July 2018 Winning Sci-Fi/Fantasy Screenwriter.
Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?
John Dummer: Spiritual entropy. When the universe presents you with an existential threat, an event that will surely obliterate you and everything that gives this world meaning, what do you do?
Do you dig a grave, or do you plant a seed?
2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?
Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama.
3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
Because I believe it will sell tickets? The hope is that it will be a great ride. The tale poses some intriguing and fundamental questions, and should fuel some lively arguments on the way home from the theater.
4. How would you describe this script in two words?
“What’s next?” Meaning both “What the heck happens next onscreen?” and “What, if anything, is next for the human species?”
5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Jaws.” Two tales of surpassing horror.
6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
They’re all different. This one took ten months, though I will continue to noodle on it until the next one pulls me away.
7. How many stories have you written?
Not a ton. I spend a lot of time cultivating seeds till I find a good one, then I nurture the hell out of it. Seems to work for me – three scripts have made the Nicholl semifinals so far, the last one finishing in the top 30.
8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)
Occasionally I’ll stumble across the perfect mood music to play in the background as I write a particular story.
On my first script, a rom-com about a mismatched young couple who run off to Loch Ness in search of an old salt who claims to have touched the Monster, I wore out the groove on Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” “Sail away, sail away, sail away…”
For “The Moonbeam Fisherman”, a coming-of-age tale set in the summer of ’69, about a troubled youth who comes to believe an old fisherman may be a marooned interplanetary visitor, Acker Bilk’s “Strangers on the Shore” filled my head with just the right vibe of nostalgia and loss.
“Forget-Me-Nots” is very much about haunting vocalizations. An appropriate backing track would be an otherworldly chorus of hoots and calls and plaints – an alien version of the Voyager recording on speed.
9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
This was not the hardest script to give birth to. As a former programmer with a lifelong interest in evolution, I’ve been reading obsessively about A.I., the nature of consciousness, transhumanism and what might come next for the hairless ape. So the raw material was close at hand. The trick is to guide the audience through such rarified realms without overexplaining.
10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Climate change – the consequences are so enormous it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. Also really good carrot cake. Whatever it takes to face the day, right?
11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experience working with the submission platform site?
FilmFreeway is great for learning about contests and keeping submissions organized. They’ve done a good job of standardizing the submission process. Some contests do better than others at updating “judging status,” but that’s a minor quibble.
12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
Mainly it was the chance to hear the work performed.
Feedback is always much appreciated, the less varnished the better. I’m never more likely to see something afresh than when I consider the POV of someone with whom I disagree.
Watch the Winning Screenplay:
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama
A grieving astrobiologist and two uninvited guests await a supernova explosion that will destroy all life on Earth. A mysterious plant threatens to bring matters to an even swifter end.
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.