Exclusive – Ari Gold Brings The Song of Sway Lake to GPIFF

When a filmmaker produces a film, the expectation for the audience to understand their vision can sometimes be overwhelming. They’ve created a story that they hope will resonate, move, grip, inspire, provoke, evoke emotion and leave a lasting impression. Finding your audience and keeping them engaged is the mission. They realize fully that you can’t please everyone and their audience becomes their board of peers. Without affirmation that you’ve reached anybody through your film is devastating. It’s enough to question your ability as a qualified filmmaker. When the audience does respond, it is pure elation. You breathe a sigh of relief and remind yourself that your contribution to filmmaking is warranted and appreciated. You get to show up at the party and feel like a guest rather than a spectator.

Film festivals are a great way to gauge whether or not you’re cut out for filmmaking.  It is a tough business to succeed in and it can be unforgiving when you’re not cutting the mustard. Although it’s important to approach filmmaking with low expectations and to realize that great filmmakers are not born but created through hard work, attention to detail and a slow progression with enormous patience. One such film festival I was fortunate enough to attend recently was the Golden Panda International Film Festival. It was primarily initiated through the Chinese film market to illustrate the abundance of great films from around the world as it fosters new relationships between countries and global filmmakers.  Incidentally, the Chinese Film Market is the second largest film industry in the world.

Ari Gold is a filmmaker that lives in Oregon, US and travelled to Vancouver with his film, The Song of Sway Lake. I had the great pleasure of sitting down with him to chat about his film.


“What does this film festival mean to you and how does it differ from other festivals?”

“I’m extremely honored to be part of it. I find the festival very unique because it’s so international and caters to China’s film market. I’m very curious how the film will resonate emotionally with an international audience. I’m hoping the story in the film is universal. It has jazz music, it deals with loss, love, family and sex. I’d like the film to screen at a festival in China. It did very well in Spain. I’m fascinated to see if it would move their hearts.”


Ari explained to me that he had arrived at a bit of a crossroad. He had submitted the film to multiple festivals and had been rejected by some that he had high hopes for. He felt dejected. He began to doubt himself as a filmmaker, as I’m sure many have before him. He had confided in a friend about his trepidation. His friend told him that it didn’t matter if the film didn’t resonate with the audience. It did matter though. Ari had worked so hard on the film that he wanted people to feel what he felt when he created it.


“The dream of making a great film is satisfied once the audience embellishes the same dream. For me, art without an audience is similar to a pond without any outflow of water. Algae sets in and it begins to stink. I appreciated the support of family and friends as I went through phases of self-doubt but it was so gratifying to know people were moved by the film. Spiritually, there was a richness when they did.”


Many filmmakers will tell you that they love it when the audience has a different interpretation of their film, but they still want people to acknowledge the message in the story.


“Having experienced this festival for the first time, could you ever foresee a time where you would collaborate with Chinese filmmakers on a project?”

“I definitely would. I’d like to show them how to look more inward when creating their stories/films. It’s not about copying Hollywood blockbusters, but rather imitating themselves.”


Unfortunately Ari wasn’t present when his film screened in town. He was curious how it might translate. He screened the film in Spain and said the audience reaction was overwhelming. He was so happy that they were able to understand the story and appreciate it the way he’d hoped they would.


“Did you actually film the production at Sway Lake?”

“Sway Lake is actually a fictional place. My brother Ethan is a musician and created the song in the film. I was so impressed because he plays rock/new wave music. After screenings, I’ll have audience members ask me where I found the song. We actually produced two versions of the song on 45’s to give out to promote the film. I wanted it to have a 1940’s feel.”


Ari also told me about his experience screening the film at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He said that after the film had ended and the lights had turned back on, the audience was still seated. It was that feeling of affirmation filmmakers dream of.

Having had the privilege of watching this film, it brought back memories of my childhood growing up in a small town in Ontario and spending weekends at my best friends cabin on the lake. This film is adorned with the richness of past youth and the law of attraction. It demonstrates the curiosity for companionship regardless of age and explores young love in its infancy.  The night shots are cinematically warm and staged very brilliantly. Ari has an eye for detail and has cast a great film with believable characters. A terrific journey that begins with the quest to find an old record with symbolic attachment and concludes with a lesson in family values and appreciation for family history.

The Song of Sway Lake swam away with 2 awards from the GPIFF. One award for best actress and one award for best feature film. This is Ari’s second feature film and it has only begun its journey into the festival circuit.  It is submitted into 15 more festivals and will likely win more awards as it continues its run. A great film with a universal message of prosperity that represents many forms.   

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