Wednesday, August 29, 2018

HollyShorts: The Visit - Romina Schwedler Interview

Photo Credit: JBN Media

Romina was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the early age of 15, she moved to NYC by herself to study at the School of American Ballet and The Juilliard School.

She followed with intensive acting training at the William Esper Studio, during which she began to be featured in films, TV series and commercials.

Inspired by her mother -a successful Argentinean actress & director, and her father -an award-winning photographer, Romina developed a passion for visual storytelling at a very young age.

In 2014, she directed How a Man Gets Ready (a spec commercial/ micro-short film she also wrote, produced, starred in and edited). Through this piece, she was selected as one of the top emerging directors of the year at SHOOT Magazine’s 12th Annual New Directors Showcase held at NYC’s Directors Guild of America Theater.

She soon followed by writing, directing & producing Bad Connections (another spec commercial/ micro-short).

Both works, as well as her micro-short The Slapper Flapper which she shot with her phone, went on to screen at numerous festivals worldwide and received 23 awards and 4 nominations combined. Some of them are: Best MicroShort Film Award/ Houston Comedy Film Festival (2014), Best Short Film by a Woman Nomination/ Burbank International Film Festival (2014), Gold Award for Best Concept/ International Independent Film Awards (2014), Best Commercial Award/ California International Shorts Festival (2014 & 2015), Best Micro-Short by a Woman/ Lionshead Film Festival (2015 & 2016), Best Micro-Short Film Award/ Austin Revolution Film Festival (2015 & 2016), Female Filmmaker of the Year Nomination/ Austin Revolution Film Festival (2016).

Throughout 2015 Romina wrote, directed and produced her first short film, The Visit: A 12 min psychological drama starring Academy Award Nominee June Squibb and Sean Maher.

The Visit premiered at the Burbank International Film Festival where it was awarded Best Short Film by a Woman and is currently on the festival circuit, having screened at 38 festivals so far, including Oscar Qualifying Cinequest, HollyShorts and St. Louis International Film Festival; as well as Sedona International Film Festival, Vail Film Festival, CineGlobe Film Festival (CERN, Switzerland), FICIE (Spain), Florence Short Film Festival (Italy), Catalina Film Festival, and Milledgeville + Eatonton Film Festival, having received 9 awards (including Best Director and Best Short Film), 16 nominations and 5 special mentions to date. (Full list on pages 4, 5 & 6.)

Upcoming screenings will take place this September at the Austin Revolution Film Festival (TX, USA), Rendezvous Film Festival (FL, USA), SAG-AFTRA Foundation Short Film Showcase (NY, USA), and this October at the Borderlands Film Festival (NM, USA), Liverpool Film Festival (Liverpool, UK), and Chelsea Film Festival (NY, USA).

Besides accompanying The Visit throughout its festival run, Romina is currently in the process of writing the screenplay for her first feature film, as well as in post-production for her upcoming short film, Boom.


The Visit was born in August of 2014 out of a phone conversation with my father about my late great aunt Elsa, at the time 102 years old.

With great sadness, my father shared with me the curious ways in which she expressed herself and the stories she had recently started to elaborate in order to cope with the loss of pretty much all friends and family members from her generation, due to her advanced age.

She did not have Alzheimer’s disease. She was not senile. She was sharp and lucid, except when it came to this subject.

I was fascinated by the mechanisms the mind has access to in order to handle loss and grief. My aunt Elsa could not have been more enthusiastic about this alleged party she needed to prepare for, where she was going to see her sister and parents later that day.

As the conversation with my father continued, an intriguing thought came to my mind which would take that which had captured my attention, a step further.

I immediately started writing The Visit and worked non-stop from first draft to final cut in order to bring the story to life.

Being my largest production yet and my first short film, this was a special project to say the least. I left my heart in this production and so did each and every member of our amazing cast and crew.

They always say a short film is a labor of love, and oh boy was that true with The Visit!

I was extremely lucky to get to work with extraordinary talents like Oscar Nominee June Squibb, Sean Maher, Sadie Katz and Dominick Coniglio, and to enjoy the collaboration of my mother who flew in all the way from Argentina to help with whatever was necessary throughout the production.

I was incredibly fortunate to get to work with every single member of our cast and crew, among them the outstanding Alan J. Carmona (cinematographer), Dan Zlotnik (composer), and Company3 (colorist) who donated their services due to how much they believed in the project.

I deeply enjoyed making this film, so I very much hope that you have a memorable experience watching it!

Devastated by the loss of his wife and son, Ben responds to his mother's sudden request for a visit. But when she announces the alleged arrival of his departed family, what he strives to sustain as a gentle encounter soon spirals into torment, finally revealing a most unsettling truth.

June Squibb (Mrs. Perkins)
was born and raised in Vandalia, Illinois. She's best known for the role of Kate Brant in Nebraska (2013) which earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations among 38 other nominations and 5 wins. Her filmography includes About Schmidt, Scent of a Woman, I'll See You in My Dreams, Alice, Meet Joe Black, In & Out, The Perfect Family, Far from Heaven and The Age of Innocence.

She has also performed in numerous TV series like Getting On, Code Black, The Millers, Mike & Molly, Devious Maids, Girls and Glee to name a few.

Mrs. Squibb got her big break in New York by landing the role of Dulcie in The Boyfriend Off-Broadway in 1958. In 1959, she performed in an Off-Broadway revival of Lend an Ear starring Elizabeth Allen.

She made her Broadway debut in the original production of Gypsy starring Ethel Merman, taking over the role of stripper Electra in 1960. She next appeared in The Happy Time, which opened in 1968 and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical. In-between these periods June also did modeling work for romance novels and TV commercials.

She can currently be seen in films like Love The Coopers, 7 Days in Hell, Other People, Table 19 and TV series like The Big Bang Theory, Shameless and Modern Family.

Dominick Coniglio (Matty)
At the young age of 8, Dominick had his acting debut in 2015 playing the role of Matty in the short film The Visit, opposite Academy Award Nominee June Squibb and Sean Maher.

From there he went on to play the role of Young Chris Garper in the TV Series Limitless as well as having several appearances in TV series and commercials nationwide.

Dominick lives with his family in Long Island, NY where he currently attends intermediate school and continues his acting studies.

Sean Maher (Ben) is well known to television and film audiences for his role as Dr. Simon Tam in Joss Whedon's feature Serenity. The film was based on the critically acclaimed series Firefly.

Maher was born and raised in New York where he attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. He moved to Los Angeles after landing the coveted title role in the FOX drama Ryan Caufield: Year One.

Upon cancellation of that series, Maher secured a holding deal with FOX and collaborated with the network on the well loved series Party of Five as well as Darren Star's The $treet. Additional TV credits include The Mentalist, Human Target, and Warehouse 13.

With the birth of his daughter in 2007 Maher took a few years off from acting to be a stay at home dad.

In 2011 while playing closeted gay man Sean Beasely in 1960s Chicago on NBC's provocative The Playboy Club, Maher used the role as a platform to come out publicly as a gay man himself. Entertainment Weekly graciously covered the story and Maher regards that decision as one of the highlights of his career.

Sean appeared in the Season 2 finale of Looking for HBO, directed by Andrew Haigh. Additionally, he was seen recurring as Mark Scheffer (aka Shrapnel) on the hit series Arrow for The CW.

Maher won praise for his portrayal of Don John in Joss Whedon's feature film adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and starred in the indie sci-fi feature Beyond The Edge as well as the feature People You May Know.

A yoga enthusiast and LGBT advocate, he currently lives in Michigan with his partner and their two children.

Sadie Katz (Anna) is a Los Angeles based actress best known for her starring role in 20th Century Fox’s fan favorite horror franchise Wrong Turn 6 where she played the twisted and sexy Sally Killicker.

She showed off her acting range when she played the sweet and sensitive leading lady in Chavez: Cage of Glory along Danny Trejo, Steven Bauer and Hector Echavarria.

Katz also starred in the award winning thriller House of Bad among many other horror and dramatic films.

"The Visit" is a compelling entry of the short film variety, a deep rooted and thought provoking psychological drama filmed in a style that would make any fan of Hitchcock smile with approval.
With a running time of just over 12 minutes in length, director Romina Schwedler wastes no time grabbing the attention of her audience, building a melancholy tone with twisting visuals that transition effortlessly into a story about a family torn by instability and a sordid past. 

Most impressive were the two lead characters and how well they presented different ranges of emotion in such a short amount of time, building the plot and structure of the storyline. In "The Visit" we follow a family man in a seemingly normal afternoon arrangement with his estranged mother at a care home. During this meeting the audience is treated with scenes detailing the family drama, channeling the frailty of relationships between very human characters. Something to consider here is the sincerity of the film, from the clever conception of the scenes, their transitions and the desaturated tone of the visuals. Without giving away the core details, it is apparent from the very beginning that this is a story where not everything is as it seems. 

We get a sense of unease after key plot points are revealed towards the end that the destination of our characters might not follow the path set by the initial tone of our leads. Another mention should be made to the simple relevancy of the score used to coincide with the players adding to the emotional payoff. 
One can't help but wonder how the talents of miss Romina Schwedler could be used to great effect in a full length feature film, and with her short "The Visit" we get a taste of what she has to offer to the cinematic world.

Romina Schwedler on the Red Carpet with JBN Journalist, Kristin Cercado.

Romina Schwedler on the Red Carpet at HollyShorts.

Romina Schwedler on the Red Carpet with JBN Photographer, James Vallesteros.


HollyShorts takes place August 9-18, 2018 at the TCL Chinese Theater, Harmony Gold Theater and other locations in Hollywood. Nearly 400 short films will compete for the festival’s top prizes. Last year HollyShorts finalists included 3 out of the 5 Live Action Oscar nominees and the winning short Silent Child from Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton. This year, HollyShorts received an all-time record 5,000 submissions from over 80 countries. The competition will feature Live Action, Animation and Documentary Shorts as well as web series, student shorts, music videos, TV pilots, and VR. The festival also features a screenplay competition where the winning short gets greenlit, shot and shown at next year’s festival courtesy of Seattle Film Summit.

Video: Edward Chung. Edit: James Vallesteros (@jamesvallesteros)

HollyShorts Film Festival is an organization devoted to showcasing the best and brightest short films from around the globe, advancing the careers of filmmakers through screenings, networking events, and various panel and forums. The Oscar Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival showcases the top short films produced 40- minutes or less. Categories include Short Animation, Short Live Action, Short Documentary, Music Video, Webisode, Commercials, TV, and Digital Microbudget.
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