Tag Archives: short films

CANADIAN INT’L FAITH & FAMILY FILM FEST STARTS TODAY!

Just as the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) closes, the 5th annual Canadian Int’l Faith & Family Film Festival opens! My dear film industry friends BRIAN KAULBACK (CIFF Ambassador and member of judging panel) and festival Co-Founder & Exec. Director JASON BARBECK invited me down the the exclusive Hotel X on Toronto’s waterfront today to talk about this unique family and faith-focused festival that runs online for an entire month, and features films, shorts, documentaries, even animated films that are suitable for ALL the family. Jason graciously offered to share information about CIFF with me via a series of video chats so I encourage you to click on and learn about the cool content and activities at this year’s festival.

Every year, the CIFF Film Festival exhibits and celebrates the most outstanding faith and family content produced from every part of the world. Films are selected and nominated by a panel of judges on the basis of content, quality and originality.  CIFF is one of the fastest growing segments of the international film festival markets, and the only one of its kind in Canada.audience Film lovers, industry professionals and media outlets will celebrate the best in new faith and family cinema from established and emerging filmmakers and talent. This year, CIFF will be showing films from 22 countries around the world via their website: www.cifflix.com  Get your online passes there NOW. The festival runs until mid-October so you can catch all the films as well as tonight’s Awards Gala from the comfort of your home.

And there will be lots of celebrities and stars in virtual attendance, too….

colmCIFF Film Fest welcomes submissions from filmmakers around the world so come on all my Aussie movie making mates…here’s how YOU can submit your latest production and access a growing audience of film lovers who appreciate inspiring, family-oriented and faith-based content……

I encourage you to visit the festival’s official website: www.cifflix.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.logo

Director/writer TRICIA LEE is ready for her own close-up at this year’s Toronto Int’l Film Festival

Back in October of 2013, I was thrilled to work with Canadian writer/director TRICIA LEE, promoting her horror feature film Silent Retreat which made its World Premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival that year. The film did very well with both audiences and critics and since then, Lee has been on an upward career trajectory.

The accomplished and versatile filmmaker earned her US Green Card as an “artist of extraordinary ability” with Canadian and British citizenship, and has directed 11 shorts and 3 award-winning features since starting out in 2004. And she directed newly-minted superhero star Simu Liu in her 2017 short film Meeting Mommy.

Tricia has been recognized as one of Hollywood’s Top New Writers on the 2020 Black List, CAPE List, Young & Hungry List, Athena List, and the BitchList.  Her script pitch for Good Chance was an Academy Nicholl Fellowship semi-finalist, Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition grand prize winner, Cinequest Best Feature Screenplay winner, WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Features winner, Sundance Lab second-rounder and selected for the prestigious Producers Guild of America Power of Diversity Master Workshop. Attached are Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, Janet Yang (Joy Luck Club) as producers and Kheng Tan Hua (Crazy Rich Asians, Kung Fu Series) as lead actress – BRAVO, TRICIA!
Currently, Tricia’s script for her next feature titled IDOL is part of this year’s “Breaking Through the Lens” program at the Toronto International Film Festival that just opened on September 9th so I was excited to chat with Tricia about that and her other achievements since we worked together in 2013.TIFF
Tricia, you’ve worked consistently and successfully for more than a decade, creating some of the most innovative and exciting genre films why is becoming a finalist in this years Breaking Through the Lens TIFF so important to you personally and for your career?   Looking back on my career, it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come, but also how far I still want to go.  In order to continue a long-lasting career, I have to keep innovating and creating new projects and telling new stories.  Breaking Through the Lens choosing my new project, IDOL, to be showcased during TIFF is this project’s first walk outside!  The opportunity to share the pitch with financiers and distributors is a great way to share this script with people who can potentially help make the film.  I want to take my career to the next level and I hope that we can bring this film to the screen and touch, move and inspire people.

For a number of years, you were one of only a few female directors working in the horror genre what attracted you to horror stories and did you have a different perspective that your male counterparts?  What I love about genre, is that we can speak about deeper issues through metaphor.  With entertainment, I always want to hide the pill in peanut butter, as they say.  Is that how you get dogs to eat medicine? I thought peanut butter was bad for dogs, or maybe that’s chocolate… anyways…
I don’t know that my perspective was more female than my male counterparts.  My perspective is simply… my perspective.  It comes from the intersection of who I am, how I grew up, where I’m from, how my parents treated me, the significant others I’ve chosen, etc.  And also what I wanted to talk about at that time in my life.   My second feature Silent Retreat, which pre-dated the #MeToo movement, was about women being silenced.  I wanted to make a film about women standing up and using their voices.  And I collaborated with a male, Corey Brown, to make that film.  That film was a combination our creative perspectives.

You’ve spent a great deal of time undertaking shadowing mentorshipsfrom Jeff Woolnough on SyFys The Expanse, Erik Canuel, producing director on CBSRansom, Peter DeLuise on Freeforms Shadowhunters and most recently, the highly-regarded powerhouse – Nancy Meyers on the Walmart BoxOscars® commercial. How has this benefited you as a story-teller as well as working with actors?  This career is all about learning.  I think life is about learning.  I am so grateful for having been given the opportunities to watch these talented, experienced directors work.  Everyone has a different style and approach, and in my own directing, I get to take tidbits from each shadowing experience to create my own process. IMG_7986.1I’m a person who makes a lot of lists, so I literally write down my process and anytime I learn something new from one of my mentors, I add it to my list.  Being a director, I don’t get to practice my craft every day, so these lists help me remember what I’ve learned for when I do have the chance to get on set and work the directing muscle.  Also, I practice working with actors to implement what I’ve learned.  I work actors on their auditions, break down the beats, give them direction and help shape a performance.IMG_7121You have also worked on more family-friendly projects like Meeting Mommy starring Simu Liu (Marvels latest superhero Shang-Chi) and have been developing diverse and inclusive projects what are your immediate goals and/or future projects?  Layered, vulnerable dramas that are heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time, with a sprinkle of comedy is where my natural intuition lies.  I only started writing about 4 years ago, when I moved to Los Angeles.  I asked myself, would I rather go through the pain of reading scripts or the pain of writing scripts.  And I just found that people weren’t writing the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell.  So I took on the pain of writing! And I’m glad, because it has been a way for me to explore my own voice I have been developing more stories that star Asian characters and have taken a deep look within myself to put my truth onto the page.  I want to make films that give a voice to under-represented communities, not because it’s the fad right now, but because it breaks my heart that someone can hate or commit violence against someone else just because they are different.  I will never run for president, so this is my way of reaching people, to touch, unite and inspire them and create powerful change in our culture.  I want to tell stories that resonate deeply with audiences and unforgettably pierce their hearts.
Immediate goals are to secure financing for my scripts IDOL, a music biopic about William Hung (from American Idol – see below) and GOOD CHANCE (starring Kheng Tan Hua from Crazy Rich Asians) which was on the 2020 Black List.william hungYou and your husband Mark own a number of condos that you operate as AirBnBs, plus youve previously worked as a piano teacher and an experiential marketer.is there anything else you want to try, apart from making movies?  No. Film is my life.  I will not retire from this career.  All the other things I’ve done in my life were side gigs, which allowed me the freedom and time to make my films.  I took part-time flexible jobs so that I never had to ask for vacation or permission to make my films.  When I was on set, I would just tell them that I couldn’t work that month.  I have a crazy resume, but it has always been towards one goal: being a filmmaker.

Any advice youd like to offer to aspiring filmmakers, especial women, and on the various career paths they can take to achieve success, life balance and happiness?  Honestly, I’m not great at life balance.  I definitely focus on career too much and am working on finding balance myself.  I find that the scripts and movies that I’ve made that resonate with people the most are the ones where I dig into myself and tell my truth.  I encourage all of you to take the time to sit with yourself.  Think about why is it you want to make this film, what do you want to say with it, how do you want the audience to feel when they walk out?  And make sure that every scene wraps around that nugget.  When you put something of yourself on the page, it shines through.  Those are the films that pierce people’s hearts and will help you take the next step in your career.  It can be slow and long, or it can be a quick rise to the top.  But never give up if telling stories through this medium is really what you want to do.DSC_0014Thanks for sharing your insights and advice, Tricia, and I can’t wait to see how your script faired at TIFF this year. Looking forward to seeing Idol when it hits cinema screens and the festival circuit. You can all follow Tricia on all her social media platforms linked on her website: www.tricialeedirector.com

 

ACTOR KRISTA BARZSO PRODUCES AN EMOTIONAL & VERY PERSONAL FILM “PERSISTENCE” BASED ON HER OWN SCRIPT

Some time ago, I had one of those great phone conversations with local actor, KRISTA BARZSO, talking about how I might be able to help her career, how a publicity and promo campaign could support her and hints of her upcoming project – her debut as producer and screenwriter of “Persistence”, a short film based on her own personal experiences. Krista’s passion and enthusiasm intrigued me and to borrow from another film…she had me at “hello”!

Skip ahead to just a few weeks ago when I again heard her voice on the phone, this time even more excited and focused – her film was ready to roll and she had just launched an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign in order to underwrite the pending production costs. So I hope you enjoy this virtual meet-n-greet with Krista and if you would like to offer this exciting emerging Canadian filmmaker a hand-up, here’s the link where you can donate to her film’s budget: https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW

Persistence is a story about what happens when romantic intentions cross over into stalking. The film explores what happens when trusts are broken but laws aren’t, and just how much damage can be done to someone’s life in that space between.

You’ve acted for many years on stage, screen and tv – what has inspired you to now write and produce?  I love acting and the exploration of the characters that you get to bring to life, but I wanted to try writing to get to explore another aspect of storytelling that would allow me to create my own story completely from the ground-up, and producing has allowed me to get to see this project all the way through from concept to fruition.

You have an exciting new film project titled “Persistence” that you’ve written and considering the subject matter (possessiveness, stalking, emotional control) I have to ask…have you experienced this in real life? 

You’ve assembled a great cast and crew, and are now going thru the funding process – apart from securing financial support, I bet you’re all looking forward to working after the long pandemic lockdown and quarantine period – what did you do during the lockdown?  I am always looking forward to getting back on set! But you’re right, that feeling is definitely amplified after going through such a long lockdown period.  I was really lucky and did have the opportunity to work on a few projects even during quarantine, but for the rest of the time my main focus was on finding ways to constantly be growing my skills. It was really important to me to know that I was going to come out of lockdown with more tools in my toolbox than when it began.

One of the plus sides to all of this is that a lot of acting teachers/schools around the world, found ways to work in a digital space. This has opened opportunities to train with companies around the world that I might not have had access to before. I signed on with an acting coach Neil Schell who has been working with me all the way from Kenya to hone my auditioning skills and career trajectory, and I’ve been training my improv skills with the renowned Groundlings School in LA. in addition to writing and producing my first screenplay, of course!

You’ve enjoyed much success with previous short films on the festival circuit – with Persistence, do you have plans to submit to Canadian and int’l festivals or do you want to secure immediate showcasing opportunities on one of the many online platforms?

You’ve become quite the expert in stage combat, weaponry and screen fight & martial arts skills – are you aiming to become the next superhero like Black Widow or any of the Marvel/DC Comics super heroes? Please share some of your training stories. I would love that so much! It is definitely a dream of mine. I love portraying intense, complicated, bad-ass women and a lot of those stories involve some kind of physicality. The major action sequences often come at critical points in the story, so it is important to me to be able to do those scenes justice so that it is believable that my character is actually going through the turmoil that you are seeing on screen.behind the scenes as an Archer in an undisclosed TV pilotI originally started this training so that I would have a better handle on how to approach these scenes safely and ended up completely falling in love with the art form; it’s like really violent dancing. I still have so much to learn, but I have had so much fun in the past training how to work safely with various weapon systems for stage and screen at Rapier Wit. One of my favourites was found weapon, where you take everyday objects and try to turn them into weapons in a fight sequence.
Obviously in-person training has been difficult during quarantine, but I was lucky enough to find Taz Garcia who is an amazing actor/director and who has worked Jackie Chan and the Jackie Chan stunt team, and I have been doing some virtual Action for Film training with him. It’s a little tricky to find the space in my house and I think my family thinks I’m nuts sometimes with all the sound effects I make while training, but that is the price we pay!

Do you see your career continuing with a focus on acting or doing more writing and directing?

 Who has been your industry inspiration or who has helped you the most with your career aspirations?   There are so many people who have helped me and who continue to help me along the way. Teachers who have taught and encouraged me and colleagues who’s drive and ambition has inspired me. Most recently, my coach Neil Schell has pushed me to try things outside my comfort zone and has really helped me view my career and believe in my talents in a different way. He is also going to be directing my short next month. Here’s Krista in some of her many acting roles…BeFunky Collage (1)Any advice to others wanting to develop their directing and/or writing skills?  Do your research. Read lots of books, lots of screenplays, watch lots of movies, see the differences between the screenplay and the movie and how the director went about brining it to life – then stop doing research and just do it.  There is no magic book that is going to fully prepare you ahead of time. There is no teacher like experience, and you will learn more through the act of attempting it yourself than you ever will by just reading about it. Try it and get feedback from people who know what they are talking about, then try it again. You will learn a ton, and your next one will be better.

More about Krista:  Krista has had a passion for acting from a very young age. Over the years she has had the good fortune to work on a wide range of stage productions including The Liar, Stepping Out, Nana’s Naughty Knickers, There Goes the Bride, Glengarry Glen Ross, Love Virtually, and Les Miserables as well as some independent films such as Soul Mates, A Great Guy, Still Life, Signing Off and Grey Zone. Constantly striving to learn, Krista has studied at The Robyn Kay Studio, The Lighthouse, Rapier Wit and The Second City to name a few.

Again, here is the IndieGoGo campaign link so please help support the Canadian film industry by donating to Krista and her film production. Thank you.   https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW As Eden in Whitehorn's Love Virtually

EXCITING NEW CDN WRITER/ACTOR FILMS LATEST SHORT IN TORONTO

Just as I was watching the opening scenes of I,Robot on tv this past week, I got a call from Taylor Martin (pictured below), a multi-talented young woman who had just completed a 1-day shoot with my producer colleagues over at RDG Entertainment Inc. for a short film called “Breadcrumbs”.  On my tv screen, the scene was unfolding where Will Smith’s futuristic cop character was talking about “breadcrumbs…like Hansel & Gretel”, left for him as clues by the James Cromwell scientist character….synchronicity or what?!

Taylor martin 1Taylor told me about her experience of working with a professional crew and cast, seeing/hearing her script come to life, and playing one of the main characters, too.  The storyline is: When Gretchen met Luke everything seemed to be perfect, however, his adoration turned to obsession. She moves on and creates a new life only to discover that he has not. Gretchen is reminded that the past is never far behind. You can almost hear the sinister music playing in the background…dum dum dummmm.  So I asked her about the process and here is what she told me:

Growing up, you’ve been a dancer, model, gymnast, soccer player, martial arts practitioner….so what inspired you to seek a career in film?  I believe it started when DVD’s first came out and they often included a second disc with all the special features and background footage.  I can’t remember what movie it was, but I was completely blown away by “the making of” or “behind the scenes” section.  All of a sudden, my interests started to expand towards the creation side as well as the acting side.

As an actor, writer, director….what challenges you the most and why?  As an actor, if someone isn’t willing to “let go”, “be in the moment” and “be honest” with their intentions in a scene, I find that challenging to respond.  No different then the work of a relationship.  As a writer, it’s making sure everything flows properly, and not quelling too much on one thing.  Everything has a purpose, connects, and catches people’s attention.

11077927_663963547040783_5007723645388393253_nThe 5’11” strawberry blonde enjoys the glamour of acting in her own indie films (above)

For your latest short film, Breadcrumbs, you enlisted the production assistance of Rafael Kalamat and Jason Barbeck of Reel Deal Guys Entertainment (http://reeldealguys.com/) – what did they bring to the film and how quickly was it made?  They brought everything that is needed to actually shoot the film.  With their persistence, professionalism, team work, and dedication to the overal look and feel of the film, it was shot within one day.  I really couldn’t have asked for a better team, and that goes for the cast as well.  I’m the kind of filmmaker that wants to get things done when it’s that time.  I think that’s why a short film that could’ve been filmed over a two day period was done in one day because it was “GO, GO, GO”.  We ran a tight ship, and the atmosphere on the set actually fit into the filmmaking process.

11062314_663370900433381_5720500104321403121_nAbove, Rafael (left) & Jason (right) of RDG busy working out close-up shots

Tell us about Breadcrumbs – what’s it about, what was your inspiration for writing it and how much, if any, of it is biographical?  Breadcrumbs is about the drama that occurs in complicated relationships that should’ve ended a while ago.  My inspiration for it came from my own experiences and watching friends or relatives go through it.  All of it is biographical, but as a filmmaker I jazzed it up….and changed the names, of course.

10422979_663370860433385_2966626930667701247_n Alexis StaceyWere you involved in the casting process….and tell us a little about your lead actors?  I take charge and will always take charge of the casting process.  They are MY films, and therefore I’M the one who has the last say in the matter.  I will show co-producers the audition tapes from the actors I’ve chosen to play the roles, but that’s it.  I run my own ship but I’ll always need help to actually set sail.  I’ve known my lead actors (pictured above) for quite some time and they both enjoy these types of films.  I had asked for both their demo-reels when I was initially creating Breadcrumbs before I even told them about it.  I knew their acting chops were exactly what I was looking for, for the characters of “Luke” played by Stacey Unsworth and “Gretchen” portrayed by Alexis Uiga, so when I watched their reels, it was thirty seconds into them that I thought “yeah, I want them. I don’t need to watch anymore”.

Once post-production is completed, where will Breadcrumbs be shown? Any plans for the film fest circuit? Yes, we plan to submit it to as many festivals as we can.  The only footage of the film that will posted on social media for everyone to watch will be teaser trailer(s) of the film.  I hope to have, at most, two teasers since the film is going to be around the five minute mark.

11069621_663964133707391_5080895202076369952_nWhat’s next on your to do list?  The RDG guys and I were talking about making Breadcrumbs into a feature length film so I’ve begun the writing process on that – mostly writing down ideas for tying things together, since there will be lots of questions about the short film.  I’m also in the brain storming process with two other films.  So far everything I’m writing is action based, probably due to my martial arts background.

_MG_0528How can people follow your career? You can follow me on Facebook here: http://on.fb.me/1BG5X4F 

Taylor Martin 2Good luck, Taylor, I know you’ll have a lot of Canadian film fans cheering you on, wanting to see more of your work and celebrating women screenwriters and filmmakers.