Interview with Screenwriter Ellen Winburn (WORTH WAITING FOR)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Ellen Winburn: Ryan, a Hollywood action star, makes an “art film” that turns out to not only be bad, but borderline pornographic. His agent and lawyers sort it out as he hides out in New York, working on a low budget revival of “Streetcar Named Desire”. The show’s designer, Ellie, is practically working for free. Her former mentor, Frank, stole her designs then discredited her, and now she’s got this one chance to overcome the reputation he’s inflicted on her. Ellie’s friend Mary Beth decides Ryan is just what Ellie needs. Ellie has been saving herself for her one true love, which Mary Beth thinks is silly. But really, who could resist a handsome action star? Ellie can, apparently, much to Mary Beth’s frustration. But what does grow is a strong friendship that later starts to bloom into love, until Frank learns of Ryan’s “art film” and tests the love Ellie has for Ryan.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Romance, dramedy

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

People enjoy their blockbuster action movies and high stakes thrillers and drunken comedies, but the simple romance hero story just never gets old. There aren’t enough of those out there.

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

Love triumphs.

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

Strictly Ballroom

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

It is the very first script I ever wrote, started in 2012. When no one wanted to see romance any more, I put it in a drawer. But then times changed, I broke it back out, and now it’s here!

7. How many stories have you written?

I have no idea as I’ve been telling stories since childhood and some ended as stories, novels, or stage plays mostly written for my own joy. But I have 11 screenplays that are either finished or in development. In 2018, I had 5 scripts place in 7 contests, including this one!

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

Take On Me

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

First, the fact that it was my first. I came up with the idea a long time ago, and I knew that this story needed to be a screenplay, but I’d never written a screenplay, so it took a very long time and many, many iterations. Second, the death of romance films for a while. Once I had it ready to send out, contests weren’t interested in the genre. Thankfully, that is changing!

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

My children and family. I have a son with cerebral palsy, and we spend a lot of time advocating for change in laws and in medicine. I have one optioned screenplay and it is centers around how a boy with a disability sees the world. We also adopted a child from foster care, a broken system, and work to advocate for children lost in it. And my husband, who in 2012 gave me screenwriting software and said “I don’t want to hear it, I want to read it.”

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

Pretty good. I’ve had a couple of placements, and of course the opportunity to work with all of you is great.

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

I like telling all kinds of stories. While this is my only “romance” film, every script I’ve written has this element because growing up, these were my favorite stories, songs, things to imagine – I was so the warrior princess. Finding a contest that actually embraces this genre is a challenge, so as soon as I found your festival I entered. The feedback is some of the best I’ve ever received, and I’ve entered a lot of contests. It pointed out clearly what worked and what could be better, and gave actual actions that could be taken. And I’m taking every one of them. Bravo!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A driven but can’t get a break technician and a lucky and successful actor find love but but as luck would have it, she must choose to finally pursue her chance or sacrifice it all for him.

CAST LIST:

Ellie: Emily Weir
Mary Beth: Regan Brown
Narration: Laura Kyswaty
Ryan: Kevin Robinson
Charles: Peter Nelson

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Interview with Screenwriter Roderick Sloan (HERO FAMILY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Roderick Sloan: Siblings who find out their parents are superheroes.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Animation, Kids, Superhero

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

My script isn’t for a movie it’s for a T.V. Cartoon I hope I can get made one day.
I feel the story is one kids can relate too.

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

Fantastic storytelling.

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

The Incredibles

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

4 weeks

7. How many stories have you written?

12

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

Life is a Highway-Rascal Flatts

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

I had the first draft of my script reviewed by a script editing service which gave me advice on how to make it better which lead me to write the second draft I entered.

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

Art

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

My first time.

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

I was looking for script contests online and I came across it. I liked the rating I got and it told what I need to do to improve my storytelling.

Watch the Script Reading:

CAST LIST:

Valerie – 15 – Sarah Bedford
NARRATION – Stephanie Herrera
Sara – 11 – Bree Ali
Ricky – 16 – Jolly Amaoko

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Gracious Vallarious (VIN AND JILL)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Gracious Vallarious: “Vin and Jill” is about finding acceptance in your true self, even if it means leaving behind an old life.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama-comedy.

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

To bring non-transgender people into a world that has had a limited voice. Our aim as creators is to have two emotionally empathetic characters that happen to be transgender, and to bring non-transgender viewers in to empathize as well. Everyone can relate to family, especially dysfunction.

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

Chosen family.

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

“Do the Right Thing”

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

3 years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Together as writing partners, Christopher Vallario and Grace Foster has at least one dozen executed stories.

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

Dream Lover by Bobby Darren.

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

Characterization and empathy.

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

Mental and physical geographies and cooking.

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

FilmFreeway has been a wonderful tool to gain exposure for our film projects and for our voices.

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

Some feedback we thought was dead on, as far as the working on the characterization of our protagonist, specifically his complexities. We did not agree with the lack of motive, which is Vinny’s desire to stay with his parents and the inner desire to be accepted as his true self. However we agree that this simply just needs to be clearer on the page.

 Watch the Screenplay Reading:

After drunkenly assaulting his intolerant father, a young transgender man, Vinny Talarosa, meets a fastidious lawyer and trans woman, Jillian Hunter, who helps him out of his family predicament. Relating to his experience, she invites him to stay with her, but on two conditions: he can’t drink and must keep a job. His father’s old school Italian ways push Vin out of Staten Island, while Jill gives him the key to his new family in Brooklyn.
When Vin drops the booze he meets a number of challenges in his journey to self-discovery: adjusting to a community of hipster queers, his family’s intolerance, and his own personal insecurities.

CAST LIST:

Taylor – 4 – KATELYN VARADI
Silver – 4 – PETER NELSON
Narration – NICK DOLAN
Vinny – 23 – KYANA TERESA
Jillian – 17 – ADRIAN CARLOS CARTER

Submit exclusively via FilmFreeway:

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Farook Qais (THE PORTAL)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Farook Qais: ‘The Portal’ is about a girl becoming a woman, her relationships with people in her life and the small matter of defending earth from whatever emerges out of a mysterious portal.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s a sci-fi drama.

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

Into a television show; well there’s nothing like it out there. I believe the depth of the main characters as well as the action and adventure that comes with the portal itself lend to an exciting show full of emotions and possibilities.

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

Go Shay.

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

‘The Crow’ by Alex Proyas, written by James O’Barr

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

It took me about six weeks from thought process to pilot script completion.

7. How many stories have you written?

Far too many to recall. In my life it’s definitely in the late hundreds.

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

‘The Stone’ by Phillip Phillips.

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

There were a few work commitments and family situations that came up, but it wasn’t going to be unfinished.

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

Sports. I watch a lot of it. I enjoy video games and I’m passionate about the people that are important to me too.

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

It’s been OK, although I haven’t quite been “discovered” as yet. Wildsound Fest has been a great start.

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

I was taken aback, but happy. Every new set of eyes that reads my work can only be a positive thing. To hear my characters come to life is an extra bonus for which I’m grateful.

 Watch the Screenplay Reading:

CAST LIST:

Shay – 8 – Brittany Clough
NARRATION – Jen Daniels
Laura – 12 – Anne McMaster
Terry – 13 – Ron Boyd

A FilmFreeway preferred festival:

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Robert Tartell (Hard-Hearted Hannah & Funny Boneyard)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Robert Tartell: Hard-Hearted Hannah: A rookie detective, sent on a routine hotel skip case, find himself instead up against a diabolical serial killer with a grudge against the Eight Air Force, holding their 25th reunion there. Can he stop him before he kills again…and again?

Funny Boneyard: A young entrepreneur, fresh out of a job but full of ideas, turns an overgrown hill property he has inherited into a Cemetery of the Absurd. To everyone’s surprise, he makes a killing- but then things go horribly wrong.
2. Genres: Hard-Hearted Hannah: Drama, War, Historical.
Funny Boneyard: Comedy

3.Why should these be made into movies?

a. Each is uniquely original, thought-provoking, well-written, and of appeal to a broad audience.

4. How would you describe your scripts in two words?

Hard-Hearted Hannah: War’s cost.
Funny Boneyard: Funereally Funny

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

The Third Man

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

Hannah 6 months, Boneyard 3 months.

7. How many stories have you written?

Four feature-length screenplays, Five short screenplays, several short stories.

8. What is your favorite song?

Desafinado (and Bossa Nova in general)

9. What obstacles did you face in finishing this screenplay?

For Hard-hearted Hannah, researching WWII and Eighth Air Force military/historical details . For Funny Boneyard, none- once the original idea hit, the screenplay naturally flowed.

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

I enjoy photography, especially abstract subjects, and a variety of crafts, lately jewelry making. I have always loved aviation, flew ultralights, and have an aircraft design I’d like to make (if my wife wouldn’t leave me.)

11. Re Film Freeway what has been your experience working with the submission platform site?

It seems user-friendly- no complaints so far.

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

I am interested in anything that will help bring my work to the screen. Feedback, positive or negative is always welcome.
 

 Watch the Screenplay Reading:

A rookie detective, assigned to a routine hotel skip case, instead finds himself pitted against a diabolical serial killer with a grudge against the Eighth Air Force. Can he stop him before he kills again…and again?

Genre: Thriller, Crime

CAST LIST:

Smith (f) – 7 – Jen Daniels
Lewis – 9 – Ron Boyd
NARRATION – Brittany Clough
Brown – 22 – Hugh Ritchie
Jill – 10 – Anne McMaster
Cole – 2 – Rhys Harrison

A FilmFreeway preferred festival:

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Gregory N. Ranky (GECKO ON-SIGHT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Gregory N. Ranky: In a world like ours, where conscious robots are commonplace, a courageous female android enters a futuristic martial arts tournament to save her old neighborhood from developers.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Sports (these last 2 primarily).

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

Because I want to see settings where conscious A.I.s are commonplace, and story conflict derives from nonviolent causes; and I’m tired of the predominant android/robot/A.I. stories from Hollywood being a variant of Frankenstein, Pinocchio, Pygmalion, or a slave uprising.

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

Android MMA.

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

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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

5 months on this draft.

7. How many stories have you written?

4 Feature Films and 1 Short Film as of January 2019.

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

‘The Remedy’ by Jason Mraz.

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

I had to research OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) and 4 martial arts styles for their movesets, develop convincing supporting characters, determine an engaging and valid motivation for my protagonist, and keep the pacing steady.

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

Advances in conscious A.I., alternative approaches to nuclear fusion.

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

Positive so far, I highly recommend it to other screenwriters.

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

Positive reaction to my submitted logline. I found the initial feedback useful and accurate, and plan to incorporate it into future drafts. 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Logline: To save her old neighborhood from developers, a courageous female android enters a futuristic martial arts tournament.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Sports

CAST LIST:

Umar – 8 – Ron Boyd
NARRATION – Hugh Ritchie
Liz – 217 – 16 – Jen Daniels
Tia – NG – 10 – Anne McMaster

A FilmFreeway preferred festival:

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Maurizio Caduto (LIKE A BLOODY MONKEY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Maurizio Caduto: To me, Like A Bloody Monkey is about the price of survival. Zehra’s traumatic transformation into a stronger character, who’s finally fit to fight for survival and revenge, begs the question: At which point the price becomes so high it defeats survival’s very purpose?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama. There are some elements of thriller and soft horror. But LABM is a grim, dark drama.

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

The struggle of transgender women in Malaysia is a story that needs to be told and I hope Zehra will help bringing much needed attention and empathy to it.

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

Soul-searching.

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

It’s got to be The Godfather. That movie just won’t age.

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

About eight years ago, I stumbled upon the actual events of a trans gender woman arrested in Malaysia and her ordeal. As I researched the topic, I found similar stories. Even though I knew I wanted to write a screenplay about this, it took me a while before I felt I was up to the challenge. Writing only started two and a half years ago. The first attempt took about 8 months and it was unsuccessful. I had not found a compelling angle, I did not fully understand my characters, the theme was unclear. I dedicated a few months to just think about all that. Eventually, a year ago, I started anew and, five months and a few rewrites later, I felt I finally had the right script. Then it took me more than a dozen revisions to get it to where it is now.

7. How many stories have you written?

Like A Bloody Monkey is my second feature length screenplay. I’m currently writing a new story, and I know I should rewrite my first one. But I have other stories lining up, so I’m not sure when that will come to pass.

I love stories. I grew up with stories my father would make up for us kids everyday. I’ve always written in one form or another. As an advertising creative I have written tons of stories in the 30″ to 60″ format – even though I was an art director. Writing a screenplay though, turned out to be a completely different challenge and a wonderful shock to the system.

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

You By My Side, by the late Chris Squire.

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

Quite a few, actually.

As a westerner living in Asia, I knew all too well that, I could become my story’s weakest element. I was afraid of becoming judgmental, patronising. This is the main reason it took me so many years to start writing. I needed to learn the local culture and sensibility well enough to strike the right tone. In other words, I had to earn the right to write this story. It took me a lot of honesty to admit that, sometimes I was sometimes forcing myself onto the story – and as much humility to step back. It wasn’t easy.

The other big challenge was deciding what kind of story I wanted to write. I knew from the start that, I did not want to just tell the true story of one transgender woman. Instead, I wanted for all those true stories to converge into one – hence, the ‘Inspired By True Stories’ title at the start. I wanted Zehra to become, in her dramatic rise and fall, the living proof that, discriminating and abusing those who are weak, poisons the very soul of our society. And LABM to be the story of Zehra’s unreciprocated, tragic, betrayed love for her own country.

Lastly, Malaysian slang is quite unique. Chinese dialects, Tamil and Malay expressions are routinely mixed with, and word-for-word translated into English. So you have basically at the least three different English-based dialects. Again, it took me a lot of time to get a sense of what sounded right. If overdone, it can sound quite cartoonish.

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

I am passionate about a-lot of things. My days are too short and my neurons too few to cope. In no particular order: Listening to and writing music. I was trained in classical music and have almost always been in a band, playing gigs. I also love woodwork and I build high-end custom guitars for a selected, like-minded clientele. Photography, movies, cinematography, editing, the whole cinema thing – I love it! I’ve been an advertising film director until three years ago, when I decided to focus on writing. Traveling is another life long passion of mine, and I’m often on the road. I make it a point to travel in the simplest possible way. I’m not particularly interested in sigh-seeings and touristic attractions though. Instead, I prefer getting close to people’s everyday life, which is were great stories hide.

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

Very good indeed. FilmFreeway keeps track of my favorite festivals and updates the status of those I entered, which is really cool.

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

I felt Diversity was the right festival for my story and I was intrigued by the possibility of a reading with professional actors. Amazingly enough, it actually happened – and it’s a great experience! I can’t even begin to explain how beneficial that is to further fine tune a script. Priceless.

The feedback I received was excellent. All points made were valid and clearly explained. Because of that, I could suddenly see areas that needed improvement and opportunities I had missed along the way – they were hiding in plain sight! Even notes I did not fully agree on, ultimately were hinting at something missing, something I had to look for. It certainly helped propelling the story to a higher level of both dramatization and clarity, for which I am grateful to the reader and the festival.

 
Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Logline: A Malay trans woman is forced into prostitution in jail and fights to survive and regain power over herself.

Synopsis: Malaysia, 1998: KARIM collects his brother Amir from the beach while Amir’s friends make fun of him. Flash forward to 2015 and we met ZEHRA as she leaves boyfriend DAVE in bed and goes to work. At work she talks to her friend Farah, a trans woman who is showing off her surgery. On being asked if Zehra wants breast work done, she says she is happy being as God made her. On the way to a club that night, Dave coerces Zehra into oral sex in his car despite watching police cameras. At the club we see a man (SHAVED HEAD MAN) leave before they enter. Zehra and Dave dance until the club is raided by police. Dave abandons Zehra and the police check her ID – we discover that she was Karim from the first scene. A police officer offers to let her go in exchange for sex and she assaults him. She is arrested for the assault and for “cross-dressing”, sentenced to 1 year in prison.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Val Cole
Zehra: Zena Driver
Warden: Nick Baillie
Menni/Jensen: Peter Mark Raphael
Dave/Peter: Russell Batcher
Farah: Valerie Courville
Hafiz: Ryan Singh

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