On February 26 2015, WILDsound hosted their first feedback film festival of the year. Five short films were previewed to a sold out theatre. “Toy Boy” directed by March Mercanti, “The Man Who Fed His Shadow” directed by Olivier Perrier, “Fixed” directed by Codey Wilson & Burleigh Smith, “The Wheel of Time” directed by Kagan Kerimoglu, and “My Buddy” directed by Mark Moliterni were showcased. The lights dimmed and we watched the films in silence. Only the sound of ruffling programs and the munching of popcorn could be heard. When the lights turned on, opinions began generating out of the room. Comments ranged from discussion about themes, to the shots that comprised the film, to praise for actors. For certain films, the subjects of the documentaries, the actors, or the directors would be in the audience listening to the constructive criticism. Student volunteers, Marko Cvietinovic and Anita Lokhram, said the film festival sells out every time, and February 26, 2015 was no exception. As a Humber College Institute of Technology and Advance Learning journalism student, I interviewed Matthew Toffolo, CEO of WILDsound Film Festival, before the show began.
MELISSA KRIKKE: What first interested you in film making?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: I went to Niagara College for broadcasting and then I went to the New York Film Academy for film, and I did a year there.
MELISSA KRIKKE: Is film something you always wanted to do?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: No, not really. I didn’t start getting into it until my last year in high school. I was a sports guy; eventually I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete or even a coach. I started getting into stories and films, because for me sports are about telling a story. From there, I went into broadcasting; I thought I was going to be more of a play-by-play guy. But I got attracted to film.
MELISSA KRIKKE: Is there a main theme in films you’ve written or produced?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: I’ve done a bunch of films, and I guess the theme is searching for a connection. But those films were created when I was in my mid-to-late twenties, and were created with my idealistic viewpoint on relationships. I directed them so they were kind of like my seed, something I needed to do. In hindsight, I think I’ve grown a little bit.
MELISSA KRIKKE: From the films you directed, where were they filmed?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: The film Beautiful was filmed in Stratford. But the majority of films were filmed in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area.
MELISSA KRIKKE: What do short films say that longer pieces don’t?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: Short films are just about one overriding idea. At the same time, you don’t have to invest too much of your time. Let’s just be honest: its touch to market your short films. People want to see features. But everyone has to start with making short films.
MELISSA KRIKKE: Do you want to make your way into features?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: I think I’ve got about five features in me, but they have to be really good. A lot of luck is involved in making movies. So if I make five features, I could maybe make two really good ones. The problem is: when you fail at something creatively it takes a toll on you emotionally. Ultimately the end goal, if I’m being honest, would be to create a few features.
MELISSA KRIKKE: How long have you been with WILDsound?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: I co-founded WILDsound in 2007, and took over full reigns mid-2013.
MELISSA KRIKKE: How does the WILDsound Feedback Film Festival run?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: People submit pieces to us and we have a committee who watches all of the films. I’ll watch the batch they recommend. We’re running the festival monthly, so I find a theme every month. I’m really big on themes. We have ten festivals each year, on the last Thursday of the month. This festival is the first of 2015. There is about 60 films shown every year, I take all of the shorts and figure out where they can fit into the festival. Five are being shown tonight; but generally speaking we show six a night.
The festival is two-fold. For the feedback film festival you’re watching tonight, we are showing the best short films from around the world. Tonight we have a film from Australia, one from Turkey, one from Greece – they’re everywhere. The other half of the festival is for screenwriters. The majority of what we do is showcase feature screenplays, TV pilots, books, novels, etc. We get professional actors in the city to perform the screenplay/stories, and every submission garners full feedback on their work from people in the industry who I find to read the submitted scripts. But the feedback film festival is a way to be public, as oppose to everything being online.
MELISSA KRIKKE: How have you been able not to use a cent of government aid money in Canada while creating films?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: For a film festival it’s kind of impossible to make a profit, and I’ve tried, and I know how to be profitable. I went to school where I was the “cusp kid” when editing and all the technology was coming to fold. But there was still a resistance in the late 90s, early 2000s. Film was still in vogue. People still wanted to edit on a Steinbeck Machine, using cut and paste. Things have only changed in the last fifteen years. I remember producing a short film that had a $70,000 budget in 2003. By the time 2005, rolled around I was able to make Beautiful for less than $2,000. That’s how much technology has changed. All the tools are there. Everyone can get a camera, everyone can get lights, and everyone has an editing facility. Back in the day, you had to go to an editing place and rent editing equipment. So if you’re good, and you’re smart about your money, it doesn’t really cost that much. If you watch some of the films tonight, there are some big budget films but they’re smart with their location and they’re smart about what they’re spending their money on.
I see so many films and a lot of the issues I see is young filmmakers trying to make too much out of something (thematically wise too). If you’re 24 years old, you don’t really know much, generally speaking, especially if you’re born in North America where life is pretty easy. So don’t make a film about a huge gigantic thing. Write what you know. I just wrote movies that I knew about. I knew about a relationship between a man and a woman (or at least I thought I did) and that’s what I wrote about. I didn’t try to make a statement. I just said this is my story and I’m sure some people have a similar story.
MELISSA KRIKKE: Has the festival grown each year that you’ve noticed?
MATTHEW TOFFOLO: It took a while to really figure out how to run a feedback film festival. The editor and I are basically trying to tell a story of the feedback. There’s a method to the madness, and it’s really difficult to pull off. It took maybe 30 festivals to figure it out. When you give someone a live microphone a lot of bad things can happen, but a lot of amazing things can happen too. The art is finding the amazing.