July 2018 Winning Television Screenplay Winner.
Matthew Toffolo: What is your TV Pilot screenplay about?
Christopher K. Jones: Headcase is a one-hour drama. The overall show is about a Dr. Andrew Beck who is the “go-to” sports phycologists for elite but troubled pro athletes, otherwise know as HEADCASES. There isn’t a head he can’t fix…except his own. Andrew has a deadly secret harbors a dark side with a gambling addiction that gets him deep in debt to a psychotic Scottish gangster. Andrew is blackmailed into manipulating his clients mind states to produce the results the gangster wants. So sometimes he takes the demons out and sometimes he puts them back in.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?
There is something in it for everyone, although the themes of sports and gambling are usually considered male genres, there are deep and complicated relationships that everyone can related with. This is the story of people wrestling with their demons. Everyone approaches it differently. I’ve created a world where we get to be a fly on the wall and observe people, who from the outside seem extremely successful and famous, but on the inside, they have the same insecurities, phobias, and emotional damage as you and me.
3. How would you describe this script in two words?
4. What TV show do you keep watching over and over again?
I love Billions. Anything by Bruno Heller, Rome and Gotham are excellent. Bruno has such great way of ending each episode that I can get easily sucked in to click on “next episode” and next thing you know, I’ve binge watched 4 or 5 in a row.
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
To be exact, I started working on it October of 2016, but with a busy “day job” as an entrepreneur running a hyper-growth company, I’ve put in to date around 350 hours. Yes, I’m a bit of a nut, and I track my time. I track my times because when I do this again for my next show or movie I want to know how much time it takes me. Also, I should add, this wasn’t just to work on the script, I spent a lot of time practicing pitching when I went to a pitch fest in LA in 2017. I also have been working on the bible and that takes an incredible amount of time. I finished the pilot (although based on the feedback from FOD I went back and took another crack at editing…twice) in 286 hours, the rest of the time has been on the bible.
6. How many stories have you written?
I have a full length four act play called Twisted Metal, about two Marines, the impact of war and their road to healing their PTSD. It’s had several acts of the play performed in a “book reading” which the actors have the script but it is rehearsed. I have a children’s book that is almost finished, and several other shows in outline and some scripting done.
7. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)
I’m going to call an audible on this question and go off-script. When, I heard the song “Off the Ground” from the Record Company and I knew immediately it was the right song for my show. I have a sizzle reel that plays to the song and it works out great. Other than that, it may sound goofy, but probably the most often played songs would be my meditation music, which I meditate every day and have been for over 20 years.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
How many can you name? 😉 You name it, it hit me. But luckily, I have meditation and mindfulness techniques I can use to help break through barriers. The most interesting one I found was recently I took the day off just to work on my bible and I struggled and struggled all day long. I felt the pressure of, “Of my god I took the day off and I got nothing done. I suck at this!” So, after stopping the negative egocentric self-talk, I took a break, took a walk and came back to my desk. Now it was after 6 pm, but then it happened, and for the next 3 hours I crushed it. I am pretty aware about my mind and body processes, and then I came to a realization. At my day job I spend all day at work using my analytical left brain and then at night when I come home I use my creative right brain. Much like how your body gets used to a work out regimen time, your mind works the same way. I was able to go right into right brain activity after my walk because that is when my mind usually releases the managing, analytics, and stresses of the day job so I can focus on creative work in the evening. For the past several years I spend a couple of nights per week writing, and so my mind just had “muscle memory” and as soon evening came around, my left brain switched off and right brain turned on. I found it very liberating to realize I don’t suck at this, my biorhythm just needed some adjusting. The next time I take a week day to write, I devised some creative exercises using free writing or a meditation focused on a mandala to activate the creative senses. The mind is an amazing thing.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I have three main passions: in no particular order: physical training, entrepreneurism and meditation. Physical activity: I push my body very hard, I’m retired from competitive Judo, but I train at Crossfit and I find physical activity very important to maintain a creative mind. Entrepreneurship: I’m a lifelong entrepreneur and have had failures and successes in my business ventures and those experiences have helped me pushing myself when I’m tired and don’t “feel like writing” to sit my ass at my desk and just write, write anything! That usually stimulates creativity. Meditation: I have been meditating since my early 20’s and it helps me be calm, control my ego, and also push the reaches of my imagination to find new stories in mundane places. I have special meditations just to stimulate creativity. Also, it helps me maintain an open mind to when people give me suggestions and criticisms I try to get past my own ego or insecurities and find the gold nuggets of the advice not only is good, but makes my story better and then happily accept, implement, and show gratitude for the advice.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I’ve entered quite a few festivals, and many times I get coverage. I had a reading done before which I paid the actors. It was amazing and helped me really evolve the script. I think having the FOD table read is better than a cash prize because now I have something to show people. And I just love seeing actors interpret my work. I think it is an awesome prize and I am honored to have been chosen and I loved the reading. The coverage has ranged from really good, poignant, and cuttingly accurate, to way-off and the person just breezed through it and was just on their own trip. I thought the feedback received from FOD was spot on and I made some changes accordingly. The biggest one was that my ACTIONS were too wordy. I struggle with conciseness. It’s really an amazing skill. Since I was under the gun to get some of their revisions done so FOD could do the reading and I didn’t do the best job. But I’ve since gone back and did a really hard look at the script and did more editing based on FOD’s advice. It’s definitely much tighter now.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
I think to succeed in anything writing, sports, business, you have to have not only passion but discipline. As well I believe one must have a “relentless pursuit” of your goal or objective. To me a relentless pursuit provides me the energy and motivation to break through my comfort zones and reach higher levels in my craft, as well, and perhaps more importantly to evolve as a human being.
Genre: Drama, Sports
Dr. Andrew Beck, is the goto Sports Psychologist for pro athletes. But he has a gambling problem, and he gets deep in debt with Fergus McKenzie, a psychotic Scottish gangster. To get out of trouble with his skull intact, Andrew is forced to trade on his patients’ state of mind.
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.