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FIRSTGLANCE Film Festival Interviews with Filmmakers 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tinsel & Tine's

5 QUESTION INTERVIEWS

with

FIRSTGLANCE FILM FESTIVAL FILMMAKERS


By Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

The 21st Annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia gets underway October 12-14, 2018. To further shine a spotlight on the talented filmmakers screening this year, I asked several of the directors and/or writers to answer the same 5 Questions, which resulted in varying and personal responses.  I did the same thing for Philly's BlackStar Film Festival. Hoping it can become a Tinsel & Tine signature.  Please see filmmakers answers below:

SON TO SON
Director: Taron Lexton
Screening Date: Sun. Oct 14 5:15pm
TRAILER
Instagram: @txlfilms

This story demonstrates the ease with which an average American citizen can become an opioid addict. It also discusses the rationale an addict has towards transitioning to heroin or another drug as these are sometimes cheaper and easier for them to obtain. We have to make our voices heard and get the doctors and pharmaceutical companies that are marketing these dangerous drugs to better educate their patients and help wean them off these potentially dangerous substances.

Although the US only accounts for approximately 5% of the world’s population, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 81% of the world’s supply of oxycodone is now consumed in the US.

Festivals: 9 Wins, 12 Nominations, and 20 Official Selections, including LA Shorts Int FF, USA FF, and Long Island (LIIFE) Upcoming: 5 including Breckenridge Film Festival, FirstGlance Film Fest and Catalina Film Festival
1. T&T: In a nutshell what was the main inspiration for your film?

Taron Lexton:Writer Jim Meskimen was inspired to commit this story to paper in the summer of 2016 after reading an article on the spike in Heroin usage among Americans who had been prescribed Oxycontin and other opioids. Since that time the opioid crisis has been increasingly front and center in the national news, and has even become a subject of presidential activity, which it certainly deserves.

2.T&T: Where do you really shine as a filmmaker? Please expand upon directing to include the aspect of the directing process where you know you are most on point?

Taron: I like to find ways to let artists create. My goal on set is to create an atmosphere where talented people can feel free to express their talent, and helping to guide that toward a cohesive final product. It’s a balancing act but I love it.

3. T&T: Give a quick shout out to your creative team and anyone who helped get your film from an idea to screening at FirstGlance.

Taron: First and foremost, my producing partners Nathan Lorch and Milena Ferriera. We’ve worked together for 10 years now and they’re not only phenomenal producers but incredible human beings. Nicole Pase was a key part of the production team as well - she’s amazing. Nick Lane somehow managed to star in the film and help produce it off screen as well. Kevin Garrison our fearless DP, Todd Jeffrey our ingenious Production Designer, and of course Jim Meskimen who conceived the whole idea and brought the fierce performance we see in the film.

4. T&T: Does food play a part in your film? It can be something you like to eat on set, while editing, some great Craft Services, a scene involving food or a restaurant/bar/coffee shop.

Taron: For an indie film, good food is like solid gold. On every one of my sets, big or small, we make sure to have excellent food and plenty of it. In this case the restaurant itself helped provide food on and off camera — and fortunately, they have a great menu!

5. T&T: What does it mean to you to screen your film at the 21st Annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia?

Taron: I’m incredibly honored and thrilled. To be recognized by a festival of this stature and longevity is amazing. And it looks like we are in very good company, as the other selected films look incredible! That’s always the greatest compliment, to be able to share a screen with great films and be part of something that makes a difference.


THE SPEED OF ANTONE 
Filmmaker: Jason O'Connell
Screening Date: Sat. Oct 13 3:30pm
Antone is a strong, determined young man who has overcome many odds. He amazes and surprises his supporters everyday. Antone has brought many wonderful people into his family's life. Join us on our journey! The Adventures of Antone Facebook
1. T&T: In a nutshell what was the main inspiration for your film?

Jason O'Connell:The main inspiration for the film came from Antone himself. Antone is such an amazing young boy who lives life to it's fullest everyday. Watching Antone though his Facebook page, "The Adventures of Antone" which his parents operate had simply just inspired me to tell his story. He overcomes so many obstacles in his day to day life and goes on so many adventures that you wouldn't think someone with his disabilities could do but Antone does it and he does it well. This inspired me to get his story out there; I felt it was important to tell, for other people like Antone, who also deal with these odds, to see that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

2.T&T: Where do you really shine as a filmmaker? Please expand upon directing to include the aspect of the directing process where you know you are most on point?

Jason: I think I really shine as a filmmaker when it comes to crafting the story. I think that most student film makers get caught up in the type of gear they have available to work with and look at that as an instant deterrent to why their work can't be something special. It's something I hear a lot. But I feel like if you have a story that can grip an audience and is just screaming to be told, then you have a film - it doesn't matter if you have an iPhone or Arri Alexa. If you have the story, the passion and the will to get the story told then you can come out on the other end with something quite special. This is where I feel comfortable as a filmmaker, with the story. The story is everything, if you don't have a good story you won't have a good film, but that's not to say a good story can't be a bad film. It's all about how you direct where you want the story to go both onset and in the editing lab. My professor likes to say, "You write your story three times, once on paper, then again while shooting, and finally a third time while editing." I've taken this to heart and keep it, in mind during my film making process because, she's not wrong. You can write one story on paper and then get to set and realize there's a completely different story here that needs to be told. Then, when you're editing the final product, suddenly it all weaves together to create something you can be proud of.

3. T&T: Give a quick shout out to your creative team and anyone who helped get your film from an idea to screening at FirstGlance.

Jason: I'd like to make a quick shout out to Linda O'Connell, who is not only an amazing mother but my number one fan and biggest supporter. When everyone else told me my dreams were to ambitious or that "I'd never get a job" and I should just give up, she stood by me and pushed me along from day one. I also have to thank two of the most important people in my life, Joshua Moulding and Dr. Christina Hodel, without the two of them the film wouldn't be what it is and this amazing opportunity to take part in FistGlance would not be possible. I would not be the filmmaker I am today without these two amazing people who have taking time out of their busy schedules to help teach me everything they know, time and time again, while also guiding me through the tricky waters that is the film industry. Thank you both so much, know everything you do means the world to me and many other students.

4. T&T: Does food play a part in your film? It can be something you like to eat on set, while editing, some great Craft Services, a scene involving food or a restaurant/bar/coffee shop.

Jason: I wish! When both shooting and editing the film most of the time I either didn't have time to break to eat or completely forgot to eat all together. Probably not the healthiest thing but we are starving artist after all right? 😀

5. T&T: What does it mean to you to screen your film at the 21st Annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia?

Jason:I t means everything to me to screen my film at the FirstGlance. I've been striving all my life to be apart of the world of film and working even harder to make it this far. Having my work recognized and screened here is by far the most rewarding experience of my life. I can not wait to get down to Philly and check-out other films from other Directors and Artists taking part in the festival and just be apart of the culture surrounded by great talent all around.

INTERESTED IN (Web Series)
Creator: Michael Witkes
Screening Date: Sun. Oct 14 3:30pm
TRAILER | Website
Instagram | Facebook
The series is set in Philadelphia and “we are so excited to come back home.” Interested In is a coming of age story about recently out college student, Parker (Michael Witkes). We follow his journey through gay sexcapades in Philadelphia, as he begins to find himself after "the closet." During his first openly gay hook up, Parker realizes he has much to learn. Through help from his best friend, Danny—and various hook up encounters—Parker learns to reinvent himself.
1. T&T: In a nutshell what was the main inspiration for your film?

Michael Witkes: I wrote Interested In because I felt lost after I came out. There were no examples on TV or film about what to do after the closet. Coming out was always presented as the end of the story, but it’s actually such a confusing time. After years of suppression, you have to reinvent yourself. And on top of that, you’re plunged into a completely new dating culture. Interested In explores what it means to be a gay man, as Parker freely expresses his sexuality for the first time.

2.T&T: Where do you really shine as a filmmaker? Please expand upon directing to include the aspect of the directing process where you know you are most on point?

Michael: I wrote, produced, and starred in Interested In. This was the first film I produced, so I was really learning every step of the way. I am grateful to be surrounded by talented people that helped create a product I know I'm so proud of. This has been a passion project for me for a long time. I wrote the first draft of the script in 2013! I'm so glad that the group of people behind Interested In elevated the project, and made it something better than I ever dreamed.

3. T&T: Give a quick shout out to your creative team and anyone who helped get your film from an idea to screening at FirstGlance.

Michael: Shout out to our amazing team: Director Blayze Teicher, Director of Photography Brendan Swift, fellow producer Phillip Nguyen, Editor David Sicilliano! And so many more. Also thanks to everyone who helped support our fundraiser to help this get made!

4. T&T: Does food play a part in your film? It can be something you like to eat on set, while editing, some great Craft Services, a scene involving food or a restaurant/bar/coffee shop.

Michael: In episode two, Parker and his best friend, Danny, discuss boys over froyo. That was definitely hard to shoot because the froyo kept melting! We actually shot the scene over two days. So the first day we used actual froyo, that we had to work hard to keep cold. The second day, we used Greek yogurt. This worked much better, but my stomach didn't love eating Greek yogurt with froyo toppings on it!

5. T&T: What does it mean to you to screen your film at the 21st Annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia?

Michael: "Interested In" is SET in Philadelphia, so it means the world to screen at FirstGlance. I was born and raised outside of Philly. Philly is where I came out and came of age. Woody's was the first gay bar I went to when I turned 21. I'm so happy to return home and share the series where it all began!


New Filmmakers Gay and Lesbian themes
GUN
Filmmaker: Edward William Wasser
Screening Date: Sun. Oct 14 5:15pm
TRAILER
Gun is a short film that deals with LGBTQ issues that are alive and well today. One interesting aspect to the movie is that it has been accepted into many gay and lesbian film festivals, it's won many awards from Best Actor and Best Screenplay to Best Picture yet the movie was made by two straight men.


1. T&T: In a nutshell what was the main inspiration for your film?

Edward William Wasser: The main inspiration was a friend I knew when I lived in the New York City area and also the current ugly political climate. My friend was raised a gay man in Texas and it was extremely difficult. The only thing that kept him sane was knowing that someday he could move to New York City which he viewed as an oasis. A city where he could be his real self. The film is really two stories that are brought together in a unique way, but I don't want to give to much away.

2.T&T: Where do you really shine as a filmmaker? Please expand upon directing to include the aspect of the directing process where you know you are most on point?

Edward: My only real talent as a filmmaker is being able to locate people with amazing technical abilities. I guess I'm an OK writer and actor but once I got the crew of Chris Newhard, Chris Mercury, Joe Graves, and Joe DiFeo together the quality of everything I did expanded exponentially. So where I shine is locating people that are going places and hitching my wagon to them.

3. T&T: Give a quick shout out to your creative team and anyone who helped get your film from an idea to screening at FirstGlance.

Edward: I had Ben Wong and Joe DiFeo on sound. Sound is vital to a movie. I don't care if you made Citizen Kane, if the sound is bad nobody will pay attention to it. Trevor Leonard did an amazing original score. Joe Graves is a fearless gaffer that will do anything for a great shot. If you ask him to hang a light while hanging off the torch the Statue of Liberty holds, he'll do it. Chris Mercury is one of those guys that doesn't say much but when he offers an idea everyone stops and thinks "damn, that's a great idea!" And Chris Newhard is just the best director of photography in the city of Philadelphia. At this point, I trust his judgement on shots and lighting 100%, I don't even question it.

4. T&T: Does food play a part in your film? It can be something you like to eat on set, while editing, some great Craft Services, a scene involving food or a restaurant/bar/coffee shop.

Edward: Food does not play a part in the story but you need to feed your cast and crew. A "hangry" crew is a miserable crew.

5. T&T: What does it mean to you to screen your film at the 21st Annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia?

Edward: We screened in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the people were very nice and gracious, but we're Philly guys. This is our chance to share our work with our family, friends, and the city and we're really looking forward to it.

New Filmmaker theme dealing with mental illness
READY
Filmmaker: Debbie Yen
Screening Date: Sat. Oct. 13th 5:00pm
Instagram | Facebook
A little bit about myself. I’m a 31-year-old Asian American female and my short film “Ready” is the first film I’ve ever written and directed. 8 years ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and through the years I have battled manic and depressive episodes, going in and out of hospitals. It was only when I decided to write and direct “Ready” was I able to find peace and forgiveness with myself. “Ready” is about my personal experience living with a mental illness and a short film I wished my younger, newly diagnosed, self could’ve watched so I would’ve felt less alone and be comforted by the fact that there was someone out there who was going through the same feelings and experience as I was at the time.

“Ready” is a short film about a mentally-ill woman having trouble living in the present after running into her past, sending her on a mental journey of self-love and self-forgiveness.

1. T&T: In a nutshell what was the main inspiration for your film?

Debbie Yen: The main inspiration for my film was simply my personal experience living with a mental illness, specifically, Bipolar.

2.T&T: Where do you really shine as a filmmaker? Please expand upon directing to include the aspect of the directing process where you know you are most on point?

Debbie: I feel like my strong point is working well with others. The thing about filmmaking, it’s a collaborative effort, so working well with everybody is so crucial in making sure your film comes out the way you want.

3. T&T: Give a quick shout out to your creative team and anyone who helped get your film from an idea to screening at FirstGlance.

Debbie: A big shout out to all of my crew, cast, and contributors for making my short film “Ready” exist. And a huge shout out to my producer Jared Lundy who believed in my story from day 1 and my director of photography Kenneth Keeler who made my vision come to life. Last, but not least, I’d like to give a shout out to my father Lyoni Yen who never gave up on me, even when I gave up on myself.

4. T&T: Does food play a part in your film? It can be something you like to eat on set, while editing, some great Craft Services, a scene involving food or a restaurant/bar/coffee shop.

Debbie: Without food, my crew and I wouldn’t have been able to function. Luckily we had great crafty and one of our crew meals was sponsored and provided by Wurstküche, an amazing downtown Los Angeles restaurant that serves delicious and exotic hot dogs.

5. T&T: What does it mean to you to screen your film at the 21st Annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia?

Debbie: It means that my short film “Ready” will reach more people; and hopefully give those living with a mental illness, or those who know someone who is mentally-ill, hope and optimism for the present and future.

New filmmakers theme dealing with sobriety and alcholism
HOW DO YOU TYPE A BROKEN HEART
Director: Jeremiah Kipp
Writer: Susannah Nolan
Screening Date: Sat. Oct. 13th 5:00pm
Twitter: @HowDoYouTypeAB1 | Facebook
TRAILER | Film Review 
New mother Becky is awakened at close to midnight by Justine, an alcoholic on the brink of self-destruction. In order to reach Justine, Becky, her former sponsor, must open her own padlocked past and finds herself drawn close to the abyss than she ever expected.

1. T&T: In a nutshell what was the main inspiration for your film?

Susannah Nolan: I always wanted to work with Jeremiah Kipp. He told me if I wrote a monologue, he would make a small film of it for me on the cheap. So I wrote a monologue of a desperate woman on the phone struggling to get her first full day of sobriety, When I brought the script into our writer's group, everyone said that the real story was the person on the other end of the line. So I then wrote that whole experience---but from her perspective. Which led to me having to bring in her husband and baby and well----Before I knew it, I had a 13 minute short. Making it turned out to be no longer "on the cheap," but a heck of a lot more interesting.

Jeremiah Kipp: I knew first and foremost I wanted to work with Sooz, whose combination of wit, tenacity, blunt honesty, feminist integrity and repressed vulnerability informs everything she writes. The character of Becky has many of Sooz's qualities, and is thrown into a midnight of the soul situation that she can't untether herself from. She's incredibly courageous in a non-superhero way. We don't often see damaged female protagonists as our heroes; so this project felt immediate and necessary in our current times.

2.T&T: Where do you really shine as a filmmaker? Please expand upon directing to include the aspect of the directing process where you know you are most on point?

Jeremiah: Working collaboratively with the actors is my favorite part of the process. Once we cast Emily Donahoe and Holly Curran as our two leads, we knew we had two grounded, honest performers who could easily make adjustments based on the requirements of the scene.

That truly comes in handy when working with an infant, who can only play their own reality of feeling safe or sleepy or angry. When a baby is on set, you're making a documentary about their whims. But we created an on-set environment where the actors could improvise within those limitations. We didn't change a word of Sooz's script. But could keep the cameras rolling and play off of whatever surprises (and gifts) our remarkable baby actor Emilia Rodriguez threw at us.

Susannah: All of the actors just blew me away with the way they were able to create heartbreaking reality in such a short period of time. From the second Jeremiah came on set, everyone knew who to look to for leadership. He was the quiet center of the chaos. Jeremiah created an intimate grounded space where everyone was truly safe to create their magic. His sets are models of very tight discipline, humor and permission to "go there." Take it to the edge. It is a special skill of his that I think is unique.

3. T&T: Give a quick shout out to your creative team and anyone who helped get your film from an idea to screening at FirstGlance.

Jeremiah: We owe a hell of a lot to producer Natasha Straley. Producers are the unsung champions of independent filmmaking. From crew to locations to morale and discipline, she was our backbone from production through post. I also cannot say enough about my sharp, incisive and endlessly creative frequent editor Katie Dillon Wedge. She describes herself as a "method actor" in the cutting room...and indeed she put together this film with one hand while rocking her infant's crib in the other.

Susannah: Jeremiah and Natasha had worked with each other before and brought with them a whole community of creatives from our Director of Photography Taylor Camarot to our film editor Katie Dillon. I was astonished at the quality of their choices at each level. I must also give a shout out to our writer's group, Present Tense Dramatic Writing Workshop where the script was developed. It is where I met Jeremiah so many years ago. The group is run by Mick Casale. The script would never have evolved the way it did without having the readings and critiques it did in those gatherings.

4. T&T: Does food play a part in your film? It can be something you like to eat on set, while editing, some great Craft Services, a scene involving food or a restaurant/bar/coffee shop.

Jeremiah: While a director can potentially survive on caffeine and adrenaline, the old saying is true: "Soldiers go to war on their bellies!" A happy film crew is a well fed crew, especially if attention is equally paid to vegetarians, vegans and those with unique allergies.

Susannah: Well, I know a screenwriter is next to useless on set, so I had a lot of nervous energy to expend before our two days of filming. I am a baker, so I baked dozens of muffins every morning for the crew's breakfast and cookies for their breaks. Brownies one day, chocolate chip the next, I think it was. As Jeremiah said, an army travels on its stomach, yes? It was a way to show them how much I appreciated their efforts. I baked a lot of hope and dreams and wishes into those darned muffins. Erm...and I won't go into the sad things that happened to a few bottles of wine in the making of the movie. When you see the film you will understand.

5. T&T: What does it mean to you to screen your film at the 21st Annual FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia?

Jeremiah: Philadelphia is one of our great American cities, with a sense of history and camaraderie that inspires us all. Our movie is grounded in values of people helping each other against all odds, which sounds like the right fit for this esteemed film festival in the City of Brotherly Love. Its an absolute honor to share our project with the FirstGlance audience. We can't wait to attend.

Susannah: I was born in Philadelphia (U of P Hospital, in fact!) and raised in Valley Forge and Chester County. My whole family lives in Paoli, King of Prussia and Haverford. It gives me tremendous pride that they will only need to drive down the Schuylkill Expressway to come see my film at this wonderful Festival. In a very real way I am indeed "bringing it home."


STAY TUNED MORE FILMMAKERS INTERVIEWS TO COME!

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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.

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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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