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Campbell Symes and Christina Toth Talks About Filmmaking

Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Christina: I was born in Montreal and grew up in Sherbrooke, a French-speaking town surrounded by mountains. The nature and language of this suburb shaped much of my upbringing. I was also raised by a single mother, which inherently influences who I am and the stories I seek to tell. In writing Talk to Me in Silence I was inspired by the richness of womanhood; our beautiful complexities and strengths.

Campbell: I’m from rural Maryland. Truthfully I wasn’t exposed to much film or television (for many years we didn’t have it) growing up. It wasn’t until I moved to New York and had my first experience working as an actor on a film set that I realized how collaborative production is, and ever since I’ve been rather obsessed. Working on Talk to Me in Silence was my first experience producing. The colleagues I met and worked with throughout the process, their kindness and generosity, has further inspired me to continue producing in addition to acting.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

Christina: I find myself going on a lot of walks when I sense a new idea emerging. The process of physically moving forward gives me the sense my thoughts are developing in the same way. Walking propels me into a wonderful state of daydreaming, where I can imagine the story fully and enjoy the infinite possibilities it contains.

Campbell: I find watching actors work often ignites the spark of an idea for me. I’ll admire someone’s performance in a play, a scene study class, or even in a director’s reel and I get curious, like who else would I really like to see this person portray? How could I make that film? And the daydreaming starts. I start imagining the context and motivation for the character.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

Christina: In creating Talk to Me in Silence I was deeply inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film, Persona. The movie left an important mark on me as a teenager. It’s as if when I first saw Persona it somehow imprinted itself in my subconscious. Persona’s themes of identity, coupled with the narrative being led by strong female roles paved a path for me as a filmmaker. Without a doubt, something unlocks in me when I watch the movie. It gives me courage to trust my creative impulses. Persona gives me a sense of home, and that is the greatest form of inspiration I can find in a film. My artistic quest is to bring to life stories that inspire this feeling of home in audiences.

Campbell: Ridley Scott’s Alien. I grew up with limited access to television and film, and I have to say discovering that film recently as an adult meant so much to me. I read it was noted in the script that the crew was to be unisex, with all parts interchangeable in casting, and that details feels important to me. Everything about that film makes my heart race.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

Christina: Find joy in what you do. If you can let joy be the driving force in creation, fear will fade. Self doubt will no longer hold you hostage, and you will be left with a deep sense of trust, in yourself and your community, that will feed your artistic instinct. Let joy guide you and your creativity will expand with openness, ease, and wonder.

Campbell: Avoid avoidance! Really, for so long I held back on pursuing acting and filmmaking because I wanted things to be “perfect” (whatever that means). Now I’m trying to make and enjoy as much imperfect work as I can. That’s been a big paradigm shift for me, personally and professionally.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Christina: Without a doubt, yes. Story is the richest and the most effective form of communication. I believe we need to tell stories as much as we need to hear them. It’s what we know best to do. Story has survived the passage of time. It is our constant companion.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's tastes?

Campbell: Oh, I’m sure the pandemic has influenced my taste - I imagine in both conscious and subconscious ways. I find myself very drawn to shows (Brigerton, Stranger Things, Abbott Elementary) and films (Alien, CODA, Parasite) with large casts. Perhaps there’s been something exceptionally touching about seeing groups of people together, some extra joy in watching ensemble work during and after isolation.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

Christina: I am currently writing a feature film entitled Night Owl, which further develops the storyline of Talk to Me in Silence. I’m going on a lot of walks and am excited with the challenge of exploring these new ideas that are coming to me.


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