Interview with Screenwriter M. V. Montgomery (PUNKER AND PROPHET)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

M. V. Montgomery: Two young women with different backgrounds and talents. Ginny is a gifted singer; Selah is a spiritual leader in-the-making. Both have struggles to overcome: Ginny is a victim of domestic abuse, Selah the victim of a public hate crime. Fortunately, both are there to support each other.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, LGBTQ, musical, spiritual.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It speaks directly to a generation just coming of age in Trump’s America, a protest generation that can directly connect to Ginny’s music and be inspired by Selah’s example.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Punker & Prophet. Peace & Resistance. In three words: Peace, Love, & Anarchy.

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

Citizen Kane.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

About a year. It started off as two scripts, a feature and a short, which I eventually merged.

How many stories have you written?

About a dozen screenplays in the past three years.

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

The songs I was listening to while writing this screenplay included a lot of punk tunes, particularly Gits tunes like “Social Love I,” “Absinthe,” “Whirlwind,” “Bob (Cousin O),” “Second Skin,” and “Seaweed.” The voice I was hearing in my head for Ginny was a blend of Mia Zapata’s (of the Gits) and Amy Ray’s (of the Indigo Girls).

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I grow attached to my characters. So I suffered along with Ginny when she was suddenly homeless and on her own. And I knew that going into the final part of the screenplay, Selah was going to have to endure an attack by a white supremacist. That was the hardest scene to write.

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

I have been with the site from the beginning. Andrew and the staff have been very prompt in responding to my queries and suggestions for improving the platform.

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

I liked the idea of having my work read and produced. The initial feedback pointed out the need to introduce Selah’s character earlier in the script put me to work on some formatting issues.

Watch the Winning 1st Scene Screenplay: 

Genre: Drama

Two young LGBTQ women from very different backgrounds form a close bond and help to fight each other’s battles.

CAST LIST:

Heather: Julie C. Sheppard
Ginny: Pearl Ho
Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Bill: Peter Nelson
Selah: Katelyn Vanier

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Interview with Filmmaker Andrew Hawkins (MASQUERADE)

MASQUERADE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the August 2018 LGBT FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Andrew Hawkins: I was inspired by the true story of the slave couple William and Ellen Craft who escaped in the same fashion. Ellen was light-skinned and posed as a sickly white male, while her husband posed as her slave servant. They miraculously made it to Boston and eventually had to flee to London while slave catchers came after them and threatened their safety in the North. So I wove their story in with a fictional story of a homosexual man living in a time when the word “homosexual” didn’t even exist. As a gay man from Virginia who struggled on a personal level to come out in the 2010s, I was fascinated with the history of gay people in early America. There are only a small handful of scholarly books on this topic, which paint a very bleak existence. I drew a parallel to these two stories to illustrate the intense high stakes of that time. Part of the title “A Story of the Old South” was drawn from the subtitle of Gone With The Wind to wave a flag and say “these stories were part of the Old South too!”

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

This short film originated as a ten minute play I wrote in college in 2006. I revisited the play and had the idea to adapt it into a short film in 2013. My friend, writer Mauricio Mena, helped me with that. In 2013 my team did an indiegogo campaign and then started pre-production in 2014. We shot the film over 4 days in January 2015 in Alexandria, VA. Post-production took about 2 years… I worked with two editors over two years as the vision kept shifting. We premiered the film at the DC Independent Film Festival in February 2017, which was very special since northern VA is my hometown, and the hometown to many involved in the film.

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

Short and surprising.

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

Making this film felt like a series of obstacles, one right after the other. I don’t know if I can pinpoint 1 major one. There were lots of big-little obstacles during production, like below freezing temperatures during the train station shoot. This was my first film, so I guess I could file all of my big obstacles under “first-timer’s learning curve.” It took a long time to prep, and even with all the prep, unexpected things happened on set with actors, set pieces, lighting. You can never prepare for everything. Never. Then in Post, it being my first time, it took several attempts at editing and scoring before I felt like we got it right. And that took quite a bit of time. Patience was key. I look back now and think, geeze it took 2 years for post?? Yep, it sure did. Wow!

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

My initial reaction was “whoa – look at all of those people!!!!” I had a big smile on my face. I was also impressed and touched at the moderator’s clear preparation and ardent support for the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I first learned about William and Ellen Craft while reading James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom in 11th grade history class. I highlighted and circled the paragraph ferociously! I was just absolutely floored that they pulled off an escape like this and I knew from that moment I had to make a film about them. The gay aspect of the story evolved as I evolved as a gay person. I drifted more and more into wanting to learn about gay life in these times and researching what Molly houses were, which were secret meeting places for gay men in 18th century England. It wasn’t too long before I drew a correlation between Sam and Ninny’s passing and George’s concealment of his sexuality (another sort of passing). Weaving these two stories together felt very exciting and relevant and urgent, so I went for it.

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

Probably the 1989 Batman or The Little Mermaid.

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

FilmFreeway was delightfully simple and user friendly. The filmmaking process itself is so arduous that it was honestly such a relief to have the application process be such a cinch!

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

Probably a Madonna song… maybe Like A Prayer or Vogue. Big Madonna fan over here.

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

I run a production company with my husband Jeff Marx and we’re currently building a new video project about phone addiction. I won’t say more but it’s totally different than Masquerade and it’s going to be a blast. As for another short film, yes, one day, hopefully soon. I have an idea that’s been cooking for a few months but it’s not ready to come out of the oven yet. I keep telling myself: Patience.

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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 single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Filmmakers Nate Lavey, Stephen Vider (A PLACE IN THE CITY)

A PLACE IN THE CITY was the winner of BEST FILM at the July 2018 LGBT FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

SV: The film was originally produced for an exhibition I curated at the Museum of the City of New York, “AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism,” which looked at the ways activists and artists mobilized home and family in response to HIV/AIDS. From the start, it was important to me that the exhibition extended to the present, to show how HIV/AIDS continues to impact people today and how the themes of the exhibition (caretaking, housing, and family) continue to resonate. Each part of the film looks at one of those themes, through an individual artist/activist and their larger social world: Ted Kerr and What Would an HIV Doula Do?; Wanda Hernandez-Parks and VOCAL NY; and Kia LaBeija and the house ballroom scene.

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

It was about four months from proposal to color corrections.

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

SV: Holding space (a phrase I borrow from What Would an HIV Doula Do? collective member Tamara Oyala-Santiago)

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

Making sure our final cuts of the interviews did justice to activists and artists in the film, who shared so much of themselves and their work with us. And also, keeping Nate from getting run over when he was shooting the long Steadicam takes on the street.

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

I was very moved to hear how the film resonated for audiences outside of New York City, where the film is based and where it was first shown. I was especially grateful for the comments from people working in AIDS services that the film was “warm, welcoming, and energetic,” and that it represented the lives of people impacted by HIV/AIDS in all their complexity, since that was a major goal for us in making the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

In terms of form, one source of inspiration for me was Astra Taylor’s 2008 film Examined Life: I really admired how Taylor animated complex ideas simply by walking and talking with philosophers. At the same time, we wanted the film not just to represent individuals but also the larger worlds they traveled in, since community and family are such important parts of both art and activism. The film actually moves very quickly and frequently between interviews and community meetings, protests, and balls, to show how activists and artists move from ideas to action.

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

SV: I think that would have to be Back to the Future, which I watched endlessly as a child on VHS and many more times as an adult. Looking back, I think it may explain how I came to be interested in American history.

NL: Sans Soleil by Chris Marker

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

NL: I have mixed feelings about the platform: it is convenient, fairly straightforward, and—importantly—streamlined. Often administrative work in filmmaking means doing lots of slightly different variations on grants, proposals, pitches and FilmFreeway standardizes some of that for festivals. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like you’re sending off an application into the unknown and it can be difficult to feel like you’re really making a connection with the folks on the other end.

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

SV: I’ll show my love for Canadian music and say a song that’s been permanently on my playlist for the last eight years: Owen Pallett’s “The Dream of Win and Regine.”

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

SV: I am finishing a book, Queer Belongings: Gender, Sexuality, and the American Home After World War II, for University of Chicago Press, looking at the politics of LGBT home life from 1945 to the present. The exhibition AIDS at Home was based on a chapter of the book looking at HIV/AIDS domestic activism in the 1980s and 90s. I am also a visiting assistant professor in history, museum studies, and gender and sexuality studies at Bryn Mawr College, which has been a wonderful place to keep thinking about public history, social activism, and the politics of everyday life.

NL: I still work for the Museum of the City of New York, but in my free time I’m working on a film project that connects the experiences of recent refugees in a small Quebec City to the experiences of an older group of refugees (Jews fleeing Nazi oppression) who were imprisoned in the same city in the 1940s.

 
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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 single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Screenwriter Nevada McPherson (PIANO LESSONS)

June 2018 Winning LGBT Short Screenplay.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nevada McPherson: It’s a gay teen romance set in the rural South of the 1950’s.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Teen romance, coming-of-age, drama.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It touches on universal themes of love, friendship, trust, and acceptance. It also shows that although things have changed for the better since the time this screenplay is set, there is still a long way to go before many accept the LGBTQ community as truly equal, especially where I live in the US. This screenplay should be made into a movie because film is a powerful emotional and persuasive medium and the more varied representations of gay characters seen in films, the better. Some of the characters in PIANO LESSONS are willing to leave their comfort zones, while others are not, and it can be a lesson to all that one’s experience of life expands or shrinks according to one’s courage. Stepping up for what you believe in is worth it.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Character driven.

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

Since I’ve taught film classes for many years, there are several films that I’ve seen many, many times and that I love to share with students, such as Run, Lola, Run, Network, Citizen Kane and Bonnie & Clyde. My favorite that I’ve probably seen the most times is Sunset Boulevard. There’s so much Hollywood history wrapped up in that film, and if you look at what was going on in Hollywood at the time it was made and even in the lives of the people making and acting in the film, you’ll find it’s something of a Hollywood “Rosetta Stone.” As many times as I’ve seen it, I always hope for a happier ending for Joe and Betty, but if that were so, it wouldn’t be a true film noir, would it? For me, a huge fan of noir, this one is in a sub-genre of that style, Hollywood noir. Joe Gillis is one of my all-time favorite characters, and to me he is the patron saint of screenwriters.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Since 1994. If that sounds like a really long time, I suppose it is! I got the idea returning to New Orleans from the first ever Austin Film Festival, wrote the script, and I’ve been through countless drafts since then. Needless to say, it’s evolved a great deal over time. I’ve written many screenplays since this one, but I always come back to it, and I’m encouraged that it’s won or placed in several contests (this is the first reading, though, which is quite awesome!). This draft emerged after my residency at Squaw Valley Community of Writers Screenwriting Program, where I worked on a new draft under the mentorship of screenwriter Tom Rickman (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Everybody’s All-American).

How many stories have you written?

Over a dozen screenplays, two short plays, short stories, a short screenplay, and a full-length play. I’ve adapted one of the screenplays into a novel, and three of the screenplays into graphic novels, including PIANO LESSONS. I wrote my very first story in the sixth grade – I remember that there was a vampire in it, and it ended in a cliffhanger. After that I was hooked on writing.

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

Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy.”

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Endings are always difficult for me; it took me several drafts to arrive at this ending!

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Creating visual art, reading, and going on road trips with my husband Bill, a retired speech professor, and our rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi.

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

Very positive. I find Film Freeway to be a very user-friendly platform and a great way to track contest submissions.

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

Since PIANO LESSONS is a gay teen romance, I was drawn to the LGBT Toronto Film Festival, and excited at the prospect of the script being read by actors! The feedback I received was invaluable: insightful and constructive. I recommend this festival to writers wholeheartedly.  

 

Genre: LGBT, Drama

Junior Jordan has a talent for shooting at targets and a mad crush on his new piano teacher, Conrad. In the 1950’s rural South. that’s enough to get a boy into trouble.

CAST LIST:

Pastor: Rob Notman
Conrad: Allan Michael Brunet
Narrator: Matt Barnes
Junior: Jarrod Terrell
Elsie: Lauren Kristina Maykut
Thelma: Meghan Allen

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Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: Kimberly Villarruel

Camera Op: Mary Cox

Interview with the film team of the short film CHRISTINE (Jessica Adler, Kate Montgomery, Stephanie Serra)

CHRISTINE was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the December 2017 LGBT FEEDBACK Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We wanted to tell a story that highlighted the idea that you can be yourself, even if you don’t have words to describe it yet. We wanted to paint an image of a child trying different ways to conform to what they believe is the “right way” of being, so that we could reveal the persistence that may be involved throughout this form of exploration.

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

Draft one was finished February 20th, 2013. The project continued to grow and evolve until it was officially completed on Valentines Day 2016.

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

Be yourself.

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

Casting and rehearsing remotely. We found our Luke, Logan Reinhart, very easily. But for the role of Christine our director, Jessica Adler, ended up utilizing Skype to cast outside of Texas (where the film was shot). Through these Skype auditions we found Jordan Jones who played Christine. Throughout the months leading up to filming Jessica rehearsed with both Logan and Jordan remotely, it was not until the day before our shoot day that the director and the two leads met in person.

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

We found the feedback video to be a very nice gift and a wonderful tool.

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

Our Writer/DP, Kate Montgomery, drew on some of her personal experiences growing up. While Christine’s path diverges from the writer’s experience, the underlying themes of identity and strength are present in both the real life of the writer and in the personal narratives of her character.

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

What a wonderful tool! We found it extremely easy and useful to use. It’s a great way to learn about new and unique festivals.

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

One would have to be “Least of All young Caroline” by Frank Turner. Which, after a re-listen, also speaks to some of the messages in CHRISTINE!

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

Our team works in all parts of the film industry. Kate Montgomery is currently working in NYC as a freelance DP, the most recent project she has shot is a LGBT short called Window Shopping that will be making the festival rounds soon!

Jessica Adler is currently working on a feature script and is developing her next short film. She is living in LA and working on the miniseries One Day She’ll Darken, directed by Patty Jenkins.

Stephanie Serra heads Triserratops Productions an independent film company delivering cinema for and about children. Her short film TADPOLES, a subtitled, foreign film for children (shot in Norway), will be released in the 2018-2019 festival circuit.


CHRISTINE, 10min, USA, LGBT/Coming of Age
Directed by Jessica Adler

With the help of her best friend, Christine redefines her perception of strength and what it means to be herself.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

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Interview with Filmmaker Stephen Riscica (IT GETS BETTER?)

 IT GETS BETTER? was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the December 2017 LGBT FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Stephen Riscica: I started writing this film almost years ago after learning about Jamey Rodemeyer, a young gay teenager from Buffalo, NY who made an It Gets Better video only to commit suicide only a few short months after. I then started reading other stories about youth who have made these testimonials of hope but weren’t able to battle their own inner demons. It was the juxtaposition of these messages of hope from our youth on YouTube mixed with their tragic fate that inspired me to write this piece.

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

I started writing this six years ago– much of that time it was just sitting on my laptop. I went to a film festival in May of 2016 and was really inspired by what I saw there and decided it’s time to finally get this film made. I started an indiegogo campaign a month later. We had approximately two months of pre-production, two shooting days, and 3 months of post production.

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

Oh that’s a tough one…

I’ve always described my film as an examination in loneliness and a desperate plea to hang on… so maybe “Loneliness Examination” or maybe just “Got Wine?”

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

There was an actor attached initially who I cast because his life story and where he is now reflected what the character is going through in the film. A week before production I was “ghosted.” We held a casting session a few days before shooting and thankfully Gys DeVilliers came in and blew me away– he had me in tears during his audition. It was as if I was hearing my words for the very first time. I knew there was no way I could have gotten such a powerful and haunting performance from the previous actor attached.

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

I appreciated the honesty and candor of the audience. This is the first time I was able to hear what people thought about the film without being physically present. I think the film effects people in different ways, and everyone I’ve shown it to responds differently. I disagree, however, with the gentleman who said the film felt cliche’. I see what he’s saying about how it feels like a play, which most likely has to do with my theater background, but I think it is a film that stands out because of its uniqueness.

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

As I mentioned earlier, the story of Jamey Rodemeyer was the main catalyst in writing this piece. His story made me re-examine my own issues of loneliness and depression. I was also very much inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, a one act play in which an older man is listening to a audio tape of himself from years back reminiscing about his youth. Instead of a tape recorder we use a laptop and YouTube.

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

The one film that really changed my worldview as a young gay teenager was Pink Flamingos directed by John Waters. As someone who didn’t identify with straight culture or gay culture, this film was really a celebration of individuality for me and taught me that it’s okay not to fit into any sort of category. I would invite friends over to watch double features of Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble and I’d love to watch my friends squirm, but we’d also be laughing our asses off and quoting lines from the film. I also used to be obsessed with Elvira: Mistress of the Dark as a child and Gregg Araki’s The Doom Generation and Nowhere. Recent films I’ve been watching repeatedly lately: Ingmar Bergman’s Cries & Whispers, Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

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

I think it’s a great platform. I discovered a lot of festivals I never even knew existed. I like the up to date notifications of when a judging status has changed on your film.

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

Probably something by The Cure– maybe Pictures of You?

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

Still trying to figure that out! I recently helped out on the pilot episode of a new documentary series interviewing pioneering DJ’s and party promoters from the early days of gay nightlife. There is a short story written by a friend of mine I would love to adapt. I’m looking to collaborate with other LGBT screenwriters on future projects!

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IT GETS BETTER?, 11min., USA, LGBT/Experimental
Directed by Stephen RiscicaAn older gay man is inspired to record a testimonial after watching a bisexual teenager’s video, assuring him that ‘It Gets Better.’

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Interview with Filmmaker Jesse Gotfrit (SUNLIGHT OVER WATER)

SUNLIGHT OVER WATER played to rave reviews at the December 2017 LGBT FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jesse Gotfrit: The story came from a personal place, from formative relationships and experiences of intimacy that I had in my adolescence, which I thought would resonate with others.

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

From start to finish, a period of about 5 months.

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

Character driven.

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

Probably learning about all the technical requirements and also working to get the best performance from my actors.

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

I enjoyed the mixed reviews. The criticisms were as interesting to me as the compliments.

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

I knew I wanted to make a film that was socially conscious, that had some sort of social ideas that it articulated, but I wanted to draw those ideas from my own lived experiences.

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

Probably a film in the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series that I binged as a kid.

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

I like it. It gives you access to a broad range of festivals that you might not be aware of otherwise.

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

Honestly probably a Leonard Cohen song, maybe Suzanne because it’s the first on his first record.

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

I have many film projects underway, all related to queer experiences and ideas, as well as some music and writing projects!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

SUNLIGHT OVER WATER, 15min., Canada, LGBT/Drama
Directed by Jesse Gotfrit

High-schooler Merit discovers his sexuality through a tumultuous relationship with his friend Julien.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

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