Visa Issues is about Vicky, a young actress who is pursuing her dream to life in America when she is getting kidnapped by her strange Russian visa sponsor Viktor. Sashil Zakwal is the director of Visa Issues. The film is written by Robert Feldmaier who is also the actor of the film. Robert produced the film together with Any Ferreiras. The character of Vicky in the film is played by Any Ferreiras. It was our pleasure to interview Robert for Toronto Film Magzine. The project was recently an official selection of the Toronto Film and Script Awards.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
My ‘debut‘ if you wanna call it like that was in the German movie production called ‘When Hitler stole pink rabbit‘ as a nazi journalist. It was a big success in Germany and recently it’s also viewable in selected American theatres. After that I started writing a feature film about kidnapping. Then after I moved to America to study acting at @michelledannerla (edgemar center in Santa Monica), I played in a few short movies. After 2 months I was able to get great experience behind the scenes as a production assistant in a feature film called ‘The Runner‘ starring Cameron Douglas and Edouard Philipponnat which was directed by Michelle Danner. I also played a SWAT officer in that movie. This was really a great experience and I learned so much about the whole filming process, also behind the scenes. During the time in LA I finished the feature film that I started writing before. I continued writing some action short movies and finished writing one more feature film and a treatment for a third feature. With ‘Visa Issues‘ me and @anyferreiras (Any Ferreiras) produced and made the Script of the short film come to life (the first self produced short for me personally).
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why? Definitely the action genre and thriller/cop-thriller genre, because I enjoy watching those kind of movies the most and I love writing those type of scripts and I identify with that genre the most, because I am practicing Shotokan Karate since I am 8 years old and for that reason I love the Jason Statham and Van Damme movies. Or examples such as ‘Cop Land’ with Sylvester Stallone. Or ‘Taken’ with Liam Neeson. And as I am German I also like Arnold Schwarzenegger. What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker?
Well I don’t have too much experience there, but for me personally it was challenging to get everything done and taken care of. As being actor and producer I had to focus on my acting of course but at the same time making sure everything is going well behind the scenes and all the organizing stuff. It was like having so many things in your head at the same time. As well as the locations and making the schedule to have the best time for everybody available to shoot, was kind of challenging. I had all locations in mind for the scenes in the movie, but kind of like last minute we had to find a different location. So that was really stressful at some point. But of course worth it.
How challenging is it to fund indie films? Of course we had to calculate what we needed. The cost for the location, crafty, props, equipment, and so on. So I think you have to make a good list of your cost and the things you need to be sure of how much money you have to invest. So I would say planning is everything. Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work? There is a lot of directors that I admire, but if I had to name 3 of them, the first would be Sylvester Stallone for me. I mean he is acting in his movies, writing them and directing them. So from that aspect I think he is great and really creative for his writing, so I kind of relate to him a bit about that. As another one I would Name Simon West. He is not that famous maybe but I love the movies he directs such as ‘The Expendables‘ or ‘The Mechanic‘ or ‘Wild Card‘ to give some examples. Just the typical action movies he does. I really like them. To make the 3 complete I‘d name Mel Gibson, because he made the movie ‘The passion of Christ‘ which was a really big hit in theatre. For me as a believer in Christ our lord, that was a great thing. Not only was the film really great produced and directed, but also it was kind of a message that he made there and apparently the people really enjoyed that movie and I hope it did something to us all and showed us what God really did for us. So in that Relation, I would like to achieve and do similar like Mel Gibson. Of course there are many more I could name. But those are my personal 3 favorites if I had to choose.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
The next project I would like to realize if God gives me the opportunity is a Western movie. I am still finalizing the script. It is basically about really bad times for native Indian People in the Wild West. So a native Indian girl is held as a slave and one day she is able to escape and asks a stranger to help get her sister out of the hands of an outlaw. So I am currently working on that script and on a feature film screenplay. What was the inspiration behind your latest film project?
I think when me and @anyferreiras (Any Ferreiras) thought about the storyline, the biggest inspiration were all those COVID circumstances. Myself, and I think plenty others, had so many problems with that pandemic about getting a visa, or an extension, or even an appointment at the embassies. So we came up on the idea about the storyline of a young couple living in LA, where the girlfriend is finally getting her visa but under weird and strange circumstances through a russian petitioner/Visa sponsor. And then my action genre brain came up and we created the story together, that the russian sponsor wants to kidnap her and so on. So it has definitely a connection to the pandemic.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your work have on the world?
Well of course I really enjoy making movies. To be able to turn something that you wrote on paper into reality, into a Movie. But what really motivates me is to give people some anecdotes towards God. I feel like so many of us haven’t heard of God or the Bible really, or either they just turned away or aren’t interested in it. So my impact to the world would be to encourage us to read the word of God and find him again. I want to try to give the audience some certain little messages in my movies inspired by the Bible, cause it is really the love letter of God to us human beings in Jesus Christ and so that we all may get interested a little bit more in opening it and reading what it has to say to us humans. That would be my goal, or what I consider my little message I would like to give to the world.