Interview with Screenwriter Debra Knox (Orson Welles Ashes)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Debra Knox: Orson Welles Ashes is a dark comedy about the misadventures of a couple of Hollywood wannabes who steal his ashes and try to sell them: his chauffeur and an aging actress/writer who’s trying to fulfill her dreams and buck the Hollywood system.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Dramedy

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

Because it speaks to the issues of being a woman over 40 who’s writing and striving to make her movies and stories be told and heard!

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

Poignant-Zaniness

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

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind

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

5 years

7. How many stories have you written?

hundreds if not thousands.

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

Strawberry fields.

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

My internal demons that tell me it’s useless. The Gremlin within!

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

Buddhisim.

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

I love Film Freeway, it’s an easy painless way to submit your work.

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

I’m interested in networking with other women writers/film makers and determined to make my creative dreams come true.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started winning awards for my screenplay and thought Hmmm….they get this!” It’s nice to have some love!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Charlie and Susan, a couple of Hollywood wannabes, take a journey down Sunset Boulevard in a black Lincoln with Orson Welles ashes in the trunk and discover what it means to not give up on themselves and their dreams. (copyright 2017)

CAST LIST:

Bette – 2 – Andrea Irwin
NARRATION – Laura Afelskie
Charlie – 20 – Sean Ballantyne
Susan – 18 – Norma Dunphy

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Interview with Screenwriter Eliza Frakes (REMEMBRANCE DAY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Eliza Frakes: REMEMBRANCE DAY takes place in a near-future, radicalized America wherein Roe V. Wade has been overturned. It follows two female friends, Maggie and Bix, on their escape to seek out an illegal abortion from a doomsday prepper in Joshua Tree.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I would classify REMEMBRANCE DAY as a dramedy or dark comedy, with elements of sci-fi.

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

I believe in this work because it is timely and poignant. I have tried to engage in a conversation about women’s rights and the direction we’re headed currently in this country through the lens of two very human characters, in the hope that their nuanced relationship provides a viewpoint into the deeper issues our nation faces.

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

War cry.

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

Silence of the Lambs

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

I have been working on this pilot for a year.

7. How many stories have you written?

Far too many, and never enough.

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

Oof, really hard to say. I will say I’m teaching myself how to play the banjo at the moment, so I’ve been on a big Kingston Trio kick.

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

As a writer, I find it much easier to start than to finish. The beginning of a story is captivating, full of opportunity and exploration. The end of the story takes craft, confidence, and commitment- elements I find harder to pin down. I struggled with finding an ending that was also a launch pad into the rest of the season. I also struggled with world building and specification of place. The pilot’s been through rounds of edits, and I’m sure there are many more it will see. It’s exciting to learn something in the process each time. I’m not sure it is finished yet, really, or if I’ll ever feel like it is.

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

In addition to writing, I love acting and theatre making, in particular, devising or collaborating in the performing arts. I also try to romp around outside as much as possible, hiking, swimming, getting lost.

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

FilmFreeway has been a great way for me to hear about competitions and fellowships to apply to. I’m grateful I found it so early in my career.

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

I was inspired to enter the festival because I saw that it was targeted towards students, which was perfect for where I am in my experience. The feedback I received was helpful and very thoughtful in content.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

It’s the day before Remembrance Day, the day when – in a radicalized America that has overturned Roe v. Wade – society commemorates the millions of unborn children lost to abortion. It’s also the day that Maggie (23) finds out she’s pregnant. Not sure what to do, she impulse-buys a gerbil, and calls her best friend.

CAST LIST:

Chris: Matthew Payne
Holace: Yaw Attuah
Trevor: Hadi Kubba
Maggie: Rosalie Vagalatis
Bix: Diana Franz
AT&T Employee: Ron Boyd

Interview with Screenwriter Christopher Willis (CAMOUFLAGE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Christopher Willis: This script is about a unit of mostly gay soldiers in France during WWII. The mission of the unit is to deceive the Nazis using inflatable tanks and phony artillery barrages. Their compassion is realized through helping a gay war orphan realize his dream of attending art school in Paris.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

This is essentially a war movie.

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

There are few movies that depict the contribution of gay soldiers to the war in France. This story is based on real men and actual events.

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

Camouflaged truth.

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

Probably a toss up between Apocalypse Now and Jaws.

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

Nine months.

7. How many stories have you written?

20+

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

For What It’s Worth by Stephen Stills

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

Effective blending of the story line of the courage of the soldiers in combat and their compassion helping the war orphan.

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

My job as a psychologist.

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

Happy so far.

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

I wanted feedback from an LGBT perspective. The initial feedback fostered a significant rewrite and re-submission.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A top-secret American unit uses inflatable tanks and phony artillery barrages to divert German resources away from actual Allied forces. Many in the unit are well suited to their mission of deception having lived in the shadows of homosexuality all their lives. Inspired by real men.

CAST LIST:

SS Major: Ted Powers
Henri: Gene Abella
Narrator: Laura Kyswaty
Pierre: Sean Ballatyne
Monique: Caroline Concordia

Interview with Screenwriter Cecilia Michelangeli (The Ambiguous Couch Affair)

The Ambiguous Couch Affair’s first scenes were read at the Writing Festival last month.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Cecilia Michelangeli: The unreasonable way to react to an attempt robbery and to a meaningless shooting.

Randall and Evelyn run a struggling furniture store in a quiet community. The peace is disturbed when a nervous would-be armed robber, Parker Ray, enters the store demanding money.

How labile the difference between being the victim of a crime or its perpetrator can be?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Black Comedy

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

Because the story is an interesting dynamic between irrational people who act out of fear with their gut instincts. And all of this seems to happen more and more often. The screenplay presents heavy situations with comedic exchanges and misunderstandings, trying to prove once again that violence is never a logical nor excusable reaction.

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

Nonsensical self-destruction

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

I guess Fargo/The Departed/Play it again, Sam (maybe?)

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

I started one year ago, but in that time I mostly wrote other scripts.

7. How many stories have you written?

There’s no way of knowing.

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

I don’t like the concept of favourite, also there are too many different song I could list here. I guess I should name at least five completely at random so : Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash), Birdland (Patti Smith), Baby Birch (Joanna Newsom), These Days (Nico), Lather (Jefferson Airplane).

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

Boredom, distraction and starting to write other things while I was supposedly finishing this screenplay.

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

Cinema in general, directing in particular. Reading and watching other people’s work.

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

I always had a positive experience with FilmFreeway.

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

This was actually the first festival I’ve sent this specific screenplay. In fact it’s difficult to find festivals that take into consideration unfinished screenplay (and that are not excessively expensive). The feedback that I’ve received was very good, with some curious suggestions. However, I’m aware that it’s impossible to judge or comment on a first scene without knowing anything about the rest of the story, especially without being able to talk about certain choices and nuances.

 

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Randall and Evelyn run a struggling furniture store in a quiet community. The peace is disturbed when a nervous would-be armed robber, Parker Ray, enters the store demanding money.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Laura Kyswaty
Randall: Geoff Mays
Evelyn: Kiran Friesen

 

Interview with Filmmaker Raymond Montemayor (STAR WARS: THE TOYS AWAKEN)

STAR WARS: THE TOYS AWAKEN played to rave reviews at the August 2019 FAN FICTION Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Raymond Montemayor: My daughter, Maliya, inspired me to make Star Wars: The Toys Awaken. This is the third film in a series of fan films called Star Wars Toy Stories, the first of which I produced in 2015. After that first film, Star Wars: A Toy Story, Maliya, who was six at the time, said that she wanted to be in my next film. I had no plans to make another fan film, but after Maliya made her wishes known, I couldn’t pass up the chance to make a Star Wars fan film with her.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

It took three years to complete this film from start to finish. I came up with the basic concept for the film right after I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night, December 17th, 2015. I wrote the script over the course of a few months in early 2016 and began production on April 17th, 2016. I intended to complete production for the 2016 Star Wars Fan Film Awards, but for various personal and work related reasons, I halted production when I realized I wouldn’t make the submission deadline. I restarted production on November 25th, 2017 and submitted the five-minute version of this film for the Star Wars Fan Awards on September 18th, 2018. The seven-minute Director’s cut that was screened at the Fan Fiction Festival was completed in December 2018. So the final edit was completed almost exactly three years from the time I came up with the concept for the film. During the gap in production, I actually made a two-minute film with Maliya, The Rogue One: A Star Wars Toy Story, for Lucasfilm’s #GoRogue fan film contest towards the end of 2016 leading up to the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Although The Rogue One was completed two years before The Toys Awaken, The Rogue One takes place chronologically about ten months after The Toys Awaken.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Toys, Adventure

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

One might assume that the stop-motion animation and visual effects were the biggest challenges. Actually, because it was a three year production, the biggest obstacle was completing the performance of the seven-year-old protagonist, Riley. Maliya, who plays Riley, completed all of her shots in April of 2016 when she was seven years old. However, by the time I was ready to shoot Riley’s remaining shots in August of 2018, Maliya was nearly ten years old. It would have been jarring to cut together this film with shots of Maliya at both seven and almost ten years old. Luckily, my younger daughter Nora had just turned seven and was the right age to play Riley. She was happy to get involved and help me complete Riley’s shots. However, because Nora doesn’t look like Maliya, I had to film without showing her face directly to the camera. For a few shots where I needed to get facial performances, I shot extreme close-ups of Maliya’s eyes so we could see her reactions without being able to tell how much older she looks in those shots. So with some carefully planned shots and editing tricks, I was able to pull it off.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was nervous to hear what people had to say, so I was relieved to hear all of the positive feedback. I’m glad that the audience members really got what I was going for in this film. I especially appreciated that they enjoyed the practical effects I used with the stop-motion animation as opposed to using CGI for the toys. That being said, I know I can improve on the story telling and cinematography. I hope to bring everything I’ve learned thus far to my next project and hopefully make an even better film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

As with all of my Star Wars Toy Stories fan films, I wanted to make a unique Star Wars meets Toy Story tale about a Star Wars fan and his / her toys. For this film specifically, I wanted to frame the story around this historical event in Star Wars history, which was the launch of a new era in Star Wars cinema with The Force Awakens. The goal with these new Star Wars films from Disney is not only to appeal to the older lifelong fans, but also to introduce a new generation of kids to the magic of Star Wars. So I felt the right way to go would be to tell the story of a young Star Wars fan going to see a brand new Star Wars movie on the big screen for the first time on opening night. There are a lot of things that go along with that which I try to capture in the film, including collecting toys, watching the trailer, dressing up in Star Wars cosplay, and gathering with fellow fans to watch a new Star Wars movie. Of course, this is all background set up for the real story about a girl and her new toy who are both trying to discover who they are and where they fit in. For these characters, and for me personally, Star Wars is one of those special phenomena that can bring people together.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

It has to be The Empire Strikes Back. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a Star Wars nut, and I consider The Empire Strikes Back to be a masterpiece. To me it’s simply the best Star Wars film, and just a brilliant film in general.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway is a fantastic platform. It has a clean interface for setting up projects, and it has a great search engine to help filmmakers find the right film festivals for their needs. I like that it keeps a history of all past projects, film festival submissions, and the status of each submission for all projects past and present.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

That’s a tough question, but it’s probably “One” by U2 from their classic album Achtung Baby. That album came out right before I started college. I spent many a night doing homework listening to Achtung Baby, and “One” is my favorite song on that album. In my first career as an electrical engineer, I spent countless days and nights over the span of twelve years in front of a computer doing design work while listening to Achtung Baby, and that has continued in my second career as a freelance motion graphics designer and visual effects artist.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m currently working on my fourth film in the Star Wars Toy Stories series. It’s called Home Solo: A Star Wars Toy Story. Think Star Wars meets Toy Story meets Home Alone. Both of my daughters are in this film. Maliya is reprising the role of Riley. Nora is also in the film, but she has her own unique character this time. I’m extremely excited for this film because I was able to cast Jamie Costa as the voice of Han Solo. If you don’t know Jamie by name, you may know him from his viral tribute videos a few years back in which he does amazing impressions of Robin Williams. He also does an uncanny impression of Harrison Ford, which he used to great effect in his own Star Wars fan film Han Solo: A Smuggler’s Run. His voiceover work will certainly raise the quality of Home Solo to another level. I’m excited to work with Jamie and to complete this film hopefully in time for the next Star Wars Fan Awards.

Interview with Filmmaker Nesli ERGÜN (KOYUN)

KOYUN played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nesli ERGÜN: It seems a fair share of moral confusion is pervading the world today about women who wear the Islamic head scarf. This confusion is no accident. It’s easy to get away with oppressing women if the general public, and even women underneath the veil, can’t rally behind a unifying consensus that compulsory veiling is wrong. George Orwell said once that the prime responsibility lay in being able to tell people what they did not wish to hear.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

About 4 months.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Critical, Unashamed

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Whether or not to put my name on it.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was deeply moved. I have never seen anyone (apart from my friends and family) react to my work before. I have not shown this film in Turkey. This film was not selected to be screened in the festivals where I thought it would be most relevant (the Islamic world). I honestly had no idea what people actually thought about what I made before watching the clip you sent. This exchange, what we are doing here in this moment, is maybe the most powerful engagement a filmmaker could ask for. A festival centered on the idea of giving and receiving feedback allows filmmakers to reflect in ways most standard interactions fall short from allowing. As a result, FEEDBACK Female Film Festival is the most valuable festival I have ever had the honor to be a part of.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I don’t know. I’m never good at remembering these things. The only thing I do remember is that I drew the thumbnail storyboard on my dining room table in about 15 minutes.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I don’t think I watch films over and over again so I think I’m going to skip this question 🙂

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

If an interaction like the one I’ve been talking about with you guys is possible, then I’ve got to love the platform that made it possible for me to meet you in the first place, right?

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I sure did listen to Color Him Country by Linda Martell a whole lot.

Also Lhasa, Slowdive, Nina Simone – I mean there are so many to list.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m building a community center in Istanbul. I want to make a positive impact on the trajectory of the Turkish nation-state by injecting a spirit of hope and wonder in a traumatized, undervalued, economically depressed & culturally polarized population. By creating value in gatherings outside of religious, governmental & educational institutions, I want to enable a much needed critical look at our Turkish experience as community members. Filmmaking will very much be a part of this center. In other words, I’ve just begun.

Interview with Filmmaker Mark Garcia (THE ARTIST)

THE ARTIST played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Documentary Short Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Mark Garcia: I first met Mauro while running a camera on his first film he directed titled, The Recall. One day just Mauro and I went to grab some night shots and during the hour long drive to the location Mauro started telling me about his history as a concept artist and all the work he had created. I was SHOCKED to hear all the incredible works he had created for Major Motion Pictures and couldn’t believe one man had created all these pieces from his imagination. I knew from that conversation I wanted to interview him and create a piece to share with the world. It is the first time I was completely happy to be stuck in awful LA traffic so I could just listen to all the fascinating stories Mauro was sharing with me during the drive.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

From shooting to final edit took about a month but it was over a year from the time he shared his stories with me to the short being produced.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Beautiful Mind

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle was making sure I created a piece that Mauro would be happy with. I wanted to make it ALL about Mauro and make sure the edit was organic with the content we shot. I wanted the audience to TRULY feel they were in the Mauro’s creative studio just as I was during the filming.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

The audience feedback video was AWESOME! It was incredible to see people in a movie theatre in Toronto watching THE Artist. I saw smiles and people fully engaged in the piece. I heard a couple people refer to it as “beautiful” and that made me feel incredible because Mauro, his work and his creative genius is nothing short of beautiful. Thank you for screening the film and the awesome people of Toronto for viewing it. BTW Go Raptors!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I just wanted to interview Mauro and see where it would take us.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

That’s a tough but good question. Hmmm I would have to say Goonies, Inception, Gladiator, Sixteen Candles, Jaws, Rocky IV, Top Gun.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway is INCREDIBLE! It is actually a fun platform where you can easily pick the festivals and submit. Whoever created the platform is genius!

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I am a big Eminem and Lil Wayne fan so the song, “No Love” is easily one of my favorites! It has been on repeat for YEARS! lol

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I have a couple short docs in the making. Check back with me in about 2 months and I will let you know. ;). And again so much thanks and appreciation to you, The Documentary Short Film Festival, Toronto and the people of Toronto! I am truly honored and blessed! Thank YOU!