Interview with Screenwriter Matthew Nicholson (Pietra Fredda)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Ellen Corsair, an American sculptress, wins an opportunity to study in the marble capital of the world, Carrara, Italy. In pursuit of creating her own masterpiece, Ellen becomes possessed by the voice of the marble, and she will stop at nothing to realize her vision.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Suspense and horror with just a dash of supernatural.

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

Horror and art fans alike can enjoy this piece. “Pietra Fredda” is a dark spin on how far an artist will go to master their medium. The supernatural elements of the script invite the audience to walk that fine line between genius and madness and get a sense of what it means to be consumed by your art. The limited locations and cast make it ideal for a short film, and it has a proven track record placing and winning at festivals with nearly 20 screenwriting laurels.

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

Artistic jealousy.

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

Under The Tuscan Sun. It’s a tad embarrassing, but the movie and Frances Mayes’ book inspired my deep love of Italy. If it weren’t for that movie, I might never have studied abroad in Florence and visited the Marble Mines in the first place.

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

I wrote the initial version of “Pietra Fredda” five years ago for a 48-hour screenwriting contest. It was called “Stone Cold” back then. I was randomly assigned horror as my genre, and the prompt of “sculptor.” Those prompts transported me back to a tour of the world-famous Carrara Marble Mines during my semester abroad: those inky black caves and the marble glinting like subterranean starlight. Usually, my characters come to me first, so it was interesting to start with the location. I ended up not placing in the contest and let the script collect dust until late 2021. Much like the screenplay, the marble has been pleading with me to revisit it and perfect it. So I answered the call and did a series of rewrites.

Some of the initial feedback I got was that readers wanted to know more about Ellen’s motivations as a killer. The whole section where we go inside the cave is new to this draft. I always wanted to add a scene where the marble quite literally consumes Ellen, both mentally and physically, much like I was on my trip. As I donned a yellow hardhat and toured the bowels of the mine, it really felt like I was inside some sort of underground digestive tract. In my research, I learned that Michaelangelo wasn’t the first sculptor to work on the block of marble named “The Giant” that became the world-famous David statue. How must Donatello have felt seeing Michaelangelo create such monumental work with stone Donatello couldn’t figure out how to sculpt? That’s where I found my story. I may not be a sculptor, but I understand artistic jealousy.

“Pietra Fredda” recently won the Hollywood Blood Horror Contest and was awarded a Golden Hand Trophy. In a weird cosmic turn of events, the statue’s base is carved from marble sourced from Carrara, and the Golden Hand is made from the very same marble dust in the script. Now I have my very own sculpture on my desk. The sculptors frowned upon me chiseling off a keepsake on my initial visit, so it’s nice to have been given one, legally speaking.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m hard at work developing my portfolio of scripts. I have ten award-winning short scripts, a one-hour-long fantasy television pilot called “New Olympus,” and I’m developing several other television projects. Many of my shorter scripts served as a testing ground to see if they have the legs to be a series or a feature. I would love to transform Pietra Fredda into a full-length feature or a series of shorts with other sculptors (before the script begins or even after). It would be fun to dig more into the origins of this cursed marble and all of its victims throughout the years.

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

Taking inspiration from the script, “Turn to Stone” by Ingrid Michaelson.

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

You can trace my growth as a screenwriter with this piece. The dialogue and concept were strong in the original, and some of that remains in this draft. Thanks to classes at UCLA Extension and my wonderfully supportive writer’s group, I’ve refined my skills considerably in the five years since I conceived the idea. The suspense and action have come so far from the original incarnation. This piece taught me to take and incorporate feedback as well as how to navigate the contest circuit. This script has served as my passport to many opportunities, such as this amazing reading by WILDsound with your wonderfully talented narrator and voice-over actors. It’s a great honor.

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

While I haven’t done much of it since the pandemic, I’d say traveling. I’m a sucker for that romantic notion of writing on planes and trains. There’s no greater way to gain perspective than traveling somewhere new and the endless possibilities that come with it. It’s wild that a school-sanctioned trip to the mines would translate into several screenwriting wins over a decade later.

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

Film Freeway is my go-to hub for screenwriting competitions. I have found so many fantastic festivals through their service, including this one. Thanks, Film Freeway!

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

I wanted to submit as a litmus test for my most recent rewrites on the piece, and I’m so thankful I did. The written feedback provided was invaluable in making a few final edits. WILDsound produced a fantastic reading of my short comedy script, “Senior Ditch Day,” and I was hoping I might also be able to win the chance at a reading of “Pietra Fredda.” It came out even better than I could have dreamed. Thanks for all that you do for emerging writers.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

The Italian Marble Institute hand-selects sculptress Ellen Corsair to study in the marble capital of the world, Carrara, Italy. Will the stone come alive or will it mark someone’s grave?


Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Ellen: Kyana Teresa
Marble: Hannah Ehman
Driver/Australian Man: Sean Ballantyne
Pietro: Allan Michael


By matthewtoffolo

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

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