Featured Filmmakers: A Trio of Shorts Directors Michael Toubassi, Amy Storkel, and James Brylowski

Michael Toubassi, Team Work

Michael Toubassi, Team Work

Amy Storkel, The Bad Boy of Bowling

Amy Storkel, The Bad Boy of Bowling

James Brylowski - A Mile in These Hooves

James Brylowski – A Mile in These Hooves









This afternoon at 3:00pm at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater, the Maui Film Festival presents a showcase of short films called SHORT FILMS FOR GROWN-UPSfeaturing big stories told in small packages. Three of those films – TEAM WORK, THE BAD BOY OF BOWLING, and A MILE IN THESE HOOVES – will be presented by the films’ directors, who are here on Maui attending the festival.

We caught up with this trio of directors, who will introduce their films today and encourage you to stick around afterward for an informal Q&A session, too!

We asked them each the same three questions, let’s check out their answers: 

1. How did your film come to be? How did you get involved in making it? Where and when did you start?

Michael Toubassi (TEAM WORK): I was short listed at IFP Phoenix as a director for a “script to screen” challenge. Out of the 7 finalist scripts, Team Work was by far the funniest, most relatable script. Although neither myself nor the script was selected, with the encouragement of my producer I went ahead and optioned the script so I could make the film anyway!

Amy Storkel (THE BAD BOY OF BOWLING): Ten years ago we saw a feature documentary about bowling called A League of Ordinary Gentlemen. We loved the film but we were especially interested in and drawn to Pete Weber who was just one of the many characters in that film. When we started looking into him again last year, we were delighted to discover that a lot had happened in the world of bowling in the recent ten years and a lot had happened in the world of Pete weber that made him even more interesting. We were given the opportunity to pitch it to ESPN as a 30 for 30, and thus our short was born.

James Brylowski (A MILE IN THESE HOOVES): I knew that I wanted to make a film that encompassed my two passions, absurd and bizarre comedy and landscape cinematography.  The idea of making a film about a couple of people in a 2-person donkey costume was kicking around in my head for a while.  Eventually it hit me to incorporate my 2-person donkey costume idea into a road trip film, and so the journey began.  I loved the idea of showing these majestic and beautiful landscapes juxtaposed by this ridiculous donkey costume walking through them. I wrote the script, spent a few months in pre-production- casting, researching locations, having the donkey made and putting all of the logistics together.  In May, 2013, we packed a mini van with 5 people, an 8 foot long donkey costume and all of our gear and over the course of 3 weeks, we drove 14,000 km from Toronto, Canada to Los Angeles (and back) shooting the film. The film completed post-production in May, 2014.

2: What type of experience or message do you hope the film will bring to viewers?

Although this is obviously a comedy, I hope that people will find aspects of the story relatable – we all have to learn to deal with different personalities in the workplace and face challenges when being part of a team. But mostly, I just want people to laugh and enjoy themselves.

Storkel:  We hope this film will be entertaining and fun, but we also want the viewer to be reminded that behind every viral video is a real person with a story of their own. And when you see that same video with new context, you find yourself responding with less judgement and more understanding.

Brylowski: I hope that my film allows people in 2-person costumes to stand a little taller and prouder, to not be afraid to wear their costumes, honorably.  I want to inspire viewers to drop everything they’re doing and get into a 2-person costume and walk across a country (any country will do the trick, but don’t cop out and pick a tiny one like Andorra). It’s cool, go for it.  Don’t be shy, reach for the stars and you might just tickle the moon.  Legally speaking – I’m just kidding, don’t do it, please. It would be unpleasant for you and your loved ones. Honestly though, I just want people to enjoy watching the film. I hope that it touches them in some way and makes them laugh. I want people to be brought along on a journey, experiencing the hardship, loyalty and perseverance of these brothers and their struggle.

3. Describe your connection to Maui if you’ve got one?  If you’ve never been Maui, what are you most looking forward to about your trip to the festival?

Toubassi: I’ve been to Maui a couple of times and just fell in love with everything from the beaches to the food to the lifestyle. I’ve always been an admirer of all things Polynesian, and Maui has such a wealth of beauty and culture. An old college friend lives on the island so that another connection. I’m looking forward to seeing the films presented at the Celestial Cinema, as well as hunting for the best Mai Tai in the area!

Storkel: My husband and I are a filmmaking team and we came to Maui together years ago after a work trip to Honolulu. It was magical. We didn’t have much money but we had recently gotten married and didn’t have kids yet. We did the road to Hana and body surfed with the locals and discovered a hidden cave where we could dive into pristine water and swim out the other side. We always remember that trip as one of our favorites.

Brylowski: I have been to Maui once and loved it.  The Hana Highway was one of the greatest roads I’ve ever driven.  I did a few photo shoots on Maui as well as an aerial shoot.  Went snorkeling at the Molokini crater and drove around the West Maui mountains. I’m really looking forward to the festival to meet everyone and experience the Hawaiian culture that I love. The Maui Film festival looks amazing. Great events, venues and line up of films in an incredible location. You can’t ask for more than that. The Taste of Summer, Taste of Chocolate, Taste of Wailea…I see a theme and it’s one I can get into. I’m really looking forward to watching films at the Celestial Cinema, especially Racing Extinction.

The Featured Filmmaker series is coordinated and written by the Maui Film Festival’s Filmmaker Liaison and Social Media Director Sara Tekula. Click here to see all of the Featured FIlmmaker posts and be sure follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get live updates from the festival.