Philly Film Hightlight - The Tolltaker

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Philadelphia Film Society in their efforts to support local filmmakers asked Tinsel & Tine, which shares this interest, to highlight filmmaker, Steve Janas, whose short film The Tolltaker debuts this weekend at the New Jersey Film Festival in New Brunswick.

The film, set in the early 1970's, was shot in locations in and around Philadelphia. It combines live action and animation to tell the story of a young boy (Bobby) in Northeast Philadelphia whose father is MIA in Vietnam, and who is hounded by an evil, subterranean demon intent on stealing away the one thing the boy believes will bring his father home. Because of the animation, it's taken four years to complete. Much of the animation was done by students at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. With some help from some pros including Monique Ligons, an animator who worked on Richard Linklater's film "A Scanner Darkly." And Mike Enright who teaches animation at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and here at the University of the Arts. 

Here's a link to a two minute video: The making of the animation of The Tolltaker which details rotoscoping the animated scenes, shooting live footage of actors in the service tunnels beneath Girard College, and then animating over top.

Janas told me that a possible comparison for the film would be Pan's Labyrinth. Both movies are about the collision of a child's life with war's brutality. In The Tolltaker, the war is a distant, barely comprehensible thing to Bobby. Something he sees on television and hears about on the radio, and which he understands presents a grave danger to his father. But it remains an abstraction to him, and that's what makes it so terrifying. It's this helpless dread that fuels the creation of the Tolltaker in Bobby's world.

Later, Janas humbly admits, "I'm probably flattering myself  by comparing The Tolltaker to Pan's Labyrinth. However, I'm a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro, both as a singular visual stylist and as a champion of the gothic and macabre".  Janas's other influences are books and movies like Alice-In-Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time and directors such as David Lynch and Tim Burton. "Both can author these grotesque, fantastic distortions of reality that I find enchanting".

At this point The Tolltaker is a 25min short, which you can watch on Vimeo click HERE
Ultimately, Janas is looking to attract the financial backing to make the feature-length version.

For me, the best part about a behind the scenes look at a film, is learning the journey from idea - to screenplay - to filmmaking - to fruition. The origins of The Tolltaker has one of those interesting journeys, including the sad loss of the person who inspired and wrote the novel, the film is based upon - READ MORE.


Bobby Burke is played by Cullen Clancey as an older child, and Cullen's brother Brian Clancey as a younger child.

Bobby's mother Judy is played by Margaret Spirito.

Bobby's grandfather, Paw-Paw, is played by Mark Jacobsen.

Judy's boyfriend Nick is played by Michael Bradley

Gary Wheedleman is played by Jan-David Soutar

The Waitress is played by Kate Black-Reagan

Grammy is played by Marilyn Yorblick.

Be sure to like The Tolltaker facebook page

This weekend Tinsel & Tine will be covering the Philly Film & Music Festival taking place at various venues around Northern Liberties and Fishtown - It seems to be music heavy and film light, a really extensive listing of bands playing all weekend. Be sure to check it out and check back for my Philly FM festival recap!

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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