WHISKERED AWAY, 5min., USA
Directed by Gale Smith
When a stray cat sets out on a quest for a home, she encounters a witch who seems to be the perfect owner... maybe too perfect. She must decide whether to turn a blind eye for the sake of her newfound family.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
I have always loved working with animal characters. My pets were some of my very first drawing inspirations. When it was time for me to brainstorm my thesis film, Jinx came to me first. I loved this little black cat so much that I had to create a story around her. Because black cats and animals with disabilities struggle to get adopted, it evolved into a story about looking for a family and resisting those who prey on the vulnerable.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
About eight months, between late August 2022 and early May 2023.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
Heartwarming and fairytale-esque.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
I faced several obstacles in completing this film. I had to balance it with my other classes and my part-time job to complete it before graduation. I was very fortunate to have some talented artists, composers, and sound designers volunteer to help with this project. Thus, I also had to manage my teammates and help troubleshoot roadblocks. Thanks to everyone's efforts, production actually wrapped early.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I was so blown away by the positive reactions to my film in the feedback video. Submitting a film for judgment is always a bit scary, because it feels like a piece of myself, but I also created it to be shared. I believe that a film isn't truly complete until it's screened. I really loved the description of the film as "a tale of two souls rescuing each other and how choosing to do good will pay off every time." That truly is the heart of the story to me, and it's so fulfilling to see that message come clearly across.
Also, to the man who said he would die for this cat... I would die for you. I'm joking, obviously, but it means a lot to know how attached people are to this character. It makes the whole process of bringing them to life so rewarding. I also want to say thank you so much to everyone for taking the time to review my film! It means a lot!
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I have wanted to make films ever since I saw the Ratatouille DVD extras and realized that animation is a job, not something that manifests out of thin air. This must have been in 2007.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Probably The Princess Bride. Is it possible to get tired of that movie? Inconceivable!
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
One of the most important aspects of the festival experience for me is getting to see audience reactions. My sophomore film launched during lockdown, and I really missed screening with a theater full of people. I think that the FEEDBACK Under 5 Minutes Film Festival really helped maintain that feeling with the recorded reactions, despite being a remote festival. I also always love to see more opportunities to connect with other filmmakers, such as panel interviews or reaction forums.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
Overall, my experiences using FilmFreeway have been very good. "Whiskered Away" and my sophomore film, "Guardians," both screened at multiple festivals. These experiences really helped me connect with other filmmakers and reach a much wider audience than I ever anticipated.
10. What is your favorite meal?
It honestly depends on the day! I grew up eating a wide variety of foods, especially being raised in a multicultural household. When I come home, I always crave the Hungarian foods my mom makes. Chicken paprikash with nokedli, schnitzel, and lángos, yum!
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I am currently freelancing for DC Comics and seeking full-time work in the animation industry. I am aiming to be a storyboard artist for television or feature animation. Right now, I'm excited to experience what this field has to offer!