InterView: Mali Elfman Director of "Do Not Disturb"

Hey folks, Valkor here. Last week I had the chance to check out a wonderful film titled "Do Not Disturb", which is an anthology based inside of a hotel, specifically room 316. My thoughts: I gave teh film a 5 and to quote my own review "Do Not Disturb" is probably the most charming and entertaining film I've seen in a good while. Now we're taking things to the next level, because stopping by @ TOV is Mali Elfman, creator and director of the film; she even gets a little bloody in the short "Intrinsic". Right now she's lettin the world know just how cool her film is, which you guys should definitely check out. But leave us not waste anymore time listening to what I have to say. Let's venture deep into the mind of Mali.

Also "like" the official Facebook Fan Page of "Do Not Disturb"

Mali Elfman
From Left to right: Diva Zappa, Jason Alan Smith, and Mali Elfman

1) Let's kick things off by getting to know a little bit about you Mali – who you are, where you're from, what's your role (s) in the film "Do Not Disturb" – which is out now on Video On Demand?

My name is Mali Elfman, I'm the Producer as well as a co-writer, creator, actress and whatever else was needed for the film "Do Not Disturb." Though I've been working in different aspects of film for some time (acting, writing, reviewing, PA-ing, you name it!), this is my first time producing and making a feature film. I always say "I love all things film" and I stand by that. Whether it be writing about it, making it, acting in it, or just watching it, nothing in life makes me happier than working with film.

For my first feature I wanted to try to make something that I had never seen before and create a platform for talented artists to be able to create something that they could be proud of. This entire project was one big risk after another and it is now absolutely wonderful to see its little, weird self go out into the world and hopefully find an audience that it can entertain or possibly even inspire. It's a great example of what can happen when a group of motivated people get behind something and see it through to the end.

In "Do Not Disturb" five directors tackle five short stories that are all tied together by one overly curious maid, so there are many moving parts but we do our best to really tie them all together. All the directors were given a list of characters and asked to create a film about what they thought would happen in a hotel room, once the "Do Not Disturb"sign was placed on the door... The film is out on VOD on Amazon, Zine, U-Verse and soon on Netflix, iTunes and multiple other different platforms which are listed on

2) How are things now that the film is released – what are your feelings on the process of making the film up to its release upon the masses?

Last Friday was our big premiere and that was a huge moment for me. To not only see the whole film all put together in its final form, but to get to experience it with an audience that seemed to really enjoy it was just spectacular. For me this whole process has just been an amazing, humbling, inspiring journey; one that challenged me in ways that I never expected and now all I can think about is doing it again.

At the moment, the VOD platform is wonderful for up and coming filmmakers like myself, but there's still no way of knowing exactly how far it will reach or what will become of it. All that I can hope or pray for is that it helps to inspire others to start get off their asses and take that wonderful idea that they have and turn it into something.

It only takes one person with a passion to get the ball rolling.

Mali Elfman

3) You're credited as the creator of the story. How did it all come about – the creation of the story and using five different directors?

It came from two things, one a desire to create something unique and that was true to who I am as a filmmaker. I see a TON of movies, the good, the bad, and everything else… I wanted to make something different from all those films, play with cliches and most importantly, give my directors a chance to be heard. Even though I came up with the idea, the fun in making a project like this is getting to work with so many different people and adjust to all their different styles. Yes, I started the project moving and helped to shape it along the way, but all of my rules and ideas were merely setting the stage to let all these phenomenal talents play. Sometimes giving others permission to create is all you need!

And the other reason I did five stories with five directors (and five crews) was out of necessity. I knew that I didn't have the funds to hire a crew or anyone for that matter for a week, nor could I ask them to work for free for that long. BUT, I knew that if I reached out to enough people, I could ask for one day, just one simple day and they could be a part of this creation. I managed to attach a crew that was absolutely amazing and gave their all purely for the sake of wanting to work with other talented people and push themselves.

Some people did come back, all the DPs mainly worked as gaffers or grips for the other DPs. And Jon Mann-Krieger and Brandon Nicholas were helping both on and off set. There was definitely was a strong team effort that went into making the film.

4) The directors were given eight rules to follow and one day to shoot – my question is: who came up with that idea (points a finger at you Mali *smile*) and was it difficult for the directors to conform to the rules?

I came up with the rules and that was mainly because I wanted to let the directors play and have fun, but I also knew that at the end of it all, I had to tie up all the pieces to make ONE solid film. All five films are so different that it was important that they had some similarities that tied them together for the audience to be able to watch the piece as one whole. That was also helped by the one rule stating that they all had to "to incorporate the maid into the scene".

The only issue that we ever had was with the props and where they were left. Every director had to both find a prop and leave a prop behind, and if for any reason the prop or the location of the prop would change, the other director would have to do a re-write -- that was a fun added challenge.

Luckily I was able to read over and help with the scripts as they developed so that when it came time to edit, the similarities we needed were already there.

Mali Elfman

5) Were you on the set when each piece was shot? Or did you say "OK guys run with it. I'm out"?

I don't think there has been a single step of this process that I have not been a part of -- directly. There is no part of me that was EVER out of this project. And I say that with no ego, it's just that when you have no money and borrowed time, the one thing that has to be consistent is that someone keeps it going from one person to the next. It's kind of like over-seeing a game of hot potato, but between each turn it gets tossed back to you.

6) Do Not Disturb was only released on Video On Demand. Why not a DVD/Blu Ray release?

We talked to a few companies about that and they even said themselves, for smaller films such as ours, people are much more likely to watch it on VOD than to buy a DVD. If you have something like "Avatar" coming out on DVD/Blu-Ray then yeah, there's a automatic market. But no one knows us yet, we're still growing, we have to catch on first for anyone to seek us out. Plus, $13+ is a lot to spend on someone/something you don't know, but $3 is much more realistic. And personally, I prefer it that way. Times are tough and I want as many people to have access to our film as possible. We've been screening the film at colleges for students for just that reason, this movie was made to inspire!

Our market is on Hulu, iTunes, Amazon etc. I would never be opposed to releasing the films in other ways but at the moment it just doesn't seem practical or even necessary. Maybe someday!

Mali Elfman

7) You know my favorite piece of the film is Prom; I thought it was an excellent story to tell, with an ending that will have you guessing. What was your favorite piece to watch? The opening credits! haha Everyone ALWAYS says to me after the film "You know the best piece was ______" and I always say "no, I don't know!" These are five wonderfully unique films and everyone seems to have a different relationship with each film and as with any film of this nature, it's hard not to pick your favorite. "Prom" is definitely the most real and honest film of the bunch, directed by Laura Henry, a phenomenal acting teacher who was comfortable relying on her actors to get the job done. Honestly, ones favorite movie has more to do with the viewer than the film itself (at least that's how I feel).

The film is not for me to judge because honestly, they're all my kids I love them all!

8) You're dad is famous composer Danny Elfman (who also scored your film). How big of an influence has he been during the making of your film?

In terms of him influencing my decision to make a film and then me following through on it? He had absolutely no influence. As far as raising me to be the person who was able to do such a thing, he had everything to do with that, he's my dad! I never talked to him about wanting to make a film or asked him how he thought I should (I don't think he would have even has an answered, that's not his field!) I simply told him one day. Then after I disappeared for about two months, then appeared one day and showed him what I had done.

I had always wanted to have five composers but knew I needed something once again to tie them all together so I asked my dad for a theme. He wrote it in about 20 minutes and wouldn't let me hear it until a week later when he had about 3 themes, and 10 variations. I ended up picking the first piece that he wrote for the opening credits and using it as the theme for the film.

The reason I landed on him was not because he is my father it was because he seemed to get what I was going for before I knew it myself! And though I'm completely biased, I think he's amazing! I went to find my five composers and quickly realized that having five scores made the film feel far to sporadic. I worked with Alistair South, a music editor who helped me break down all the pieces my dad had given me and find the right places for them. Then once that was done, we needed more so I went to two of my friends, Mike Einziger and Oliver Hecks and they were able to add layers to Danny's music and help fill in the gaps.

Mali Elfman

9) After the dust has settled on Do Not Disturb, is there another project – acting, writing, directing, in the works?

While in the dust I've had a number of other projects in the works. Christie Ko and I finished a script that I'm madly in love with called "Addison Clark" which is sublimely insane and I intend to make one way or another! Then I have a claymation in the works right now called "Morton's Fork" that was written by Mark Danielewski and will be directed by Jon Mann-Krieger. I also have a TV show in the works called "The Indie Angle" with fellow producer Michael May. I was able to act in an amazing short film called "The Price" directed by Zeke Pinheiro and James St. Vincent, which they're looking to turn into a feature soon.

All that aside it looks like I'll be jumping on another project that we'll be announcing soon with two other "Do Not Disturb" filmmakers -- but I'm not allowed to talk about that juuuust yet.

10) Lastly, I read that you spent three months living in a hotel. What is the strangest thing you saw during that time (it can be more than one)

One of my favorite people there was this elderly, overly tanned, rather hefty woman who always had her bleach blond hair in an up-do, and a splash of a little too much red lipstick on. She would wear the tiniest of bikinis and lay out in the sun for hours. At some point she would get up and go into the pool and swim from one end to the other without ever letting her her or make-up get touched by the water. Then she would get out and without towel drying herself, put on a T-Shirt with a giant photo of a cat's face on it -- every day there was a different cat. Then without covering up anything else, she would walk through the check-in, lounge and restaurant with a soaking wet cat T-Shirt on.

I named that story "Cat Lady" and it is one story that did not make the "Do Not Disturb" cut because it apparently went just a little too far for all the directors. There are however two references to the story in the film, one is a conversation between two of the "bitchy maids" and the other is a dead cat that makes a short but sweet appearance in the film.

I wanna thank Mali for hangin out with the Val-Man and chatting about the film. Don't forget "Do Not Disturb is available on Video On Demand, so don't think twice about it, just dive right in. And we're not finished yet, hopefully one of the directors of the shorts - Laura Henry will chime in.


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