Interview with Winning Screenwriter Mirka Kettunen (MAJOR TOM AND THE ALIEN GIRL)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Mirka Kettunen: “Major Tom and the Alien girl” is a story about two space geeks with extraordinary talents. In different parts of town both of them have been waiting “for the Mothership” to come pick them up.

But when they finally meet and realize that the other one is on the same wavelength, then suddenly their mundane lives downtrodden by the gravity becomes exciting and weightless.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Rom-com / Sci-fi.

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

It addresses loneliness and feeling excluded because you are different. It gives hope to those that feel they are left out by life and love. Theis movie shows that you can find friendship, understanding and even love in the most unbelievable places. You could say, we are not alone in space, because the eternity of space starts here on Earth. Maybe the real Mothership that’ll take you home lives next doors?

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

Galactically hopeful.

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

At home: “Trading places” with Eddie Murphy. I lost count between 40-45 times. Now it’s probably around 50 times.

At the cinemas: “Gladiator” 10+ times.

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

I’ve thought about this idea for the last 5 years, but as a written script it’s been approximately a year in the making and planning.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve probably written some 15 short film stories. Lots of short stories and poems. And now I’m working on a history / mystery novel series that will include 3-4 books.

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

Probably the collected works of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. It’s calming and mostly in Latin, so the meaning of the lyrics don’t distract me. I’ve used Arvo Pärt as my “writing music” for over ten tears.

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

As the story is dependant on VFX I debated with myself if the script should be doable on a low budget or if it should look good. I went for the Writer’s Privilege – writing the scenes I want to see, not the scenes that can be produced on a shoestring budget. But I also have ideas how to solve the visual difficulties of showing weightlessness on Earth with old school and not expensive film techniques.

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

I love directing and learning about dramaturgy and good ways to solve visual problems when shooting. Otherwise I like salsa, take long hikes and bike riding.

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

Filmfreeway has been such a good and easy platform to work with. I had thought it would be more tech heavy, complicated and so on, but I highly recommend it.

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

I looked for fantasy and sci-fi festivals and found yours. I didn’t make it into the competition with my script “Major Tom and the Alien girl”, but I got brilliant written feedback on how to improve it-

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

This is a short romcom sci-fi about Tom Major. He keeps waiting ‘the Mothership’ to come pick him up. In order to survive life on Earth he sees his life through the eyes of the his alias – the astronaut Major Tom. Apparently he’s not the only one who believes he’s stranded here. One day he meets Sigourney, aka Scotty, who’s also waiting to get beamed up.

Narration – Justin Hay
Tom – 14 – Hartley O. Gyamfi
Scotty – 18 – Esther Rogers

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Interview with Screenwriter Kate Whitehead (SKATE NIGHT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Kate Whitehead: It is about an edgy, agoraphobic, nerd-girl who tries to make the transition from virtual to in-person dating while keeping her bodacious personality intact.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy, Romance.

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

This is a script that was written to be fun and inexpensive to shoot. On a shoestring budget, the car scene could be adapted to bicycles or speed walking and the whole thing could probably be shot in two locations. There are no expensive props, costumes, or special effects.

It also gives a lot of leeway to the production team as every character can easily be played by any gender without having to change the script apart from pronouns.

It’s short, funny, and leaves the audience feeling good. It’s a small reprieve from an ever darkening world, as far as I’m concerned.

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

Nerd Love.

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

Napoleon Dynamite.

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

About a year (off and on).

7. How many stories have you written?

About 30.

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

I’d have to say Master of Puppets by Metallica. My friend is a DJ and spun at my birthday party. After the party was over he said, “ You know, that’s the first time I have ever played MOP all the way through. Usually I throw it on for maybe a minute for the rockers in the crowd, but tonight there were people on the dancefloor seriously head banging for 8 straight minutes. I was afraid to turn it off. Afraid for my life, really.”

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

I don’t usually write comedies. One time I got ‘romantic comedy’ in a themed writing competition and I almost barfed/dropped out. But I persevered and, although the story I wrote for that competition is not the inspiration for this screenplay, it did illustrate to me that there is a genre of comedy/romance that I can enjoy. Nerd Love.

My partner, who is plagued with worry about the creep-fests I usually produce, was ecstatic when I wrote Skate Night. “Now THAT’s a good story!” they said. I think they were relieved that there were moments of my life that were not spent with my toe dipped into a puddle of dark hell.

So I would have to say that my greatest challenge writing this screenplay was stopping myself from having any of the characters meet a sudden, unexpected demise. I managed to keep it light! Go me!


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

Apart from rocking on forever? Trying to live in a way that includes everyone, even the people I would like to tell to go stuff it. I am also passionate about nature and letting it be.

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

It’s a great tool for finding places to submit that you might otherwise never have known about. I found this festival by cruising the site (even though I actually live in Toronto and might have been expected to have already have discovered it). It saves a lot of headaches about multiple forms and downloads. In the end I think that I submit to more places because of the site.

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

I entered the festival because it was local (I am from Toronto) and inclusive. Things are changing but I feel like whenever you write something that features diversity in gender or sexuality, readers pigeon hole you as “being political” as opposed to focusing on the story. I felt that a lot of that could be skipped by having my script read by folks who wouldn’t spend the whole time wondering what the characters did in bed. I guess that’s a bad sign for a romantic comedy but, like I said, I am writing out of genre here. Also everything I write is sideways political so I should probably just accept that.

The feedback was great. The reader obviously took the time to read and understand my story. The commentary showed me that I needed another scene and so I wrote it and the screenplay got a lot better. The risk of writing alone in your room is that the characters are alive in your head but you don’t really know how much of them are alive on the page until a total stranger meets them and tells you all about it.

Watch the Winning Short Script:

Genre: Comedy

Agoraphobic skateboarder Cindy has a life that is rich in avatars but poor in human interaction. When she decides to make the leap to dating live people, everything turns out to be just as chaotic as she had feared.

CAST LIST:

DJ Strangelove: Neil Bennett
Genie: Kevin P. Gabel
Narrator: Charles Gordon
Jolene: Carina Cojeen
Cindy: Amber Copeland
Police Officer: Ryan Singh

Interview with Screenwriter John Alexander Fraser (NORTHWOOD)

What is your screenplay about?

– the screenplay is about a nuclear submarine commander who is put in an unthinkable position as tensions mount during NATO exercises

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

– genres would be action, thriller, suspense and war

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

– this short screenplay should be made into a movie as its genuinely authentic in depiction, reflects tensions in our times and makes the viewer think

How would you describe this script in two words?

– describe script – authentic nailbiter

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

– either Bladerunner or a Matter of Life and Death

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

– on and off, I have been working on this screenplay for about 6 months

How many stories have you written?

– i’m not sure how many stories i’ve written in total but screenplays about a dozen and all of them short and each one written over several weeks or months

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

– I listen to a lot of music so difficult to say what i’ve listened to most although ‘couldn’t love you more’ by john martyn or ‘days gone down’ by gerry rafferty would be up there along with songs by porcupine tree/ steven wilson, the pineapple thief and francis dunnery/ it bites…

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

– obstacles would be time between work and family to complete

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

– other than writing, I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, go to the cinema, photography, music, attending gigs, eating out etc…

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

– Filmfreeway is good, easy to use and search

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

– I thought the festival sounded intriguing and interactive so was interested to enter

Genre: Action, Thriller

The commander of a nuclear submarine struggles to deal with an accident during NATO submarine exercises that quickly escalates into a deadly international conflict.

CAST LIST:

Jack: John Leung
Alex: Twain Ward
Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Geoff: Peter Nelson
Maryann: Katelyn Vanier

Interview with Screenwriter Jorge Abreu (I FEARED FOR MY LIFE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

A satirical critique on law enforcement’s interaction with minorities, and fear seen through the lens of stereotypes and bigotry.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Psychological Drama /Horror

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

To probe the question, is killing an unarmed person justified, even if the excuse is self defense.

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

Impactful and controversial.

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

Tie between Die Hard and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

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

The idea for the script came to me in the middle of the night, and finished it within a week.

7. How many stories have you written?

Out of the many I’ve started, I completed 15 to date.

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

Sublime’s “What I got”.

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

Procrastination, and day-to-day adulting.

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

Directing and Photography.

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

My experience has been a very positive one. I like how quick, organized, and it’s ease of use.

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

My initial feedback was very positive.

Watch the Short Script Reading:

Genre: Drama

Officers experience courageous circumstances during their tours that in an instance become decisions of life and death. A therapist gets a rookie to relive his nightmarish trail of his first time drawing his firearm. She is task with concluding if his actions was justify, or racially fear based.

CAST LIST:

Janey: Pearl Ho
Officer McBrady: Peter Nelson
Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Eric: John Leung
Dr. Grey: Julie C. Sheppard
Yamal: Twain Ward

Interview with Screenwriter Eddie Baca (LOOK INTO MY EYES)

 Matthew Toffolo: WHAT IS YOUR SCREENPLAY ABOUT?

Eddie Baca: IT’S BASICALLY A LOVE STORY ABOUT A CRIMEAN MUSLIM LIVING IN NYC WHO
MEETS UP WITH AN OLDER SOBER GAY MAN. AN INTENSE JOURNEY IN SELF
DISCOVERY.

2. WHAT GENRES DOES YOUR SCREENPLAY FALL UNDER?

ROMANTIC DRAMA AND COMEDY, LGBT, THRILLER, MYSTERY, SOCIAL.

3. WHY SHOULD THIS SCREENPLAY BE MADE INTO A MOVIE?

IT TRULY IS AN OUT OF THE BOX STORY. ONE NEVER SEEN OR HEARD BEFORE.

4. HOW WOULD DESCRIBE THIS SCRIPT IN TWO WORDS?

UNPREDICTABLE, PROVOCATIVE.

5. WHAT MOVIE HAVE YOU SEEN THE MOST IN YOUR LIFE?

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. YOU ASKED.

6. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THIS SCREENPLAY?

5 YEARS.

7. HOW MANY STORIES HAVE YOU WRITTEN?

STORIES -5. SCRIPTS -1. SHORTS -1. PLAYS -1.

8. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SONG? (OR, WHAT SONG HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THE
MOST TIMES IN YOUR LIFE?)

FAVORITE – HOME BY DIANA ROSS
MOST LISTENED – HELP ME BY JONI MITCHELL

9. WHAT OBSTACLES DID YOU FACE TO FINISH THIS SCREENPLAY?

BECAUSE OF IT’S POLITICALLY SENSITIVE NATURE (A GAY ROMANCE WITH A
MUSLIM) THERE WERE SO MANY TIMES THAT I HESITATED PUTTING IT OUT
THERE. BUT I MET AND TALKED TO THE WRITER\PRODUCER OF MUNICH WHO
TOLD ME HE HAD THE SAME CONCERN WITH HIS STORY BUT WENT AHEAD
WITH IT. IT WAS EXTREMELY WELL RECEIVED. HE ADVISED ME TO DO THE
SAME AND LET THE CARDS FALL WHERE THEY LAY. I HAVE TO SAY THAT I AM
SO SURPRISED THAT IT HAS RECEIVED VARIOUS AWARDS FROM 5 FILM
FESTIVALS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

10. APART FROM WRITING, WHAT ELSE ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?

STAYING SOBER AND HELPING OTHERS GET AND MAINTAIN THEIR SOBRIETY.

11. YOU ENTERED YOUR SCREENPLAY VIA FILM FREEWAY. WHAT HAS BEEN
YOUR EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH THE SUBMISSION PLATFORM SITE?

THEY’RE GREAT. THEY HAVE A COMPLETE LISTING OF LGBT FILM FESTIVALS.
ANYTIME I HAVE CONTACTED THEM FOR HELP THEY RESPONDED QUICKLY.

12. WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO ENTER THE FESTIVAL? WHAT WERE YOUR
FEELINGS ON THE INITIAL FEEDBACK YOU RECEIVED?

I DIDN’T HAVE A PARTICULAR REASON OR OPINION WHEN I FIRST
APPROACHED YOUR FILM FESTIVAL. BUT WHAT I HAVE VALUED THE MOST IS
THE 3 INVALUABLE SCRIPT CRITIQUES THAT I RECEIVED FROM LGBTTFF. THE
CONTINUED RAPPORT AND ADVISE WITH MY SCRIPT HAS MADE IT WHAT IT IS
TODAY.

 

Watch the Winning Short Script Reading:

Genre: Drama

Gay sober military man meets Crimean Muslim taxi driver in NYC.

CAST LIST:

Karim: Twain Ward
Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Eddie: Peter Nelson
Henry: John Leung

******

Interview with Screenwriter Troy Harvey Graham (SHE DREAMS OF PLASTIC TIARAS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Troy Harvey Graham: In short – it’s about two naïve parents wanting plastic surgery for their baby daughter to set her up for a future as a supermodel. It’s designed to mock the impossible beauty standards in society and the irrational demands by individuals to create their idea of ‘perfect’.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy (hopefully).

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

I hope it would make people smile or laugh… or think. Mind you, thinking isn’t one of my strong points so I don’t see why I should expect anyone else to do it either.

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

Supermodel toddler.

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

Jaws.

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

A couple of months.

7. How many stories have you written?

About a hundred or so.

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

New York State of Mind – Billy Joel.

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

Continuous self-doub and general procrastination.

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

Family, TV & film, the great outdoors… I’m kidding. I’m a writer. I don’t do ‘outdoors’.

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

Love it. They make it straightforward and have always been very helpful.

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

I really wanted to hear the script aloud rather than in my head. The feedback was fantastic. There were suggestions that I’d never considered and it made me approach a few elements of the script in a new way, which I genuinely think helped it become more fun.

 Watch the Winning Screenplay

Genre: Comedy, Drama

A woman visits a plastic surgeon with the hope of changing the future for her daughter.

CAST LIST:

Prada: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Dr. Sanderson: Russell Batcher
Narration: Sean Ballantyne
Delmot: Hugh Ritchie
Amberly: Pearl Ho

Interview with Filmmaker Shetu Modi (THE PITS)

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Shetu Modi: Honestly, I noticed my sweat smelled like Indian food whenever I ate a lot of it and I connected that to some of my childhood and university experiences. The story is not autobiographical but some of the details are.

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

I wrote the script in a day or two, I think in 2015 – though it went through many edits after that. We started planning the shoot in the summer of 2016, shot it in November 2016 and it was done by May 2017.

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

This is hard! Lighthearted and sincere, I guess?

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

For some reason finding an affordable Toronto gym to shoot in was difficult. We ended up using the venue where I had one of my wedding events, outside of Kitchener, and they were so happy to have us shoot there.

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

The feedback was all positive so I was relieved – and I was really happy it resonated with people.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

(Answered this in first question)

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

I’ve seen Bend It Like Beckham, Say Anything, Clueless, Shut Up & Sing and Love & Basketball many, many times. I also love Nicole Holofcener and Sofia Coppola movies.

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 great! Submitting to a new festival takes less than three minutes because all my information is already there.

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

Ha, I don’t think I know! I love Beyonce. I was in high school when Destiny’s Child was big and Survivor was the only CD I had in my parents’ car, so I listened to that album a lot. I was completely obsessed with Tori Amos and Ryan Adams for a while, but their best songs can be really sad.

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

I’m working on writing a web series about a late bloomer, but I might turn it into a short film. I haven’t decided yet! The trailer is here, it stars Noor Dhanda, who was also in the Pits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TmUiWv4O-k

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