Interview with Screenwriter Paul Sargia (THE TATTOOED BLONDE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Paul Sargia: Bungee jumping… skydiving… stock car racing! Nothing can shake the numbness a divorced, wealthy ex-hedge fund manager feels until he’s hit by a car driven by an eccentric Wall Street icon.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama.


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

Because it’s a time when the public needs to be reassured, once again, that there’s pure joy in life beyond the material pleasures we enjoy. Sometimes it takes getting knocked down before one wakes up to that fact.

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

Life resurrected.

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

Casablanca — It’s a great story, and also has a great message about putting the priorities that are closest to your heart above the ones that are only dictated by your head.


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

I completed the original draft within a year, then went back and made major changes a few years later. Then, again, I tweaked it with the help of a screenwriting editor, Erin McMullan, sometime after that. And just prior to submitting it to this contest I made some more minor changes.


7. How many stories have you written?

I have written eight screenplays that I am proud of besides the first one which I call my practice script which I fooled around with for about 15 years before moving on.

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

Hands down, a song few people know about, by a group few people have heard of. I just feel it’s magnificent. WORD OF GLORY by the StarScape Singers under the direction of Kenneth G. Mills,

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

This was the first script I wrote after my “practice script.” Over the years I had to clean up a lot content in it that was due to my naiveté, etc. about life. Few scripts are perfect. A writer just does his best to get it as “right” as possible. Hopefully, this one is both entertaining and has meaning for its readers.

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

Besides improving myself as a person on this planet, which I spoke about in a previous interview, I love well made films (especially foreign and independent ones), keeping myself healthy with proper diet & exercise, following my favorite sports teams (the New York Yankees & New York Giants), and, of course, music, which enhances the soul when it’s the right kind.

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

It’s so easy to enter contests after all your scripts, and accompanying info, are input on your page. It’s also very easy to update all of that.

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

In the case of the all-genre contest there is no feedback. It’s basically a contest about how many copies of your screenplay will sell in a given period of time. It’s nice that a copyright is included in the entry fee, too. And who doesn’t like seeing their screenplay in paperback form? I certainly don’t!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Sharon: Miriam Capper
Sal: Ted Powers
Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Dennis: Gabriel Darku
Jon: Sean Ballantyne

Interview with Screenwriter Stephen Beyer (Living In The Moments)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Stephen Beyer: Jon spends most of his time partying and carousing with best friends Joey and Jay, and filling his life with hijinks. But when he develops romantic feelings for his new coworker Holly, he’s challenged to grow up a little so he can have a more mature relationship with her, while also introducing her to his wild and crazy world.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Romantic Comedy

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

A film at it’s core has a real beating heart about relationships and friendship that can inspire!

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

Hilarious & Heartfelt!

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

Casablanca

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

18 months

7. How many stories have you written?

3

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

Memories by Elvis

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

Many including sleep apnea and merger at work.

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

Family.

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

Very enjoyable.

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

I was influenced to enter the festival because of the great potential of getting my work out there on a platform that can be see by many. The initial feedback was extremely insightful. Since then a few revisions has been made and I have received perfect reviews from Miami and NYC since.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Joey: Geoff Mays
Narrator: Val Cole
Jon: Biden Hall
Jay: Shawn Devlin

Interview with Screenwriter Shruti Tewari (Flares)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Shruti Tewari: FLARES is a screenplay about friendship underscoring the thought that “When women come together, magic happens.”

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

DRAMA

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

FLARES should be a movie because it holds a mirror to several unexplored issues pertaining to women’s rights and serves as a metaphor for the lives of my characters that seek humor in darkness, serenity in turmoil and the freedom to shine, even if fleetingly, quite like a flare.

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

Survivor’s Choices

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

Forrest Gump

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

One year

7. How many stories have you written?

Stories for film – 4

Stories overall – Lost Count

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

Top of the World – Carpenters

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

The story and characters were in my head for a while but some of the plot points, inspired by actual events, took a while to fit in with the rest of the narrative.

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

I feel passionately about supporting and educating at-risk youth and have worked as a mentor in juvenile halls for nearly a decade with a local non-profit organization.

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

Great. I love the ease of the interface and enjoy discovering new festivals that match my subject interests.

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

I initially submitted just my logline and that submission was free. It was a great way to test if I was able to elicit interest in my project based on a couple of sentences.

I was then able to submit more information based on the response and the feedback helped me make revisions that benefited the pacing of the screenplay.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – Rebecca MacDonald
Starry (f 30s) – Krista Barzso
Sunny (f 30s) – Tracy Rowland

Interview with Screenwriter Malcolm Carter (Adam and E.V.E.)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Malcolm Carter: It’s story about a little girl, Victoria, who can only speak in hip hop lyrics from the 1990s, and she has the key to saving or destroying the world. Unfortunately, the year is 2050 and nobody really listens to hip hop from the 1990’s anymore, especially our hero, Adam, who is accustomed to more country music. They have to work together to stop a global catastrophe.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I’d say Sci-Fi/Drama with a dose of comedy

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

It’s a story that is a cautionary tale about what might happen in the near future if we are not careful. I try dealing with some hot topic issues of today, and at the same time have it blend with a cool sci-fi story. It’s probably not quite like any movie that I’ve seen out there in a while, at least I think so. I try to blend politics, music, technology and social issues into a sci-fi story that keeps your entertained, which can be a challenge.

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

The future.

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

That’s tough, I really think it’s a tie between Network and Raiders of The Lost Ark. CA: Winter Soldier and Inception are close seconds.

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

Since 2014. It started out as a basic genre film, that I really liked, but I felt it was missing something, so I just put it to the side for awhile. Then the politics of 2016 came about and that was just what the doctor ordered.

7. How many stories have you written?

Too many to count, but actual written full length screenplays totals fourteen and three TV pilots.

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

Mariah Carey “Breakdown” with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

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

Trying to find the right songs that Victoria would say that would fit the story. I have many favorite hip hop songs that I wanted to use, but they didn’t fit what was going on in the story, so that was a big obstacle I had to overcome.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Filmmaking, I love filmmaking, the process on how a movie is created is really a passion of mine.

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

I enjoy it, it keeps everything in one location and the updates on what’s happening with your project is amazing.

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

I tend to go for the more independent type vibe festivals. Wildsound definitely has that feel, which I like. The feedback, support and interaction has been top notch, everyone is easy to reach and talk with.

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

In 2050, during a revolution, a government secret agent must protect a young girl who could ultimately end civilization or save the world, only one problem, she only speaks in hip hop lyrics.

CAST LIST:

Terminal Voice: Shawn Devlin
Narrator: Val Cole
Adam: Biden Hall
Imani: Aliya Hamid

Interview with Screenwriter Lee Lawson (DOG #9)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Lee Lawson: The story of Chuck is about overcoming adversity and the challenges that life throws at you. Chuck himself, has to overcome the fear and doubts brought on by his loss of his sense of smell, and learn that he has other skills and values to bring to the world, along with the skills of his friends.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Family animation / Comedy.

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

It has a strong message about acceptance of diversity and disability that children will respond to positively, a message that you are more than your weaknesses.

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

Heartfelt and funny.

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

Cars. But my son is 3-years-old and is as much a fan of Pixar as I am.

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

One year.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have completed several feature screenplays, two TV pilots and several short scripts.

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

I’m not sure I have a favorite song, as music is created all of the time and joins our world.

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

Ensuring that the story works as a means of transporting my emotional reaction to the themes to the audience. And making it funny.

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

My family. Filmmaking.

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

It’s great. Easy to use and tracks your submissions for you. Would be good if they had their own accumulated scoring system like Coverfly so you know how you stack up against other screenplays.

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

The draft entered into this festival was an early draft, maybe revision two or three. I needed to know if it was emotionally resonating with the readers, so entered it to see how it would do before I improved it in later drafts. The feedback I received was valuable to the continuing evolution of the story.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Logline: A scent-blind search and rescue recruit puppy learns that his disability doesn’t define him when he must lead the effort to find survivors trapped under an avalanche.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Val Cole
Jagger: Shawn Devlin
Chuck: Chris O’Bray

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Sean Chandler (RUNNING)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Sean Chandler: “Running” is the story of a discordant political family caught in the middle of a gay sex scandal who are faced with the choice of banding together or falling apart.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Political Family Drama

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

The idea of “Running” was conceived following a spate of married, yet closeted, politicians being caught in gay sex scandals. The televised image we usually see in this situation is a press conference where the fallen politician either comes out as gay or commits to some sort of conversion therapy. As a writer, the more interesting element is what is happening to the family standing behind the politician. We never really get the whole story of how they struggle to recover, pick up the pieces, and put them back together in a way that makes sense to form a new family dynamic. The public has a definite fascination with such political adversities and “Running” would allow them to experience an examination of that aftermath.

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

Finding truth.

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

“Meet Me In St. Louis”. Gorgeously shot, a deeply loving narrative through-line and charm to spare!

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

Eight years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Ten.

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

“Going The Distance” from the original “Rocky” soundtrack. A composition masterpiece.

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

There were two: 1.) Figuring out the sweet spot of how much of the politics to include for a full understanding of that element while keeping the family front and center in the story. 2.) Developing the female characters to be real, inspiring, three-dimensional people who own their own choices without shame.

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

Theater and podcasting. I am the creator/producer/host of a theater-based podcast called “Your Program Is Your Ticket”.

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

FilmFreeway is AMAZING! It makes the process of finding and entering film festivals and writing competitions so much easier by consolidating the submission process and payment system.

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

Chicago is a writers city. It is willing to take risks in incubating new work and supporting up and coming artists.

Excellent feedback from the team! It was specific in observation and gave suggestions as to the future of the piece. Very, very well done!

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

A married, closeted-gay mayoral candidate who is outed in a very public manner must contend with its effects on his campaign and family.

CAST LIST:

Leslie: Esther Thibault
Ed: Steven Holmberg
Narrator: Kat Smiley
Justin: Brandon Knox
Camile: Patrice Henry
Cassidy: Amiee Poulin