Interview with Screenwriter Michael Head (LIGHTKEEPERS)

LIGHTKEEPERS was a HORROR screenplay winner for October 2018.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Loosely inspired by the real-life Eilean Mor lighthouse mystery, three
lighthouse keepers are overwhelmed by a tremendous storm that destroys
their stores of food and water. When a shipwrecked castaway washes up,
their hunger pushes their morality to its limits. As the storm builds
in strength, the lightkeepers must decide if saving their own lives is
worth losing their souls.

2. What genres does you screenplay fall under?

Horror, Psychological Thriller, Supernatural Thriller.

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

A stormy lighthouse is about as cinematic — and claustrophobic — as
it gets! The setting and period let me explore the three major types
of conflict: man against man, man against nature, and man against God.
We screenwriters are taught to torture our characters, and I’m happy
to say I put mine through hell.

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

Wrath and mercy.

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

I wish I had a cool answer but honestly it’s probably “My Cousin
Vinny.” It was on all the time when I was a kid, so it had a big head
start on other films. I grew up in rural Florida (and kind of hated
it) so Joe Pesci’s struggles in the South really struck a chord with
me. I keep revisiting it as I get older because it’s still one of the
best worlds-colliding films ever, has great courtroom scenes, and
Marisa Tomei’s Oscar-winning performance holds up. I changed my mind,
“My Cousin Vinny” is a pretty cool answer!

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

I started in early 2016. I was on a semester in London for my MFA
program (with Florida State University) and wanted to write something
set in the U.K. I owe a ton to the input from the other emerging
writers in my class and mentoring from some amazing faculty, so thanks
all!

7. How many stories have you written?

Too many to count. I come from a long line of librarians and was
raised around books, so I’ve been writing stories since I learned the
alphabet. I even began my writing career as a fiction author with
dreams of being the next Great American Novelist, but since switching
focus to screenwriting I have fifteen projects across many genres for
film and television that I’m confident enough with to let people read.

8. What is your favorite song?

Anything by the band Tool, but if pressed I would say their song
“Lateralus.” I’ve seen them on tour a few times and it always brings
down the house.

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

Definitely the amount of research I had to do on the setting and
period. And it wasn’t even cracking the books so much as knowing when
to close them. It’s easy to go way too far down the history
rabbit-hole until you start missing the trees you can actually chop
down and build with and only see the forest writ large.

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

I love watching films. I sit in the very front row and get furious if
someone talks during the movie. I especially love film festivals,
midnight showings, sneak previews, anything that gives me a chance to
watch a movie before anyone else. In fact, one of the main reasons I
got into screenwriting is to get screeners I can watch at home.

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

I really dig FilmFreeway. It’s a one-stop shop to find film fests and
writing competitions, which is great as it takes no time at all as
opposed to searching them out on my own and going through a lengthy
application process every time. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker or
screenwriter, you’re hurting yourself if you don’t use it. I also
trust them enough now to wait for email notifications instead of
sneaking a peak every five minutes to see if any results have been
announced.

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

Horror festivals can be a challenge because there are a ton of them,
but many are looking for specific sub-genres like slashers or ghost
stories so it was a little tricky finding a home for “Lightkeepers.” I
think any input is valuable input so it was great that you guys took
some time to really evaluate my script instead of just grading it. And
I was super excited to see your actors perform my scene! The most
important thing a writer can do is hear their words out loud and it’s
really difficult to find actors who will take the time to perform it
seriously, so thanks so much for that opportunity.

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

In 1910 Scotland, three lighthouse keepers fight for their lives as a terrible storm batters their small island and their psyches.

CAST LIST:

Narration – Russell Batcher

Fergus – Sean Ballantyne

Duncan – Luke Robinson

Submit via FilmFreeway, the exclusive way our festival accepts submissions.:

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Interview with director Eugenio Villani (OTHERS LIKE YOU)

Eugenio’s short film “OTHERS LIKE YOU” was awarded “Best Cinematography” at the April 2017 Horror/Thriller Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Eugenio Villani: After our first short film “Haselwurm” we took a break because of several businnes issues. Then we felt the urge to write a new story. We love horror movies and every kind of queer and odd story.

Through this years we saw a lot of films expecially from Europe. We wrote a screenplay wich is not fully into the horror genre but is more in tune with an European concept of film ( Fabrice Du weltz and Ben Wheatley jus to to name a couple of example)

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

We worked very hard on the screenplay.It took us six months for the script and about three months for the pre production.

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

A weird shriek.

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

The biggest issue was to find the actress who fit the role of the evil doctor. The location also was a big deal because we needed a very special place to set the women in the cabe scene.

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

We really love when the audience comes up with a lot of questions because we think that movies are built for that. We would have liked to be there to answer all the questions: especially the cat one.

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO from the April 2017 Film Festival:

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

We started from an imagine I had in my mind. A woman who finds an umbilical cord. Everything started from that.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

My favourite is The Locatarie by Roman Polanski

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

Bohemian Rapsody (Eugenio)
Dammi una lametta (Raffaele)

What is next for you? A new film?

We are working on a script inspired by The white People, a novel by Arthur Machen.

others_like_you.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 month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Filmmaker Scott Lyus (SILENTLY WITHIN YOUR SHADOW)

SILENTLY WITHIN YOUR SHADOW played to rave reviews at the WILDsound Best of Horror/Thriller Festival in February 2016.

Read interview with the director Scott Lyus:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Scott Lyus: My main motivation was story and character. I wanted to explore the idea of love for our dreams or our love for another; all within a horror film and the tension that can cause within a relationship. And from that Silently Within Your Shadow was born. Add my ambition to make an old school horror film that didn’t rely on cheap jump scares, blood or gore and instead focused on strong characters and story.

MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

SL: From inception to completion was about 5 months. Once I had the screenplay down and knew exactly where I wanted to take the story, I found my cast and crew and we were shooting within a few months. My crew mainly consisted of the same guys that made my last two films Supernova and Order of the Ram. We’ve developed a great way of working together. They know exactly what I want and how I work, and are the best team in the world at making that happen in a short amount of time.

MT: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

SL: Retro Horror.

MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

SL: It’s the struggle all indie filmmakers face, budget. We didn’t go over budget and actually came in slightly under once all was said and done, but unfortunately we only made a quarter of our budget via our Indiegogo Campaign, with another quarter coming from private investment and the remaining half from my own pocket. While I was perfectly happy fronting half the budget to ensure we completed the film, it did mean I had to push pre-production back a month or so while I saved the money we needed to complete the picture.

MT: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

SL: Going into the video I was already aware we didn’t win any of your awards, so I was just hoping and praying the audience enjoyed it. But once the dust was settled, I was left with a giant smile on my face. Our ambition for this film was to create a horror film that caused debate. Go back to a time when horror meant something more than cheap jump scares and blood and gore. We wanted people to watch our picture and talk about the themes within the film, the hidden meanings and subtext. I was amazed to see how much everyone really dug into the heart of the film and debated all the hidden meanings. It really was a fantastic reaction.

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

SL: The main theme of the film is the choice between love for your ambitions and dreams, or your love for another and the sacrifices you have to make. It’s something that’s very close to my heart and I choice I have struggled with myself. I try to create my films with multi layers. In this case, the top layer is an old school horror film about a creepy puppet, but underneath you have strong subtext and subject matter. If you want to go in and just be creeped out, I hope we do that, but if you want a little something more, an idea you can sink your teeth in, well hopefully you’ll find that too.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

SL: I’ve been asked this question a few times and everyone always expects my answer to be horror related. While the original Frankenstein and Texas Chainsaw Massacre come in second and third place respectively, the film I’ve seen more than any other and my favorite film of all time is Casablanca. For me its the perfect film, the best screenplay ever written and I must watch it at least twice a year.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

SL: Right now I’m touring with Silently, having played 14 festivals to date since October 2015, while also running a solo screening tour in the UK. Project wise, I’m currently in post production on an extended cut of a short film I made for a 60 Hour Film Challenge called Holding Back. Once complete we hope to play a few festivals and maybe add it to a few dates on the Silently screening tour. However the next big project is my debut feature. I’ve just turned in the first draft of the screenplay to my producer and we’re hoping to shoot later this year. So keep your eyes open for that one.

Watch Audience FEEDBACK Video fo SILENTLY WITHIN YOUR SHADOW:

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Filmmaker Luke Guidici (TIME TO EAT)

TIME TO EAT played to rave reviews at the WILDsound Best of Horror/Thriller Festival in February 2016.

Interview with the director Luke Guidici:

1. What motivated you to make this film? 

When I was a kid, the basement was a scary place. It was dark and foreboding and there was something just plain scary about it. And to make matters worse, my own bedroom was in the basement! I had a pretty active imagination, so it was easy for me to envision the horrors that lay hidden in the shadows just out of sight… With TIME TO EAT I wanted to explore the question “What if the monster in the basement wasn’t imaginary and there really WAS something down there?” Even though I wanted to make a creepy and intense horror film, I wanted to stay true to my filmmaking goals. One of which is that the protagonists in my films aren’t victims… I wanted them (and the audience) to recognize the strength they have, and use that power to succeed. And of course, I hoped the audience would get a scare and a laugh out of the film.

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

With independent film, especially shorts  – the timetable on completing projects can be a little misleading. In the case of TIME TO EAT, if you go from when I wrote the script, to when I finished the color correction it was over a year and a half. But did the film really take that long to make the film? Not really… for example, we only shot for one day. The edit took a couple of days. Color correction was done in an afternoon. Each part of the process wasn’t very long – but when you are working on a low budget, you have to wait for people to become available.

There’s an old saying “Better, faster, cheaper – pick two.” Well, for this film – I didn’t have a lot of money, and I wanted the quality to be amazing, so that meant I had to sacrifice the speed of the film. The crew that helped make this film were all working professionals. They make their living as cinematographers, composers, sound mixers, producers, etc. and they have bills to pay, so when they agree to work on a lower budget project like this – there’s an understanding that the full playing work will take precedent. Working with professionals in the manner means you get a film of amazing quality… but you have to be patient and understanding of people’s schedules.

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

Delightfully twisted.

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

There were two main stumbling blocks. First, we needed a house with a basement, a rare thing in Los Angeles. Second, we needed a tentacle puppet, an even rarer item in Los Angeles.

Could we fake a basement by shooting on a sound stage? Would it work to build stairs and combine with VFX to create a staircase where none existed? could the story be changed from a basement to an empty room in a one level home? There were a lot of potential solutions, each problematic in their own way. But we didn’t have to decide yet, because we didn’t have a tentacle.

If you’re making a monster movie, the monster is kind of an important element. So without it, there was no rush to decide our location question. Part of the complication of this was that I wanted the tentacle to be a practical effect. That is to say, I didn’t want to create it entirely in a computer. the Initial drafts of script had the tentacle interacting with the protagonist. It brushed his foot, loomed over his shoulders, and so on. Because the boy was going to be acting “with” it, I wanted something physical on set. Through a friend we talked to a model builder that might be able to build a tentacle puppet for us. I was pretty excited. Then we got the quote. the price for the tentacle was more than the entire budget of the film.

We were going to have to find another way to make the film. John asked around and found a friend who had shot a movie that had a similar monster. the design wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but the prop already existed. I decided it was better to be flexible then to never make the film – so I told John we should go for it.

While we wait for the tentacle to arrive from England (yes, England) I continued the search for a location. As if by a twist of fate, the producer of the animated film I was editing had a house with a large basement. Honestly, I was a little hesitant to ask my boss if I could use her home for my short film. The idea of having a film crew in your home sounds like “fun” yet rarely is. Plus, I was nervous that we could break something expensive or worse, sentimental.

But, I really wanted to make this film. so after work one day, my producer, John Wynn and I went and looked at the space and what can I say… it was pretty much perfect. not only did it have a great basement, but it also had a kitchen and living room that were amazing. Being able to shoot the entire film at one location would save a ton of time and money.

Now that we had the tentacle and the location we could start coordinating everyone’s schedule to actually shoot the film, which was its own struggle in itself!

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

It was so very cool to see! One of the most rewarding aspects of filmmaking is getting to sit in a theatre and experience an audience react to your work. Since I wasn’t able to be in Toronto for the screening, getting to hear the audience talk about it was the next best thing.

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

It had been several years since my last film CERTIFIED (www.certifiedtheshort.com) finished up its festival run and I was itching to make a new project. I wasn’t sure exactly what sort of film I wanted to make, but I knew I wanted to push my boundaries as a filmmaker.

I’m fascinated by unlikely heroes, strong dilemmas, and altered realities – so whatever story I came up with, the film needed to have those themes. Additionally, in order to expand my skills, it needed a strong visual effects component. Since my budget wasn’t unlimited, I’d have to be crafty about how the story incorporated those. Lastly, I wanted to make a short that didn’t need dialogue. My last two films, CERTIFIED and SKYDANCERS were very much dependent on the audience understanding English and I wanted this one to be free of that constraint.

With those three criteria in mind, I brainstormed a few different concepts. Out of those, two had the most promise so I pitched them both to John. After discussing we both agreed that TIME TO EAT was the most produceable. It had a small cast, one location, and just a few key visual effects shots.

Now, as to how I came up with the actual idea that became TIME TO EAT… well, that’s a bit of the mystery of creativity. I can’t exactly say how I come up with any of my ideas exactly. I try and create a space for my mind, then I just let it wander. A bit of inspiration will lead to a character or a setting, then that will lead me to the a plot moment or a twist, and then as the idea continues to bounce around the space it picks up more and more details. Eventually there’s enough there that I can turn on the more analytic side of my brain and start pounding out the mechanics of the story.

Specifically with TIME TO EAT the room I created to wander in was made up of the criteria listed above. From there I started to think about the people I knew, locations I might have access to, and stories I’d always wanted to tell. One element that jumped out to me was my friends’ five year old son. I’ve been amazed by his imagination and creativity and I’ve often thought about what sort of story I could tell with him as the lead character. Plus they had a dark and creepy basement…

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

It’s a tossup between “The Maltese Falcon”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, and “Dumb & Dumber.”

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

I just released my first animated short, HAWKWARD (https://vimeo.com/151551810). It was a lot of fun to direct a cartoon and I’m looking forward to doing more. I’m also in the process of developing the feature length version and TV series versions of TIME TO EAT. I talk about current project fairly often on my blog http://www.lukeasa.com/scruffy-nerf-filmmaker/ and on twitter, https://twitter.com/lukeguidici/.

 

 

  MOVIE POSTERTIME TO EAT, 4min, USA, Horror/Comedy
Directed by Luke Guidici

After being sent to timeout, a mischievous boy’s trip to the basement leads to a monstrous revelation.

WEBSITES

www.timetoeatfilm.com
www.facebook.com/timetoeatfilm/
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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Adam Beal, filmmaker of the Horror/Comedy short THE LITTLE MISSUS

Adam Beal’s short film THE LITTLE MISSUS played at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in October 2015; part of the best of Horror/Thriller short films of the year event.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of THE LITTLE MISSUS:

I chatted with Adam Beal recently and talked about his very funny and very scary short film:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Adam Beal: THE LITTLE MISSUS was made for a horror filmmaking contest; contestants were tasked to choose one word and make an under-3-minute short film based around. I went with Magnet,” and came up with a few variations on the concept that ends this short. The script I wrote for this version turned out the best, so that’s the one we went with.

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

It was late August when the idea struck me and the contest deadline was an appropriate October 31, so about two months. Plus a little bit of tweaking here and there after the contest deadline for the festival version.

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

Matronly vengeance.

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

We had an elaborate rig that we’d built to shoot wide shots of the climax, with hot glue and springs and ripcords and more, to show the metal bits popping out of the husband’s body and hovering there under his shirt. But it just didn’t work on camera. So the editor and I went back a week later to do some extreme closeup pickups of the metal bits popping out using a far simpler method. A ton of time and effort and ingenuity tossed aside for something basic — that’s filmmaking for you.

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

As with anything I make, I went into the feedback cringing, but as soon as people started talking, I became overjoyed. It was really positive and really appreciated! I’d have been way harder on it myself, but then I tend to be hypercritical of anything I make…

The film was called by the audience as a live-action Road Runner cartoon. Was that you intention when making the film?

100%. That’s another thing I really appreciated about the feedback — the specific things everyone said really nailed what I was going for (and was never quite sure if I pulled off). Hearing the Looney Tunes and Sam Raimi comparisons was very reassuring, as those were absolutely two of the biggest guides I looked to when putting THE LITTLE MISSUS together.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably Ghostbusters. Of all the movies I watched on perpetual loop when I was a kid with my family’s first VCR, Ghostbusters is the one I still watch fairly regularly as an adult.

What is next for you? A new film?

Right now I’m focussing on writing. I’ve already written a dozen or so feature screenplays and I’m always working on the next one. Right now I’m balancing two of them, one about werewolves and the other a traditional slasher. Neither has quite the goofy, Looney Tunes tone of THE LITTLE MISSUS, but both are aiming for fun. Beyond that, I’m working with some of the LITTLE MISSUS team on a comedy webseries.