Interview with Filmmaker Jessica Champneys (STAR WARS: DRESCA)

STAR WARS: DRESCA was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the September 2018 FAN FICTION Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jessica Champneys: I love Star Wars! But also, the character of Dresca is one that I came up with when I was just 12 years old. Growing up and developing her story, she has became a big part of the Star Wars universe for me. The only difference between her and other Star Wars characters – like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader – is that she only existed in my head, and I was the only one who knew about her. So having the chance to see her come to life on screen and being able to introduce her to the world is so exciting.

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

2 years.

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

Fan Film

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

This was my first narrative short. I had never done anything before near this scale and quality, and there were many elements of the production that were firsts for me (i.e. stunts, working with a DP, etc). As a result, I underestimated the amount of time certain things would take. For example, our two day interior shoot should have been a three day shoot, but I didn’t realize that until it was too late. In the end, we filmed for 36 hours within a 48 hour period. Luckily, we had an AMAZING, positive, and hard-working cast and crew that took it all in stride. But lack-of-sleep was definitely a problem. I don’t think I got more than 8 hours of sleep that entire week.

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

I’ll admit, as I clicked play, I was really nervous. Whether you’re a fan of Star Wars or not, you’ve probably heard of the chaotic state the Star Wars fanbase is in right now. Many fans are riled up against anything that has the title “Star Wars” on it, official or otherwise. This has made it challenging to differentiate between real, valuable criticisms and blind, toxic hatred. So it was a breath of fresh air to watch this audience’s reactions. You always hope that your audience “gets it” – that they’ll understand the messages you’re trying to convey through your work – and it was so nice to see that this audience did. The positive reviews were fun to hear, and the few criticisms given were very insightful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Like I mentioned earlier, I came up with the main character, Dresca, when I was 12 years old. Like any other kid who loves Star Wars, I played with toys and came up with my own adventures in that galaxy far far away. I asked myself who would I be and what would I be doing if I got to live in that universe. Darth Vader has always been my favorite character, so naturally I thought it would be cool to be his apprentice.

But as I thought more about what exactly being Vader’s apprentice would entail, I realized that I would never willingly be placed in that situation. I’ve been raised right. I know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. If I was suddenly sucked into the Star Wars universe, I would join the Rebellion, hands down. That’s just the kind of person I am.

But instead of saying “okay, my character will be a Rebel, then,” I instead asked myself how would I have had to be raised in order to get to that point of being so morally backwards? What would I have had to experience in life to truly believe that Darth Vader was a good guy doing the right thing? This question raised numerous other questions, and launched the creation of a massive story and an independent, three-dimensional character.

When I decided to create a Star Wars fan film, I realized I could take a small scene from that story and convert it into film. I wrote 6 different scripts, each one taking place at a different point in Dresca’s life story, to see what would work best as a short. I found that starting in the middle of her story – at the moment when she has lost everything and everyone she cares for – provided the greatest amount of dramatic tension and character development within a short period of time and worked well visually.

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

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

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

FilmFreeway is, I feel, a very intuitive platform – very easy to use. I’ve used other festival submission sites in the past, and FilmFreeway is definitely the best one I’ve used so far.

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

Way too many to list all of them here. 🙂 Obviously, I’ve listened to a lot of Star Wars music by John Williams. Other songs that I listened to frequently while writing this short were the soundtrack for the 2013 movie “Carrie” by Marco Beltrami, and “Control” by Halsey. These songs helped me to get inside Dresca’s head.

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

I’d love to try my hand at writing a feature length screenplay. There are few original concepts I’m developing now.

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Interview with Filmmaker Sean Wehrli (GLENDALE)

GLENDALE played to rave reviews at the August 2018 Experimental Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sean Wehrli: I have a major passion for visual storytelling, with film and music videos at the top of that list. This project specifically came out of a major draw to the music and then a desire to feature our shared hometown of Detroit. We wanted to give a voice to the crime statistics of Detroit.

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

6 months. Very long, but since it was self-funded I took as long as I needed to get it right.

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

Detroit Passion

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

I’d say the most frustrating moment for me was after reviewing 1st cut of the video and seeing how much it sucked. Then trying to find a solution that kept people entertained for a full 6 minutes. The answer ended up involving me going back to Detroit and shooting insane amounts of B-Roll. Really featuring the location as a character is what brought it home.

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

Wow, thank you for doing this. Reconfirmed my suspicion that the power of my video is in the mood and that some of my story elements potentially went too far.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I started with Detroit. Then went to the fact that Detroit has ranked highest in murder for many many years. Then I made the link between crimes of passion and love.

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

I haven’t kept a tally, but Blade Runner? Or more likely one of the disney movies I watched on repeat as a kid: Toy Story or Aladdin?

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

I think it is superior to withoutabox (more user friendly), although still tons of garbage to wade through. You realize after that only about 10% of your submissions were worthwhile festivals. The reviews do help though.

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

In My Place by Coldplay?

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

I just turned my next music video to the label yesterday for the band Beta Radio.

glendale

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Waide Riddle (Dear Tom Hardy: I love you)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Waide Riddle: A gay 10-year-old writes his favorite movie star, Tom Hardy, every week for two years. What happens when Mr. Hardy finally replies?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy/Drama Musical

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

LGBT youth in a new positive perspective; with a happy ending.

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

Music Dance

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

“What’s Up, Doc” (1972) with Barbara Streisand & Ryan O’Neal

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

2 years

7. How many stories have you written?

50

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

“Don’t Worry, Baby” by the Beach Boys

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

To make a clear & clean happy finish & ending.

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

Classic Oldies, Dance & Hair Design

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

FilmFreeway is a much easier and user friendly platform than withoutabox.

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

The submission fee, history, reputation & the fair feedback & coverage.
 

Nine year old Shawn Williams is gay. He has been writing his favorite movie star every week for nearly two years. What happens when Mr. Hardy actually replies?

CAST LIST:

Narration – Allen Michael Brunet
Lee – Kevin Gabel
Tom – Hartley O. Gyamfi

Project Links

Interview with Winning Screenwriters Nicholas Downs, Susan Mac Nicol (SIGHT UNSEEN)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nicholas Downs, Susan Mac Nico: It’s about one man whose changes in circumstances force him to reconsider what his future looks like. And who he wants to be in it. It’s about coming to grips with a major adversity and making something good out of it.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Sight Unseen is primarily a love story, but it’s also one about relationships that are forced to be re-evaluated when life turns darker. It’s a drama too.

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

We believe that the market is ripe in films about LGBT characters living in normal worlds and doing normal things and then being challenged to change things. We believe the time is right for people to see that LGBT films can have happen endings 😊 This one does that and more. It’s ultimately a feel happy movie with a message and those are sometimes the best ones.

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

Feel.Good.

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

Susan – this would be Oliver. My dad was a huge Dickens fan and he took me to see every film and stage version he could. My kids grew up on this film too. It has the right mix of angst, drama and the final happy ending.

Nicholas – It’s shifted at different times in my life. I grew up on The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story. But once I saw Jaws, that rocked my world. I love the film. It’s filled with so many genres, one would question how it could ever work, but it does. Thank goodness the mechanical shark kept breaking down. I think that actually helped make the movie what it is. Then later in life, In America came out. I love that film!

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

The collaboration started early 2016 when we decided to work together to adapt a screenplay already written by Nicholas into a novel. Once the novel was written, we then took that and worked it back into a screenplay again. So it’s been three years in the making with everything in between.

7. How many stories have you written?

Together, only this one.

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

Susan – I’m a real fan of classical music and the piece I listen to most often is Shostakovich’s Jazz Suites. It’s my pacifier when I’m stressed.

Nicholas – Don’t really have one, my taste shifts based off what I’m doing. But to satisfy the question I will pick, Ravel’s Boléro, which I know is not a song, it’s a movement.

(Susan- oh, look at us being all cultural 😊)

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

The fact we are both on opposite sides of the world could have been a hindrance but wasn’t. We worked very well together over Skype and got the chance to catch up in LA face to face in 2017.

Obstacles for both of us were devoting our time to the screenplay, with Nicholas working on other film and script projects, and auditioning, and me writing books and running a magazine, as well as holding down a day job. Negotiation on time was key as we were eight hours apart.

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

Susan – I’m an advocate for anything regarding the freedom to be yourself and am a board trustee with a London Charity called Being Me. I’m pretty outspoken about people being given the right to be whoever they want to be. I also love to garden at my home in the English countryside if that counts?

Nicholas – Being with family and friends. Fishing. And I too like to garden like Susan.

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

We’ve found it incredibly easy, very supportive and a wonderful platform to get our script out to various festivals and competitions.

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

The festival is well recognized and while fairly new, from past submissions it appeared what we had to submit would be well received. The feedback we had was very welcomed and in fact, we had a Skype call and tackled each one of the points raised. The script was then adapted as per those points and we feel now we have an even better version than before.
 

Tragedy brings together a reserved but brilliant sculptor and an outgoing gallery owner, friends whose love was sidetracked—but was always meant to be deeper.

CAST LIST: 

Jon:  Russell Batcher
Narrator: Kat Smiley
Cody: Bryan Kling
Nathan: Jolly Amoako

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Dallas Rico (MARRED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Dallas Rico: Marred is a dark comedy in which a depressed black nerd hired a hitwoman to kill him. She will kill him in 30 days. In the meantime, Mar completes a bucket list to live his best life until his self-appointed doomsday.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

My pilot is a dramedy.

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

Have you ever seen a show that centers on a black nerd? Have you ever seen a show that deals with the mental health of black men, both gay and straight? Once my show is produced, the answer to both of those questions will be “Yes.”

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

dark, geeky

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

The Devil Wears Prada

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

1 year

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written 6 screenplays. (1 feature film and 5 pilots)

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

Argh. This question is so difficult. It depends on my mood. Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” is one of my favs, though.

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

Figuring out the tone of this script was tricky. It’s a dramedy about a suicidal man. It could come off as cheesy or insensitive. I think over time I found the right balance.

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

Video games. My love of nerd culture always bleeds into my scripts, whether I want it to or not.

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

I’m a queer person of colour who loves Toronto. It was a no-brainer.
 

In the midst of a breakup, a gay Nuyorican drug dealer must retrieve his molly, stolen by a self-absorbed pretty boy, in order to help his father make rent.

CAST LIST:

Joy (white 30s)- 5 – Regan Brown
Zelda (30s) black- 11 – Georgia Grant
Narration – Allen Michael Brunet
Mar 20s black- 18 – Hartley O. Gyamfi
Kaleb (30s black) – 18 – Kevin Gabel

Interview with Winning Screenwriter S.W. Andersen (SOMEWHERE BETWEEN LOVE AND JUSTICE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

S.W. Andersen: A hardened cowgirl seeks revenge against the gang leader who killed her parents and forced her into his service while she learns to open her heart to the woman she loves.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

western, lesbian romance

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

One of the things people loved about the novel it was adapted from, and it’s sequel, was how the women were unapologetic about their sexuality and their non-conformity to old west ideas of femininity. It’s also a great story about embracing ones inner strength in the face of adversity and having to make the choice between love and revenge- two very powerful, life changing, motivators.

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

Unwavering conviction

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

“Raiders of The Lost Ark.” “Pretty Woman” is a close second.

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

Over a year since I started the adaptation from my novel.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have five published novels in lesbian romance. There’s a few more ideas in the works, including another screenplay or two.

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

Boy, I don’t know that I really have a favorite. There’s several I’ve heard hundreds of times and still light up when they play…tons of 80’s songs, but I do have a deep fondness for George Michael’s “Freedom 90” and The Black Crows “She Talks to Angels.”

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

Converting the story from a first person POV novel. Also, learning to stick to only what can be seen on screen.

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

The mountains, travel, health, and my family.

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

FilmFreeway has been great. It is easy to use and allows me find many opportunities in one site. Like your festival.

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

I wanted to dip my toe in the water and see how it would be received. Feedback was a driving source since it’s my first screenplay. The feedback received was excellent and has given me a clue as to what I need to tighten up.

 

Sarah Sawyer has spent the last ten years reliving a nightmare. Stripped of her innocence at the tender age of thirteen, she’s grown into a woman with nothing to lose and one thing on her mind.

Justice.

Project Links

CAST LIST: 

Narration –  Ariel Brooker
Jo –  Georgia Grant
Sarah –  Regan Brown

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Robert David Simpson (THE HUNT FOR CHUCK BERRY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Robert David Simpson: It’s about Aliens finding a satellite from Earth, a record, and music and then going to Earth to seek out the musician- Chuck Berry and bring him back.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

SCI-FI COMEDY

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

We all need a good laugh and kids may like it also and…it promotes outer space discoveries.

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

Funny, strange

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

Probably – ‘ 2001 Space Oddessy’

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

Several days while in the hospital

7. How many stories have you written?

One book and eight scripts in the last year.

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

‘ ‘It’s a Beautiful World’ by ‘ Louise Armstrong

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

None, really.

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

Making films

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

So far, so good.

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

Influence? I am now 69 yrs of age and at that age, one wonders how much time one has left, so I did my best to write eight different genres in one year and entered them into eight different Festivals earlier this year.

 

In 1970,a NASA satellite,’Voyager 1′,was shot into space and in 2017 lands on planet X68 in Andromeda star system. Small humanoids,living there, go ecstatic apon hearing a recorded version of Chuck Berry music, found on a record within the satellite. They decide to head out to find this human and bring him home to teach them more! The hunt starts!

CAST LIST:

Taro: Kevin Gabel

Supreme Leader: Allen Michael Brunet

Narrator: Regan Brown

Nori: Ariel Brooker

Yoo: Georgia Grant

Uzu: Hartley O. Gyamfi

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