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

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Interview with Screenwriter Billy Smith (The Stafford Multiplex Theater)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Billy Smith: My screenplay, The Stafford Multiplex Theater, is about an outdated eight-screen movie theater in a small town. A new Megaplex has opened up about twenty minutes from them and a lot of people have forgotten about the Stafford. They’ve gained an unfortunate reputation as “that other theater”. On top of that, because of an industry mandate, they now must convert to digital projection by the end of the year or they will no longer receive movies. Between the new Megaplex and the digital mandate, the Stafford is trying to fend off death, just trying to survive.

It’s during this time, when all seems hopeless, that everything gets even worse. There is an outbreak of a zombie virus in their town. The Stafford’s moviegoers start to drop dead and come back as zombies. The employees of the Stafford love it and would defend it with everything they have, so that’s what they do. They set out to defend their theater and make sure that it’s still standing for something even during their town’s most horrific time. Their theater isn’t dead yet.


2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The Stafford Multiplex Theater definitely falls under the horror/comedy genre. I would liken it to films like Burying the Ex, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and The Final Girls. The zombie threat is very real in the story and the characters take what’s at stake very seriously, but I felt like there had to be a healthy dose of comedy involved, too, and that really came from the characters. Once I started writing and experimenting with them, the comedy felt right to me.

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

The Stafford Multiplex Theater should be made into a movie for a few reasons. The first and most simple reason is that it’s just a lot of fun. Audiences would have a lot of fun watching it and I imagine that it would be a lot of fun to make, too. The horror blends well with the comedy, the characters are a blast and there are interesting twists. It would be an entertaining experience. Also, it touches a bit on the change that’s happening in movie theaters and what’s happening to theaters that used to have character. It’s a unique horror story because, yes, there are zombies and there’s blood and gore, but that’s all in the background, in a way. Ultimately, this story is about the theater and the characters. It’s not just a zombie movie just for the sake of being a zombie movie. The zombies are there for a good reason. They’re a manifestation of a real problem and that’s a very interesting horror story to explore because, for the characters, the real horror would be the end of their theater. They’ll deal with the zombies.

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

Fun. Clever.

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

I’ve been asked this question before and I always give the same answer: John Carpenter’s Halloween. I am forever in awe of its simplicity and impressed by every technical aspect of it, as well. The way the dread and the suspense builds and the way the music enhances it – it’s all so well done. It’s the kind of horror film that, if I could ever be a director myself, I would like to make. Something simple that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats and doesn’t go overboard. That film has always been a huge influence on me.

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

I have been working on this screenplay for roughly a few years. I’ve written and rewritten it many times at this point. I am constantly working to improve it because I believe in this story and I believe that it has a lot of potential as a movie. I have other things that I have worked on, but this is my passion project. This is the one that I have to see through. I have to see it succeed. I like being able to always go back to it and improve on it, especially because I am always improving as a writer. Every time I take another pass at it, it gets better. I’m very proud of it and the work I have put into it.

7. How many stories have you written?

Including The Stafford Multiplex Theater, I have written three. The other two started out as short stories, but I always had intended to develop them as screenplays, which is what I’m doing right now. I love coming up with a simple idea and then expanding on it. I find that to be such a thrill. Taking something and trying to make it the best it can possibly be. I have a lot of ideas in my head and I look forward to writing them in the very near future. My first script is just the beginning.

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

“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. Just kidding. It’s hard to pick a favorite song, but if I had to pick just one, it would be “New Low” by Middle Class Rut. Aside from just being a cool and fun song, it has really spoken to me ever since the first time I heard it eight years ago. I can identify with the words and see myself in the situation the song describes. It’s probably my favorite because it’s always a reminder to me that I’m still not where I want to be and, while this may be hard to believe, it motivates me to get to where I want to be.

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

The Stafford Multiplex Theater screenplay was very challenging for me to finish for multiple reasons. Firstly, it was my first screenplay. So, aside from the normal challenges of writing a story and getting over all of the hurdles that come with that, I had to learn how to actually write a screenplay. Learning the formatting, learning the structure, the things you shouldn’t do and the things you should do. Then, reading screenwriting articles and being told that you shouldn’t do the things that you thought you should do and that you should do the things that you thought you shouldn’t do. Apart from that, I think horror and comedy are very hard to write. It’s challenging to scare or surprise an audience and it’s a challenge to also make them laugh. It was a challenge that I truly enjoyed, though, and I think I succeeded, at least in the pages of a script. I think the real challenge would be to see if it works as an actual movie.

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

Besides being passionate about writing movies, I’m passionate about movies in general. I’ve been like that since I was very young. I love watching them, I love talking about them and I would love making them, too, if that ever became a reality. I love being able to get lost in another world for a little while and getting away from all of the stresses of my life. My love of movies is what led me to work at three different movie theaters and it is what has led me to pursue what would hopefully be a career being involved with movies in some way. I definitely eat, sleep and breathe movies.

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

So far, this is the only festival I have actually entered on FilmFreeway, but I’ve had a great experience with the site. It was how I found this festival. The website provided all of the information I needed and submitting the screenplay was very easy. I am on the site a lot, searching through all of the festivals, trying to find where I should submit my screenplay next. I have a feeling that I will definitely be using FilmFreeway a lot in the future.

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

After working on my screenplay for so long, I was lost on how to go about doing anything with it. I’ve written this story and I am proud of the work I’ve done, but what do I do with it next? That’s actually when I found the Festival for Horror. It was almost like it was meant to be. Sure, I felt good about my screenplay and thought it had potential, but it would be nice to see if others felt that way, especially if they were others who know what they were talking about. I had to know if what I’d written actually had something to it or if I was just being crazy.

I was thrilled with the initial feedback I received on The Stafford Multiplex Theater. The feedback was very much what I had expected. I knew that whoever read it would find it to be fun and I knew that the script had some strong elements and that was the feedback I received. I knew going in that I still had a lot of work to do on it. I never expected to win or even place or anything like that. That wasn’t my goal. My goal was to see if I’m knocking on the right door and it seems that I am. The tips I received on how to make the script better were very valuable to me and have helped me tremendously. I’m glad that I chose to enter the festival. It was absolutely a great decision. From the feedback on the full script and then the best scene reading now being posted online, I have had a great experience with the festival.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Interview with Screenwriter Mark Spurlock (The Outlaw Josey From Wales)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Mark Spurlock: The travels of three misfits looking for a missing family member.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Western comedy

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

We need more comedy westerns.

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

Laughable parody.

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

The Big Lebowski

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

For a couple of years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Just two with a couple in the works.

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?

Trying to find an ending.

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

My children.

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

Great. They let me know what’s going on in the festival world.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

After learning his brother is missing a Welch not so outlaw must leave his country and travel to America to find him. With the help of an Indian tracker and a gay sheep herder, the three leave an everlasting mark on American history.

CAST LIST:
Bison Bob: Sean Ballantyne
Man at Table: Allen Brunet
Narration: Isabel Kruse
Josey: Brandon Knox
Popeye: Aaron Williams

Interview with William Opperman (NEW TO THIS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

William Opperman: A young man who is unsure of his sexuality is lucky enough to find, through a chance encounter on a subway train, a gentle, more experienced guide.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

LGBTQ, romcom

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

The story is simple, but universal. Who hasn’t needed help at some point in their lives?

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

Sexy, tender.

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

Before my time: All About Eve
In my prime: If…
Contemporary: Talk to Her, The Lives of Others, and Spotlight
(Note: All incredibly strong scripts!)

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

A little over a year. The basic storyline was excerpted from a novel I’m working on.

7. How many stories have you written?

More than a dozen, fewer than a score.

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

A dangerous question! I’m an opera lover, and a Wagnerite to boot. So Meistersinger is in many ways the best answer to the question. But there’s always “Hey, Jude” and about twenty Joni Mitchell songs.

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

Sex is a major element of the screenplay, and it was tricky to find the right balance of unapologetic frankness and good taste. I was also worried that it might be too Tea and Sympathetic, if that makes sense. I hope the eventual audience will enjoy the journey and fill in any blanks with their own memories.

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

My husband and my kids, movies, opera and other serious music, Jane Austen and Thornton Wilder, and maybe politics. I wish I were either totally uninterested in politics or consumed by them. Instead I swing between evangelistic zeal and total indifference.

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

The great thing about FilmFreeway is that it manages your scripts for you. You upload your work once and submit it to as many places as you want. Results are tracked for you as well.

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

The feedback was incredibly helpful. Encouragement is always nice, and heaven knows it can be hard to come by, but even better was the advice: Pull back on this element, emphasize that one; heighten the conflict; specify, make it move, let it breathe. I owe you guys a lot! Thanks.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A crowded subway car affords a young man a chance at self-discovery.

CAST LIST:

Dog Owner: Isabel Kruse
Barry: Neil Bennett
Narrator: Val Cole
Paul: Geoff Mays
Jack: Jarrod Terrill

Interview with Screenwriter Mark Allard-Will (Herculean Task)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Mark Allard-Will: Herculean Task is an attempt to Frankenstein Greek mythology with Black Comedy. The premise is simple: What if using terms of exaggeration could get us in to literal trouble, not just verbal discourse? The result is a bonkers script that, while needing a re-write, is an example of how something as rigid as mythology can be fused with irreverent styles of comedy.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The one definitive genre would be comedy, but a good moniker for the screenplay might be ‘fusion’.

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

Wilder forms of comedy are gaining traction now, in Canada, in the USA, Britain and Europe and this screenplay is inventive in it’s own way – inventiveness seems to be what producers are seeking out now. It utilises the graveyard humour of French and German comedy and that, in and of itself, is still fairly fresh to American, Canadian and British audiences.

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

Out there

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

Super Troopers

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

I probably dedicated about six hours to it and knocked it out as one of my comedy soaps (short sketches) scripts and moved on to the next one. Admittedly, it would need some touching-up by myself if someone were to adapt it.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m a published author of graphic novels, so if you include my graphic novels and screenplays we’re probably looking at eight stories

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

Raining Blood by Slayer

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

For sure, I’d say my own self-dismissal

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

I love mythology, regardless of whether it’s Norse, Greek, Mesopotamian, Aztec, Maya – it doesn’t matter, I love it all the same. I’m also a massive Metal Head and a huge fan of world cinema; to me, there’s nothing better than watching a German comedy movie or a Danish drama.

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

I love FilmFreeway. It’s easy to use and very intuitive, I’d recommend it to all budding film-makers and screenwriters

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

As a published author, I’m used to working with editors and I actually love the process of editing my manuscripts. What a good editor does is give you notes that help you make your work absolutely flawless; notes that give you ideas of how to improve your work in your own writer’s voice. So, you say feedback, I say notes that show me how this quickly banged-out script could be improved if a producer were ever to pick it up and ask for a re-write – to put it another way, I was happy with your notes, because they exposed the weaknesses in my script. As for why I entered the festival, every up-coming writer needs feedback from WildSound to channel their screenwriting in to being a better, stronger beast.  

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Comedy and mythology collide in Mark Allard-Will’s Short Screenplay, Herculean Task.

After climbing a Mountain with his girlfriend, Sheila, and claiming that he’s completed a ‘Herculean task’ in doing so, he mysteriously finds himself in Ancient Greece tasked with actually completing Herculean tasks (commonly known as The Twelve Labours of Hercules).

CAST LIST:

King: Allen Brunet
Narration: Isabel Kruse
Derick: Brandon Knox
Sheila: Kyana Theresa

Interview with Screenwriter Eric White (BLIND VAMPIRE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Eric White: The 15-minute Short is about a vampire who was blinded in an ambush. She learns to survive throughout the centuries by using the vision of animals and her ability to compel beings through thought. In the Short we see: (1) Healthy vampire Dreven, (2) Blinded Dreven and (3) Dreven overcoming her disability. It’s heartwarming in a horrible sort of way.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Horror, Action

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

Vampires typically don’t have a disability — they are either very strong and resilient or dead. In this case, the vampire Dreven adapts to her disability in a seemingly “normal” way by using a service dog that she has trained to detect danger, protect her and hunt for blood.

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

Pragmatic adaptation.

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

Fifth Element

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

1 month

7. How many stories have you written?

I have mature scripts for “Blind Vampire” and “Vapor”, a Sci-Fi Steampunk TV Pilot. And nascent scripts/stories for two more Pilots, “Unseen” and “Not So Charming” and one feature, “Dead Princess”.

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

Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

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

Targeting 15-minutes in length and I struggled with the ending. Some will feel it ends abruptly. I could have explored a relationship with the neighbor, making the script longer, but I preferred bloodlust over just plain lust and kept the script to 15 pp.

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

Beach, beagles, and irreverence.

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

It’s great. I feel like I’m not presenting work through a portal but, rather, sharing my accomplishments with a community.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival?

The festival struck me as welcoming, constructive and interested in my work, not just building a lengthy participant list to legitimize their festival – particularly new ones.

What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

The feedback — in particular the tone, not just the content — was far more helpful and encouraging than most all other reader responses I’ve received.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Centuries after a being ambushed, a blinded vampire survives thanks to her seeing eye dog.

CAST LIST:

Thug Leader: Daniel Jones
Boris: Steve Rizzo
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Dreven: Caroline Concordia
Melanie: Emily Weir
Celia: Judy Thrush

Interview with Screenwriter Morgan Schefflin (L.A.’s Finest)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Morgan Schefflin: The backdrop of the script is about making a one hour TV procedural. However, the heart of the show is about relationships: friendship, love between current/old flames, and love of family.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It is a dramedy, so it falls under the drama and comedy genres.


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

TV and movies are supposed to be entertaining for an audience. I firmly believe that this script is extremely entertaining and scripts are eventually meant to be seen and not read.

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

Witty, heartfelt

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

Rocky

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

I’ve been working on this script on and off for about 10 years. The last year or so I’ve worked with network executives and managers to really show me how I needed to shape this to be what it is now.

7. How many stories have you written?

If we’re talking stories in general, not scripts, then probably 100s in various forms of short stories, scripts, plays, etc. I think I’ve written around 15 screenplays, and I think I have around 30 scripts in various stages of development.

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

My favorite song is Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley.

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

Oh man, what obstacles didn’t I face? For context purposes, I loved writing when I was in elementary school. I really started to get into writing scripts when I was in 7th-8th grade, but I could never find real training in how I should write a script until my mid 20’s. Up until that point, all of my writing techniques were self-taught. When I was looking for colleges I had a really hard time finding a program for screenwriting. I eventually found something at Full Sail University and I learned a lot about what I was missing in this particular script during that time. Last year, I found another program through RoadMap Writers where I can work with Network executives and Managers. That really got me to the point of where it is now. However, I had to work with many various executives and managers because screenplays are very subjective, obviously. Also, this particular script takes place in the world of TV, so it’s getting scrutinized even harder than a regular script would. I’ve been told this will never sell. I’ve been told to try something else. I’ve been told almost everything you can be told to discourage you from not continuing this script, but I’m very passionate about these characters and their stories.

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

I like watching my sports teams and playing sports. Unfortunately, all my teams are generally terrible, so watching them is very painful (Jets, Mets, Nets, Devils). I’m a big movie buff, so I love to watch movies. I don’t get as much time to play games as I was when I was younger, but right now I’m playing The Division 2 and revisiting some older games I didn’t get a chance to finish.

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

My experiences have been pretty good. It’s been easy to submit and if I had a question the people have been responsive.

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

I have entered the festival previous times, but unfortunately I had received a lot of conflicting feedback. Now that I had time to work with Managers and Network executives to fine tune my script, I wanted to see if it had paid off.

It turns out it has!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Logline: A TV showrunner clashes with his head writer and network executive girlfriend to get his pilot made as promised to his niece before he gets ousted out of the TV business for good.

Genre: Drama, comedy

CAST LIST:

Steve (20s)– 4 – Steve Saet
Josh (50s) 11 – David Occhipinti
Narration Ella A
Ryan (30s)– 30 – Michael Ruhs
Jenny (20s-30s) – 19 – Barbara Bergeron