LIGHTKEEPERS was a HORROR screenplay winner for October 2018.
Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?
Loosely inspired by the real-life Eilean Mor lighthouse mystery, three
lighthouse keepers are overwhelmed by a tremendous storm that destroys
their stores of food and water. When a shipwrecked castaway washes up,
their hunger pushes their morality to its limits. As the storm builds
in strength, the lightkeepers must decide if saving their own lives is
worth losing their souls.
2. What genres does you screenplay fall under?
Horror, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural Thriller.
3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
A stormy lighthouse is about as cinematic — and claustrophobic — as
it gets! The setting and period let me explore the three major types
of conflict: man against man, man against nature, and man against God.
We screenwriters are taught to torture our characters, and I’m happy
to say I put mine through hell.
4. How would you describe this script in two words?
Wrath and mercy.
5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
I wish I had a cool answer but honestly it’s probably “My Cousin
Vinny.” It was on all the time when I was a kid, so it had a big head
start on other films. I grew up in rural Florida (and kind of hated
it) so Joe Pesci’s struggles in the South really struck a chord with
me. I keep revisiting it as I get older because it’s still one of the
best worlds-colliding films ever, has great courtroom scenes, and
Marisa Tomei’s Oscar-winning performance holds up. I changed my mind,
“My Cousin Vinny” is a pretty cool answer!
6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
I started in early 2016. I was on a semester in London for my MFA
program (with Florida State University) and wanted to write something
set in the U.K. I owe a ton to the input from the other emerging
writers in my class and mentoring from some amazing faculty, so thanks
7. How many stories have you written?
Too many to count. I come from a long line of librarians and was
raised around books, so I’ve been writing stories since I learned the
alphabet. I even began my writing career as a fiction author with
dreams of being the next Great American Novelist, but since switching
focus to screenwriting I have fifteen projects across many genres for
film and television that I’m confident enough with to let people read.
8. What is your favorite song?
Anything by the band Tool, but if pressed I would say their song
“Lateralus.” I’ve seen them on tour a few times and it always brings
down the house.
9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Definitely the amount of research I had to do on the setting and
period. And it wasn’t even cracking the books so much as knowing when
to close them. It’s easy to go way too far down the history
rabbit-hole until you start missing the trees you can actually chop
down and build with and only see the forest writ large.
10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I love watching films. I sit in the very front row and get furious if
someone talks during the movie. I especially love film festivals,
midnight showings, sneak previews, anything that gives me a chance to
watch a movie before anyone else. In fact, one of the main reasons I
got into screenwriting is to get screeners I can watch at home.
11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What have been your
experiences working with the submission platform site?
I really dig FilmFreeway. It’s a one-stop shop to find film fests and
writing competitions, which is great as it takes no time at all as
opposed to searching them out on my own and going through a lengthy
application process every time. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker or
screenwriter, you’re hurting yourself if you don’t use it. I also
trust them enough now to wait for email notifications instead of
sneaking a peak every five minutes to see if any results have been
12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings
on the initial feedback you received?
Horror festivals can be a challenge because there are a ton of them,
but many are looking for specific sub-genres like slashers or ghost
stories so it was a little tricky finding a home for “Lightkeepers.” I
think any input is valuable input so it was great that you guys took
some time to really evaluate my script instead of just grading it. And
I was super excited to see your actors perform my scene! The most
important thing a writer can do is hear their words out loud and it’s
really difficult to find actors who will take the time to perform it
seriously, so thanks so much for that opportunity.
Watch the Screenplay Reading:
In 1910 Scotland, three lighthouse keepers fight for their lives as a terrible storm batters their small island and their psyches.
Narration – Russell Batcher
Fergus – Sean Ballantyne
Duncan – Luke Robinson