many choices of good materials. It was hard to choose sometimes.

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

I was very moved by them. It was heartwarming to watch. I want to thank everyone who watch the short film and commented on it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wanted to combine contemporary dance and a coming out story because I felt the need to be represented into a movie and because I am a big fan of dancing even though I’m not a dancer mysel.

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

C.R.A.Z.Y. by Jean-Marc Vallée

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

It’s an amazing platform to showcase movies because it’s user friendly.

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

Cocorosie – Werewolf

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

I am currently in the process of submiting ZAYA the full length version of this movie.