Q&A With Julie Sokolow, Director of Aspie Seeks Love

(Februry 13 2015)

1. What first drew you to filmmaking and how did you get started?

I’ve always loved film, but was initially intimidated by it. The equipment, the cost, and the need for a whole creative team seemed daunting. I funneled my narrative urges into writing fiction and screenplays, but desperately wanted to manifest stories visually. The accessibility of digital filmmaking really allowed me to go in that direction. Once I picked up my first video camera, I couldn’t stop shooting. (more…)

Q&A With Cardinal Matter’s Mark Christian (Producer/Director of Photography) and Madeline Puzzo (Director)


1. What first drew you to filmmaking and how did you get started?

Christian: I can remember back to when I was really young, before I could even read – I would act like I was reading but the book would be upside down. I would just make up stories and “read” them to my family. I think that I’ve just always had the desire to tell stories and entertain people.

Puzzo: There really was no “first” for me. My passion developed and morphed as I was growing up but if I had to pinpoint something it would be watching featurettes on DVDs in middle school and high school. Most notably, The Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the King bonus set and the special edition Anchorman set. I can’t remember how many times I watched those throughout high school, but I know it was a lot.



Kiss me Goodbye is a short film which will be made independnently in Pittsburgh this fall.  It will be shot on 16mm film. Learn more about the film here.  

If you would like to get involved as an extra; On November 1st, the filmmakers will need close to 100 extras of all ages on set in Oakland.  To get in contact with the filmmakers or for more information, click here.

The following questions are answered by director and co-writer, Brendan Sweeney; assistant director and co-writer, Zack Eritz; producer and production manager, Molly Duerig; director of photography, Stefano Ceccarreli; and executive producer, Ian Burkland.


Q: What brought your team together and how did you get started?

A: BRENDAN & ZACK: It wasn’t easy putting together a team that was willing to donate nearly a year of their time. It takes a special kind of person to undertake such a massive responsibility. But after meeting with a number of people and passing off the script to see if this was a story that they would feel passionate in telling, we found a group we were comfortable in beginning this journey with. We would like to believe much of finding the right personnel was our own tenacity throughout the process, but the reality may be that we were just plain lucky. Kiss Me Goodbye won’t be your average film, so when bringing the project to fellow Pittsburgh Filmmaker alumni and filmmakers in Pittsburgh, we informed them that this film will be both a challenge and nothing like you have ever seen before.


Q: Tell us about your creative process and how you work with your team.

A: BRENDAN: I’m not sure that I have a process. All I can say is I know what I don’t like. Now, knowing what I do like on the other hand is a totally different story. I feel that it is a trial-and-error process. You review the script and see what stimulates you visually, emotionally, and verbally. From that point you start meeting with your director of photography, wardrobe designer, makeup artist, production designer, etc., and start shopping ideas around. You pull out the color palette diagrams. You do film tests. You watch movies that evoke a similar task and look for inspiration. Then you eventually start to get a refined image of something that you believe will capture an audience. It’s a process of retaining as much information as possible that correlates with the project you are working on—then expressing that information in your own personal way.

I work with my team in a way that I make sure there is A LOT of communication. So much communication, that maybe it is overkill. (Bill, one of the producers, tells me this all the time!) I guess I am just always upfront about anything and everything. I think it is always best to address things and re-address things to make sure we are thorough. I honestly have such a great team backing this project. It is mostly a collaborative process and we just have fun doing what we love. Everyone offers something unique to the table. I am really blessed to have everyone helping out!


Q: It’s unusual that you’re shooting on film. What made you go in this direction? 

A: BRENDAN: We chose film for a couple of different reasons. 1). My DP and I believe it presents the proper texture in terms of grain that the project needs. Unfortunately, the security of digital couldn’t offer us that look that was needed.  2). We are film enthusiasts! We have always loved the look of film and the process in which it takes to use it. Yes, it can be harder, but we believe that is the fun of doing it. It truly is a craft.

We don’t know how long film will still be around and we want to shoot as much of it before it’s gone. We believe it is still a viable format in the industry, and if there is any way we can help to keep it alive, we are going to do that. One way we figured to do that was to just shoot as much of it as possible. Thanks to Kodak and ORWO. They are still making it possible for people like us.


Q: Tell us about your upcoming short film “Kiss Me Goodbye”. What themes do you present in the film and what is your inspiration?

A: ZACK:  I think one of the things that have really drawn people to Kiss Me Goodbye so far is the powerful images of the actors and concept art, followed by the mystery behind the story itself. Without hearing so much as a line of dialogue, you are able to deduce the film will be something of a class divide between the powerful State and the people it represents. It’s not difficult to see where this is relatable in today’s world—it’s almost a collision course to where we as a nation are heading. The Twilight Zone was an inspiration for us in writing the script, more specifically the episode of ‘The Obsolete Man.’ There was a Cold War influence in The Twilight Zone, and American films today often forget this. The Cold War is over, but we still feel its effects. On top of that, there is the ongoing war on terrorism. This blanket term often focuses on religious extremists. So with Kiss Me Goodbye, we hope to turn this idea on its head by bringing it home to a much different America. 


Q: What notable projects have you done in the past and where has your work been shown?

A: MOLLY: I co-produced a video with the online news outlet PublicSource for a story about a woman recovering from heroin addiction. The multimedia package placed in a statewide competition held by the Society of Professional Journalists. Additionally, I directed a script chosen for the Community Showcase in Steeltown Entertainment Project’s 2014 Film Factory.

STEFANO: I was Director of Photography on Check Yes or No, a Steeltown Film. I shot and edited a documentary in Honduras for Operation Walk Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization that provides life-changing osteopathic surgeries to people in poverty-stricken countries. I have also worked as an assistant camera on Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa music videos, and was assistant camera on The Mutineer, a feature film directed by Pittsburgh-based filmmaker John Jaquish.


Q: How do you think this project will help you grow as a filmmaker?

A: STEFANO: Every new project gives a cinematographer a chance to learn and improve his/her craft. Shooting on film is a privilege not accessible to many starting filmmakers today, so being given an opportunity to shoot on celluloid is exciting. We also have faith this movie has a chance to make it into well-known festivals. The possibility of exposing our work to a larger audience is a big upside to being on the project. Visuals and set design play important roles in Kiss Me Goodbye. They are also large-scale ideas (which cost money). This is a low budget film so accomplishing those big ideas will be challenging, but extremely rewarding if we pull it off.


Q: How has partnering with Pittsburgh Filmmakers helped you?

A: MOLLY: Besides being the springboard for our education in filmmaking, Pittsburgh Filmmakers has helped our project gain legitimacy and traction. Supporters of our project can make tax-deductible contributions to Kiss Me Goodbye thanks to Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ fiscal sponsorship.


Q: In your opinion, how does Pittsburgh appeal to filmmakers and how do you feel about Pittsburgh’s film community?

A: IAN: Pittsburgh is a wonderful city for filming & the Arts. The number of unique neighborhoods the surrounding area has to offer can give filmmakers a wide variety of locations to scout & utilize. The support and enthusiasm for filmmaking in the community has been amazing. Pittsburghers in general are very proud people, and love to see their city celebrated on the screen. The network of business owners & locals who have offered their various resources has been overwhelming. It’s been awesome to collaborate with so many others who share a common goal of growing the filmmaking industry within Pittsburgh. This is a very exciting time for the city. It will be exciting to see how the tax-incentive policies hold up and further develop; making it more advantageous for bigger productions to film in Pittsburgh. On top of all the city has to offer, there is a HUGE pool of extremely talented artists who love to call Pittsburgh their home, and haven’t moved to NY or LA.

Exclusive Interview with OITNB Writer Lauren Morelli

In honor of the season two premiere of everyone’s favorite female prison Netflix original series, check out our interview with “Orange Is the New Black” writer Lauren Morelli. We were pleased to host the Pittsburgh native late last year as part of the Steeltown Spotlight Series.