Short Film Corner 2022
May 17, 2022
A young woman using her ability to teleport in and out of bank vaults is blackmailed with a video of herself by a man who envies her power.
Hi Teddy, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening, have you been able to remain positive and creative at least?
Hey, it’s great to get to talk with you too. Thanks for reaching out and watching the film, it means a lot to me.
I’m doing well, you know. It’s a daily effort to stay positive but I feel my happiest when I’m being creative and luckily I’ve been able to do that these past couple years.
What does it mean for you to be in the Cannes Short Film Corner with Godspeed and what do you hope to take away from this experience?
It’s very exciting and fills me with a bit of pride to have "Godspeed" at the Cannes Short Film Corner. I’ve been making movies since I was 17 and everything’s just ended up on my Youtube channel so to be 22 now headed to Cannes, representing a film I feel so extremely proud of, is validating.
I’m looking forward to learning, meeting new people, and having fun. "Godspeed" screens Wednesday, May 25 in Palais H at 1:30PM - I’m hoping to fill the theatre with as many people as I can and hear what other filmmakers have to say about it. My producer/actor Logan Miller is coming with me and he said it best - it’s going to be a great education.
How vital are platforms like Cannes SFC in championing and supporting independent short filmmakers?
You know, for such a well-regarded film festival like Cannes to highlight all of these shorts in what’s basically a festival of their own is incredible and makes short filmmakers feel appreciated for their work. I know I do. It means a lot to me as a new filmmaker on the scene to know my industry respects me, they see me.
Can you tell me how Godspeed came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
"Godspeed" came about very organically. The initial idea came to me a little over a year ago but I didn’t have too much of a vision for it, so I jotted some notes down and figured it’d reveal itself to me when it was ready.
Then in January of this year, I was antsy to make something. I was fatigued with another script and just wanted to exercise my director brain. At the same time, I had just rewatched Chronicle (2012) and discovered Following (1998) and those two films deeply inspired me and I was reminded of "Godspeed" which had, by that time, taken shape. I was selling my car so I figured I could take some of that money and put it into a short.
In the moment, my inspiration behind the screenplay was just my excitement to see out an idea I really loved. It wasn’t until the film was done that I could step back and see that it was completely inspired by the personal and creative frustration I was feeling at the time.
Do you like to keep to your screenplay once you’ve started shooting, do you give yourself much flexibility?
I use the screenplay as a guide for what we’re supposed to be doing but at the end of the day, it’s far more important to me that we capture something real than written. I find I’m always going to somewhat adapt the script onsite because you’re translating paper to an alive scene. Especially for dialogue. Before filming Larry Sanders, Garry Shandling would tell his cast, “if there’s something better you want to say, say it.” I’ve taken that for myself.
I know if we capture the spirit of the scene and the actors say the key plot points, I’ll have something to edit.
You appeared in Cooper Raiff’s Freshman Year which also featured Logan Miller and Olivia Scott Welch, what was this experience like for you?
Working on that movie was an invaluable experience for me. I did the production design too so I got to be there every single day and just absorb. That was my film school - my first time being on a film set, learning what everyone’s job was, learning everything.
My biggest takeaway from that time was the people - my best friends and collaborators: Will Youmans, Logan Miller, Olivia Scott Welch, Divi Crockett - they’re all a part of "Godspeed". Rachel Klien would even jump on the phone with me and Will during pre-production to give us advice and encouragement.
Has working in front of the camera helped you build closer relationships with your actors and the way you create your characters?
It gave me an understanding of how vulnerable acting feels. I want to provide a comfortable space for my actors to be their best and take risks.
How did you go about casting Godspeed, did you always have Logan and Olivia in mind?
I wrote with Olivia in mind. I find her to be one of the most unique actors working today. She possesses an energy of feeling ordinary and extraordinary at the same time and that’s what her character in "Godspeed" needed to be - somebody you could pass by on the street but if I told you, “that girl can teleport and she’s been robbing banks,” you’d believe me. We’d previously worked together on a film I directed called The Party Slasher and were looking for something else to collaborate on so this felt like the perfect fit.
Logan and I on the other hand had become close friends and, just being a fan of his, I was always looking for something we could work together on. I didn’t think he was totally right for "Godspeed" at first just because the character I’d written was more of a buttoned-up asshole and Logan is a loveable goon but I sent him the script anyway and asked if he’d be interested and he pitched me his completely original take on the character - that’s who you see in the movie today. I can’t imagine the film without him. He’s such a committed actor, so present in every moment. Riotously funny too.
It’s been my pleasure to work with both of them.
Between your cinematographer Ksusha Genenfeld and your editing (the wide shots of Logan and Olivia in the diner are fantastic) how important is this collaborative nature of filmmaking for you when working on a film like this?
Collaboration is imperative. I need to be able to look at my crew and say, “I don’t know. What do you think?” and as a director, your cinematographer is your copilot. I knew from the jump we were in safe hands with Ksusha. I’m beyond proud of what she was able to pull off. She saw the vision, she believed in it 100%, and she was a wealth of knowledge and ideas. She suggested we put a glow filter on the lens to give the film a dreamy look. She suggested we jump to widescreen at the end. She taught me what the 180 degree rule was! I could go on and on.
Ksusha, if you see this: thank you. You’re the backbone of our movie.
"I probably did four or five different cuts and my producers were kind enough to meet with me whenever I needed them to watch and give notes."
Few shorts would be shot in 4:3 let alone Black & White what made you want to use this format to tell Godspeed’s story?
In the moment of making a film, I move based on feeling. Something about seeing Chris Nolan’s Following (1998) lit a fire inside me. I also looked at my favourite filmmaker’s debut shorts from the 90s and that’s the format they’re telling their stories in. It reads as a stylistic choice in 2022 when we could’ve easily shot "Godspeed" in widescreen colour on crispy digital but that wasn’t exciting to me.
The 90s look you have created with Godspeed is incredible and there’s a polite nod to the film style of filmmakers like Larry Clark and Gus van Sant. With only 10 minutes how did you create this unique feel and look that Godspeed has?
Wow, thank you.
Looking back, if I chose to shoot "Godspeed" in widescreen colour, I’d have to give the viewer a lot more exposition. So many films are shot the same way no matter the genre. How is a modern audience supposed to know where your story is headed? Suspiria (2018) and Mean Girls (2004) are shot the same way but they have however long their runtime is to prove to you why they’re different films.
"Godspeed" is only 10 minutes long - the choice of 4:3 B&W becomes an immediately obvious device that we’re able to lean on. The viewer knows something is up the second "Godspeed" starts because it looks different. Generating those thoughts in your mind builds tension for us so the movie can hit the ground running.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge you faced bringing Godspeed to life?
Editing the first scene. It’s the longest scene in the film and I didn’t want it to be boring. I found making it tense sped the scene up but if I made it too tense, then it became one-note. I probably did four or five different cuts and my producers were kind enough to meet with me whenever I needed them to watch and give notes. I’m extremely proud of where we landed.
Would you ever consider adapting Godspeed into a feature?
We’re bringing the feature outline with us. We’ll see what happens.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Yeah. I’ve known my whole life I wanted to be a writer/director. I don’t know what it is. People get all sorts of ideas. I get ideas for films.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut?
Pre-pandemic I was a nonstop creative, always moving forward, always onto the next film. I started to burn out. Then when everything shut down and we were all locked inside, I gave myself permission to do nothing. I wasn’t one of those “no excuses now!” people. I absolutely had an excuse: I was tired. Post-pandemic, something changed in me. The priority is no longer rushing to get something made. I’d rather take my time and create something I’m extremely proud of.
I’ve done that with "Godspeed".
Are there any tips you could offer anyone thinking about making their debut short film?
Be so prepared that you’re able to have fun and surround yourself with collaborators that will be in service of your vision.
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Godspeed?
I hope audiences leave wanting more from "Godspeed" and me as a filmmaker.