Interview with Screenwriter Stuart Calloway (ONE YEAR IN AMHERST)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Stuart Calloway: The year 1969, and 15 year old Clark Calloway, because his father Calvin thinks he lacks a “work ethic,” goes to work at a gas station in Amherst. There he meets an older boy, Dan Mallow aka Tyro, who introduces him to marijuana. When Calvin discovers Clark’s drug use, they fall out. Later at the station Tyro extorts money from a customer, a 16 year old girl that Clark falls for; and in the resulting fallout from this theft/extortion both Clark and Tyro are forced to flee to a mountain hideout where Clark learns the truth about Tyro.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Family. Drama. Coming-of-Age. Teen romance.

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

Because PG-rated family movies can be big money makers. And because movies like “One Year In Amherst” can serve as an antidote to the obscenity, vulgarity and violence which currently dominates both film and television.

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

Authentic. Original.

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

“I, Claudius”, the BBC television adaptation of the Robert Graves’ novel.

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

I wrote the novella “One Year In Amherst” in 1981. I adapted it for film in 2017.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written several stories and plays, in addition to one full-length novel, “Son of My Hope” (from which “One Year In Amherst” is excerpted). Almost all of my writing was done previous to 1985. After 1985, I had to go to work to support my wife and children. I retired from business in 2015.

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

I like Classical music. I also like to listen Broadway show tunes and other classic melodies sung by Linda Eder.

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

Getting back into the frame of mind I possessed when I first wrote the novella, in 1981.

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

I am a practicing Latter Day Saint (i.e. Mormon).

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

Film Freeway is a very nice interface. I only hope it is good for something other than winning awards (i.e., I would like to see my scripts produced).

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

After sitting in a drawer (literally) for over 30 years, I’m just trying to get my work out there.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

“One Year In Amherst” is a coming-of-age story with a dash of teen romance and sentimentality. The year is 1969 and 15 year old Clark is working at a gas station in Amherst. There he makes friends with an older boy, Dan Mallow aka Tyro, who introduces him to marijuana. When Clark’s father discovers this, they fall out. Later at the station, Tyro involves Clark in a theft, forcing them to flee to a mountain hideout where Clark learns the truth about Tyro.

CAST LIST:
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Clark: Aaron WIlliams
Liz: Barb Scheffler
Calvin: Andrew Ball

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Interview with Screenwriter Billy Smith (The Stafford Multiplex Theater)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Billy Smith: My screenplay, The Stafford Multiplex Theater, is about an outdated eight-screen movie theater in a small town. A new Megaplex has opened up about twenty minutes from them and a lot of people have forgotten about the Stafford. They’ve gained an unfortunate reputation as “that other theater”. On top of that, because of an industry mandate, they now must convert to digital projection by the end of the year or they will no longer receive movies. Between the new Megaplex and the digital mandate, the Stafford is trying to fend off death, just trying to survive.

It’s during this time, when all seems hopeless, that everything gets even worse. There is an outbreak of a zombie virus in their town. The Stafford’s moviegoers start to drop dead and come back as zombies. The employees of the Stafford love it and would defend it with everything they have, so that’s what they do. They set out to defend their theater and make sure that it’s still standing for something even during their town’s most horrific time. Their theater isn’t dead yet.


2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The Stafford Multiplex Theater definitely falls under the horror/comedy genre. I would liken it to films like Burying the Ex, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and The Final Girls. The zombie threat is very real in the story and the characters take what’s at stake very seriously, but I felt like there had to be a healthy dose of comedy involved, too, and that really came from the characters. Once I started writing and experimenting with them, the comedy felt right to me.

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

The Stafford Multiplex Theater should be made into a movie for a few reasons. The first and most simple reason is that it’s just a lot of fun. Audiences would have a lot of fun watching it and I imagine that it would be a lot of fun to make, too. The horror blends well with the comedy, the characters are a blast and there are interesting twists. It would be an entertaining experience. Also, it touches a bit on the change that’s happening in movie theaters and what’s happening to theaters that used to have character. It’s a unique horror story because, yes, there are zombies and there’s blood and gore, but that’s all in the background, in a way. Ultimately, this story is about the theater and the characters. It’s not just a zombie movie just for the sake of being a zombie movie. The zombies are there for a good reason. They’re a manifestation of a real problem and that’s a very interesting horror story to explore because, for the characters, the real horror would be the end of their theater. They’ll deal with the zombies.

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

Fun. Clever.

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

I’ve been asked this question before and I always give the same answer: John Carpenter’s Halloween. I am forever in awe of its simplicity and impressed by every technical aspect of it, as well. The way the dread and the suspense builds and the way the music enhances it – it’s all so well done. It’s the kind of horror film that, if I could ever be a director myself, I would like to make. Something simple that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats and doesn’t go overboard. That film has always been a huge influence on me.

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

I have been working on this screenplay for roughly a few years. I’ve written and rewritten it many times at this point. I am constantly working to improve it because I believe in this story and I believe that it has a lot of potential as a movie. I have other things that I have worked on, but this is my passion project. This is the one that I have to see through. I have to see it succeed. I like being able to always go back to it and improve on it, especially because I am always improving as a writer. Every time I take another pass at it, it gets better. I’m very proud of it and the work I have put into it.

7. How many stories have you written?

Including The Stafford Multiplex Theater, I have written three. The other two started out as short stories, but I always had intended to develop them as screenplays, which is what I’m doing right now. I love coming up with a simple idea and then expanding on it. I find that to be such a thrill. Taking something and trying to make it the best it can possibly be. I have a lot of ideas in my head and I look forward to writing them in the very near future. My first script is just the beginning.

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

“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. Just kidding. It’s hard to pick a favorite song, but if I had to pick just one, it would be “New Low” by Middle Class Rut. Aside from just being a cool and fun song, it has really spoken to me ever since the first time I heard it eight years ago. I can identify with the words and see myself in the situation the song describes. It’s probably my favorite because it’s always a reminder to me that I’m still not where I want to be and, while this may be hard to believe, it motivates me to get to where I want to be.

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

The Stafford Multiplex Theater screenplay was very challenging for me to finish for multiple reasons. Firstly, it was my first screenplay. So, aside from the normal challenges of writing a story and getting over all of the hurdles that come with that, I had to learn how to actually write a screenplay. Learning the formatting, learning the structure, the things you shouldn’t do and the things you should do. Then, reading screenwriting articles and being told that you shouldn’t do the things that you thought you should do and that you should do the things that you thought you shouldn’t do. Apart from that, I think horror and comedy are very hard to write. It’s challenging to scare or surprise an audience and it’s a challenge to also make them laugh. It was a challenge that I truly enjoyed, though, and I think I succeeded, at least in the pages of a script. I think the real challenge would be to see if it works as an actual movie.

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

Besides being passionate about writing movies, I’m passionate about movies in general. I’ve been like that since I was very young. I love watching them, I love talking about them and I would love making them, too, if that ever became a reality. I love being able to get lost in another world for a little while and getting away from all of the stresses of my life. My love of movies is what led me to work at three different movie theaters and it is what has led me to pursue what would hopefully be a career being involved with movies in some way. I definitely eat, sleep and breathe movies.

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

So far, this is the only festival I have actually entered on FilmFreeway, but I’ve had a great experience with the site. It was how I found this festival. The website provided all of the information I needed and submitting the screenplay was very easy. I am on the site a lot, searching through all of the festivals, trying to find where I should submit my screenplay next. I have a feeling that I will definitely be using FilmFreeway a lot in the future.

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

After working on my screenplay for so long, I was lost on how to go about doing anything with it. I’ve written this story and I am proud of the work I’ve done, but what do I do with it next? That’s actually when I found the Festival for Horror. It was almost like it was meant to be. Sure, I felt good about my screenplay and thought it had potential, but it would be nice to see if others felt that way, especially if they were others who know what they were talking about. I had to know if what I’d written actually had something to it or if I was just being crazy.

I was thrilled with the initial feedback I received on The Stafford Multiplex Theater. The feedback was very much what I had expected. I knew that whoever read it would find it to be fun and I knew that the script had some strong elements and that was the feedback I received. I knew going in that I still had a lot of work to do on it. I never expected to win or even place or anything like that. That wasn’t my goal. My goal was to see if I’m knocking on the right door and it seems that I am. The tips I received on how to make the script better were very valuable to me and have helped me tremendously. I’m glad that I chose to enter the festival. It was absolutely a great decision. From the feedback on the full script and then the best scene reading now being posted online, I have had a great experience with the festival.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Interview with Screenwriter Shelly Paino (UNHOOKED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Shelly Paino: Unhooked is about two Christmas ornaments who team up to move to the front of the tree and meet a whole host of friends along the way. It’s a little bit like Toy Story climbed up the Christmas tree!

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Family, Animation and Adventure.

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

This movie would really appeal to kids and adults alike as it has a lot of heart. The central theme of figuring out where you belong and then challenging that, I think is pretty universal. Also, Christmas movies really seem to withstand the test of time. This is one that you could watch and immediately be in the mood for Christmas.

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

Surprising Adventure.

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

Ooh, I love movies that stand up to multiple viewings so this is a tough one to answer. Either Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Princess Bride. The best movies are those you quote on a nearly daily basis. Of course I know, in about an hour, I’ll change my mind about this answer.

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

From the idea to the first draft was probably around a year. Then I spent several years writing and reworking the script and I believe that with each revision it got better and better. When my son was younger, he gave me a lot of suggestions about what these characters could do, which I used and his ideas made the story more fun. He’s a teenager now, but reminds me that when this script gets picked up, he’d like a consulting fee!

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written nine feature scripts and several short scripts. I really do love the process. They say you have to write ten scripts before one sells and maybe I’m just stubborn in that I haven’t written a tenth just yet. I really will have to love the idea. I have been writing stories since I can remember, so while I can count the scripts I’ve written, I don’t think I’d be able to count all of the actual stories!

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

Good question! The first one that comes to mind is In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. But I love music and its ability to take you to another place instantly.

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

I almost didn’t write this screenplay since I knew that feature animation is incredibly tough to get made. However when I mentioned the idea to a friend, his face just lit up and he really encouraged me to write it. He mentioned that he had a friend working at one of the big name animation production companies and that once I finished, he would pass the script along to him, so I set to work. When it was done, the script was passed along and the friend’s response was that he was no longer working for the big production company and that when he did, he couldn’t even get his own animated spec script off the ground. Long story short, his advice was that feature animation is incredibly tough to get made! So I was back at square one. But I am not about to give up that easily. I have written a short version and a children’s book version so it’s possible that one of those avenues will lead to the big screen.

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

I’m passionate about caring for children, especially those who can’t help themselves out of a tough situation. I sponsor a child in Peru currently and also give to Operation Underground Railroad which rescues children from sex trafficking. I had a great, carefree childhood and it breaks my heart that some kids have to deal with such unbelievable hardship at such a young age. One of the first movies I saw in a theater was Annie (yes, the musical), so maybe orphans have always been in my heart!

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

FilmFreeway has been great. I had no idea how many different festivals and contests there were out there. I just recently suggested it to a friend who has a very niche script and couldn’t figure out the best way to get it out there. I’ve scored a few wins for different scripts, so that’s been really exciting.

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

This festival seemed different from anything else I had entered, so I was curious to see what would happen. It’s been great so far!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Mistakenly hung on the back of the Christmas tree, two ornaments set out on a harrowing adventure to reach the front of the tree in time to witness the magic of Christmas morning.

Genre: Family, Drama

CAST LIST:

Neville – 10 – Hugh Ritchie
NARRATION – Anne McMaster
Holly – 24 – Brittany Clough
Johnny – 20 – Rhys Harrison

A FilmFreeway preferred festival:

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What Can Happen Will Happen – INTERSTELLAR – The text message review

My Dad: Thanks for the movie experience Matt. I liked the movie. Want to see it again and figure out if their math is right. They seemed to take some creative liberties but I was too into the story. Now I want to watch it again and just pay attention to the Engineering (dad is also an Engineer)

Matthew Toffolo: Glad you liked pops. People will definitely be into this if they last the almost 3 hour length because it’s about the meaning of life mixed in with a father/daughter love story. Tugs at everyone’s heartstrings.

Matthew to friend WB: Did you see Interstellar? (WB sees everything)

WB: Not yet. I m not sure if I want to. I loved Memento and The Prestige and I like The Dark Knight a lot but his other movies not so much.

Matthew: Yeah I think you’ll hate Interstellar. My dad really seemed to love it.

WB: What did you think?

Matthew: Christopher Nolan swings for the fences every time he’s up to the plate. BTW – Loved how everything in the future in Interstellar is bare and basic with all technology and gadgets removed from society. But baseball still is around and kicking (even on Saturn). Baseball will never DIE! Even Nolan understands that.

Like Nolan’s other films, he’s trying to find meaning in life and why we are here. The new religion. But sometimes he’s trying to tell us so much, we as an audience can lose all meaning. Like making a nice meal but giving your guest way too many things to chose from. Sometimes you need to keep it simple and it becomes more profound.

But I say keep going Mr. Nolan because you’ll eventually find your masterpiece.

WB: I don’t know….

Matthew: Performance note. Matt Damon appears out of nowhere at the half way point of the film and almost steals the film away from Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain.

Matthew to friend AM: You like Interstellar?

AM: Loved it. Nolan is king. You?

Matthew: I don’t know. I just performed a 10 minute Coles Note summary of the film to my wife (who will never see it) and I liked what he was trying to say. Other dimensions and stuff. I guess the ending says keep on living and exploring no matter what. Right?

AM: Yes! We need to keep evolving as a society and no matter we need to keep exploring and experimenting.

Matthew: Not sure how long a shelf life this film has. Will it still be effective in 10 years?

AM: Batman Begins is. Memento is. This film will be too.

Matthew: Perhaps.

AM: Definitely. Murphy’s Law: What can happen….will happen!!! That’s the movie in a nutshell.

Read more Chistopher Nolan reviews: http://www.wildsound.ca/christophernolan.html

Read more Matthew McConaughey reviews: http://www.wildsound.ca/matthewmcconaughey.html

Read more Anne Hathaway reviews: http://www.wildsound.ca/annehathaway.html