HollyShorts 2021 Day 4 (Sept. 26th Highlights) + Q&A With Samuel Gonzalez Jr.

It’s time for day 4, and another incredible schedule of films to check out for the day. With the festival nearing its halfway point and so many wonderful films already hitting the screens, it’s exciting to know how much more we have to see. Additionally, we have a great installment of our “5 Questions With” series, this time with That Night director Samuel Gonzalez Jr., whose film is based on a Craigslist ad in 2015, which focuses on a struggling veteran whose past continues to haunt him, and the young woman who changes it all.

That Night – Dark, tense and heartbreaking, this film leads an emotional journey through its 40 minute runtime. One of the most powerful films of the festival, it’s no wonder that it’s inspiration was the first online ad to be considered for a pulitzer, and the entire cast and crew deserve all accolades that come their way for doing the story justice.

Run Out Groove – Paige Henderson directs this majority LGBTQIA+ cast and crew in a film about a painter who recalls back a past relationship, guided by her ex after a record player mysteriously falls outside of her house. It’s a tumultuous journey, but one well worth watching as we see how the relationship fell apart and what it means for both women involved.

Standing Woman – In the near future, instead of jail or deportation, the government has come up with a new form of punishment: turning those they deem unworthy of humanity into trees. In this new world of insidious eco-fascism, a filmmaker dealing with the loss of his wife to this new procedure take an emotional trek to say goodbye to the woman he loved. Based on the story by Yasutaka Tsutsui, this is an engrossing and haunting film that shows the measures that some will take in the name of help, even if it has some terrible effects, and how just because there are those who think it will help doesn’t mean the benefits outweigh the losses.

Seawolf- An inspirational film about the first nations people living in Canada and their desire to work with the Canadian government to help reestablish their people, this is a project that will not only entertain, but help raise awareness. The first nations people have been cast aside from their land for far too long, and this quest will be a good step towards fixing that, with this film helping set up that path.

Untitled Earth Sim 64 – A film that is darkly hilarious, it focuses on the simulated world as it goes their some tech issues. It’s funny, but makes this theory feel relatable. The cast is also terrific, especially Karen Olrich- White, who stars.

To cap off today’s coverage, we spoke with Samuel Gonzalez Jr. for our “5 Questions With” series. Here’s that conversation.

“That Night” director Samuel Gonzalez Jr. (Taken at HollyShorts 2021)

Q: Tell us more about your film.  How did it come to be? 

You know I was just wrapping up production on my upcoming feature film when I was sitting in my office, a quiet moment, taking a sip of watered down ginger ale, staring out my window, the city lights in the distance my flash Gordon Pinball machine lights reflecting off my face when I thought…”maybe just one more”. I raced over to my computer and slid my finger across the mouse which landed on the folder on the desktop labeled “short film concepts”. Now I had already completely a short film a year before that had won several awards in the circuit and finished with receiving worldwide distribution, that can now be seen on SHORTStv, called The Springfield Three, so after that I had posed myself and the team to focus on features moving forward. But like that kid gravitating towards the beating drums in Jumanji. I just couldn’t stop hearing the movie that was to be in my head. A beating drum that had been hiding within the depths of the desktop folder for many years. Flash back 5-6 years earlier when I was searching on craigslist for a motorcycle when I came across a very odd post that seemed completely out of place. So curiously I clicked on it. What I read, captivated me. It gripped me. I cried, a felt for it and needed to know who the man was that posted it. It was from an anonymous Vietnam veteran who was searching for a woman who had saved his life more than 50 years earlier on the worst night of his life, New Years eve 1971, the night he planned to kill himself. He knew her only for a brief few hours that night when she vanished and never heard from again. He had lived a long life and needed to connect, to say thank you, to just see her. It was the most beautiful words I had ever read and in 2015, it went viral. Some calling it the first online ad to be considered for a pulitzer. I had to make this story. I need to share this mans journey, if anything, to be able to lend hand in helping him connect with her. And so, here we are. 

Q: What was your budget?

We did the film for about 100k in 3 days.

Q: What was the biggest takeaway from making the film?

Every film is like a new relationship. You learn, make mistakes, love, fight, hurt, want more. But this one was gentle. Everyone on board loved the story and wanted to be a part of telling it in some capacity. We all took away a little of this mans soul, and we put it back into the finished picture. Im proud of everyone involved.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

The biggest challenge was the ability to pull off this epic story with limited days and the budget to pull it off. Time is number one enemy on most sets and we were trying to climb Mount Everest in full military gear during the worst storm of the century in 3 days. Add covid to that and that would be enough for everyone to retreat back to base camp. But we continued on, not losing anyone on the way and using pure adrenaline and love for the story to keep up going. It was fast paced but fun every step.

Q:  What is next for you?

My upcoming feature film called ’THE RETALIATORS’ just had its World Premiere at Frightfest in London stellar reviews and will now have its North American premiere at Screamfest Horror film festival next month. It features many rock n roll legends and outstanding actors from the producers of Netflix ’The Dirt’.  Im in development on my next feature, a story about iconic actor James Dean, the car that killed him and the murders the car is linked to in the years after. Its a Neo-noir and a hell of a ride I cant wait for you all to take! 

Thanks to all the filmmakers for their work! You can get tickets for all of the screenings for today, as well as any other blocks for the festival through BitPix and HollyShorts.

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