Interview with Screenwriter Sina Sultani (BEACON)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Sina Sultani: Beacon follows two women who must fight to retain their memories against a kidnapper desperate to harvest them.

It’s a psychological thriller about gender identity and mental illness framed in a unique setting using a non-linear narrative. Co-created and inspired by Maxi Garcia, a prominent member of the Trans community in Vancouver, our hope is to challenge and inform our audience while showing that a minority, female-led story can be heart-pounding, poetic and deeply personal.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Beacon is a psychological thriller with a non-linear structure both narratively and physically. Our goal was to introduce allegorical imagery and hyper-realistic settings to discuss our characters’ personal challenges. Drawing in tone from films such as The Lighthouse and The Witch, we wanted to paint a world that was stark yet heartbreakingly beautiful.

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

Films involving gender-diverse, female-minority characters are few and far between, let alone projects merging multiple genres. Even though we’re marketing Beacon as a psychological thriller, it’s a deeply personal metaphor discussing a character’s journey through sexual identification and an immigrant upbringing. We believe in the importance of this project because we believe in the expansion of the conversation. Our goal is to show that conventional genres can be elevated based on diverse casting and subject matter.

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

Starkly enigmatic.

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

That’s a difficult question to answer but I’m leaning towards David Fincher’s Se7en. The complexities of the narrative, characters, and mix of drama with sardonic doses of humour demonstrates a depth of realism that I hope to achieve within my own projects. For example, the throwaway line from Kevin Spacey to Morgan Freeman’s character, “I know you,” opens a slew of questions that never get resolved. Moments like those are beautiful and surprising given how much emphasis is placed on informing/catering to the audience. Also, that ending… what more can you say?

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

Concept to first version took 1 month with additional refinements ongoing. However, if I were to quantify everything together, I would say 1½ months have been spent developing and editing the script to-date. At the time, Beacon was the quickest feature I’d written but I successfully challenged myself to complete another project within a week. That expediency is not restricted to the mechanics of turning out pages but includes the creativity involved in navigating narrative roadblocks.

7. How many stories have you written?

That’s difficult to quantify and depends on your definition of a story. If we stick to screenplays, inclusive of shorts, features and pilots, I would say approximately 15 over 7 years. However, in the past year alone I’ve been focusing exclusively on features/pilots and since September 2019 I’ve pushed out 6 scripts, with a 7th on the horizon. In saying that, I was working/re-working on one project for an entire year (2018-2019), which I was never happy with. It was a hard to pill to swallow, especially given how much time I’d invested, but going through the motions was critical in helping me develop my concepting and writing process. It showed me, like any other craft, just how important it is to continue to write and hone your skills.

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

There’s no one song, but I’d say Dr. Dre’s 2001 is an album that I constantly return to. You can feel the upswing of those songs and how it captured a time and an energy that’s been difficult to replicate. However, while writing, I lean towards film or video game soundtracks that are contextualize to the narrative I’m assembling. I find it helps to mentally place me in the required environment and facilitates the creative process.

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

The biggest challenge was finding the character’s voices, which still needs improvement. Post-Beacon I began to incorporate a new way of writing dialogue which makes the process easier and gives the characters more… character. That’s one aspect of the script that keeps me up at night.

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

As with every indie filmmaker who’s short on time and money, I’ve written, directed, produced, edited, shot and composited nearly all of my past short films. The entire process has been eye-opening and the exposure to so many different disciplines really helped to inform my understanding of the overall process while introducing me to different aspects that I never knew I’d enjoy. For example, I’ve discovered a great love of sound design. The act of layering multiple sources to create new and dynamic audio is just as exciting as developing a new concept. I also enjoy videogames and experiencing the marriage of narrative with gameplay and camera selection, which has been deeply informative and highly influential.

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

This is the first year I’ve ever used Coverfly and its experience/interface reminds me of Filmfreeway. That’s a huge compliment given that both platforms are crucial in connecting filmmakers to festivals/competitions. However, I’ve experienced a few issues with respect to multiple submissions and discount codes. It’s a combination of Coverfly’s checkout interface and most festivals offering single-use codes. That might be a separate conversation, however, the costs add up after submitting 3+ scripts across 5+ festivals. In saying that, it’d be ideal if those codes were either mutli-use or if the competitions themselves offered bulk-submissions discounts.

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

As a Canadian I always want to support fellow creatives/festivals. It’s important to bolstering our artistic community through direct investment/interaction. Additionally, the cost-to-feedback ratio was well-positioned as many festivals providing feedback can be prohibitively expensive, especially when accounting for multiple submissions. The added benefit of earning a scene-specific table read simply added to the overall experience.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

After awakening in an abandoned shelter, two women must fight to retain their memories against a kidnapper desperate to harvest them.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
ZAKARIA (F): Elizabeth Rose Morriss

Interview with Screenwriter J. L. Paxxiel (BTW I’m An Alien)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

J. L. Paxxiel: It’s the parallel life of Trevor Noah within our multiverse and creatively weave things Trevor Noah has said in his podcast, TV show, book, and comedy tours. It touches on diversity and shows the power of a family working together. They are a quirky and dysfunctional family that doesn’t always get along but it takes a village to raise a child -an alien child at that- so they pull together.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Sci-fi. Comedy.

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

The entire series is 462 pages and 14 episodes, so I’m not sure it could be a short movie. The first four episodes could work as a movie.

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

Trevor Noah or Alien and Earthlings

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

Huckleberry Finn with Elijah Wood

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

Since October of 2019.

7. How many stories have you written?

25

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

Don’t listen to music.

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

Structure and giving Travis a proper story arc in season 2.

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

Being of service to the spiritual community.

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

I LOVE Coverfly. It’s easy.

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

I went to your website and watched the actors reading scripts. I thought it would be a fun way to improve. I was and am happy with the feedback.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A famous political commentator discovers his loving wife has a secret that will turn his life upside down.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
Ron Stewie/Male Voice (M): Allan Michael Brunet
Travis Noory (M): Geoff Mays
Don/Someone (M): Shawn Devlin

Interview with Screenwriter Kevin Mongelli (NAILS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Kevin Mongelli: Jonathan has had a troubled life but has attempted to turn things around. One final decision could change everything.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama

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

Unique story on how a singular decision could make all the difference in one’s life

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

Wrong choice

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

Gattaca

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

Two months

7. How many stories have you written?

About a dozen

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

The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky

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

Struggled over the right content to tell this story

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

I am professional musician and a member of The Recording Academy (Grammys)

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

User friendly

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

It’s a challenge to write an entire story in one page and I like a challenge. Nice feedback

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
MOTHER/EX-WIFE/WOMAN (F): Val Cole – 5
MALE FRIEND/THERAPIST (M): Allan Michael Brunet – 8
JONATHAN (M): Geoff Mays – 8

Interview with Screenwriter Eileen Wilson (WATCHING)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Eileen Wilson: It’s about free speech and using your voice while you have one.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I wrote it initially, tongue in cheek, so it’s a comedy-drama monologue. It was initially performed that way at a theatre scratch night and it’s interesting to see how different actors perform it. You can get a lot of laughs from being ‘revolting’!

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

It’s more relevant now than when I wrote it, especially with some of the current people in positions of power and their abuse of that power.

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

Current… and relevant!


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

I think it’s a combination of ‘Anchors Away’ and ‘Die Hard’. I appreciate characters with tenacity.

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

I wrote this one in about twenty minutes, it was heartfelt.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have about sixty scripts, a combination of; micro-shorts, shorts, web-episode, sitcom and feature. I’m currently over the moon as my sitcom ‘No.47 Ate my Uber!’ just made QF for Page Awards.

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

This one changes all the time. Maybe ‘Trouble’ by Elvis.

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

This one just wrote itself, I was completely honest and it fell out on the page.

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

I like equality and fairness. I’ve lived in other countries and suffered discrimination and had friends of other nationalities experience it too, so I appreciate how it feels.

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

I’ve used both Coverfly and FilmFreeway and have never had issue with either.

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

I love writing and decided that there’s no point putting something on paper if nobody reads it. It’s super if other people see an emotion in a script you’ve written and it makes them think, or feel because of it.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Timid Hope watches atrocities but has to speak out when her friend disappears.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
HOPE (F): Elizabeth Rose Morriss

Interview with Screenwriter Johnny Cruz (REPAIR THE CARROWS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Johnny Cruz: It’s about a father who has to re-enter the world and round up his
estranged children, so they can see their mother before she passes.
But what it’s really “about” is the different arguments and perspectives
around keeping families together. Some families are worth keeping
together and some are better off disbanded, and I tried to give
both kinds of families an argument in each of the characters in
the script. The protagonist, Walker, is the one who has to take these
arguments into account and, in the end, make the final verdict
as to whether his family is better off disbanded or together. Obviously,
that verdict can only be reached as a consequence of whether he can
change or not. Ultimately, he decides they are fortunate enough to
have a family worth keeping together.

2.) What genres does your screenplay fall under?

In its simplest description, it’s a Drama. But I think it could also fall under
Dramedy and Adventure.

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

I’d argue it should be made into a movie because there are themes that
I think it would resonate with a lot of people, and help them figure out
what to do with their own family if they’re in a complicated situation.
At least in my experience, some of the things said in this script are
things that have gone unspoken between family members, and I think
they’d be helpful if spoken. The script also highlights the generational divide
between parents and children. Ever since the second half of the 19th Century,
every generation has left the world in a better state than it was when they found it, not without creating some new problems along the way, of course.
Yet, put simply, the Young always think that the Old have screwed everything up,
and it’s up to the Young to fix it. And the Old think they’ve done a lot to make the world better, but the Young are going to screw it all up. Both the Young and the Old are right and wrong. And I think this script shines some light on that, which would help soothe generational conflict among families.

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

Bittersweet. I know that’s one word but it’s basically two, haha.

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

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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

I’ve been writing it on and off with three other scripts since August 2019, so
almost a year. This is the second feature script I’ve written.

7.) How many stories have you written?

I started writing in January 2019, and I’ve written 5 Feature Scripts, 3 of which are still in early drafts, I’ve written 7 Short scripts, 4 of which I’ve filmed and put up on Youtube. My channel is JohnnyCruz1998. (Am I allowed to plug my shorts?) Anyway, so I guess 12 different stories in total.

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

Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are-A Changin” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”
Most songs I listen to are ones I hear in movies. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a favorite too.

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

How to make the script feel urgent because of the ticking clock surrounding Colleen, but also have it take it’s time and not feel rushed.

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

Besides writing, I also read books and watch a movie a day. I made a list of
the most notable Movie Directors in history, and I go down the list and watch all of a Director’s movies in order, and then I move onto the next Director and do the same. Eventually, I’ll return to a Director and rewatch some of their movies, I have a big binder where I write mini-reviews for each of the Director’s movies and write essays on certain observations I make or things I’ve learned from the Directors. Other than reading, I don’t do much that doesn’t involve movies.

Also, most of the movies I watch, I get for free from the Library. Everyone should use the Library.

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

It’s been really easy and helpful to track a scripts progress, submissions,
announcements, etc. It’s set up great, and I’ve had no problems with it.

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

I saw that selected scripts got a scene from their script read on camera which sounded cool, which I can confirm is cool after watching it, and I wanted to get a sense as to the quality of the script, see what other people thought of it. And the feedback I received was definitely very helpful and encouraging.

 

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

After his wife falls ill, an aging man living in the Alaskan Wilderness has to re-enter the world to round up his estranged children so they can see their mother before she passes.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
FREIGHTHOPPER (M): Shawn Devlin
WALKER (M) Sean Ballantyne

Interview with Screenwriter Alexander Etseyatse (OTIS N THE DOUGH BOYS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Alexander Etseyatse: A full year after COVID – 19 “Coronavirus” hits New York City, a recently fired young mentally unstable Black Chef attempt to reclaim his glory days by starting a catering company with his old friends and winning back his ex-fiancee and daughter after a force stays at a psychiatric clinic.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, with some comedy.

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

Because it’s very timely and needed, a lot of mentally ill people suffer because of a lack of knowledge on how to deal with it.

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

World Bidding

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?

About 2 years

7. How many stories have you written?

Over 20 stories in the last 20 years.

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

Human Nature by Michael Jackson, it’s a song that takes me back to my youth

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

It’s not finished, it’s 85% done but should be able to finish it up this year.

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

Filmmaking, I love the whole process.

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

It’s pretty good, it’s streamlined everything to make it’s easy as possible.

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

I really wanted to get a live read without me casting it and putting a read together. I wanted to see it in someone else hands. The reception has been very positive.

 

 

 

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A full year after COVID – 19 “Coronavirus” hits New York City, a recently fired young mentally unstable Black Chef attempt to reclaim his glory days by starting a catering company with his old friends and winning back his ex-fiancee and daughter after a force stays at a psychiatric clinic.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
LUIS/TELLER (M): Allan Michael Brunet
OTIS/DERRICK (M): Geoff Mays
NURSE BELLS(F): Elizabeth Rose Morriss

Interview with Screenwriter Monika Naidoo (Proof Positive)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Monika Naidoo: PROOF POSITIVE is about friendship, the belief in basic human kindness, and the power of the human connection.

For high school senior Grady Haynes, life doesn’t get much better. A local baseball star with a full scholarship to UCLA, the center of the popular crowd with a gorgeous girlfriend, and plans to head out on a month-long backpacking trip the day after graduation – Grady is living his dream… a dream that is crushed with the push of a send button and killed the second the message was ‘successfully sent’. Now he is stuck in an 18″ x18″ nightmare – the size of his wheelchair cushion. As he is sucked into a self-destructive tailspin, his best friend and only other accident survivor must act fast to prove that there is still a big and beautiful world out there full of places to see and people that care. All while time is running out.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I call it an Inspirational Family Drama

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

Not too many movies deal with disability. Stories like Grady’s are historically underrepresented and deserve to be shared. Also, more than ever, we need narratives that show what can be achieved when people come together. It is the little, not-so-random acts of kindness that can make the biggest difference.

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

Heartwarmingly inspirational

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

I have seen countless movies multiple times for different reasons, be it the dialogue, visuals, soundtrack, acting, story, or any combination thereof. Impossible to say which one raked up the most views.

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

I finished the first draft in about two months, put it aside for a few weeks, then went back for a rewrite and countless edits over another two months or so.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have been scribbling stories whenever and wherever they’d come into my head ever since I was a kid, never even started counting. I do have two novels in print, five finished screenplays, two in progress, and several ideas floating around.

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

I have been playing the guitar since I was little, and music has always been a big part of my life. As a result, I don’t have just one favorite song. It always depends on the mood of the moment.

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

Time – there’s never enough of it. Like many writers, I have a full-time day job and a family.

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

I love to create, if not with words, then with paint, pencils, wood, leather, and pretty much anything that’s available.

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

Love the platform! Easy to use with great features you won’t find anywhere else.

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

I really wanted to have my screenplay professionally read and a link to the recording that I can use to promote it. It is a great tool to get exposure. The festival did a fantastic job! The initial feedback was very helpful. I’d wholeheartedly recommend entering this festival!

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

When a tragic accident sends his best friend into a wheelchair and a dangerous, self-destructive tailspin, a desperate high school senior must act fast to prove that there is still a big and beautiful world out there full of places to see and people that care. PROOF POSITIVE is an inspirational drama that proves how much healing power not-so-random acts of kindness can have.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
JASON (M): Sean Ballantyne
GRADY (M): Bill Poulin
NICK/ALEX (M): Steve Rizzo

Interview with Screenwriter M.W. Hogan (DEADWEIGHT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

M.W. Hogan: Technically, it’s about a narcolepsy specialist doctor finding herself in an awkward position while having an intimate affair with a patient.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy

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

It’s a one-page script; ideal for a micro-short comedy. Single location; small cast; low-to-no budget. Like a great, short, variety show skit.

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

Highbrow humor

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

The Wizard of Oz

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

One hour.

7. How many stories have you written?

Well over 100; short stories and screenplays combined.

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

Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd

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

To tell a story in one page/one minute, you essentially have to skip the first act and open with the inciting incident that launches the second act. I like it because it teaches parsimonious word selection.

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

Related: reading and watching films. Unrelated: island life adventures.

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

I’d rather not answer because I don’t want to piss off the Coverfly folks.

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

I like short-form film and, therefore, short-form screenwriting, as well. I like that there’s a competition and opportunity to get feedback. To be honest, though, I can’t find any email/record of receiving feedback for “Deadweight”. Nor can I find any competition results (finalists, winners, etc.)

The director of a narcolepsy and sleep disorder clinic finds herself in more than an ethical dilemma when a patient falls asleep atop her during an in-office tryst.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
EILENE: Val Cole –

—-

Interview with Screenwriter Brendan O’Connell (PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Brendan O’Connell: It is about a woman attempting to get her husband’s murder investigated in an Ireland where the criminal justice system has been privatised.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Black comedy, film noir, crime.

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

Because as a satire on the seemingly unstoppable drive towards privatisation and intelligent deconstruction of the police procedural it will likely enjoy commercial and art house interest.

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

Satisfyingly unsatisfying.

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

Chinatown, Goodfellas or The Ladykillers(the original).

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

On and off about 4 or 5 years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Couldn’t tell you. I have 4 short films to my name and an award winning all-ages graphic novel called Death’s New Lease on Life, with a follow-up in the works.

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

What a waste by Ian Dury & the Blockheads.

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

I haven’t it yet but the obstacles so far have been many and varied. It started as a pitch for a web series and I have been playing around with what format it should take ever since. So that’s stalled things a little.

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

Football(soccer).

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

Limited but I’ve had no problems.

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

It was the feedback, from someone with no vested interest or reason to take it easy on me, that initially interested me, especially as I was really just sitting down to have another run at the script at that time. And to that end, I was very happy with the feedback, it even highlighted something I’d missed.

 

 

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

The opening sequence between Helen and the recorded Emergency Operator creates an unsettling feeling of visual dissonance for the audience, particuarly when the “perky muzak” overtakes the heavy breathing and awkward moments of silence.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
EMERGENCY OPERATOR (F): Hannah Ehman
HELEN (F): Val Cole
Recorded Voice and WOMAN (F): Kyana Teresa
EILEEN (F): Alicia Ryan

Interview with Screenwriter Heather Farlinger (NO GOOD DEED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Heather Farlinger: My screenplay is based on the life of Oliver Wellington Sipple, who was a decorated marine and wounded Vietnam veteran with PTSD, who heroically saved the life of President Ford from an assassin’s bullet. The would-be assassin, Sara Jane Moore, actually fired twice, and Mr. Sipple intervened, with no thought to his own physical danger. This one heroic act, a split-second reflex, landed Mr. Sipple directly in the crosshairs of history, with major irreversible and terrible consequences for his own life.

Living as a gay man in San Francisco in the 1970s, he was working for gay rights in perhaps the most transformative decade in American gay and lesbian history, especially in New York and San Francisco. That time in history was tense, with the US in the midst of a cold war with Russia, and there was much violence against members of the LGBTQ community. In many cities, gay people were denied their civil rights, and the police were often part of the problem, inflicting serious violence with impunity. In the state of Florida, there was even a Miami ordinance toward the end of the decade, banning gay people from adopting children, courtesy of Anita Bryant and her venomous crusade against the community overall.

Before the assassination attempt, Mr. Sipple was able to live a happy, quiet life in San Francisco, but at the same time, maintain his relationships with friends and family back home. In his conservative home town of Detroit, he knew that his religious family would never accept him if they found out the truth. When he saved Ford’s life, his first instinct was to remain anonymous, and even asked the police not to release his name, but they released it anyway. A few days later, his good friend, Harvey Milk, spilled the beans to a local columnist. To his great misfortune, at a tenuous time in history for minority rights, and gay rights in particular, he was outed and betrayed by the media, and propelled into the national zeitgeist, which destroyed his life forever. Sadly, his religious mother severed ties with him, and his father refused to allow Mr. Sipple to attend his mother’s own funeral, in accordance with her wishes. It’s a shocking narrative with themes that resonate today, such as the right to individual privacy versus freedom of the press, civil rights for minorities in general, and LGBTQ rights in particular.

At a time when basic human rights are once again being questioned in our highly polarized culture, my project screeched out of my head and onto my computer screen in a kind of fever dream, probably because when I first researched the story, I was completely gutted by it, and still am.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama/Historical


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

I can only repeat here what I just said above, but I think it’s worth repeating:

It’s a shocking narrative with themes that clearly resonate today, such as the right to individual privacy versus freedom of the press, civil rights for minorities in general, and LGBTQ rights in particular.

At a time when basic human rights are once again being questioned in our highly polarized culture, my pilot project screeched out of my head and onto my computer screen in a kind of fever dream, probably because when I first researched the story, I was completely gutted by it, and still am.

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

Gut punch.

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

Almost impossible to say, because I love so many different kinds of stories, but some films (probably in equal measure) would be as follows:
The Shining, The Wizard of Oz, and 2001: A Space Odyssey

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

About 9 months, if you include research.

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

The obstacles for this story were the same as all writers face, I suppose, when trying to convey the raw emotional truth of something, without being redundant or didactic in any way. Especially for historical pieces, there is an obligation to convey the time period in a cinematic way, without sugar-coating it or writing revisionist history to meet current-day world views, which are (thankfully) more evolved than the time period that the story occurs in. It’s important to understand how we got here, even when how we got here is often ugly, hateful and cruel. Stories are important generators of hope, which is something we all need now more than ever. My intention with this screenplay is to reveal a story that many people don’t know about, or have forgotten completely, and in some small way, I’m hopeful that we can learn from our mistakes as a society and engender greater empathy, understanding, and action that will create a better world for those around us, and for those who come after us.

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

I’m passionate about life in general, but certain simple things really touch my heart these days, probably because we’ve all been in lockdown mode for a while now. Where I live, we have so many months of winter that we really need a break from it, and usually can’t wait until summer, so we travel to somewhere warm. Before the Corona virus, we were always planning our next trip, our next adventure, our next restaurant, our next project, our next … whatever. At the moment, I’m finding extra pleasure in basic things like nature, the Twitter writing community, our backyard, and the little wildlife creatures who live there! Thankfully, the weather is beautiful right now, so I’m trying to take advantage of it as best I can, before the cold sets in again, which will be way too soon. (I have to admit, however, that I’m sooooo looking forward to going to a restaurant again one day!)

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

I have found Coverfly to be excellent overall. It’s very easy to use in terms of submissions, and offers straightforward tools that provide insight if you choose to drill down into what the algorithm flags as being especially good, or similarly, areas that could be improved. I love it.

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

I really felt that this story needed to be told, and I felt this was the perfect festival to participate in!

My feedback made me jump over the moon and back, I was so thrilled. To be received so well by the people I want to impress the most, who matter so much to me, and who are the backbone my story, well, there are no words to express my gratitude and joy. I’m getting misty-eyed just writing this. It’s the best feeling imaginable, and I feel so grateful to the entire team for taking the time to read my screenplay and honouring me with such positive feedback. My heart is really bursting over this entire experience, and I it’s so personally meaningful that this amazing festival endorses this project, it’s the best gift I could ever receive. I will never forget it!
 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

In 1975, a decorated Marine and wounded Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder heroically saves the life of President Ford, only to be outed and betrayed by the media, destroying his life forever. Based on true events.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf
Wayne (M): Bill Poulin
Adrian/Patrillo (M): Geoff Mays
Billy/Coroner (M): Scott Beaudin
Ludwig/Sanchez (M): Allan Michael Brunet

Producer/Director: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Festival Moderators: Matthew Toffolo, Rachel Elder

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editors: Kimberly Villarruel, Ryan Haines, John Johnson

Festival Directors: Rachel Elder, Natasha Levy

Camera Operators: Ryan Haines, Temitope Akinterinwa, Efren Zapata, Zack Arch