Interview with Winning Screenwriters Jennifer Woldman & David Maddox (A STUDY IN SCARLETT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

A Study in Scarlett is a re-imagining of the classic Sherlock Holmes, with inspiration also taken from American history circa late 1860s-70s. The enigmatic genius Scarlett Holmes is a bi-racial woman. She meets her loyal friend and partner Joanna Holmes, a struggling doctor, to solve a murder and save an innocent man from hanging. Throughout the series historical situations and events are explored through adaptations of Doyle’s classic tales. To solve each episode’s puzzle, and the interlocking season-long mystery, the legendary sleuths must navigate issues of race and inequality, and the complicated nature of justice.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Mystery, Historical fiction

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

It is the right moment in America for a television series like A Study in Scarlett. Through the eyes of these diverse characters we explore a time in American history whose echos we feel today in our laws and culture. As past readers have pointed out, A Study in Scarlett gives us an opportunity to explore modern themes of race, gender, equality, and justice through the lens of classic Holmes tales. These are conversations that we need to be having in modern day America as we confront our own history, and our future together, and this series can be an access point.

This series can reach a broad audience — classic Sherlock fans will find the stories and characters familiar, and we stay true to the spirit and rollicking fun that has made the original work a classic, and it’s more recent reincarnations huge successes on the big and small screens. The diversity of the characters and the compelling issues we tackle will appeal to a younger, more modern audience, who might not have seen much for them in recent Holmes remakes. History fans will love this exploration of an under-represented, yet critically important, era of American history. There is truly something in this series for everyone.

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

Scarlett Holmes

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

Jen – Probably Empire Strikes Back. Or maybe Harry Potter, because it is always on television, and sometimes we put it on like background music in my house.

David – The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The film changed my life as a child, that’s why I do what I do now.

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

About 9 months. The idea for A Study in Scarlett came to me last summer in the middle of moving. I was finally able to get the basic story down by October, and then David and I worked on it daily for about a month. We continue to make revisions based upon feedback.

7. How many stories have you written?

A Study in Scarlett is our first screenplay working as a team, but we each have been writing on our own for a long time. I have a completed novel named Redemption, and a work in progress novel named Earth Tour. David has a SciFi screenplay named Greetings from the Vortex, and an animated pilot called The Adventures of Darryl Springbornne.

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

Jen – Listened to most in my LIFE? Probably something by New Kids on the Block, lol, as I played those tapes on my boom box until they ran out in the early 90s. Hello from Generation X.

David – Jesus Jones. Their slight hit in the 90’s International Bright Young Thing. All the remixes of it!

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

We were very eager to obtain feedback from people of color, particularly Black women. We center diverse characters, and we want to make sure we are true to that lived experience. As a mixed race woman who as often felt “other” like Scarlett, this is a very important to me personally, and frankly it can be difficult to find professional readers with that background. If A Study in Scarlett were to move forward as a project, we would want to make sure the team we work with is appropriately diverse.

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

Jen – I have two teenage boys with special needs, so they are my main passion! Politics, and my career in technology, and theatre.

David – I’m a performer and filmmaker so that takes up a good deal of my time, and I have a casual interest in astronomy.

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

Coverfly has been a great experience for us!

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

We entered an early draft, in the hopes that we would get some valuable feedback to help make the script better. The feedback we got was helpful, and we’ve incorporated some of the notes in recent revisions. Hearing our words performed by actors is a thrill, and also a learning experience. Our goal at the end of the day is to see A Study in Scarlett on the TV screen, and we’re hoping exposure through Wildsound will help us connect with people who can help make that happen.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A re-imagining of the legendary sleuths, multi-racial Scarlet Holmes and aspiring-doctor Joanna Watson solve mysteries during the cultural upheaval of post Civil War America.

CAST LIST:

Officer: Isaiah Kolundzic
Narrator: Hannah Ehman
Male Doctor: Bill Poulin
Watson: Nkasi Ogbonnah

 

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Shane W. Smith (BLACK MIRROR)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Shane W. Smith: Matchsticks 2.0 is a Black Mirror spec script about a family caught up in a government push to genetically normalise its citizens, using biometric user data gathered from a popular game to target imperfect subjects.

But at its heart, this is a story about the dangers of allowing advanced technology to drive social change, and the dehumanising ways in which people with disability and other vulnerable people are too often treated in public discourse.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

In true Black Mirror style, Matchsticks 2.0 is first and foremost a dystopian sci-fi story. Its secondary genre is family drama.

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

Honestly, it probably shouldn’t. At least not until we strip the Black Mirror aspects out of it.

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

Tech-led genocide.

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

I’ve got four kids, so it’s no doubt something Disney. But if we’re talking by choice, it’s probably a three-way tie between Star Wars, Children of Men, and the M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen movie-length finale.

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

The first words of this story hit the page way back in 2016, but other projects took over. The bulk of this screenplay came together in the month of August 2019.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m a lifelong writer, with around ten published graphic novels and a number of shorter published stories under my belt.

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

Tricky question, and so many viable contenders! Edging out the others, partly because the dystopian sci-fi angle is tonally in line with Matchsticks 2.0, I’m going to go with Save Yourself and I’ll Hold Them Back, by My Chemical Romance.

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

One of the options presented to us when my son was diagnosed with ASD and ADHD several years was a regimen of powerful medication that would radically change his personality, an option that – after careful consideration – we turned down in favour of a more involved road of occupational therapy and intensive one-on-one time. Being presented with this choice triggered a range of conflicting feelings, and this conflict was absolutely central to the concept of Matchsticks 2.0. In comparison to the real-life issues that underpinned it, the actual act of putting the script together was practically a non-issue.

From a technical standpoint, Matchsticks 2.0 was one of my first attempts at a TV script and as such, earlier drafts of the script were a bit overwritten. Thankfully, my local screenwriting group helped me smooth out the narration and tone, with a view to keeping things punchy and simple.

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

Apart from writing? Only my family: my incredible wife of twelve years, Katie, and our four amazing children, Annie, Liam, Nella and Molly.

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

I have a complicated relationship with Coverfly. I love the convenience of having information centrally available, and how easy it is to locate festivals and competitions. The homogenous layout for each event makes it really easy for writers to find key dates, prices, and eligibility rules, as well as tracking updates for submissions.

At the same time, however, the ease of the platform also contributes to it being quite addictive and, if a writer like me gets a rush of blood to the head, it can be worryingly easy to spend a small fortune on competitions in a very short amount of time.

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

Although I’m a lifelong writer, I’m a newcomer to screenwriting, and I was looking for some indication that I was on the right track. There were several reasons I chose to submit Matchsticks 2.0 to this festival:
reader feedback for every entry was a huge draw;
accepting spec scripts for existing shows set this festival apart from most others I found;
and the potential to hear my words brought to life by a cast of professional actors was an incredibly enticing prize too.
The feedback I received was very positive in nature, and mirrored the positive reaction I’d gotten from my local screenwriting group. It was tremendously heartening and encouraging to feel like I was indeed on the right track.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

“Perfect is the enemy of special.

When the government starts to use data mining software in order to identify genetically imperfect citizens, the software’s lead designer must come to terms with what it means to be perfect, and decide what kind of life he wants for his children.

CAST LIST:

Sally: Rebecca MacDonald
Brad: Peter Valdron
Narrator: Justine Christensen
Daniel: Nick Hendrik
Mara: Georgia Grant
Tag: Thomas Fournier

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 Phillip Hollins (BLACKBALLED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Phillip Hollins: ‘Blackballed,’ centers on an awkward relationship between a black FBI agent and the newly elected white supremacist leader whose daughter, by some twist of fate, gets a heart transplant from the FBI agent’s son, causing them to flee together from hate group leaders who wish them harm.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Psychological thriller/drama

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

“Blackballed” tackles social issues in an entertaining way, yet is far from anything on TV today. You can say, made in the mold of “Breaking Bad” & “No Country for Old Men” but on steroids.

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

Intense and Explosive

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

Untouchables, Hacksaw Ridge & Mad Max: Fury Road

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

Always a work in progress.

7. How many stories have you written?

Over a dozen.

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

N/A. Way too many to name.

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

Blackballed involves a sensitive subject that’s fast and in your face. Yet was important not to over tell this story. When you finish reading the script, the one word I hope you’ll say is “Wow”.

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

Spending time with family and pets, making pizza, thinking of new ideas.

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

Filmfreeway allows us enter a variety of contests with hopes of competing at a larger scale.

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

All screenwriters want to know how their work stacks up among their peers. It’s important to gain traction. WILDSound has a reputation of being a solid contest. The feedback was great. It mirrored similar comments from other competitions.

Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Bucky: Scott Hilton
Nicole: Nadine Charleson
Narration: Esther Tribault
Travis: Pierre Simpson
Dr. Pendergrass: Ron Boyce

Interview with Screenwriter Whitney Stewart (STEAL THE LIGHT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Whitney Stewart: My screenplay, Steal the Light, is about the resilience of humans through war and disaster, and about family bonds that endure. The story takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans and in World War Two era Europe. A young journalist loses her home and career after Hurricane Katrina, then abandons everything to fulfill her German grandmother’s dying wish to find her brother who went missing on the Russian Front of WWII. The search tests the journalist’s courage and tenacity, but she survives to bring truth home.

Steal the Light was inspired by my own experiences of helicopter-evacuating after Hurricane Katrina, and later discovering a box of war letters that prompted me to search for my husband’s German uncle who went missing on the Russian Front of World War Two.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, historical.

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

Steal the Light will speak to families who have been affected by war or natural disasters, or to anyone who has lost a family member. In this time when people are searching for family history, and hoping to understand themselves by understanding their heritage, this film story will inspire audiences. The protagonist is a strong female who despite experiencing disaster learns to trust herself and unravel a poignant mystery that crosses time. She will leave audiences moved.

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

Enduring truth

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

Inglourious Basterds

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

I worked on the screenplay, on and off, for two years, but before that I spent five years going back and forth to Germany and Poland to track down my husband’s missing uncle who inspired a published book and this film script.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have published more than 25 books and have an archive of at least another dozen book or film stories.

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

“We Belong Together” by Rickie Lee Jones or “A Walk Across the Rooftops” by The Blue Nile

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

Writing a script based on my own story was challenging because I didn’t want to stick to the facts. Instead I wanted those facts to inspire a more interesting protagonist who faces more difficult conflicts than I faced. I also had to return to Europe three times to research WWII history as it happened in Germany and in rural Poland. I needed to hire a translator and a WWII expert to guide me on my work. I didn’t just sit down and write a historical drama; I actually dug for shrapnel and bones in former WWII battlefields.

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

Children, I love being around them. I also teach mindfulness and meditation to kids. I love to travel, study foreign languages, and visit museums. Of course I see more films than I can count every year. And I love to be outdoors and to exercise. I’m a big hiker, but I live in New Orleans where the land is flat. So, I travel to the mountains whenever I get the chance.

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

Browsing festivals and submitting my script was very easy on FilmFreeway. I plan to submit again.

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

I am interested in seeing more films by female writers and directors, and I like to see strong female leads. That’s why I submitted to the FEEDBACK Female Film Festival. I also wanted to watch/hear a table read, to help me in my writing. Of course, I hear my script in my head, but hearing other dialog interpretations is invaluable. After watching/hearing the read of my first scene, I’d love to see/hear more scenes read aloud.

Screenplay Reading: 

After Hurricane Katrina destroys her home and career, a young journalist abandons everything to fulfill her German grandmother’s dying wish — to discover the fate of her brother who disappeared on the Russian Front of World War Two.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Sean Ballantyne
Charlotte: Hannah Ehman
Anna: Nkasi Ogbonnah

Interview with Screenwriter Jeremy Kruse (MASTER OF NONE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Jeremy Kruse: My script, Master of None – Social Media, is about social media and how it can be toxic.

2. How does this script fit into the context of the MASTER OF NONE TV
show?

The script further explores Dev’s experience with racism.

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

Quit Sharing!

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

And Now For Something Completely Different – Monty Python

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

At least one day.

6. How many stories have you written?

Dozens and dozens.

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

Mr. Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan

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

The biggest obstacle was figuring out how Dev would deal with the situation.

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

Reading, spending time with my family and hygiene.


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

Film Freeway is user friendly and reliable.

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

I submitted my script to WILDsound FEEDBACK Film and Screenplay Festival because it is a respectable festival. My feedback was sound.

Screenplay Reading: 

When Dev receives abuse after an old insensitive comment he made on Facebook reemerges, he is forced to reevaluate his relationship with social media.

CAST LIST:

Nisha : Nadine Charleson
Benjamin: Pierre Simpson
Denise: Elizabeth Erhart
Shannon: Tiffany Davison
Narration: Esther Tribault
Dev: Atesh
Arnold: Sean Ballantyne
Ramesh/Malcolm: Ron Boyce
Todd: Scott Hilton

Interview with Screenwriter Ma Troggian (FOREIGN)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Ma Troggian: Foreign is a story about love, loss and immigration in a politically polarized America.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, Romantic Drama.

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

The script is timely. Foreign sheds light upon the importance of immigrants in America, while spontaneously telling an LGBTQ love story.

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

Sincere and political.


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

Moulin Rouge…

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

Four years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Two plays, one pilot, one short film and one feature film.

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

That’s hard. I listen to A LOT of music. Lately, Prière Païenne by Celine Dion.

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

Many. I was born and raised in Brazil. It took me a lot of work to research vocabulary and to feel confident writing in English. On top of that, I didn’t go to school for writing. I’m learning as I go. It took me many, many versions and a lot of honest feedback to get to this version.

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

Music, acting and politics. I’m a queer latina woman. I love to dress up and dance. Right now, I am about to release the fourth single of my career, followed by its music video. (You can check my music at http://www.matroggian.com, under music.)

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

Really great!

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

I was researching platforms that cherish LGBTQ work. I had a great experience with the festival in general and I loved the reading.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Foreign is a romantic drama following the journey of Julia, an undocumented immigrant from Brazil, trying to survive in Brooklyn. Julia’s dreams of being a singer are far left behind, and she now searches the city for a safe place to work as a server. After being assaulted by Davis, a business man who takes advantage of her status, Julia ends up hired under the table by Barbara, a successful restaurant owner. Julia and Barbara fall in love and impact each other’s realities. They live a profound love story, eventually threatened by Davis.

CAST LIST:

Various: Patrice Henry
Davis: Allan Brunet
Narrator: Kat Smiley
Barbara: Esther Thibault
Julia: Amiee Poulin
Ian: Gabriel Davenport