Interview with Filmmaker Frankie De Leonardis (FLOATING)

FLOATING was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August 2019 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Frankie De Leonardis: I’ve been dying to get into film making all my life. At some point a fellow filmmaker pointed out all my scrips and ideas were too wild, with too many resources. He said you should do a short film with just two characters and a single space. I took it literary.

Also I wanted to explain that life is unexpected, you never know what’s coming up next.

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

It took me ten months. two days to write a week and a half to correct a month and a half of pre-production (we had to build the space module), two days of shooting and the rest is post-production.

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

Life’s unexpected.

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

Filming with wires was a huge challenge, we couldn’t predict how slow each setup is. It made us leave behind ten shots (all the views from the other side). Also money, being self-founded we had to think everything so much so as to get the results we wanted with the money we had.

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

An absolute smile, I wanted to hug them. The film is a genre fluid film and I’m always worried people will be let down or disoriented by the constant mood changes of the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

That is a mystery. I started writing after reading Elon Musk sent a Tesla to space and I kind of thought what if the Tesla he sent crashes something on space. From there it was really fluid and it all came out in one seating. Then I went back to tune up dialogues and jokes.

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

Maybe Mary Poppins, but I am an addict I watch so many films hundreds of times. C.R.A.Z.Y. is one of them, also EVENT HORIZON, BIG FISH. I could make a list of thousands.

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

I love FilmFreeway, I actually hate when some festivals make me go to another site. They have such a great design, friendly UI, clean, and fast.

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

Peace Train by Cat Stevens
Colorblind by Counting Crows
Space Oddity by David Bowie

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

I have so many projects and so little money! Haha.\

1. “The Limit” A dark/comedy feature about a small unprotected village in Argentina (1978) that receives the news of war against Chile and goes bananas.

2. “Ash” A dark/dramatic comedy feature about a family’s decision to burn their late father against the extreme religious wishes of the Grandmother.

3. A comedy short about a supermarket employee living such a routinary life, she believes to be trapped in time.

4. A comedy/sci-fi short about a pizza delivery boy who gets to deliver a pizza to god.

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Interview with Screenwriter Ian White (AMARIS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Ian White: AMARIS is an allegory about the “rapture”. The theme revolves around how the torch of stewardship over the Earth (in the play represented by a baseball passed down though three generations – ancestors, contemporary humans, decedents) is passed down at the beginning of a new era of humanity. Nate (who represents contemporary humanity, “man”) is cynical, but has a strong urge to protect the planet. He’s battered and bruised when James (Jesus) visits him and gives him a second chance to save Earth. They travel to the space station to continue the work started by Nate’s father (our ancestors). Innocence (Sarah) is lost on the mission to greed (Simon Skariota II – Biblically Simon is the son of Yehuda Skariota AKA in the bible as Judas Iscariot) and James sacrifices himself to save Nate. When a possibility of a new world (Amaris, “A gift from God”) arises, Earth is consumed in selfish greed, paranoia and war. The angelic and peaceful residents of this new world “rapure” some of the remaining rural (meek) inhabitants, who avoided the initial nuclear war, and deliver them to an Edenic new world to start over.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Science-Fiction, Science-Faction, Cli-Fi (Climate change), dystopic/apocalyptic

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

Audiences are still interested in Sci-Fi and this is a major market generator. A big audience response has come from Sci-Fact movies like “Interstellar”, “Gravity” and “The Martian”. “Amaris” tells a story of how an alien first contact might actually happen and what the consequences of that could be. The story includes a lot of scientifically accurate facts that would drive post-release on-line chat. The theme would be a major fan discussion point also. There is also an interesting variation on the “alien invasion” trope as this play suggests a possible human invasion of the alien world.

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

Scientifically allegorical.

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

Star Wars (either ep 4 or 5)

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

Took a year to learn how to write screenplays, research and write (and rewrite) this.

7. How many stories have you written?

Now? About 10.

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

I listen to film scores. Likely Oblivion by M38 from the movie “Oblivion”.

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

Leaning to stop tweaking and let it go. The main obstacle to starting was having to learn how to write as a screenwriter and not as a scientist, although in essence both are story tellers. Read as many books as possible, joined all the pod-casts and on-line peer groups. Took writing lessons at the Uni in the evenings and weekends. Wrote on the toilet a lot to get some alone time (two young kids, etc).

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

Flyfishing (I’m the inventor of the “monoMASTER” an environmentally friendly fishing tool), watching movies and biomedical research. I own a stem cell biotech company in Miami.

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

There could be improvements, but I was pretty impressed by the scope and access to festivals.

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

To be honest I was just looking for festivals that might appreciate a good sci-fi story with a bunch of theme. I knew a lot of readers would miss the complexity of the play, but I was confident others would just enjoy the story at face value and perhaps even work out the theme.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Earth has been decimated by climate change. When a cynical environmental scientist and his crew aboard the International Space Station make contact with a lush and resourceful alien planet, Earth’s warring nations fight to stake a claim.

CAST LIST:

Sarah – KAT SMILEY
NARRATION – JESSICA BOWMER
James – STEVE SWITZMAN
Nate – STEPHEN SANDQUIST

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Interview with Filmmaker George A. Velez (MR. E, P I)

MR. E, P I played to rave reviews at the December 2018 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

George A. Velez: I wanted to make a film in a very fun genre that everyone is

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

From idea to finished product, I would say the project took around 10 months.

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

I would say the short is fun and heartfelt.

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

The biggest obstacle was trying to film the whole short in a day. We succeeded but what a challenge.

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

It was surreal to hear people talking about my short because the only feedback I’ve gotten was from my peers. It was great to hear the audience and their interpretations because it’s interesting to hear what people get out of the experience.

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

The short was originally part of a larger piece and I really wanted to see this world and these characters in a physical space.

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

There’s so many but possibly “Jaws”

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

Applying to FilmFreeway has been a positive influence for the most part. It’s easy to navigate and very in-depth.

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

“Purple Rain” by Prince

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

I’m currently finishing two feature film scripts and in pre-production for my next short, Eavesdroppng.

Interview with Filmmaker Paul Charisse (UNCLE GRIOT)

UNCLE GRIOT was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER at the December 2018 Fantasy/Sci-Fi Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Paul Charisse: This short was developed from a feature we are making called “Stina & the Wolf”. It’s developed from a single scene we thought would act well as a vehicle to distill a lot of the ideas we explore in our feature script into a small and affordable format (and also function to help promote our funding of the full feature of course!)

We wanted it to capture the atmosphere and approach we intend for the final feature, as well as hint at some of the main themes the film deals with. Part of our design for the feature and short was to try and find that difficult balance between helping the audience understand ideas we want to explore, but also painting a rich enough palette that they can draw their own conclusions, some of which may not have even occurred to us as filmmakers. I’m a big believer that artists put more ideas into their work than they realise, so particularly in the editing process, we moved things around a lot to create new meanings and juxtapositions in an intuitive and reactive way that I tried not to over analyze. I think this can access deeper, more subconscious meanings, and is very much the working method of my filmmaking heroes such as David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg. I love films that use rich emotive visual and narrative elements to take you into the emotion space of a character, without being overly didactic or literal, giving the audience just enough ingredients to make sense of story elements and visual motifs so they can stitch together things from their own experiences. (This does of course require a certain amount of effort from the audience and challenges expectations, so is not to everyone’s taste!) I’m also a big fan of this magical realism approach in literature, by authors such as the fantastic Kelly Lynch, where meanings are hinted at and stories unfold full of sympathetic resonances and juxtapositions that can draw out different things from different readers.

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

The feature has been in development for 6 years. The resulting short took about one and half years to complete.

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

magical realism

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

The biggest obstacle was a technical one, getting the right level of detail and realism so that we could create the “hyper realism” we wanted for our aesthetic. The plan was that at moments it looked real and others strange and dream like, with certain visual elements idealised beyond reality. There are no shortcuts to this, and it required a lot of time and effort creating high fidelity facial animation, cloth simulation, grass and tree simulation, motion capture and animation and shader and matte painting. This is easier if you’re working on a multi million pound budget project with a crew of hundreds (I used to work as an animator in Blockbuster VFX) Most of the work on this was done by a small team of about 8 of us, and we made the film in a university with students and myself (a lecturer) Our biggest obstacle for the feature as a whole is getting it funded and finding a producer to help us with this. (Pretty much the same as every filmmaker in history I imagine!)

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

I was really excited to hear the different interpretations of the film. It’s actually a relief to hear that people are able to accept the level of ambiguity and try and use the elements in the film to make their own meanings, and they came up with so many fantastic ideas! I was really pleased, as this film was partially a test to see if we could capture a snapshot of what we want the feature to be, and see whether it would work with an audience. (although the feature has a much tighter narrative, but we aspire to give it that otherworldly ambiguity. Again another balancing act)

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

The feature (and the short) is inspired by many ideas and many films. I’d say life, death and fate are its core themes, but within that the idea of using storytelling and fantasy as a way of making sense of the apparent chaos and amorality of the natural world plays a big part; also how this relates to the aging process (Stina is very much intended to be idealised youth, where as Griot is the reality of aging: wart, farts, body hair and all!). I love the idea that humans have to wrap everything in a story before they can process it, especially things that are infinite and seem to defy logic, such as death or the physical world beyond our bodies.

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

I’d say Mulholland Drive and Paris Texas have both had about the same level of obsessive re-watching. At least twice a year! Very different films, but both have been massive inspirations.

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

It’s really accessible and useful. I’d use it again.

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

I tend to listen to albums rather than individual songs. The otherworldly and ambient instrumental sides (it’s a double album) of David Sylvian “Gone to Earth” is my my most played. It transports me to another plane, a place beyond language, and I think a place I feel compelled to try and reach through filmmaking for some reason. I love that language is completely incompetent at capturing the experience of music (and film!).

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

I’ve been approached about directing an animated feature in America next year, which i can’t talk about yet unfortunately (although hopefully soon) I’ll also be continuing the process of trying to fund our magical realistic feature, which i’m absolutely determined to make. (I’m having to learn to be a producer at the moment, which is definitely not my natural skillset, if any one fancies joining the team! ) Any one interested in learning more about our feature “Stina & the Wolf” should check out: http://www.stinaandthewolf.net

Interview with Filmmaker Michael Willer (The Volunteer)

THE VOLUNTEER was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the August 2018 FANTASY/SCI-FI Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Michael Willer: I love films that highlight a strong female perspective, usually flipping the dynamic where the woman has the power and the know-how, and she’s the one who is actively involved in the plot and making things happen. That and shooting out in the wilderness, the woods, which I love, were huge selling points.

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

The process took almost exactly 2 years, from the time that Sarah sent me the script to the time that post was finished. Part of that was a slow development process, and once we started shooting it took about 6 months to finish.

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

Dystopian romance

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

This project was strangely blessed. We kept checking ourselves, knowing that something would go horribly wrong, but no… the worst that happened was a series of locations we’d planned on weren’t available when we showed up to shoot (a bridge had been removed from the stream we wanted to cross). But that resulted in finding a new location and my favorite shot in the film (the long shot early on when he’s chasing after her trying to convince her to help him… magic hour, bugs flying in the foreground, shafts of sunlight, it just all clicked).

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

I got giddy. I was actually in the room at the screening and got to listen firsthand to people’s feedback and it blew me away. The word “perfect” was thrown around a couple times, which just wows me. I’m so proud of our little film. We were a tiny team, just 4 of us on set, and just me in post-production. I couldn’t be happier with the reception.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

From Sarah, the creator: “I was and always am into Star Wars and desperately wanted to work on something female-driven in a scifi world that had that post-apocalypse vibe. Something that featured a strong woman as the lead and the savior type, rather than a man.”

For my part helping in the development, I knew Sarah and Schoen (now married) had to star together in something. I’d just seen them in a play together and man, it just felt wasteful not to put them on screen after that.

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

Probably Inception or Fight Club. The craftmanship that went into those films is mindblowing. I could watch either on repeat and find new things to marvel at. (That’s a super limited look at my tastes, though!)

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

FilmFreeway is so easy to use. As long as the festival’s self description is clear, I have no concerns about submitting through that platform.

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

Well, I know I’ve actually counted the number of times I listened to Celine Neon’s “Vacation Time” because I shot their music video and I was really immersing myself (it’s somewhere around 100). But honestly, probably “Falling For The First Time” by Barenaked Ladies. Love that song.

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

I just wrapped a documentary shoot in South Africa and a 48 Hour Film Project shoot which was exhausting… But! The team I got together for that was amazing and I’m going to set us up as a creator collective, producing shorts in an anthology style web series.

 
the_volunteer
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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Winning Screenwriter John Dummer (FORGET-ME-NOTS)

July 2018 Winning Sci-Fi/Fantasy Screenwriter.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

John Dummer: Spiritual entropy. When the universe presents you with an existential threat, an event that will surely obliterate you and everything that gives this world meaning, what do you do?

Do you dig a grave, or do you plant a seed?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama.

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

Because I believe it will sell tickets? The hope is that it will be a great ride. The tale poses some intriguing and fundamental questions, and should fuel some lively arguments on the way home from the theater.

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

“What’s next?” Meaning both “What the heck happens next onscreen?” and “What, if anything, is next for the human species?”

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

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Jaws.” Two tales of surpassing horror.

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

They’re all different. This one took ten months, though I will continue to noodle on it until the next one pulls me away.

7. How many stories have you written?

Not a ton. I spend a lot of time cultivating seeds till I find a good one, then I nurture the hell out of it. Seems to work for me – three scripts have made the Nicholl semifinals so far, the last one finishing in the top 30.

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

Occasionally I’ll stumble across the perfect mood music to play in the background as I write a particular story.

On my first script, a rom-com about a mismatched young couple who run off to Loch Ness in search of an old salt who claims to have touched the Monster, I wore out the groove on Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” “Sail away, sail away, sail away…”

For “The Moonbeam Fisherman”, a coming-of-age tale set in the summer of ’69, about a troubled youth who comes to believe an old fisherman may be a marooned interplanetary visitor, Acker Bilk’s “Strangers on the Shore” filled my head with just the right vibe of nostalgia and loss.

“Forget-Me-Nots” is very much about haunting vocalizations. An appropriate backing track would be an otherworldly chorus of hoots and calls and plaints – an alien version of the Voyager recording on speed.

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

This was not the hardest script to give birth to. As a former programmer with a lifelong interest in evolution, I’ve been reading obsessively about A.I., the nature of consciousness, transhumanism and what might come next for the hairless ape. So the raw material was close at hand. The trick is to guide the audience through such rarified realms without overexplaining.

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

Climate change – the consequences are so enormous it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. Also really good carrot cake. Whatever it takes to face the day, right?

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

FilmFreeway is great for learning about contests and keeping submissions organized. They’ve done a good job of standardizing the submission process. Some contests do better than others at updating “judging status,” but that’s a minor quibble.

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

Mainly it was the chance to hear the work performed.

Feedback is always much appreciated, the less varnished the better. I’m never more likely to see something afresh than when I consider the POV of someone with whom I disagree.

 

Watch the Winning Screenplay: 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama

A grieving astrobiologist and two uninvited guests await a supernova explosion that will destroy all life on Earth. A mysterious plant threatens to bring matters to an even swifter end.

CAST LIST:

Newscaster: Julie C. Sheppard
Audrey: Tayna Bevan
Narrator: Kate Fenton
Evan: Scott McCulloch
Girl: Samantha Carly

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Filmmaker H. Yagmur Kartal (SOLUK (THE BREATH))

SOLUK played to rave reviews at the May 2018 Sci-Fi/Fantasy FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

H. Yagmur Kartal: Actually, it was an environmental film festival in Istanbul that encouraged me to make this film. But we did not want to say “protect the environment” with an ordinary narrative language. I guess, what I longed for when writing the script was the science fiction movies I enjoyed watching. I like to try different methods and it has always been more enjoyable to tell stories that are far from reality of today. I guess that was the feeling that inspired me.

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

It lasted about 3 months. Filming took one day. I could not specified what I want to tell in the script during three weeks. In the last week, I got the main idea of my script during I was going to home by subway. After we worked on the idea in a few days, filmed it. Post production process took much longer, It may have lasted more then two months.

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

To be suffocated and blindness…

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

Finding a place. Because place and art are the universe of film, Its house and place of birth.

I think I was seriously losing hope for a while. Most people think that camera, actor / actress, light, etc. are the most decisive things for cinema.. These are their priorities. What I care most about is place, concept, accessories. An accessory make you fell the thing that the character can tell you with ten sentences in two seconds. For example, a dusty gas mask in the first sequence of “SOLUK” and a dusty souvenir photo taken in the woods. We do not need to see the outside. Obviously, what we call nature is gone. Obviously something has happened and the gas mask is settled in the houses …

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

I was over-excited. When I received the mail, I was chatting with my friends and I stopped for a moment, then I shouted with joy that the festival audience commentary uploaded the video to Youtube. We watched it together. I was incredibly happy. On the other side of the world, people I do not know are watching my film and thinking and commenting on it. I absolutely loved Robin Hood analogy. The works we read in childhood leave a mark in our minds, though not in my mind when writing.

In fact, it is not an impossible future. I absolutely agree, but I hope that the future will be never lived and we live by knowing and sharing the nature, the balance of life. When I was filming, I also wanted to make people feel like this. And even if a person can reach this way, happy me!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Film:

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

While creating the scenario, I was thinking about the world of people and how their problems might be in a dystopian future. I was looking for a real conflict. But the conflicts I found did not make me happy. One day when I was on the subway I read news of theft. Those days I was working on Propp for postgraduate thesis. Propp talked about the fact that the epigraphs always started with an absence, that the conflict had come out with that absence and desire to reach it. When I saw the news of the theft, all the fog clouds in my mind were scattered, and the answers to my questions came to an end one by one.
Probably the most valuable thing in the future was fresh air. So if we make the fresh air a thing which was bought with money and stolen by the people who did not have money, a thing which it would be something like life source as water and sold with money. But it is a thing that is difficult to buy by poor people. And what would happen if an old man who knew our generation and forests had a tiny tree which could breathe, and hide it from everybody? When my twenty minutes subway ride was over, the raw text of “SOLUK” was ready.

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

Maybe you’ll laugh at me, but I think it’s Lion King. I do not remember how many times I watched it, but it was the first movie I watched in cinema in my life. My father said that I was looking at the light beams which is towards the curtain and I thought that everyone was in that light room. My dad told me what happened there. Then we went to near the machinist at intermission. Last time when I watch I was 24 years old and I watch that movie when I wanted to completely abstract myself and turn back to myself. Or mumble on a piece of self-made sound tracks while you are enjoying it. Or when I’m joyful I croon one of soundtrack of Lion King.

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

I think it’s a great platform. In this way, many directors have the opportunity to send their films to many festivals. It allows you to meet and communicate with many people in the cinema sector. Before I find this platform, sending films to the national festivals was as tiring as make film for cinematographers because of five dvd copies and preparing documents separately for each platform. Thanks to this platform, we are aware of many more festivals and it is not necessary to prepare separate cargo packages for each festival.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

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

This is definitely a difficult question. But I can say I have a few songs for a few emotions. But nowadays …
Audioslave – Be Yourself

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

Yes, I have a documentary film titled “Oyuncakçı Saklı Yadigarlar ” which I have been working on for a long time. It will be a long film. According to “SOLUK”, the genre is quite different, there is a naive childlike spirit. In the film, there are stop motion technique and animation scenes from the toy maker’s figures. It really excites me. It is also very sincere because it is a film that contains the history of a great country history since 1940s due to the age of the toy and the toy maker. I can not wait to share it when it’s over.

soluk.jpg

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.