Interview with Filmmaker Jia Li (THE CALL)

THE CALL played to rave reviews at the July 2018 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in July 2018 in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jia Li: I was planning to do a collection of horror films that only happened in one location and one night.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I came up with the story in a cafe at a nice warm afternoon in San Francisco. And I finished the rough draft of the script the next day. The whole preproduction took 3 weeks, 17 hours on set production. And one month for post production.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Colorful, intense.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

We only had 17 hours for production including preset the studio. It was very tight schedule. It was a big challenge for everybody in the crew, so we need to act fast on set. But we had so much fun during the production.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I was excited to hear all different opinions from the crowd. It gave me confidence for my next project.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

We only have one living room studio we can use, and 17 hours for production, so I needed to come up with a story under these circumstance.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

The shinning

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I think film freeway makes the process convince for filmmaker to manage their submissions.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Recently I am listening film soundtrack for a goodnight sleep, but during daytime I am listening to the Chinese hip hop songs recently.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

My next film is a zombie post apocalyptic short film, around 30 mins. Hopefully finish the whole production by the end of this year, then catch the film festivals for 2019.

the_call.jpg

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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Interview with Screenwriter Max Federman (ABANDON ALL HOPE)

ABANDON ALL HOPE was the winner of BEST SHORT SCREENPLAY at the July 2018 Screenplay Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Max Federman: A sinister government organization investigates a mysterious, seemingly infinite stairwell after a group of college students unwittingly stumble upon it hidden on campus. Unimaginable evil lurks in the oily dark.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Horror, thriller, suspense, cosmic terror, conspiracy

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

This is just a taste of a much larger world I have crafted over years and years. The mysterious organization introduced here play a major role in locating, securing, and destroying supernatural objects, creatures, and events. A film will ideally lead to a franchise where we can explore a world that outwardly looks much like our own only with the extraordinary waiting around every corner while a shadowy psuedo-government organization goes to any limit to protect the world. – Genre is in and this is the kind of shared-world sandbox that allows for a studio to produce several films simultaneously each with unique and talented filmmakers.

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

Monster Cover-up

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

John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

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

It took me a few weeks to write it about 90% of what it is now but I have been tweaking it and perfecting it for about a year.

7. How many stories have you written?

Dozens if not hundreds.

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

Train Song by Vashti Bunyon

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

Like all shorts I write, I feel the need to keep going. I have a treatment for this project as a feature and as a series – it was tough for me to decide where this story ends exactly and I chose to end it the way I did because it feels more like a beginning of a much larger story.

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

I assume this is obvious, but in addition to writing, I also direct and produce films. I have to count film-making and storytelling more broadly as my greatest passion in life.

I grew up in rural Oklahoma and what most people don’t know about Oklahoma is that it has nearly every biosphere imaginable: the iconic plains, thick forests of trees, sprawling desert, swamps, mountains, lakes and rivers. My grandfather, was a member of the Comanche tribe as well as a Ranger at Roman Nose State Park and he passed on his deep spiritual love of the outdoors along to me. I have visited nearly every national park in the country and plan to get started counting off State parks next. Living in LA I am lucky that I can get a good hike in nearly every day, and with all the amazing places within a few hours drive I get to spend most weekends exploring somewhere new. My deep connection to nature is a defining part of who I am. Coming from a town of only 3,000 people, I appreciate the value of community and go out of my way to foster a sense of community wherever I am. Extending from this is my involvement in local beautification efforts, environmental, and animal rescue initiatives.

I have played soccer my entire life, from the time I could walk through college and even now I play in a recreational league. But what brings me the most joy is getting involved in kids soccer whether its refereeing games or coaching young kids – I love passing on my love of the game to another generation.

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

It is very convenient to have all a shared submission platform because I do not have to reenter the same information over and over again as I submit projects. The browsing feature is also very helpful and has resulted in me discovering dozens of film festivals perfect for my works.

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

I was very interested in feedback and the taped table read and I have been beyond grateful for what I got back from the festival. I will definitely recommend this festival to other writers I know.  

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi

A student disappears down a dark staircase, and something is down there with him. Tension and intrigue build as campus security is edged out by a shadowy organization taking over the scene.

CAST LIST:

Hilary: Kyra Weichert
Police Dispath: Lauren Kristina Maykut
Narrator: Matt Barnes
Dr. Cary: Jarrod Terrell
McNamara: Allan Michael Brunet
Sean: Rob Notman

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Producer & Creative Director Julie Gardner (THE CLIMB)

THE CLIMB was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lynne Davison: The Climb was Lacada’s first film after I founded the company in January 2016. After 20 years managing productions for others I wanted to branch out on my own to produce engaging screen stories with high production values. Lynne the writer/director and I had known each other for a number of years before we partnered up on The Climb. (Lynne had been a camera assistant while I co-ordinated the pilot episode of Game of Thrones).

Our regional screen agency, Northern Ireland Screen had organised a table read to showcase a handful of short film projects they had developed with new and emerging writer/directors. I was instantly bowled over by the raw power of The Climb’s stripped back simplicity and I knew instantly that I wanted to bring it to the screen.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

8 months from start to finish. The table read was in February, we waited to film in summer, when we have long hours of daylight here in Northern Ireland, then the post production slotted around the editor’s other ‘big’ jobs at the post house, meaning we were done and dusted by Hallowe’en.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Crikey, only two?! Overcoming obstacles.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

We had two challenges. There’s the usual financial one – how to produce something cinematic on a budget of around £10,000. The other was the physical obstacle of the mountain itself. It could only be filmed for real on a mountain, with real climbing, within the budget parameters which allowed for one single filming day. Taking a crew and cast from the city to the heart of the Mourne Mountains, without any kind of contingency was a hairy prospect. On the morning of the shoot we arrived at the location and were dismayed to find cloud enveloping the top of the mountain. Shooting the script chronologically from the foot of the mountain to the top we were able to turn that to our advantage – it became a beautiful metaphor: as Julia’s mental fog cleared the nearer she reached the summit, so the early morning cloud burnt off as the filming day progressed, finishing in a spectacular golden hour.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

We were all thrilled to hear the individual audience members’ takes on our story. When making a film we know the story intimately as we’ve examined it from every possible angle. Hearing international audiences getting the nuances of what we’d set out to achieve, outside of our filmmaking bubble, was really heartwarming. It’s genuinely affirmed our belief in our abilities as filmmakers. To know that it hit home as powerfully for the audience was an incredible feeling.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

This idea was inspired by the true story of a climbing friend of Lynne, the writer/director.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

There are two films, both firm joint favourites. The filmmakery answer is Jean Luc Godard’s ‘Pierrot Le Fou’ which blew my mind when I first saw it as a teenager. Poetic, astonishingly beautifully shot, by turns political and cartoonish, it’s the film that literally and figuratively exploded the artform of cinema for me. The other is Jaws. You can’t beat Jaws, it’s just the perfect entertaining film in every way.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway’s platform is an absolute gift to filmmakers. To have so many incredible international festivals reachable at the touch of a button would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. We are so lucky to have it, and I am certain that it has opened the world of festivals that would previously have been out of the reach of new and emerging filmmakers.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Just one? I’ve really eclectic musical tastes, so I’ve pulled up my Spotify history to check – it looks like it’s Iron Maiden’s ‘Brave New World’. People who don’t know me very well are always surprised to find that I love me some heavy metal.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes. I’m am very lucky to be able to say I’ve got films coming out my ears at the moment! Excitingly I’m currently in pre-production for a new BBC one hour drama, which will be airing around Christmas time. Continuing with the indie films I have four shorts on the slate for the autumn. Three of them have come through the same scheme as The Climb, and I’m really looking forward to working with some more exciting new writing/directing talent. The fourth, Port, is one I’ve co-written and is based on a really cool underlying short story by the Nobel prize-winning author Heinrich Boll. I’ve two feature films winding their way through the development and financing maze.

I’ve also just recently successfully crowdfunded £10k to allow me to produce and direct a rock documentary pilot, Parental Advisory, which has been a passion project for a long time. Inspired by John Olson’s 1971 LIFE Magazine photographic essay featuring rock stars at home with their parents, ‘Parental Advisory’ is a rock biopic series with a twist. Offering a candid portrait of world-famous rock musicians, and the music world, through the eyes of the person who knows them like no other – their mum or dad. It’s a celebration of talented kids who dare to succeed outside the system.

I’m also really looking forward to be holding the inaugural Northern Ireland Short Film Awards at the end of the month. This is something I’ve been inspired to set up as a chance for us all to celebrate the best of short films locally, as well as a fun social night to connect filmmakers and talent who, often working in isolation, form part of our vibrant filmmaking landscape here in NI.

the_climb

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Martin Reese (THE SNEEZE)

THE SNEEZE was the winner of BEST SHORT SCREENPLAY at the July 2018 Screenplay Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Martin Reese: One guys failure to exercise proper etiquette when his cubicle mate sneezes leads to a case of demonic possession.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Horror/fantasy/comedy

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

Folks can relate to it. Especially those who work in an office and are forced to share a cubicle. And it’s funny.

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

Funny and topical

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

Jason and the Argonauts. I could watch that skeleton fight a million times.

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

It took about a day to write.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve lost count.

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

Strawberry Letter 23 by the Brothers Johnson

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

Really none. I just thought what if not saying bless you caused demonic possession. Then I wrote it.

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

Filmmaking.

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

It’s been great.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival?

What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received? I read that it was a top notch festival. The feedback was great.

Genre: Horror, Fantasy

One man’s failure to exercise proper etiquette when someone sneezes leads to a case of demonic possession.

CAST LIST:

Phil: Michael Lake
Narrator: Kate Fenton
Neal: Danilo Reyes
Office Worker: Scott McCulloch

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Troy Kelly (INDIAN COUNTY)

INDIAN COUNTY was the winner of BEST FEATURE SCREENPLAY at the July 2018 Screenplay Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Troy Kelly: Indian Country is about an attorney who finds himself in trouble for helping the wrong people and has a chance at redemption in defending a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend. Along the way, he sees the criminal justice system in a different light and confronts a corrupt investigation.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It is a legal drama.

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

I really focused on developing strong characters who aren’t often represented. Throughout the cast there are strong women and strong people of color who aren’t just in the story to move the men along. It’s also important that the script is legally accurate (with a few minor exceptions to add dramatic tension). There are no surprise witnesses or any of those tropes that can’t happen in real life but seem to pop up in legal dramas all the time.

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

“honest” and “realistic”

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

Definitely Silence of the Lambs

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

Before submitting it, I worked on it from conception to outlining to first draft to revisions for about 6 months.

7. How many stories have you written?

I suppose I’ve been writing stories one way or another throughout my whole life, so I’m not sure I could count. This is my first completed screenplay, and I am working on another project at the moment.

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

I love R&B music from the 90s and 20s. My favorite song ever is “If” by Janet Jackson.

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

For me, the biggest obstacle in this screenplay was learning the ins and outs of screenwriting. I was doing a lot of reading about screenwriting and took a course in screenwriting while I was working on this project, so I sort of did that simultaneously.

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

I am politically active, so I have spent a lot of time over the last few months working on a few campaigns with the labor movement.

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

It was a pretty seamless submission platform, and it really helped me get a sense of the kinds of contests to enter.

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

I chose this particular festival because it was genre specific. Since this was my first screenplay and my first foray into entering into contests like this, I wanted to be intentional in how and where I entered. Also, having the chance for a full reading from professional actors was a really exciting prospect!

Genre: Crime, Drama

An up-and-coming white-collar defense lawyer gets caught up in a fraud scheme and must take on the pro bono defense of a Native American man facing the death penalty in order to restore his reputation.

CAST LIST:

Agent Forrest: Danilo Reyes
Carole: Julie C. Sheppard
Nona: Tayna Bevan
Narrator: Kate Fenton
Carter: John Marcucci
Kari: Samantha Carly
Agent Gust: Scott McCulloch
Agent James: Michael Lake

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Novelist Polly White (WHAT IF I GO?)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your novel about?

Polly White: It’s a crime novel about an overseas student who becomes a victim of sexual exploitation, set in Birmingham.

2. What genres would you say this story is in?

New Adult/ Thriller

3. How would you describe this story in two words?

Unveiling grooming

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

Love Actually

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

Diana Ross, Reach out and Touch

6. Do you have an all-time favorite novel?

‘The Gift’ by Cecelia Ahern. I recently read this. Her story writing is compelling with a message about our time being the ultimate commodity for expressing love.

7. What motivated you to write this story?

Grooming and sexual exploitation have been hidden from the public for too long. That is in both the UK and the US. After continued news reports of organized gangs making victims of vulnerable girls, I wanted to raise awareness of their techniques in befriending for control. When one young person avoids exploitation, then my message is worth listening to. I’m empowering women to avoid unhealthy relationships.

8. If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would that be?

My lost child.

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

My family.

10. What influenced you to enter your story to get performed?

This is a marvellous collaboration between readers/ writers/ students /authors and film producers. Your audience is student-based, which is the book’s intended audience. Having the difficult assault scene read in a capable manner, made it appear authentic and gripping.

11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

Keep going and don’t forget to collaborate.
 

BUY on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/What-If-Go-Polly-White/dp/1625265255

Narrator: Kate Fenton

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Novelist L.M. Labat (The Sanguinarian Id)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your novel about?

L.M. Labat: The Sanguinarian Id is an illustrated horror, action, and historical fiction novel that follows the ruthless half-vampire Hael, through the bloodied ruins of a war-torn Europe. During WWII, Hael treks deep into the gnarled, darkened underground of Nazi Germany’s shadowed world. In this hell, she encounters a slew of nightmarish creatures, as she pursues the infamous madman Mendelson. On her journey, she teams up with a fellow halfvampire, the dhampir Josef, to hunt down and destroy the criminal dregs of both the human and vampire realms. With Mendelson’s body toll rising, Hael’s been stabbed, shot, and beaten, but she refuses to die, in her pursuit for revenge.

2. What genres would you say this story is in?

The Sanguinarian Id is a mixture of horror, action, historical fiction, science fiction, and occult genres.

3. How would you describe this story in two words?

Brilliant and brutal.

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

Flowers in the Attic.

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

I enjoy the Black Butler Book of Circus OST theme on a regular basis.

6. Do you have an all-time favorite novel?

I adore Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

7. What motivated you to write this story?

I’ve always held a fascination with the macabre, occult, and medical malpractice.

Throughout recorded history, the accounts of human atrocities both intrigued and horrified me. I gravitated towards gruesome subjects, such as WWII and the like, due to my own personal sufferings with chronic plaque psoriasis, near death experiences, and history of childhood abuse. Because of my past, I connected more with figures, such as the Creature from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as the bleak settings of 1984. With my memories haunting me, I found and escape, to the solace of writing and illustration. With my love of literature and the arts, I crafted my first illustrated novel manuscript, The Sanguinarian Id. I never would’ve guessed that my coping mechanism for pain would bring so much entertainment to people. It makes me happy to see readers get so excited about books.

8. If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would that be?

I’d love to have dinner with Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins.

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

I love to draw, read, paint, and watch movies. When I’m not writing, I’m creating portraits and other illustrative renderings for people.

10. What influenced you to enter your story to get performed?

I was looking promotional events for novelists. But I didn’t know what websites or places to look. On LinkedIn, Xera Rondlings informed me about the Novel Writing Festival. The deadline was a week away, so I did my best to form a submission. If Xera didn’t message me about this festival or its deadline, I never would’ve known about this amazing event.

Thanks to Xera, a professional narrator was able to read an excerpt from my novel, The Sanguinarian Id. Thank you, Xera.

11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

Never quit. Rejection’s a bitch, writer’s block sucks, revisions are grueling, and the nights blend into days when writing. However, no matter what happens, never give up on bringing your story life. Eventually, you will die. Therefore, it is your sole duty to yourself to manifest respect for your name and work. No one else will do it for you. Do not let the chance for your story to decay into the lost annals of history. You are so much more than you perceive yourself to be, and so is your book. Keep going.

 

BUY on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sanguinarian-Id-L-M-Labat/dp/1937769445

Narrator: Kate Fenton

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.