Interview with Winning Screenwriter Joe Kourieh (Voosch And Helina)

“Voosch And Helina” was the March 2020 SCI-FI/FANTASY SHORT Screenplay Winner.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Joe Kourieh: This Sci-Fi short is about something all too familiar – a World War – but in an unfamiliar place (under the sea). Humans’ dominance over the planet has been lost and they are now at the mercy of warring animal alliances. The characters in this scene represent a drastic hierarchy, and are trapped within it (for some, literally). The moral truth of the situation is different from everyone’s perspective. The Octopoids blame the humans for some grave developments on Earth – but does that justify a genocide?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It is a Sci-Fi and also a drama piece. I would imagine that if produced it would likely be animation.

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

I believe it does the ideal job of a short film which is to capture a powerful and relatable emotional moment but with a distinctive twist to enhance the perspective given to the chosen emotion. It lets a very human conundrum breath freely in a new setting.

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

Tragedy, tentacles.

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

Cable Guy.

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

Not long, it’s one of my smaller projects. But still a fun one.

7. How many stories have you written?

In my head, hundreds. In screenplay format, about a dozen.

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

Opeth – “Heir Apparent”

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

I was challenged to keep it to just 5 pages.

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

Video games, shows, heavy metal, Boston sports, cats.

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

Coverfly is absolutely awesome. Staying organized is so important, and their interface is just about flawless. I use it pretty much daily and recommend it. Also there’s no simpler place to browse quality screenplay contests and film fest listings.

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

I will enter just about anything related to Sci-Fi and Fantasy or animation. I am always working toward breaking into these industries. The feedback provided for this entry was excellent – positive, and focused on the nature of the short film format.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

In the far future, the world is engulfed in a war with genocidal implications. One young soldier, faced with an innocent victim, juggles the pressures of duty and conscience in his many arms.

CAST LIST:

Human 2: Nick Hendrik
Human 1: Peter Valdron
Narrator: Justine Christensen
Helina: Rebecca MacDonald
Gaard: Thomas Fournier

Interview with Screenwriter Nathan Zoebl (HAPPY FUN TIMES)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nathan Zoebl: A group of disaffected twenty-somethings plot to get rich by suing an amusement park after scheming for one of their crotchety, terminally-ill grandmothers to accidentally die on a dangerous ride. It’s Throw Momma From the Train meets Adventureland, and it’s about a colorful group of bottom-feeding characters on the fringe of life becoming an unexpected team for a very questionable goal. It’s about fun characters behaving badly in a weird place.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s definitely a Dark Comedy first and foremost but we also consider it a buddy film as well as workplace ensemble.

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

I feel deeply in my bones that it would find a rabid audience that would appreciate and celebrate this ridiculous movie. I want this movie to come to life because I want this story to exist regardless of whether my name was on it. I don’t feel like there’s anything else out there quite like Happy Fun Times and I think it has meaty parts that great comedic actors would kill. I also know it can be made for “Hollywood cheap!”

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

“Insanely funny.” How’s that? Do those words count too? Oh no, I’m doing this wrong.

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

I have a healthy love of bad movies, so it’s likely The Room at this point, a film I notice something new every time I watch it.

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

From start to finish, this was one of the fastest scripts we’ve ever written. Within a week of being hired to write this story, we had 9 pages of notes and ideas and jokes. It was an amazingly fruitful process where we made one another laugh to the point of tears. Within three weeks in the fall of 2017, we had gone from initial premise to finished script. It has gone under some revisions and tweaks, as most scripts do, but the core is still the same from draft one. It was one of those rare writing opportunities where things just felt so natural and we were driven by our creative excitement for the project.

7. How many stories have you written?

Personally, I’ve been writing screenplays since I was in high school. My writing partner Ben Bailey and I have been writing steadily together for about seven years and have amassed a dozen scripts/pilots/outlines and even more shorts. We like to stay productive and enjoy working with one another. We even prefer to write with one another physically present in a room, which I’ve discovered is by far the minority work method when it comes to writing pairs.

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

I don’t know if I have a favorite song per se but some bands I’ve been getting into include Mother Mother, Sleeper Agent, Dirt Poor Robbins, and Phantogram.

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

Tone was a major consideration given that we were asking for the audience to go along with characters plotting to profit from murder. How far could we go and still make the characters likeable even if maybe we weren’t fully rooting for them to pull off their big scheme? We had to consistently ask whether we had lost what made us care about the characters at various points and correct missteps so that it didn’t go too far in any wrong directions. There are many ways a dark comedy can go bad, and it can be easy to pander when it comes to Shocking Elements, so we tried to navigate a safe passage that balanced the tone we desired to have fun with the weird and macabre but also maintain a sense of heart on its own terms.

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

I’ve been a film fan ever since I can recall from my first memories. I love movies and experiencing stories and I enjoy writing them, making them, and writing about them.


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

I have nothing but positive experiences about the platform and its ease at connecting artists to festivals and contests.

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

I had heard good feedback from several other screenwriting friends and thought it might be a strong fit. The feedback we received on Happy Fun Times was extremely gratifying and a confirmation that we might have something special here. Hearing from people that they felt this was “one of the best specs out there” makes me hope that others might agree and Happy Fun Times will eventually find the right person who says, “Yes, this! Of course, this!”

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

When a young man learns of a theme park’s policy to give out large cash settlements to guests who lose a family member whilst at the park, he conspires to take his ailing grandmother on one last ride.

CAST LIST:

Kevin: Ted Powers
Narrator: Val Cole
Liv: Veronika Gribanova
Colin: Wilfred Lee

Interview with Screenwriter Helen Marsh (THE GREATEST HEIGHT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Helen Marsh: The Greatest Height is about finding a higher purpose within the struggles and conflict of day to day life. The story follows Nickle, a quirky girl who recently graduated high school and figures it’s about time she tries her hand at love. She sets her eyes on a do-gooder church boy, and through heart-break and betrayal finds something much more genuine and lasting. She finds God.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Family, Romance, Spiritual, Comedy

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

A lot of stories about finding God and discovering faith and spiritually centre around epic journeys and overcoming the impossible. What’s beautiful about The Greatest Height is that the epic journey is simply finding God, and the focus of the story remains on “the average girl” who’s discovering herself and realizing what she’s had in front of her all along. This is a comedic underdog tale (like Juno or Ladybird) that brings people to leave the theatre high on life.

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

Daringly beautiful

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

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (by my favourite author and screenwriter Stephen Chbosky)

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

One year

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve been writing stories since I was able to hold a pencil in my hand; the amount of strange ideas I’ve put to paper are endless. However, when it comes to screenplays I’ve written thirteen (the spookiest of numbers).

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

My favourite song is probably Lost Boy by Ruth B.

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

I went through a bit of a spiritual journey of my own while writing this. I meticulously searched the bible for inspiration and quotes that helped propel the screenplay. I also researched stories about other people finding faith (no matter the religion, believing in something is nice!)

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

I’m passionate about horror movies and watch way too many of them. Of course, I have to see them in theatres to get the full surround sound scare. I’m also a great lover of animals, with two cats, a dog, and a bunny for roommates.

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

FilmFreeway is awesome! t’s a great tool and can often lead to industry connections.

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

WILDsound Festival was an obvious choice for The Greatest Height because it offers feedback as well as a real prize: screenplay reading. For most festivals you receive a laurel if you’re a winner, which is great but doesn’t help your writing in any manner. By having my screenplay read out loud, I am able to hear my characters come to life and get a better understanding of which lines work and which don’t. The written feedback they gave me was also phenomenal, and really helped streamline my script and elevate my writing.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Logline: A rebellious and quirky young woman seeks true love in the form of a do-gooder church boy. However, after heart break and betrayal she finds something much better. She finds God.
CAST LIST :

Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Church: Hartley O. Gyamfi
Rosa: Lada Darewych
Stephanie: Jennifer Misiorowski
Pastor: Sheldon Graham

Interview with Screenwriter Marshall Ferrin (Death Of A Revolutionary)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Marshall Ferrin: It is about a brilliant and driven French revolutionary who the ability to write a new chapter in his country’s rich history. But what begins as a battle for liberty, equality, and fraternity, becomes a vindictive quest for supremacy, power and money.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Historical Drama

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

It is actually an Episode, in a VOD mini-series. It should be made into a video film, as a “calling card” to attract the production of the other four episodes.

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

Radicals riot

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

Cold Mountain

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

This Episode, five months.

7. How many stories have you written?

Five, working on six.

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

Turn, Turn, Turn

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

A general bias towards the HIstorical Drama genre, compared to other genres e.g. Horror and Science Fictioin

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

Sailing on my yacht in the Caribbean

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

Very good, no complaints,

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

I believed it had an international focus or outreach.

The feed back on my script was a variance on the dozen or so sets of script notes I have received from other readers. Your festival notes were the most critical.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

This is the story of Georges Danton leading up to his execution.

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – DIANA FRANZ
Marat – 1 – GENE ABELA
St Just – 1 – THOMAS FOURMIER
Robespierre – 11 – SEAN BALLANTYNE

Interview with Screenwriter Marcus Russell (PERMUTATION)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Marcus Russell: This script is about the plight of marginalized people, specifically African Americans. English has been taken advantage of by processes he can barely comprehend. He cannot get good health care (to be taken seriously by his health care provider), he has a contentious relationship with the police and the possibility for him to truly be happy (and free) are determined by things out of his control.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s a drama. It communicates as noir, but it’s straight down the pipe drama.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?

The sense of loss and uneasiness that English experiences is something that millions of Americans will identify with. English. Though he’s been taken advantage of and become a victim of mind control, there are a small group of people that care about his plight and him as an individual. It’s a fable about how we’re not alone, even though it may appear to a very large extent that you are.

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

Unfortunate realization.

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

I’ve seen “Swingers” 40+ times in 35mm… and probably 25 times on DVD. It was a hugely influential movie for me. “La Femme Nikita” is a close second.

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

I’m a TV writer and we have to write quickly. I broke story and wrote this script in about 45 days. I started it in early march. April 30th it was finished.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m assuming you’re referring to screenplays… I also write erotica and have a length history in that field. I have written 12 TV dramas (4 just this year). I’ve written 10 features (I started in features) and about 5 shorts. I’ve been screenwriting for 25 years.

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

“Don’t you worry ’bout a thing” – Stevie Wonder

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

I had a disastrous response to my last pilot and was ready to quit screenwriting all together. I decided then to write exactly what I wanted and to not give a damn about if it was good for festivals or fellowships (or managers). It was very difficult to get the voice correct for the genre of mind control while also giving it a traditional noir feel while making it hip hop conscious and imbuing the social commentary about African Americans and not make it overt.

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

Datsun Z cars, Racing, Hip Hop, Politics, weight lifting, weed

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

I was suspicious at first but I like film freeway, I especially liked the ability to become a gold member and reduce the cost of submitting. I like it but I don’t’ think you should try to directly compete with coverfly. They have a ratings system (coverfly score)… I think you need to develop a tracking/rating metric that would complement the coverfly score and get screenwriters/filmmakers to use both sites instead of making them decide. I like the way you track the submission and your use of icons to understand what’s happening with your script.

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

As a TV writer I was looking for places to submit for TV specs and pilots. There aren’t that many and I liked what you offered as prizes. I’ve been excited about the feedback I’ve received thus far, but the bulk of the feedback has yet to arrive.

Watch the Winning Screenplay Reading: 

Down-on-his-luck detective takes a dead-end case for the money…then he realizes that the person of interest looks exactly like him.

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – JULIE C. SHEPPARD
Dale (20s) – 8 – THOMAS FOURMIER
Judy – 6 – SARAH DESOUZA-COELHO
English (40s) – 15 – SEAN BALLANTYNE
Dir. Hammond (50s) – 3 – GENE ABELA

Interview with Screenwriter Tim Gale (PARTY OVER COUNTRY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Tim Gale: A Republican candidate is sworn in as president of the united states, but he’s way more into partying than he is into doing his job or serving his globalist master. It’s pretty much White House meets Animal House.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy. But it does have some intrigue to it. How about a political comedy thriller? I’m good with that.

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

I’d actually like to have this green lit to be its own tv series because I have so much story to tell with these characters that a movie wouldn’t be able to encapsulate it properly. There’s plenty of character and plot development that I have written down and I truly believe that it would be a series that would not only make people laugh, but also get them to think a bit.

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

Irresponsible behavior.

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

I can’t even begin to fathom how many times I’ve watched Naked Gun.

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

I probably came up with the idea around May 2018. When I have a new plan for a script or a project, I always take a lot of notes detailing story lines, characters, jokes and ideas. This process does tend to take a while since I reflect on it for a while before I start the actual writing of the script. Any screenwriter will tell you that sometimes the hardest thing about writing is just starting it. Overall it probably took me around 3-4 months to write it since I would do rewrites. The second episode however didn’t take as long as I had a better understanding of my characters and environment.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written one feature script, one short film script, two episodes of this series, and am almost finished work on a spec script I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. I have a bunch of other projects waiting in the wings that I’m excited to get started on.

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

Bring Da Ruckus by Wu-Tang Clan is definitely my most played song ever. But what’s my favorite song? Tough call. There’s too many to name a definitive favorite, but I will say that Echoes by Pink Floyd is undeniably an incredible song.

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

Prior commitments and self doubt were probably the biggest challenges that I faced. I try not to have my friends or family read my work, so I feel super vulnerable during the process when it comes time to actually share it with professionals. It’s easy to doubt yourself while you’re working on a script, but you just gotta have faith in yourself and keep it pushing.

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

I’m really into music. Like really into it. I can’t play an instrument at all, but I can appreciate it all the same. I can literally talk about it non stop all day.

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

So far FilmFreeway has been a good resource for me to discover festivals and competitions that geared towards my specialty. It’s been very valuable for me and I’m going to continue to use it going forward for sure.

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

Since it was a festival that was specific to comedy, I felt that it was appropriate for myself to enter since I always felt like my strengths were in the comedy territory. I felt that if I got the approval from this festival, that I was truly on the right path. I’m constantly trying to be funny with my friends and make them laugh, so if I can do that for strangers, that’s even better.

Watch the Winning Screenplay Reading: 

An intolerable Republican candidate is voted in as President of the United States, but he seems more interested in partying than running the country, or taking orders from his ominous overlord.

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – SARAH DESOUZA-COELHO
Buzz – 5 – SEAN BALLANTYNE
Hope – 6 – JULIE C. SHEPPARD
Carson – 5 – GENE ABELA
Bryan – 3 – THOMAS FOURMIER
Val – 3 – DIANA FRANZ

Interview with Screenwriter James Zeankowski (Every Purpose Under Heaven)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

James Zeankowski: Reporter Vera Reynolds of WBN News is investigating a sudden occurrence of immortality and makes a shocking discovery in the process that alters the course of humanity forever.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Supernatural Disaster, Faith based drama, Thriller

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

It is a story surrounding the theme of life and death that has never been told before.

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

Extremely unique.

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

Too many to name, but everything from the Disney and Star Wars franchises more than anything else.

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

5 years.

7. How many stories have you written?

4 scripts overall. 2 that I have the most faith in getting produced.

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

I’m very eclectic in my music tastes, but “Rooms on Fire” by Stevie Nicks definitely stands out.

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

No obstacles in finishing my writing, just getting the right people in the industry to read them and love them as much as I do.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
\
I’m a pop culture guru as well as a news/current affairs/politics junkie. And since 2018, I’ve become more serious about my overall health to the point of regular fitness and better dieting. Though as a foodie, the latter part is difficult at times.

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

A few lingering hiccups, but overall am grateful for the opportunities given to showcase my work.

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

I was sought out by some LinkedIn connections, and the feedback has been positive overall. Once I have all materials I’m waiting for in my possession, I can better market myself to agents and producers.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

CAST LIST:

Red Team Producer – 1 – Sean Ballantyne
Susie – 4 – Andrea Irwin
NARRATION – Adrian Carter
Mayor Tibley – 11 – Sean Ballantyne
Doctor – 2 – Trevor Howes
Green Team Producer – 2 – Laura Afelskie