Interview with Winning Screenwriter Leah Pollack (MARKED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Leah Pollack: It is about a naive and ambitious young man named David Kessler who is traveling to the new West in search of supernatural things, in Texas he meets a mysterious and extraordinary girl named Winnona Argento and end up working together to foil a train station heist. They then come face to face with Federal Marshal Travis Crabtree who knows more about Winnona then he lets on. Crabtree forces them to come back to headquarters via train where secrets are revealed and a bad situation suddenly gets worse.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I would say it is a supernatural western, or perhaps it is a horror-adventure series in the same vain of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Xfiles but set in the old West.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

I think that this kind of story has familiar enough story beats and tropes to not alienate mainstream audiences, but has enough of a unique edge and spin that it will also feel fresh. I think once it has gone through a bit more polishing it could be a fun yet endearing project.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

I don’t really have an answer for this one haha….

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

That’s a hard one…. I’d say it’s either Jurassic Park, Homeward Bound The Incredible Journey, The Little Mermaid, and The King and I.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

4 or so years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve been making and writing stories for as long as I can remember, but I’ve had published writings as far back as 2010.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the
most times in your life?)

It’s a 3 way tie between “Helena” by My Chemical Romance, “A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little More Touch Me” by Fallout Boy, and “Could Have Been Me” by the Struts

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Finding a good stopping point, making sure continuity was sound, trying to balance visuals and dialogue, or even thinking of dialogue in general.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Dancing, especially Argentine Tango

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your
experiences working with the submission platform site?

It’s been super easy and convenient. It’s the only platform I have ever used to submit to festivals and I have never had any problems so far.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings
on the initial feedback you received?

I wanted to enter my script into festivals that offered a feedback option because I felt I was in a good place, but I felt it still needed polishing. I certainly didn’t expect to not only be selected but be a winning Screenplay either! The feedback I received was very helpful and I am applying the notes I was given to my newer drafts. I am very happy I submitted to this festival and I will do so again with any new scripts/screenplays in the future. 

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

A mysterious outlaw called the “Wolf of the West” has been wreaking havoc upon settlers in the budding frontier. David Kessler, an aspiring paranormal scientist believes the Wolf is supernatural and journeys out West to prove it and to document any other strange phenomena he sees. Along the way he joins forces with Winnona Argento, a young woman who is more than she seems and Federal Marshal Travis Crabtree, a hardened but honorable lawman. Together they travel the West and face against myths, legends, and monsters as well as outlaws and bandits while at the same time learning to find the balance between pacifism and survival in this harsh terrain and time period.

CAST LIST:

Ticket Man:  Geoff Mays
Father: 
 Russell Batcher
Narrator: 
Kat Smiley
Sybil: 
Tiffany Davidson
Tobias: 
Bryan Kling
Mother: 
Katelyn Vanier

 

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Andrew Ward (BROWN DOG)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Andrew Ward: Four men who barely know each other carry out a bank heist that goes wrong when an elderly man is killed in the process. The focus following this is on the relationships between the men and whether they can keep their cool.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Crime/Drama

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It takes the very popular genre and formula for this type of film, includes the issue of mental health/disability and adds a big, interesting twist to conclude.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Tarantino-esque

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

The Dark Knight

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Surprisingly, this piece only took around four days to complete.

7. How many stories have you written?

14, with a further 15 being worked on.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the
most times in your life?)

Paycheques & Poetry by Shouting Myke

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I was given a fairly tight deadline by my Agent (Ian Taylor of Red Door Vision), which I really pushed to achieve and managed well within time.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

My family, animals and creating videos on YouTube (as Captain No).

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your
experiences working with the submission platform site?

Absolutely fantastic! I entered my first competition about a year ago and have been nominated for twelve awards in that time.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings
on the initial feedback you received?

It felt like something a little different and I was intrigued as to how my script would come across when performed. The feedback and communication in general from these guys has been great and I would fully recommend any budding writers to enter the next one.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Logline – Four men rob a bank and kill a man, so will they stay together? – some friends are loyal, others roll over

CAST LIST:

Narration: Ariel Brooker

Simon: Kevin Gabel

Mark: Allen Michael Brunet

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Michael Zielinski (CHRISTMAS PAST AND PRESENT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Michael Zielinski: My romantic screenplay CHRISTMAS PAST AND PRESENT centers on three couples at Christmastime encountering connection obstacles, the most compelling pairing a body-shaming victim with her one-time bully.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Romance.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

The search for love is universal and my screenplay is heartwarming in demonstrating that serious potholes in that journey, like past scars, disparity in professions and ambition, can be overcome — especially with some help from the magic of Christmas.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Feel good.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Heaven Can Wait by Warren Beatty.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Eight months

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written this screenplay, published two novels, and written two full-length plays and six one-act plays (one of the full-length plays and five of the one-acts have been produced at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre in New York City, with the other full-length and one-act scheduled for 2019 productions at Manhattan Repertory). I also am a newspaper columnist.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the
most times in your life?)

Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I usually write comedies and this script was meant to be more romance than romantic comedy — an adjustment for me.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Sports.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your
experiences working with the submission platform site?

Extremely positive and educational. FilmFreeway gives me access and exposure to industry professionals I otherwise would not have. And the feedback has been quite helpful. FilmFreeway is a portal to the possibility of opportunity.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings
on the initial feedback you received?

The feedback was my primary motivation. And the feedback from the Los Angeles Feedback Film & Screenplay Festival was exceptionally helpful in pointing out issues of exposition, character motivation and story/structure context in my screenplay.

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

The primary couple for the romantic screenplay CHRISTMAS PAST AND PRESENT are CHAD MORGAN and WHITNEY PAXTON. They see each other at the ski lodge at Christmastime for the first time since high school 15 years ago. He was the star quarterback, she was overweight and had a hopeless crush on him. He body shamed her at a Christmas dance their senior year, an incident that transformed both their lives.

CAST LIST:

Narrator:  Allen Michael Brunet

Chad:  Kevin Gabel
Whitney: Ariel Brooker

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Julian Blondell (Xightfall)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Julian Blondell: XIGHTFALL is centered around a Futuristic Intelligence Agency that protects the universe from all species. When suspicious events transpire throughout the agency, Eli, a young black Xightfall Officer, takes matters into his own hands to uncover the true intentions of the Xightfall Program.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Xightfall falls under the genres of comedy, sci-fi, and action.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Xightfall is a wild, roller coaster experience. It’s fast paced, funny, you relate to the characters, and it’s dirty. It’s “Indiana Jones” meets “Boondocks” meets “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

F*ckin Epic.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Star Wars. All of them.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve been working on this screenplay for nearly two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written three stories so far. I have plenty of concepts constantly in my mind but only three have made the cut.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Kanye West – “I Wonder.”

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I would say the biggest obstacle would be the narration aspect. It is something that I constantly come back to and try to figure out how I would best want to tell Eli’s story.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I really try to dabble into a little of everything. Sports, television and film, fashion, video games, interior design (thanks to my fiancé).

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

FilmFreeway has been absolutely spectacular. I submit my scripts at least once a month on the platform and I recommend it to all of my fellow filmmakers/writers.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I think I randomly searched screenwriting festivals on Google and it was the first thing that popped up. The initial feedback I got was incredible. It felt great to receive critical feedback that pushed me into the right direction. I cannot thank FilmFreeway enough for all the help they’ve been in my writing career.

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

XIGHTFALL is a Futuristic Intelligence Agency that protects the universe from all species. When suspicious events transpire throughout the agency, Eli, a young black Xightfall Officer, takes matters into his own hands to uncover the true intentions of the Xightfall Program.

CAST LIST:

Clarice – Katelyn Varadi
Tito – Geoff Mays
Narration – Salma Dharsee
Eli – Omar Aufi
Tom – Sean Ballantyne

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Nate Yacos (Tugnutt: A Love Supreme)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nate Yacos: When a family man gains instant celebrity status as TV spokesman, his newfound celebrity threatens to tear his family apart and challenge his notion of a happy life.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It’s very funny. It’s a passionate, progressive script with a strong social message.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Original script.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

“The Godfather” and any Stanley Kubrick movie on the tube. I am so there.

7. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

The storyline fully came together after five years. It is a mix of moments in my life, like when my wife and I were walking at a local park in Durham. A owner had a duck was on a leash! I thought that was really weird, but what if..

8. How many stories have you written?

This is my first written solo feature length screenplay. I have co-written three other screenplays based on my original storylines. I have a lot of goofy funny stories in the pipeline. Next up – a Trump commentary piece, not holding back. Stay tuned fans.

9. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

I don’t have one favorite song. I do love classic rock, jazz, blues. ie: Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Coltrane, Monk, Billie Holliday, Sade, Noah Jones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin.. I’m easy to please. When writing “Tugnutt” I played hippie 1960”s background music to get me grooving.

10. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Editing. I view a screenplay process as one lengthy poetic piece. Each line tightly written while moving the storyline forward. Writing is such an artistic, challenging and wonderful process.

11. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

My family first, followed by social rights issues. I don’t toot my own horn publicly. My writing offers that outlet, thank goodness. I have a political science degree and MA in Special Ed.

12. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

It works and is user friendly. I highly recommend for writers to submit on FilmFreeway.

13. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I enjoy writing. If it goes further into movie production, that’s just icing on the cake.

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

When a family man gains instant celebrity status as TV spokesman, his newfound celebrity threatens to tear his family apart and challenge his notion of a happy life.

CAST LIST:

Brandon – Geoff Mays
Blond – Katelyn Varadi
Narration – Norma Dawn Dunphy
Ted – Shawn Devlin
Redhead –Salma Dharsee

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Cicely Wynne (REMEMBER KENT STATE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Cicely Wynne: The Vietnam War, Kent State, violent student demonstrations. Sex, drugs, classic rock. One week in May 1970
that defined a generation.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama and Historical

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Today’s youth are fascinated by the wild ’60s-’70s. This film takes the audience on an adventure that ends with a tragic war.
Younger audiences may reflect on the tragedy of their generation’s senseless wars – Iraq and Afghanistan.
Older audiences will love relieving their youth. At the same time, they will be saddened and, hopefully, motivated.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Senseless wars.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

CITIZEN KANE.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have five screenplays on InkTip.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Although it was a critical week in the lives of so many people, most people forget so many details in 50 years.

Thank goodness for newspaper, magazine and book accounts.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

The arts, political activism, dog and cat rescue, birding, travel.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

Quite informative and efficient.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

Love that the festival promotes women. The feedback suggested another rewrite. I revised it four more times.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

The Vietnam War, Kent State, violent student protests, sex, drugs, classic rock. One week In May 1970 that defined a generation.

CAST LIST:

Margaret – Katelyn Varadi
Announcer – Geoff Mays
Narration – Norma Dawn Dunphy
Case – Sean Ballantyne
Lucy – Katelyn Varadi
Walter Kronkite – Shawn Devlin

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Mirka Kettunen (MAJOR TOM AND THE ALIEN GIRL)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Mirka Kettunen: “Major Tom and the Alien girl” is a story about two space geeks with extraordinary talents. In different parts of town both of them have been waiting “for the Mothership” to come pick them up.

But when they finally meet and realize that the other one is on the same wavelength, then suddenly their mundane lives downtrodden by the gravity becomes exciting and weightless.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Rom-com / Sci-fi.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It addresses loneliness and feeling excluded because you are different. It gives hope to those that feel they are left out by life and love. Theis movie shows that you can find friendship, understanding and even love in the most unbelievable places. You could say, we are not alone in space, because the eternity of space starts here on Earth. Maybe the real Mothership that’ll take you home lives next doors?

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Galactically hopeful.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

At home: “Trading places” with Eddie Murphy. I lost count between 40-45 times. Now it’s probably around 50 times.

At the cinemas: “Gladiator” 10+ times.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve thought about this idea for the last 5 years, but as a written script it’s been approximately a year in the making and planning.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve probably written some 15 short film stories. Lots of short stories and poems. And now I’m working on a history / mystery novel series that will include 3-4 books.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Probably the collected works of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. It’s calming and mostly in Latin, so the meaning of the lyrics don’t distract me. I’ve used Arvo Pärt as my “writing music” for over ten tears.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

As the story is dependant on VFX I debated with myself if the script should be doable on a low budget or if it should look good. I went for the Writer’s Privilege – writing the scenes I want to see, not the scenes that can be produced on a shoestring budget. But I also have ideas how to solve the visual difficulties of showing weightlessness on Earth with old school and not expensive film techniques.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I love directing and learning about dramaturgy and good ways to solve visual problems when shooting. Otherwise I like salsa, take long hikes and bike riding.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

Filmfreeway has been such a good and easy platform to work with. I had thought it would be more tech heavy, complicated and so on, but I highly recommend it.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I looked for fantasy and sci-fi festivals and found yours. I didn’t make it into the competition with my script “Major Tom and the Alien girl”, but I got brilliant written feedback on how to improve it-

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

This is a short romcom sci-fi about Tom Major. He keeps waiting ‘the Mothership’ to come pick him up. In order to survive life on Earth he sees his life through the eyes of the his alias – the astronaut Major Tom. Apparently he’s not the only one who believes he’s stranded here. One day he meets Sigourney, aka Scotty, who’s also waiting to get beamed up.

Narration – Justin Hay
Tom – 14 – Hartley O. Gyamfi
Scotty – 18 – Esther Rogers