Interview with Winning Screenwriter Jay Strong (GREEN ACRES)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Jay Strong: About 25 minutes long… it’s about a couple finally making a personal connection to their new community.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a TV SHOW?

Because it’s a clever take on a familiar story and a loving twist on a set of familiar characters.

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

Naughty silliness.

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

Impossible to say, I love the movies I love, but I love even more discovering new ones I’ve never seen before.

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

This one was quick, maybe a month total, though the idea percolated for over a year after a casual conversation with friends who were also fans of Green Acres.

7. How many stories have you written?

Hard to say, I started writing in earnest in grade school. Maybe two dozen short pieces (stories, sketches, short plays), two novels, ten full length screenplays (on my own or in collaboration), two tv pilots (with pitches and subsequent episode outlines), three stage plays, one musical, and over thirty years worth of stand-up material,

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

Monkey in Your Soul – Steely Dan. And pretty much everything else by them.

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

Full time job, consulting on a cabaret show, running a weekend writing workshop, and the death of my last parent.

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

Rewriting, performing, directing, editing, photography, sex, laughing.

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

So far so good.

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

I had written very little of what could be called fan fiction (one of my screenplays spun out of my love for the Man from UNCLE) and was looking for somewhere to submit thi 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Oliver and Lisa deal with the Ziffels shooting a porno in their barn.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
Oliver (M): Bill Poulin
Eb (M): Scott Beaudin
Lisa (F): Alicia Payne

Interview with Winner Screenwriter Greg Emmerth (PALMETTO)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Greg Emmerth: On a basic level, a wayward son returns home for his mother’s birthday. On a slightly deeper level, it’s about how people allow the past, and past grievances and holding onto pain for far too long, to hobble their present lives.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s primarily a family drama.

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

I believe in the story, and that there is an important message in trying to move beyond the sometimes negative circumstances that bring us to where we are in life.

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

I’d call the script a ‘pleasurable burden.’ The story itself in two words I would describe as ‘vicarious dysfunction.’

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

I’m a bit of a nerd, so I suspect the combined Star Trek films would be it. I also really enjoy Dangerous Liaison with Glenn Close and John Malkovich and have watched it countless times since it came out in the 1980s. It’s an amazing character study in duplicity and revenge with highly nuanced performances.

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

On and off for over a decade. I just revisited it roughly 9 months ago after about 2 years away from it.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written 5 short films, all of which were produced, two published novels and two unproduced feature screenplays. I tend to work on several projects at once and bounce between them, so I have a novel, a short film and this project all under construction at the moment.

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

At 50, with decades of music under my belt, that’s a hard one to answer. I think ‘One Moment in Time’ by Whitney Houston or ‘I’m Still Standing’ by Elton John. They’re both inspiring in their own way and have pulled me through more than one rough patch. Right now, I am enjoying the acoustic version of ‘Have it All’ by Jason Mraz.

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

Finding the time to work on it given the competing priorities, coupled with struggling to call it done and stop tweaking it. A word here, a couple lines there… it’s challenging me for me to not want to edit it.

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

Depends on the season. With winter here if I’m not at work I try to be on my snowboard. It’s a great escape and way to recharge from the week. I love learning. Three degrees down and most likely going back again in a year or two. Lastly, always trying to take the road less traveled.

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

I have not had any issues with them whatsoever.

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

For me it was the feedback and opportunity to see part of it read aloud. I enjoyed the feedback and tend to focus on festivals that provide it. Even when negative, I find value in getting a different perspective. I don’t always follow their notes, but I think I’ve been able to make some pretty significant leaps forward by incorporating feedback into the latest draft.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Jack, a young, wealthy, gay man returns home to Charleston for his mother’s birthday, a few years after his father’s death, and still hasn’t resolved his anger for them both.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
Jack (M): Geoff Mays
Jamie/Elton (M): Allan Michael Brunet
Connor/Robert (M): Steve Rizzo
Carol (F): Hannah Ehman
Liz (F): Kyana Teresa
—-

Interview with Screenwriter Federico Vicino (Karl Reagan: The Capitalist-Communist)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Federico Vicino: Karl Reagan: The Capitalist-Communist is about a dark horse candidate running for a seat in Missouri’s House of Representatives. Set on the heels of a near-apocalyptic nuclear winter, his platform is to fuse the best characteristics of capitalism and socialism to help the common person realize the struggling American Dream. His pitch to the electorate is a devotion to standing up to corporate greed.

Karl’s unconventional strategies has led to great notoriety in that area. For instance, he wants to allocate funds towards the essentials; money for food, medicine, a cleaned-up ecosystem…and for everyone to get the latest iPhone. He hosts bottomless brunches at soup kitchens. He composes songs that will be the anthem to his revolution and hopes one day he can sell those songs for big bucks to a car commercial. Karl seems to be his own enigma, but always has the voters’ best interest at heart. His opponent, a politically established contender named Tom Baker, uses conventional and tiresome tactics to label Karl’s candidacy as ludicrous and too idealistic. Their rivalry will come to a head come election day.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Dark Comedy.

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

Political satire has long been ingrained in American pop culture and I feel this screenplay comes at a perfect time given the tumultuous political climate. Even with the current instability, this script can cut across the political aisle and reach a broad audience.

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

Organized Chaos.

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

It is a tie between Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas and Taxi Driver.

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

I came up with the idea for this character a couple of years ago, but I worked on this screenplay for about nine months.


7. How many stories have you written?

I have written five completed screenplays, including this screenplay.

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

If I had to choose, my favorite song is “Rocks Off” by The Rolling Stones. It’s confluence of disorganization and harmony makes it the perfect song to me. It is organized chaos.

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

An Obstacle I faced to finish this screenplay, at first, was writing a feature-length script to this story. I was stumped on how I could make this story more than 80 pages. However, as I kept coming up with more situations and how I envisioned Karl’s journey panning out, I found myself not being able to stop writing. Up to this point, this is the longest screenplay I have written at 116 pages.

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

Apart from writing, my passion is my daytime job, which is being a Licensed Social Worker. I feel that my career is really fulfilling and I have worked with various populations, such as adults, middle schoolers, alcohol/drug users and undocumented immigrants.

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

I LOVE FilmFreeway. It such an accessible platform to get your work out to many different festivals, along with finding festivals that I have never heard of before. I would recommend this site to anyone who wants to promote their screenplay.

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

I was drawn to this festival as I read the information about this festival and the great reviews it got. I was really touched seeing a portion of my table read, as I never had one of my screenplays had a table read before. The feedback was great as it was encouraging, while at the same time gave great pointers as to how to enhance and improve certain areas of the story.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Karl Reagan is an underdog candidate running for a seat in Missouri’s House of Representatives. Set on the heels of a near-apocalyptic nuclear winter, his platform is to fuse the best characteristics of capitalism and socialism to help the common person realize the struggling American Dream. Mr. Reagan’s pitch to the electorate is a devotion to standing up to corporate greed, especially to a company called NuTech who has not fulfilled their promise of cleaning up the environment after the catastrophe. His unorthodox approach to stumping on the trail leaves voters enthused, angered, and baffled. His rival, a politically established contender named Tom Baker, uses conventional and tiresome tactics to label Karl’s candidacy as ludicrous and too idealistic. As his campaign progresses, Karl Reagan gets a slice of American values, fortitude, hardships, and inconsistencies. The electorate get a front row seat of his as well.

CAST LIST:

Eric: Matt Schichter
Karl/Randy: Ted Powers
Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Marcus: Gabriel Darku
Jeff: Sean Ballantyne
Serena: Katelyn Varadi

Interview with Screenwriter Danica Edelbrock (SHADOW DANCE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Danica Edelbrock: Shadow Dance is about a young woman finding her way in a fast city. She slows down to enjoy the subtle beauty of nature around her, transforming her life moving forward.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Shadow Dance is a drama.

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

I believe after college many young adults struggle to find what it is they are truly passionate about, who they are and may lack the confidence to pursue their passion. They find themselves drinking and partying to fill the void until something captivates and inspires them! In this film Jules experiences nature’s beauty while being reminded of the family and friends that love and support her. She doesn’t want to waste anymore of the precious time in her life.

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

Loving oneself.

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

Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe

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

I had the idea for this screenplay a few months ago and began to write it last month.


7. How many stories have you written?

I have worked in healthcare for the last 20 years so this is my first creative writing piece. I am now working on a sitcom and have written 5 episodes so far!

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

Pictures of You by The Cure

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

The biggest obstacle was overcoming my fear of writing. I never thought of myself as writer so actually putting my thoughts down to share with others was very intimidating. I first had my daughter read it and then my husband. He is an incredible writer; my biggest fan and critic. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. So far he likes all my work!

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

I am passionate about my career as an exercise physiologist! I have been blessed to work with incredible people over the years, guiding them toward health and a better quality of life through exercise and yoga.

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

It was very easy to use.

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

I wrote the script and then had no idea what to do so I decided to enter it into some contests and festivals. I choose this festival because I liked the idea of getting feedback. It’s difficult for me to receive feedback but I am getting better at it as I get older, more mature and confident.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A young woman finds herself through the simplistic, natural beauty around her.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf

Interview with Screenwriter Bennett Weinschenk (FOR BLOOD)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Bennett Weinschenk: Well, beside the obvious rescue mission, I’d say the film is about familial love, and learning how to be vulnerable. That it’s okay to show love as a vulnerable thing; it’s not something you need to protect yourself from.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Sci-Fi/Dystopian Action I’d say; Children of Men, Logan-type films.

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

It’s a female-driven action film that actually shows the consequences and carnage of action while avoiding as many story clichés as it can. The real question is why hasn’t this been made yet?

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

Love and Pain

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

Any of the Star Wars films; maybe Casino Royale. Maybe The Dark Knight? I don’t really keep track of these things, I just watch what feels right in the moment. Hopefully some of that tells you something about me.

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

Just over a year.

7. How many stories have you written?

Five. This, another feature, two pilots, and a short film. Plus everything I did at the beginning of college and high school. This is really all I’ve ever done.

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

“Finale” by Max Richter, from Mary, Queen of Scots. Max is a truly gifted composer (probably the most gifted, in my mind). Highly recommend.

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

Jobs, other screenplays I was writing, and generally making sure that I was getting this screenplay right. Developing the world of this film was definitely a major obstacle. I had to get really in depth with it, and not much of it is on the page. But it’s something you have to know as the writer.

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

Politics, unfortunately. I grew up in the DC suburbs so it kinda just seeped in. I’m also a passionate fan of the Boston Red Sox, and baseball in general.

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

They’ve been great. Very supportive. I always look forward to feedback.

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

I really wanted feedback from a different corner of the festival circuit, and I was really touched that your feedback didn’t rip me to shreds. I think you always kind of expect that your feedback is gonna rip you to shreds. But I got lucky.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

After a disease has wiped out millions of us, Universal Blood Donors will be identified and contained by the government. When Morgan Woodard found out his son Sam was O Negative, he took his family and went into hiding. Twelve years later, a man, desperate to survive, kidnaps Sam, and shoots Morgan. The only person left to save anyone is Sam’s older sister, Virginia.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
Sam (M): Bill Poulin
Morgan (M) Scott Beaudin
Virginia (F): Alicia Payne

Interview with Screenwriter Paul Raasch (UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS)

What is your screenplay about?

My screenplay is about the outer and inner workings of a society under the grip of a police state. This specific police state takes the form of a security firm with vast power and influence called Vane Security.

The overall story focuses on three main characters whose stories interweave with each other: Rosemary Banks, Jason Fischer, and Veronica Vane.

Jason is the half-brother of Rosemary and although the two genuinely care for each other (as siblings would), the two live by significantly different lifestyles. Jason is a petty thief who is content with surviving through committing low level crimes throughout Chicago and resides in a duplex with drug dealers. Jason, however, gets a wake up call when he stumbles upon the dead body of high ranking official to Vane Security and is seen as a suspect of the murder.

Rosemary is an up and coming comedian/entertainer who is generally upbeat and likes to joke around with others; however, her jokey facade slowly peels away as unfortunate events happen to her and her loved ones as the series progresses.
Finally, Veronica is the daughter of the Superintendent Deputy of Vane Security’s Midwest headquarters. Veronica is a precocious, independent young woman who grows resentful of her family as she discovers the dark secrets of the firm and starts to long for a more normal life away from the baggage that comes with her family name.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The genre for the series would be a hybrid of a Dystopian Drama with elements of Dark Humor throughout.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

I believe the series should be produced because of its unique take on the Dystopian genre. It focuses on a diverse set of characters that come from many different walks of life that all deal with the reality of living under a police state in different ways. Besides the engaging characters for the audience to identify with, the series has an element of mystery that will keep audiences invested throughout as stakes begin to rise and twisted secrets begin to surface.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Sardonic paranoia.

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

The films I’ve seen the most are films by P.T. Anderson, the Coen brothers, and Terry Gilliam. In terms of animation, I have a soft spot of French animated films like “The Triplets of Bellville,” and Studio Ghibli films like “Princess Mononoke,” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

It took me roughly 5 months to write the Pilot script and am currently writing more episodes.

How many stories have you written?

I’ve written a handful of stories spanning from prose fiction to screenwriting. While none of my stories have been published or sold (as of yet) I’ve been working on my craft for a number of years and am slowly growing my portfolio of written works.

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

One song I’ve been listening a lot to recently is “The Mercy Seat” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. It is one of the most darkly creative pieces of music I’ve heard with genius songwriting and poetic, schizophrenic lyrics.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Most of the obstacles I’ve faced when writing my script is internal strife regarding my writing abilities as well as constant overthinking and double guessing with plot details and character motivations due to the story’s unique set-up.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Apart from writing, I am a music and film aficionado. When I’m not listening to good music or watching a good film, I greatly enjoy playing with my dog and riding my bike outside.

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

This was my first time using Coverfly and I found the service to be smooth and accessible.

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

I submitted to this festival for feedback due to the affordable entry fee and their apparent care in giving well rounded feedback for the scripts submitted to them. I strongly encourage others to submit to this festival as well once they feel that their script is ready.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Set in a future version of North America where all law enforcement is replaced by a single security firm owned by a large family, an aspiring entertainer, and her half-brother, befriend the daughter of a distinguished member of the family. However, the three get tangled up in a conspiracy against the firm when one of the firms’ high ranking members is murdered.


CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
Yoldana (F): Hannah Ehman
Veronica (F): Kyana Teresa
Jason/Jason (M) Scott Beaudin
Cashier (M): Bill Poulin

Interview with Screenwriter Andrew Cooper (COME ALIVE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Andrew Cooper: A middle-aged gay couple’s attempt to rekindle their relationship turns into an absurd, hormone-fueled quest to defeat heterosexist aliens and save a new LGBTQ society.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s a fast-paced adventure-comedy, with a touch of sci-fi for kicks.

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

A madcap quest led by middle-age characters that’s queer through and through is something people have rarely, if ever, seen—but are ready for. Come Alive will satisfy younger and older LGBTQ audiences as well as others looking for a story off the beaten path.

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

Absurd fun

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

A three-way tie: National Lampoon’s Vacation, Foul Play, and Seems Like Old Times. I watched them almost on a loop when I was a kid, so often that my parents had to make a rule that I could watch them only once a month. I grew out of it but still have a silly streak.

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

I finished drafting circa November 2019 and have been tinkering ever since.

7. How many stories have you written?

I really don’t know. I’ve published 30 or 40 prose stories but written reams more. Since I started screenwriting a couple of years ago, I’ve churned out about 15 scripts (shorts and features).

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

Possibly “A Strange Day” by The Cure. It’s full of goth-y goodness while still being uplifting.

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

Life might have tripped me up once or twice, but the real obstacles lay in the writing itself. Even though I wouldn’t describe the script as a gut-buster, it is comedic, which was new to me. It required developing and trusting a different ear for dialogue. It also called for a sense of pacing that, for this story, made me squish events into an unbelievably short timeline. Mostly for chuckles, we go from weird to weirder to totally WTF in not many minutes. I also needed to write a lot of sex and sexual situations, more new-ish territory for me. Some of it is intentionally puerile, but I want some of it to be… hot. Strategies for writing hotness were definitely an obstacle. I can only hope I succeeded.

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

Movies, of course! We work a lot, but my husband and I take our screen time seriously, likely playing more video games than people in our age demographic in addition to streaming lots of TV shows and movies. Our cat, about whom we are ridiculously passionate, doesn’t seem to mind. When the world is open, we also love brunching all around Los Angeles and traveling when possible, often beating our feet raw so we can take in maximum museums.

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

It’s great for finding competitions and keeping my entries organized. I have also used Coverfly. Its scoring system is intriguing, but I don’t fully understand it.

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

I went looking for a place to send Come Alive and thought (hoped) this festival would be a perfect fit. Though I’d love for many audiences to enjoy it, the story speaks mostly to LGBT audiences, who are most likely to relate to the characters, get the humor, and possibly even feel, um, titillated. The festival’s inclusion of feedback for all entries also spoke to me, as I entered new territory with this script and need(ed) professional eyes on it. I was thrilled to get feedback that responded enthusiastically to the characters, humor, and story! I felt like my venture into uncharted territory might have worked out. I am especially excited about the upcoming full reading, a prize I will cherish—and an opportunity to hear how the timing I worked on actually operates.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Summary: A hilarious comedy about two men, TIM and ALVY, as they explore their sexuality again in their relationship.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
Tim (M): Steve Rizzo (8)
Alvy (M): Geoff Mays (9)