Interview with Winning Screenwriter Julian Blondell (Xightfall)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Julian Blondell: XIGHTFALL is centered around a Futuristic Intelligence Agency that protects the universe from all species. When suspicious events transpire throughout the agency, Eli, a young black Xightfall Officer, takes matters into his own hands to uncover the true intentions of the Xightfall Program.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Xightfall falls under the genres of comedy, sci-fi, and action.

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

Xightfall is a wild, roller coaster experience. It’s fast paced, funny, you relate to the characters, and it’s dirty. It’s “Indiana Jones” meets “Boondocks” meets “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

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

F*ckin Epic.

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

Star Wars. All of them.

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

I’ve been working on this screenplay for nearly two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written three stories so far. I have plenty of concepts constantly in my mind but only three have made the cut.

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

Kanye West – “I Wonder.”

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

I would say the biggest obstacle would be the narration aspect. It is something that I constantly come back to and try to figure out how I would best want to tell Eli’s story.

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

I really try to dabble into a little of everything. Sports, television and film, fashion, video games, interior design (thanks to my fiancé).

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

FilmFreeway has been absolutely spectacular. I submit my scripts at least once a month on the platform and I recommend it to all of my fellow filmmakers/writers.

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

I think I randomly searched screenwriting festivals on Google and it was the first thing that popped up. The initial feedback I got was incredible. It felt great to receive critical feedback that pushed me into the right direction. I cannot thank FilmFreeway enough for all the help they’ve been in my writing career.

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

XIGHTFALL is a Futuristic Intelligence Agency that protects the universe from all species. When suspicious events transpire throughout the agency, Eli, a young black Xightfall Officer, takes matters into his own hands to uncover the true intentions of the Xightfall Program.

CAST LIST:

Clarice – Katelyn Varadi
Tito – Geoff Mays
Narration – Salma Dharsee
Eli – Omar Aufi
Tom – Sean Ballantyne

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Nate Yacos (Tugnutt: A Love Supreme)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nate Yacos: When a family man gains instant celebrity status as TV spokesman, his newfound celebrity threatens to tear his family apart and challenge his notion of a happy life.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy

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

It’s very funny. It’s a passionate, progressive script with a strong social message.

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

Original script.

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

“The Godfather” and any Stanley Kubrick movie on the tube. I am so there.

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

The storyline fully came together after five years. It is a mix of moments in my life, like when my wife and I were walking at a local park in Durham. A owner had a duck was on a leash! I thought that was really weird, but what if..

8. How many stories have you written?

This is my first written solo feature length screenplay. I have co-written three other screenplays based on my original storylines. I have a lot of goofy funny stories in the pipeline. Next up – a Trump commentary piece, not holding back. Stay tuned fans.

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

I don’t have one favorite song. I do love classic rock, jazz, blues. ie: Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Coltrane, Monk, Billie Holliday, Sade, Noah Jones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin.. I’m easy to please. When writing “Tugnutt” I played hippie 1960”s background music to get me grooving.

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

Editing. I view a screenplay process as one lengthy poetic piece. Each line tightly written while moving the storyline forward. Writing is such an artistic, challenging and wonderful process.

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

My family first, followed by social rights issues. I don’t toot my own horn publicly. My writing offers that outlet, thank goodness. I have a political science degree and MA in Special Ed.

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

It works and is user friendly. I highly recommend for writers to submit on FilmFreeway.

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

I enjoy writing. If it goes further into movie production, that’s just icing on the cake.

Watch Screenplay Reading: 

When a family man gains instant celebrity status as TV spokesman, his newfound celebrity threatens to tear his family apart and challenge his notion of a happy life.

CAST LIST:

Brandon – Geoff Mays
Blond – Katelyn Varadi
Narration – Norma Dawn Dunphy
Ted – Shawn Devlin
Redhead –Salma Dharsee

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Cicely Wynne (REMEMBER KENT STATE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Cicely Wynne: The Vietnam War, Kent State, violent student demonstrations. Sex, drugs, classic rock. One week in May 1970
that defined a generation.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama and Historical

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

Today’s youth are fascinated by the wild ’60s-’70s. This film takes the audience on an adventure that ends with a tragic war.
Younger audiences may reflect on the tragedy of their generation’s senseless wars – Iraq and Afghanistan.
Older audiences will love relieving their youth. At the same time, they will be saddened and, hopefully, motivated.

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

Senseless wars.

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

CITIZEN KANE.

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

Two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have five screenplays on InkTip.

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

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN.

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

Although it was a critical week in the lives of so many people, most people forget so many details in 50 years.

Thank goodness for newspaper, magazine and book accounts.

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

The arts, political activism, dog and cat rescue, birding, travel.

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

Quite informative and efficient.

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

Love that the festival promotes women. The feedback suggested another rewrite. I revised it four more times.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

The Vietnam War, Kent State, violent student protests, sex, drugs, classic rock. One week In May 1970 that defined a generation.

CAST LIST:

Margaret – Katelyn Varadi
Announcer – Geoff Mays
Narration – Norma Dawn Dunphy
Case – Sean Ballantyne
Lucy – Katelyn Varadi
Walter Kronkite – Shawn Devlin

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Mirka Kettunen (MAJOR TOM AND THE ALIEN GIRL)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Mirka Kettunen: “Major Tom and the Alien girl” is a story about two space geeks with extraordinary talents. In different parts of town both of them have been waiting “for the Mothership” to come pick them up.

But when they finally meet and realize that the other one is on the same wavelength, then suddenly their mundane lives downtrodden by the gravity becomes exciting and weightless.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Rom-com / Sci-fi.

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

It addresses loneliness and feeling excluded because you are different. It gives hope to those that feel they are left out by life and love. Theis movie shows that you can find friendship, understanding and even love in the most unbelievable places. You could say, we are not alone in space, because the eternity of space starts here on Earth. Maybe the real Mothership that’ll take you home lives next doors?

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

Galactically hopeful.

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

At home: “Trading places” with Eddie Murphy. I lost count between 40-45 times. Now it’s probably around 50 times.

At the cinemas: “Gladiator” 10+ times.

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

I’ve thought about this idea for the last 5 years, but as a written script it’s been approximately a year in the making and planning.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve probably written some 15 short film stories. Lots of short stories and poems. And now I’m working on a history / mystery novel series that will include 3-4 books.

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

Probably the collected works of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. It’s calming and mostly in Latin, so the meaning of the lyrics don’t distract me. I’ve used Arvo Pärt as my “writing music” for over ten tears.

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

As the story is dependant on VFX I debated with myself if the script should be doable on a low budget or if it should look good. I went for the Writer’s Privilege – writing the scenes I want to see, not the scenes that can be produced on a shoestring budget. But I also have ideas how to solve the visual difficulties of showing weightlessness on Earth with old school and not expensive film techniques.

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

I love directing and learning about dramaturgy and good ways to solve visual problems when shooting. Otherwise I like salsa, take long hikes and bike riding.

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

Filmfreeway has been such a good and easy platform to work with. I had thought it would be more tech heavy, complicated and so on, but I highly recommend it.

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

I looked for fantasy and sci-fi festivals and found yours. I didn’t make it into the competition with my script “Major Tom and the Alien girl”, but I got brilliant written feedback on how to improve it-

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

This is a short romcom sci-fi about Tom Major. He keeps waiting ‘the Mothership’ to come pick him up. In order to survive life on Earth he sees his life through the eyes of the his alias – the astronaut Major Tom. Apparently he’s not the only one who believes he’s stranded here. One day he meets Sigourney, aka Scotty, who’s also waiting to get beamed up.

Narration – Justin Hay
Tom – 14 – Hartley O. Gyamfi
Scotty – 18 – Esther Rogers

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Rodrigo Juatco (HERO OF HEROES)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Rodrigo Juatco: At the heart of “Hero of Heroes” is the value of honor. It is a true-warrior’s moral compass, what separates them from renegades and cut-throats. Without it, they are lost.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Action/Adventure

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

In terms of visuals alone, this movie would look amazing on screen. The action sequences are fast-paces and exciting. Moreover, anyone who enjoys an old-school martial arts film, in the tradition of “Shogun Assassin” and “Crouching Tiger hidden Dragon,” would absolutely love this movie.

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

Action-packed.

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

This is a hard one. So many favorites. But it would have to be “Enter the Dragon.”

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

About a year and a half.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written 5 screenplays, and about a dozen short stories.

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

The theme song to “Braveheart.” There is something so haunting, melancholy, yet at the same time, moving and uplifting about it. Definitely strums the heart strings.

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

Trying to find the time to write while working two jobs. LOL. Good thing I am a Supervisor in one of my jobs. That way I can sneak away from time to time to work on my screenplay. Just don’t tell my manager.

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

Martial Arts. Though I haven’t had time to practice seriously for a very long time.

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

I am so glad I found FilmFreeway. Can’t say enough good things.

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

I actually found this platform by accident. Gotta hand it to serendipity.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

The Hero of Heroes is an action/adventure story about Wu Tao, who along with an army of elite fighters (Terracon Warriors) is presumed dead in the War of the Wastelands. Until years later, a lone warrior (Wu Tao) emerges from the Wastelands carrying a message regarding the ill-fated demise of the Terracon. Wu finds himself on a road of vengeance. Standing in his way are assassins (The Brotherhood of Shadows), mercenary Conquistadors armed with Muskets and Cannons, and a powerful, embittered brother (Lord Ging) who is hell-bent on stopping Wu and putting an end to his legend once and for all.

CAST LIST:

Lord Wen – Geoff Mays
Lady Pura – Katelyn Varadi
Narration – Sean Ballantyne
Ping – Shawn Devlin
Wu – Omar Aufi
Marah – Katelyn Varadi

Interview with Screenwriter Kate Whitehead (SKATE NIGHT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Kate Whitehead: It is about an edgy, agoraphobic, nerd-girl who tries to make the transition from virtual to in-person dating while keeping her bodacious personality intact.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy, Romance.

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

This is a script that was written to be fun and inexpensive to shoot. On a shoestring budget, the car scene could be adapted to bicycles or speed walking and the whole thing could probably be shot in two locations. There are no expensive props, costumes, or special effects.

It also gives a lot of leeway to the production team as every character can easily be played by any gender without having to change the script apart from pronouns.

It’s short, funny, and leaves the audience feeling good. It’s a small reprieve from an ever darkening world, as far as I’m concerned.

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

Nerd Love.

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

Napoleon Dynamite.

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

About a year (off and on).

7. How many stories have you written?

About 30.

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

I’d have to say Master of Puppets by Metallica. My friend is a DJ and spun at my birthday party. After the party was over he said, “ You know, that’s the first time I have ever played MOP all the way through. Usually I throw it on for maybe a minute for the rockers in the crowd, but tonight there were people on the dancefloor seriously head banging for 8 straight minutes. I was afraid to turn it off. Afraid for my life, really.”

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

I don’t usually write comedies. One time I got ‘romantic comedy’ in a themed writing competition and I almost barfed/dropped out. But I persevered and, although the story I wrote for that competition is not the inspiration for this screenplay, it did illustrate to me that there is a genre of comedy/romance that I can enjoy. Nerd Love.

My partner, who is plagued with worry about the creep-fests I usually produce, was ecstatic when I wrote Skate Night. “Now THAT’s a good story!” they said. I think they were relieved that there were moments of my life that were not spent with my toe dipped into a puddle of dark hell.

So I would have to say that my greatest challenge writing this screenplay was stopping myself from having any of the characters meet a sudden, unexpected demise. I managed to keep it light! Go me!


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

Apart from rocking on forever? Trying to live in a way that includes everyone, even the people I would like to tell to go stuff it. I am also passionate about nature and letting it be.

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

It’s a great tool for finding places to submit that you might otherwise never have known about. I found this festival by cruising the site (even though I actually live in Toronto and might have been expected to have already have discovered it). It saves a lot of headaches about multiple forms and downloads. In the end I think that I submit to more places because of the site.

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

I entered the festival because it was local (I am from Toronto) and inclusive. Things are changing but I feel like whenever you write something that features diversity in gender or sexuality, readers pigeon hole you as “being political” as opposed to focusing on the story. I felt that a lot of that could be skipped by having my script read by folks who wouldn’t spend the whole time wondering what the characters did in bed. I guess that’s a bad sign for a romantic comedy but, like I said, I am writing out of genre here. Also everything I write is sideways political so I should probably just accept that.

The feedback was great. The reader obviously took the time to read and understand my story. The commentary showed me that I needed another scene and so I wrote it and the screenplay got a lot better. The risk of writing alone in your room is that the characters are alive in your head but you don’t really know how much of them are alive on the page until a total stranger meets them and tells you all about it.

Watch the Winning Short Script:

Genre: Comedy

Agoraphobic skateboarder Cindy has a life that is rich in avatars but poor in human interaction. When she decides to make the leap to dating live people, everything turns out to be just as chaotic as she had feared.

CAST LIST:

DJ Strangelove: Neil Bennett
Genie: Kevin P. Gabel
Narrator: Charles Gordon
Jolene: Carina Cojeen
Cindy: Amber Copeland
Police Officer: Ryan Singh

Interview with the Filmmaking Team of the Award Winning Short Film “HOTTER WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN”

Director Julie Haberstick. Writer John Houston. Winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August 2018 Romance Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

John: I wanted to tell a story that wasn’t the usual romantic story but would somehow bind these two people together no matter how badly they needed to be torn apart. Or maybe vice versa. Also, this is Footprint Productions’ first film, so we wanted to showcase the talents of our team. We didn’t have a huge budget, so we were trying to make something compelling within the confines of our apartment.

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

John: I wrote the script pretty quickly, Julie and I did some re-writes and planning. We shot within a month or so, plus some reshoots. Then, because our budget was so small, we really relied on favors. So I think it took us the better part of two years to get the film finalized and ready to be seen by the world.

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

Heartbreaking Growth.

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

Julie: Halfway through filming the most emotional scene in the film, our production was shut down due to a location dispute. We had to pack up immediately, and we weren’t sure how to move forward. We chose to have an impromptu wrap party at a bar down the street (complete with karaoke), and picked up shooting a few months later. Thankfully, that pause allowed us to sink our teeth into the scene in a whole new way.

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

Julie: To see Hotter affect the audience, for the creative choices to elicit emotions in ways we intended—and even in ways we didn’t—is incredibly gratifying.

John: It felt good to hear people talking about the film, reacting to it. Sympathizing with our characters, enjoying the heightened language of love.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:


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

John: I started thinking about what sort of love is forbidden and impossible… truly impossible, when the two must remain in each other’s lives, tethered. I also wanted to love and hate both characters, to feel for them, root for and against them. I especially wanted to make the leading man appealing, flawed, heartbreaking, and heartbroken.

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

John: Remember the Titans. I think I could quote the whole thing pretty accurately.

Julie: I have to admit 10 Things I Hate About You is my guilty pleasure…

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

Submission platforms are really convenient. They could be a little more user-friendly, but I’m sure in time they will make it easier and easier for people to get their films seen.

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

John: I listened to a lot of Tina Turner as a kid. And the Beatles and Elvis. But the individual song? There were a few angsty years where a couple Coldplay songs or Johnny Cash were on repeat.

Julie: The Big Chill soundtrack, and California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas are my most listened-to albums. But “More Than a Feeling” by Boston is my number one song.

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

Footprint’s next film is almost ready for a festival run. Don’t forget the name Footprint Productions because we have some awesome things in the works.

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