Interview with Filmmaker Travis Darkow (ELIZABETH)

ELIZABETH played to rave reviews at the September 2019 One Minute & Smartphone Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Travis Darkow: I have been writing, directing, and editing short films since the 7th grade, and had made one other no budget little short before this one. But one night I just really wanted to shoot a new little horror short, so I decided on found footage since it would be the easiest to accomplish with no money, and could be done quickly. I love something about every genre of horror, and it was my first found footage style movie so I was excited that I could create it almost entirely without leaving my house.

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

From writing the short, to filming and editing, it probably took about a week or a week and a half to complete.

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

Dark and Playful.

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

The biggest obstacle I faced was probably the bathroom/emergency exit door scenes, which I shot at my work, while I was on the clock. The other would be having to move my dog around between rooms in my house while I shot all the interiors so he was never seen.

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

I was pretty nervous when I first clicked on the video, but once one of the audience members said that three different parts of my film sent a shiver up his spine, I knew it was going to be alright. It was amazing hearing how receptive the audience was to my little horror film, and hearing what they liked about it, and that the little bits of humor were picked up on the way I intended them to be.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I initially came up with the amateur ghost hunter angle as a format that would fit the style I wanted to shoot perfectly, and then the whole backstory about Elizabeth Whitmore murdering her family just flowed pretty naturally from there.

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

As big of a horror fan as I am now, the films I have seen the most in my life would either have to be The Nightmare Before Christmas or The Sandlot. I watched them religiously when I was younger, and never just stopped.

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

I absolutely love FilmFreeway. It’s so user friendly and easy to navigate and work on, I don’t know where my filmmaking would be if I hadn’t found this platform.

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

It’s tough to say, but it would either have to be Mr. Chainsaw by Alkaline Trio, or anything by Angels and Airwaves.

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

Since I completed Elizabeth in 2017, I have written and directed 14 short films, 2 features, and 7 horror screenplays. My first feature is called Goodbye Tomorrow, and is a horror/sci-fi mindbender about a man who is being cloned and used to test mind control drugs by this shady group within the government that worships this interdimensional being that they call the Dissimulator. Yeah it’s a lot. The feature I just more recently finished is called Bunny Boy, and follows a mute as he wanders around his town that never fully recovered from a tornado, and some of the other odd residents that still call it home. It’s my fan film/love letter to a movie called Gummo that was written and directed by Harmony Korine in 1997.

Interview with Filmmaker Yangfang (Frances) Chen (NINA SAIZA)

NINA SAIZA played to rave reviews at the October 2019 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Yangfang (Frances) Chen: I remember how confused I was when I first encountered the dark side of the world after I became a teenager, so I always want to make a short film to illustrate my feelings of becoming “mature”. This short film is about innocence, violence, and perception. People are more complicated than they appear and they’re not good or bad. They’re just people.

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

It took about half month to make this short film.

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

Complicated
People.

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

The biggest obstacle I faced was filming the abuse scene. It was difficult because I have never actually seen someone abused, so I worked with all of my actors to build a mood and choreographed violence in order to build up the scene that made it into the final cut of the film.

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

My initial reaction was happy. I was glad that my 6-minute short film made my audience have such strong emotional reaction, and they all understood what I am trying to say in this story.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I always want to make a short film about teenagers’ confusion over the world. When I was a little kid, I did not undertand adults at all. The piano teacher in the story is responsible to teach the girl to play piano but ends up teaching her a life lesson about adulthood. I thought it would be interesting to use teacher/student dynamic to show the complexity of humans and the loss of innocence.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I like drama movies. Dog Day Afternoon is the film I have seen the most in my life.

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

I really like FilmFreeway. I think it makes the submission process easier for filmmakers to submit their work to festivals.

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

Imagine Dragons’s Believer. I love Imagine Dragons.

What is next for you? A new film?

I am currently studying at a film school. I will be involved in short film productions possibly next year. This year, I want to mainly focus on my education.

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Interview with Filmmaker Francis Galluppi (HIGH DESERT HELL)

HIGH DESERT HELL was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the October 2019 Horror FEEDBACK Film Festival in October.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Francis Galluppi: We actually had the location first. The house belongs to one of my best friends grandparents and I had been wanting to shoot there for a while. I always wanted to make something that looked like the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” so this was my opportunity to do so.

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

Probably a year from the time I started writing to the time I finished post production.

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

Desert Hell

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

The cars. They never worked. We were so behind schedule because we couldn’t get the cars to start 90% of the time.

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

I wish I could’ve been there to help answer some of the questions but it felt amazing to watch the audience put it together. Especially to hear people’s own interpretation of certain things.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I wrote a really short version of this story and when we went to scout the location and figure out all the blocking, there was this van parked outside of a restaurant we were eating at that said “The Apocalypse is coming. Repent or burn in hell”. That was pretty shocking and sort of inspired me to write something a little longer with more religious subtext.

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

I think I watched The Goonies everyday growing up. It was probably one of the 20 movies they had to rent for free at the library so I always would pick that one out.

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

It’s so simple. I love it.

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

Tony Sly “International You Day”. It was the song my wife and I picked for the first dance at our wedding.

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

I just finished post on another short filmed called “The Gemini Project”. That should be going through the film festival circuit next year. I’m working on a feature film now that is scheduled to shoot June 2020.

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Interview with Screenwriter Kelly Ann Guglietti ( The Orange Chihuahua)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Kelly Ann Guglietti: “The Orange Chihuahua” is about a young chihuahua who learns that the key to knowing his self-worth is to be his true self.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It is an animated family dramedy.

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

This screenplay is written to teach children that there is no need to pretend to be what they perceive as better than what they are and that to know their true value, they must be their true selves.


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

Funny and relatable.

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

As a parent, I must say that I have seen most of Disney’s animated productions between 1992 and 2003 many times over. Currently, my husband and I seem to watch “American Sniper” and “The Help” whenever they come up on TV. We both lean towards biographies, history and historical fiction.

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

It took me about six months to write “The Orange Chihuahua.”

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written the children’s starter 8-pack of crayons worth of stories. Three are published to date: “The Green Tom,” “The Yellow Sea Lioness” and “The Orange Chihuahua.” I wrote screenplays on the latter two and am presently writing my third screenplay on a fourth book to be published sometime within the next year or so.

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

I don’t really have a favorite song. I like music of many genres. I have been a diehard fan of Cher since I was ten years old. I love to dance to the faster music of Elvis Presley, Elton John, The Beatles and Billy Joel. I also like Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers. I currently exercise to “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, “Sugar” by Maroon 5 and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.

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

My only obstacle was time. I had to purposefully find time to hash out scenes out in my head and then type them.

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

My goal is to build esteem and empathy in kids with an aim to end bullying. One of the key elements in the profile of bullies is their lack of self-esteem. I support the mission of the Sandy Hook Promise to “prevent gun violence and other forms of violence and victimization BEFORE they happen by creating a culture of engaged youth and adults committed to identifying, intervening, and getting help for individuals who might be at risk of hurting themselves or others.” I believe they hit empathy right on the nose. I have seen variations of some of their suggestions in play at schools that I teach in. The atmosphere in those schools is definitely more positive and upbeat than in schools that do not exercise any of their suggestions.

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

The FilmFreeway has opened the door to contests I did not know existed. My screenplays have experienced a few honors. “The Yellow Sea Lioness” made first reading in the Southern California Screenplay Competition and placed as a quarter-finalist in the StoryPros Screenplay Contest in 2018. Through my entry at StoryPros, I was exposed to Ink Tip Magazine, so I have been marketing my screenplays through them for a year now. “The Orange Chihuahua” placed as a quarter-finalist in the Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition in 2018 as well as a Top 10 Log Line for the month of April in storypitches.com and a Best Scene Video through your organization in 2019. These honors boosted my confidence in my work.

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

I was in a slump, wondering where to go next after I had already entered several screenplay contests. I decided to search via genre and audience population and found your Drama and Family Film Festival.

I appreciated my initial feedback. It was suggested that I create a problem for my main character, Amador (AKA Chile), perhaps having Amador getting swept up and taken to a cruise liner. I tried writing to that end, but it seemed to take me further away from my central message. As my script is now, Amador learns not to make false claims by almost getting caught three times in the story. That’s basically the story, so I am at a mental block when it comes to stretching the story further.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

After spending his days beside his owner, a chihuahua named Amador slips on his master’s enchanted slippers and transforms into bright orange Chile by night. The boisterous and outgoing Chile is the life of the party, although some of the other dogs begin to grow tired of his antics and ego. One day, Amador discovers that his master has gotten a new pair of slippers and he is no longer able to transform into Chile. He goes to his friends and tells them the truth about his charade, but they reply that, given the choice, they would prefer to spend time with him rather than Chile. Amador becomes more confident and comfortable as himself.

CAST LIST:

Alvaro: Steven Holmberg
Narrator: Cynthia Crofoot
Chile: William Poulin
Devante: Fabio Abreu

Interview with Screenwriter Carlos Perez (IN HYDING)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Carlos Perez: In Hyding is a unique adaptation of the novella, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Instead of Jekyll turning into an evil monster, he turns into what he feels is his real self, a trans woman. He relives himself as the person he was when he was a young man and had a relationship with one of his close male friends in which he would dress as a woman and they would make love to one another.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama and romance, and to some extent, horror.

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

I feel the aspects of Jekyll’s transformation would be more easily conveyed for the screen because the transformation is completely in Jekyll’s mind, and in the screenplay whenever he looks in the mirror as Ms. Hyde, he sees himself as he was when he was a young man, even though those who are around him see him as his real self in make-up, dressed in a wig, and wearing woman’s attire.

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

Disturbingly Beautiful

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

Storm of the Century because it seems to correctly convey, in a rather horrific way, just how inhumane humanity can be and the dangers of mob mentality.

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

Over two years

7. How many stories have you written?

I have dozens of published short stories and several published stage plays, along with quite a number of produced writer-for-hire screenplays, and two original screenplays that have been produced.

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

Hotel California by The Eagles

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

The subject matter was one which I knew would have a difficult time finding a producer for, and there is an intense scene in which Jekyll’s father tries to cure young Henry of his homosexuality that was also a difficult sell. But the scene isn’t gratuitous and is necessary to help in defining Henry’s mental state.

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

Our Civil Rights. I’m a proud member of the ACLU.

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

Excellent. I like their platform because it’s reliable, helpful, and easy to use.

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

The ideas behind it intrigued me and it seemed very open. The feedback has been quite helpful to me, and I truly enjoyed the reading and found it to be very professional.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Dr. Jekyll has perfected a formula that will allow him to be the person he feels he is inside.

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – DIANA FRANZ
Utterson – 1 – GENE ABELA
Father – 18 – SEAN BALLANTYNE
Henry – 18 – THOMAS FOURMIER

Interview with Screenwriter Tammy Caplan (BLACK-ISH “Keepin’ It Real Estate”)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Tammy Caplan: It’s a 30 minute TV comedy spec of the show Blackish. My episode is called Keepin’ It Real Estate. Dre discovers housing discrimination happening in his own neighborhood of Sherman Oaks and fights to stop it.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Family comedy

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

The Blackish writing staff has touched on the subject of housing discrimination before but there’s so much more to the topic that they could deal with. As I told my in-laws what I was writing about, they came out with their own horror stories of housing discrimination and how these areas of our country that discriminated still lack diversity. That lack of diversity contributes to so many of the social and political issues we grapple with today. Even after the 1968 Fair Housing Act, real estate agents still discriminate but in subtler ways. For example, they’ll use online advertising tools to send their ads to whites only instead of everyone. There were two great movies, BlacKKKlansman and Sorry to Bother You, which dealt with “black voice.” What many don’t realize is that “black voice” and “white voice” is another product of housing discrimination and not having diverse communities in the United States for multiple generations.

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

Social Comedy

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

Probably Star Wars. I’m a nerd who still has her action figures taking up half her desk space.

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

I immersed myself in Blackish by watching every single episode of Blackish, some more than once. That took about a month. I also went to the WGA library (a great resource which anyone in Los Angeles can go to) and studied the Blackish scripts and outlines they have on file. After really studying the structure and absorbing the voices of the characters, I wrote the actual script fairly quickly.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written a comedy pilot called The Last Abortion Clinic in Kansas, which was a finalist in four writing contests including the Austin Film Festival Writing Competition. I’ve also written an anti-bullying comedy screenplay called 8th Grade Sucks, which was a Nicholl Fellowship Quarterfinalist. I love writing comedy that pokes fun at social and political issues.

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

I grew up in a home full of country music and my mom would go through phases where she played the same song over and over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Luckily it’s a good song.


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

One challenge for me was squeezing the history of over 100 years of housing discrimination into one scene. I wanted to leave the audience understanding that our history of racial disparities have caused the inequalities in our society that exist today but they can be fixed if we’re willing to take action.

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

I’m also a professional actress. I find it meditative to get under the skin of another character. I’m one of those nutty actors who actually loves auditioning.


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

It was easy and fast.

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

Not a lot of contests exist which accept spec scripts so I was delighted to find a contest that not only takes specs but also gives lengthy feedback.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Original screenplay from the popular ABC Sitcom

CAST LIST:
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Dre: Kaleb Alexander
Bow: Natalie Morgan
Eustace: Aaron Williams
Janine: Barb Scheffler
Diane: Cassandra Guthrie
Junior: Gabriel Darku
Josh: Andrew Ball