Interview with Screenwriter Justin Ho (INSTRUCTIONS FOR YESTERDAY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Justin Ho: After the death of her father, 12 year old Allyson is gifted with mysterious map pieces. With the help of her friend Kyle they both find and dig up buried components for a time machine.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Coming of age

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

I always thought of it as a childhood adventure movie from the 80s but brought into the present day. The wonder, mysteries, and curiosity I once experienced when I was a child has sadly mostly diminished. I recall being inspired by films like ET and Close Encounters Of The Third kind, which had that childlike spark of wonder. ET especially, being able to connect with the characters my age. It’s hard to make a similar childhood adventure film that takes place today, especially when it seems kids spend less and less time outside. I wanted to recapture that magic of wonder and curiosity I had as a child, and find a way to bring that into the 21st century by combining both the world of the past and the present. I’m hoping this film could be that inspiration to help someone who’s dealing with loss, to wonder about things, explore, and hopefully inspire.

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

Love Hope

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

This is a hard one… I’ll put 3… Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Children Of Men, Titanic

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

Around 1.5 years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I never really kept count, quite a lot. Narrowing it down to just screenplays, since high school probably around 12

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

It switches every now and then, grew up listening to Classic Rock and movie scores, my favorite composer is James Horner. In college I started listening to Indie Folk/Pop and constantly listened to Ingrid Michaelson. Post College to now (after getting Spotify) I’ve been obsessing over Irish Folk music haha. But if I had to choose one specific song that means a lot to me… I guess it would be “Men Of Snow” by Ingrid Michelson.

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

Every script I’ve written prior to this one I kept budget in mind. For me personally it is very difficult for me to write something if I know I don’t have the money or resources to actually film it. I just don’t have any motivation to pursue a story if I know I won’t be able to make it. It’s forced me to always think practically and realistically when I write, but has always held me back with how far to take a narrative, or what genre I wrote in. The hardest part for this screenplay was forcing myself not to think of the practicalities as much, to write big set pieces, and let go of my fear of it never being made. Truth be told this film may never be made and that realization is hard for me to handle. It’s hard for me to see a point in continuing to write a script thinking of that. But I had to push through and just toss the bottle into the ocean hoping it catches some current to land on someone’s shore. And maybe, just maybe…

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

Filmmaking in general, more specifically directing, although sadly my self deprecation and unease with my confidence often pushes me down to wonder if i should even consider myself a “director”. I have made two features and dozens of shorts, garnering awards at various festivals. But it’s still hard for me to see much of a future in continuing… that being said filmmaking is the only thing that I have… it’s hard for me to see through the fog, as I slowly push my train forward, and the tracks underneath are twisted and mangled, but at least I’m on a track… at least if I stay on these tracks I won’t be lost… it’s the broken tracks and not knowing what lies beyond the fog that pushes me toward fear. And traveling alone through it all doesn’t necessarily make it very easy. I’ve always used filmmaking and writing as a means to fill in the empty void of loneliness in my chest… it’s always been there to help… granted these past two years it’s been getting harder and harder… but it’s keeping me moving forward.

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

FilmFreeway is great. It’s simple, the only issue I’ve had is feeling guilty after submitting to festivals because of how much of a gamble it is haha. But that’s just my personal issues that I find hard to get over.

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

Knowing there’s no way I’d be able to make this film on my own with the money and resources I have, I figured I might as well submit to some screenplay competitions/festivals, so it doesn’t feel like I’ve wasted my time writing it. Also a friend of mine who read this script suggested I submit it around. To be honest I’ve only submitted to two, another one and this one. And I’m so greatful to have been recognized, it really means a lot. It’s been very hard for me emotionally lately, and this has been the oxygen that helps keep the slowly dying embers still burning.

The feedback was fantastic, I helped resuscitate me, and pushed my sinking ship further giving me hope to reopen the script and make some changes. It also warmed my heart knowing someone appreciated my script, it made me feel worth something, despite the insignificance I so often find myself drowning in. Thank you again so much for brightening up my day.

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

After the death of her father, 12 year old Allyson is gifted with mysterious map pieces. With the help of her friend Kyle they both find and dig up buried components for a time machine.


Narrator: Allison Kampf
Kyle: Steve Rizzo
Allyson: Hannah Ehman


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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