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 Filmmaker Marc SAEZ (FOLLOW THE ARROW)

FOLLOW THE ARROW played to rave reviews at the February 2020 ROMANCE Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Marc SAEZ: I wanted to talk about desire, sensuality, love but also talk about appearances that can be deceiving and dive people into the cinematographic universe that I love by surprising them. I like films that open up different paths and can give way to different debates and visions at the end.

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

The film was shot in only 3 and a half days. It was a real challenge. The scenes from the beginning in the studio, when she falls in the painting and the love scenes were shot in a studio on the same day, it was a real marathon. I cannot quantify the overall completion time because the film has been finalized according to each other’s dispositions.

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

My film is a fantastic and sensual Thriller. A Romantic film in the pure sense of its definition.

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

The biggest obstacles are always the lack of resources. The film has been self-produced so it necessarily requires certain restrictions that push you to be more imaginative sometimes.

A number of things were complicated. First of all, there are places that I absolutely wanted.

I was the one who found all the sets for the film. I wanted material in the image, from the flowing pavement, to the purple curtains of the first meeting, the material, the places also had to release sensuality. The streets that I also found were not located in the same places that we have quite a lot of movement in Paris and Véronique ran a lot with shoes not really adapted, she was very brave. The love scenes were a challenge too. Finding the right partner for Véronique was important. She and Jean Marie were already romantically associated in a short film I had seen. Jean Marie became a friend it was easier to ask a friend to play these scenes there because it would be taken as a fun challenge. There was no inappropriate gesture on his part. These scenes were very technical contrary to the strong sensuality and eroticism that emerges from them. But I wanted it to be a passionate explosion and for the audience to be swept away in this torment of the senses as the character of the film is.

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

I loved your feedback because what the audience said is exactly what I wanted to achieve by making this film. Dragging them into my universe and surprising them, leaving open tracks, although all the answers are distorted in the film everywhere. The challenge was to tell this story and make you go through a lot of feelings in just 13 Minutes.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Véronique lived with a painter at one point in her life. I love painting and sculpture. I find the relationship between a creator and his muse very erotic and fascinating. The respect that creates this sensuality between the two protagonists sometimes. And what really interested me was to say: “If, as man or woman, I was seduced by someone that turned out to be an artist but who had had a very dark, tortured or disturbing universe in his creations, will I let myself be seduced and dare to have a love affair with him or her ? Take Bacon, for example.”

From there I wanted to build a love story like a thriller with all the codes of the thriller and its false leads. We believe, we seek to interpret, there is suspense… In the end it’s just a love story and two adult people running away from love because they may be afraid of it.

The real painter of the paintings in the film, Claude Duvauchelle, has a habit, for example, of recuperating bones in nature or of asking his butcher to clean the bones and modify them into sculptures.

The bloody knife of the beginning takes you without fail on a track and you believe in murder from the beginning… while he is an artist in full reflexion, he has just cleaned bones and his creative material is protected under canvas covers in his studio. That’s where the blood comes from. There are also sculptures with bones in the gallery. Véronique stops in front of one of them and looks at her for a moment. Nothing is left to chance.

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

There is not a film there are films that speak to me and touch me more than others like for example the film of Juan José Campanella «El secreto de sus ojos», Joker,

In the mood for love, Parasite, the fountain by Darren Aronofsky or even films like The wife with Glenn close which is of absolute leadership strength and intelligence for me. The power of silence, of glances… brilliant. All the films of Chaplin by Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock are marvels of ingenuity.

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

This platform is excellent and makes it easy to make his films travel around the world.

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

The songs of Charles Aznavour or Sinatra. Smile by Michael Jackson that touches me, “When i fall in love” by Iglesias and Dion, am an unconditional fan also of the singer “Rag’n bone man”, Whitney Houston and Barbara streisand make me cry every time.

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

I just made my second short “THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME” that captures the subject of metoo and is a shout that I wanted to launch and a fight that I absolutely wanted to lead alongside the harassed women and men around the world. The film is a success everywhere except in France where there is still an omerta and barriers that have not fallen despite the free speech. The film has so far won 87 awards around the world, including 33 awards for Véronique Picciotto.
She is remarkable in the film and her partner Olivier Hémon is also a great actor. I will try to use the dynamics of these two films to move to my feature film(s).

I have one completed but which is more intended for the American market and quite difficult to finance and a second more reasonable which is in the middle of finalization at the writing level.

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Interview with Filmmaker Alex Sangha (MY NAME WAS JANUARY)

MY NAME WAS JANUARY played to rave reviews at the February 2020 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Alex Sangha: The social coordinator of the non-profit that I founded for LGBTQ South Asians and their friends was brutally stabbed 18 times in her own home. She was a transgender Filipina woman. She was a much loved member of our organization and we wanted to create a tribute for her to showcase her light, legacy, and love in the minds of people she left behind. We wanted to share her story as we knew her and what she meant to us and to provide a platform for other transgender woman of colour.

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

Three years. We hired two journalism students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey BC Canada. Elina Gress and Lenee Son were both women of colour and this was their first film.

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

Authentic and real

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

It was difficult to obtain funding at first because this was our first film and we did not have a track record.

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

Feeling a bit nervous and anxious. I was pleased with the feedback overall. I am confident in the end product. My Name Was January has won 14 international awards, and garnered 59 official selections at film festivals around the world. It also landed three distribution deals through Moving Images Distribution of Vancouver, OUTtv and OUTtvGo in Canada, and Revry of California, which is a queer streaming platform. The reception to the film has been positive overall and it has also sparked critical discussion and debate on various issues such as the sex trade, transgender rights, human rights, and violence.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

We wanted to eulogize and create a memorial or tribute to our dear departed friend, January Marie Lapuz

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

I am a big fan of the entire Star Wars series. I feel Star Wars has a theme of good vs. evil and the light being a force for good and defeating darkness. I feel society as a whole deal with this similar battle at an individual and even broader societal level.

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

I really love Film Freeway but I wish it was cheaper to submit films. Cost can be a barrier to get your films to film festivals.

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

I am a big fan of I dreamed a dream which is on the Les Miserables soundtrack.

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

Emergence: Out of the Shadows which is about the coming out journey of gay and lesbian South Asians and the reactions of their parents. For more details check out https://emergencefilm.net/

Interview with Filmmaker Brian Ernst (WELL DONE)

WELL DONE was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival in February 2020.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Brian Ernst: We initially set out to make this film for a short film contest and the idea sprang from a conversation I had with producer and star of Well Done, Mitchell Brinkman. In a brainstorming session he came up with the idea of a burger on a grill being used as a ticking clock and we ran with it from there.

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

The first draft of the script was completed on May 9, 2019, we shot on August 17 and the 24th and the film was finished on August 28, so post was quite the quick turn around!

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

Well done 😉

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

Casting and weather. I think we were down to the Wednesday before filming on Saturday before we locked in Eric Block as Mr. Hillcrest, the boss, so that was stressful. We also had the film scheduled for a one day shoot which bit us in the rear when it rained all morning. We broke the day in two, shoot everything with our lead solo in the morning (all shots by the grill, reactions, etc.) and then only have the crowd for the second part of the day. So since we were rained out, we scrapped the morning shots, filmed in-between rain outs and picked up solo shots the following weekend with a crew of just Mitch and myself.

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

Most of the comments on our film were very positive, so it was nice to hear what worked for everyone.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

After thinking on Mitch’s concept of using a burger as a ticking clock, I really started factoring in what was available: My backyard was a free location, I just bought my first grill, making a mostly VO short would make a one day shoot possible if we weren’t reliant on on-set dialogue, and I could get friends and family to fill out the party. After we set the rules, we stayed within those guidelines to find a story that worked.

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

Tommy Boy. Classic comfort food.

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

I like it when it’s easy to find what you qualify for. Short films are tricky, especially one that’s as short as ours, so being able to set up a single project and find put what it qualifies for is refreshing.

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

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

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

Next up is probably a longer screenplay or series. Our producing group is really into episodic comedy, so finding the right show concept that we can produce ourselves is probably what we’ll strive for next.

well_done_movie_poster

Interview with Filmmaker Yijun Pan (RED THREAD)

RED THREAD was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2020 Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Yijun Pan: Red Thread of Fate is a belief in Asian culture that, according to the ancient myth, the god ties an invisible red cord around the finger of those that destine to meet one another in a specific situation as they are “their true love.”
Involving Asian culture with the American film making technique is always my dream and goal of me for a long time.

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

I think it is about two months. Pre-production and production took us about two weeks to come up with ideas and themes, looking for actresses and production design and around two weeks for post-production. And we spend a lot of time on scoring and mixing sound to make sure everything is perfect. Meanwhile, we just finished our new poster for the short film in order to promote the film! Experimental filmmaking gives us a lot of freedom to play with every possibility to make our film as creative as possible.

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

Visible Love

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

Editing and composing. Editing is the definitely one of the hardest part. Thanks to my amazing DP and Editor Anh Vo, he composed the footages we had into an exquisite piece that tells a meaningful story. The challenge of scoring for film is different from just writing a song, you have to create your up and down according to the developing of the film. This project provides us the opportunity to collaborate with our talented composer Gabby Henderson to create such a sweet and sad melody.

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

I think most of the audience, no matter from this festival or some other festival I’ve screened before, they are amazed by the cinematography and the crispy sound, but they don’t really understand what the short film is about because of the cultural differences. Still, after I explain and also show one of our documentaries short called “The Making of Red Thread,” people realize the meaning behind the story, they gave me excellent feedback!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Inspired by some of me and my friends’ past relationships, many people will be involved in part of your life, some stay, some go away. The “red thread” not only tie on the one hand. I’m trying to make those invisible emotions such as “love, sadness, pain, and anger…” into something we can see, we can touch, we can feel, no matter where you from and where you belong.

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

The Great Gatsby & Atonement

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

Nowadays submitting a film for different film fest is way easier thanks to a platform like FilmFreeway, our films can be seen by more and more people, I really appreciate that!

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

“Move on” from Garden city movement. This song encourages me so much when I had a tough time in the past. And the music video of this song is always my inspiration for something I want to make!

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

Experimental film is the path I’m exploring right now, combining the technique of experimental film making with some other genre such as narrative shorts or music video would be something I want to try! And I’m also thinking about making Red Thread 2.0, develop the original theme with more creative ideas and possibilities!

red_thread