Interview with Winning Screenwriter Jeff Heckler (MARCO POLO)

July 2018 winning Thriller 1st Scene Screenplay Winner.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Jeff Heckler: Pittsburgh, Pa 1950 – an African American family is rocked by the abduction of their young daughter. The father, an attorney and a recovering alcoholic and his wife, a blind social worker, overcome their personal challenges to join with a hard drinking Irish American, private detective to hunt down the kidnappers and return the daughter home. The story moves through Alcoholics Anonymous rooms; gay bar; creepy youth camp as it unveils a few major twists. Marco Polo is a journey.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Thiller, Crime, Detective, Drama

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

I feel Marco Polo is unique in a genre that has features some extraordinary writing. The period piece angle along with some strong African American leads make this an interesting project, I feel.

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

Desperate Thriller

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

Body Heat, LA Confidential or Three Days of the Condor – one of the three

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

I worked on Marco Polo for about three months.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have three completed feature projects – Dark Men, Karma Foundation and Marco Polo.

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

That’s a tough one as a music lover (and as a recovering professional musician. “So What” by Miles Davis or maybe “Close to You” by The Carpenters. Toss up.

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

Only one – I started writing Marco Polo set in the present day. Just wasn’t working. I changed it to 1950 and things rocked along pretty easily.

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

I own a governmental affairs firm in Austin Texas – so I am passionate about making the world a better place (or at least my little piece of it.)

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

FilmFreeway has been perfect, easy, seamless. Really appreciate all they do. Excellent service.

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

I entered it because I write dark and the Thriller Festival seemed to be a perfect fit. Honestly on the feedback – I generally don’t read the feedback because most times the reviewers scan through the screenplays and many times the advice shows it. The Thriller Festival experience was totally and marvelously different. The reviewer seemed to know the script better than me – great criticism, super advice. Very thoughtful – was blown away by the feedback. In fact, I went back and made changes based on the feedback because it was that good (never bothered to do that before). Bravo Thriller Festival!!!! Thanks!


Genre: Thriller, War

Christmas time in Bastogne, Belgium, 1944. The allied forces are under heavy fire by the German army.


Declan: Dorian Shine
Narrator: Val Cole
Mosch: Justin Darmanin
Wendy: Jolly Amoako


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 for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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